Monday, October 24, 2016

Beautiful questions

This was the view over Union Square when I came out of "Buddhism as a Liberal Art" today. It isn't that often that the clouds you see through the streets of New York give a sense of vastness and distance, but they did today. I was with my friend H, a mindfulness teacher who'd visited the class and led us in a wonderful discussion. In our ninety minutes together, he had us introduce ourselves multiple times - in pairs, threes, and to the group, each time answering a different question: What was your intention in coming today? What's your interior weather like? What are three things you're curious about? Write down three questions. Which one of these would you like to share with the whole group? Before we knew it, our time was up, but oh how much we'd learned about each other - and about ourselves.

I like introductions, H said, because they help me learn who I am in each moment. Indeed he explained the point of each of the questions, which he described as "practices." Knowing your intentions is key because "everything happens as it's intended" - as your intentions allow it to be. Knowing your interior weather helps you take care of yourself, but also reminds you how changeable you - and everyone else - are. And when we shared our questions, H had us consider the way we asked them, what we were really asking. A poet he had heard had asked "Do you want to lead a beautiful life?" and answered "Ask beautiful questions." Seamlessly H wrapped up with elegant accounts of Buddhism and liberal arts as both concerned with this questioning, this attentiveness to self and others. It was beautiful.

My three questions, incidentally, were: Is liberal arts really as valuable as we say? What is age? How much has the world already changed beyond what I think I know? 

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