The gift of questions that make us unsettled

When did you last experience a question that stopped you in your tracks?

It probably landed somewhere on the spectrum between ‘Wow: what a brilliant question – just what I needed’ and ‘Ouch: that’s uncomfortably close – I feel exposed’.

And it’s not just about big questions either. Little, unseemingly inconsequential nudges can also land with emotional weight.

Yet so often, these enforced pause points are vital to our movement. They help us get unstuck, surface an attitude or mindset limiting us, or help us articulate the choices we need to make.

David Whyte’s astonishingly powerful poem, Sometimes, captures so much of this for me. It is one of the few poems of David’s out in the public domain – in Maria Popova’s The Marginalian, including a video of the poem – so I am reproducing it in full below:

SOMETIMES

Sometimes
if you move carefully
through the forest,

breathing
like the ones
in the old stories,

who could cross
a shimmering bed of leaves
without a sound,

you come
to a place
whose only task

is to trouble you
with tiny
but frightening requests,

conceived out of nowhere
but in this place
beginning to lead everywhere.

Requests to stop what
you are doing right now,
and

to stop what you
are becoming
while you do it,

questions
that can make
or unmake
a life,

questions
that have patiently
waited for you,

questions
that have no right
to go away.

+ David Whyte, from Essentials, Many Rivers Press, 2020 (accompanied by a note from the poet), and also found in Everything is Waiting for You, Many Rivers Press, 2003

In addition to the implicit and explicit questions woven through this week’s posts, I received the gift of two questions:

  • Am I open to being surprised? (from Peter Block in an excellent Dare to Unlead conversation with Celine Schillinger)
  • What do I stand for? (from an interview with the marketing creative Duke Stamp with Sonder & Tell in 2020)

What gifts have you received?

Pause. See differently. Re-story 🌿