As a child, I didn't badger my parents with the questions I had about myself and life, but I brooded on them. I'd go off into a corner room with a doodlepad, or sit by the pond feeding the fish, my mind going around and around in circles, wondering if God is real, what is a soul, or where did my grand mom go when she died — if anywhere?
Now my son is asking me these same questions, as he's figuring out his answers to why there's evil in the world, or why we need religion, or what he wants to be when he grows up. I'm realizing that the questions he's asking may come from the mouth of a child, but they never truly leave us.
These existential questions may continue to haunt many people as adults, but that doesn't mean they have to be scary. What I've come to realize later in life is that it's more important to ask the questions than to rush to find their answers.
Because the truth is that no one really knows the answers to these big life questions. You can mull over them, talk them out with your friends or mentors, and piece together an answer that satisfies you for that moment. You'll still have more questions, and that's OK. It's what Rainer Maria Rilke called "living the questions." If you jump too soon to answer them, you're not living your questions.
Your answers should come from within. Through an aha moment, through an eye-opening experience, or through an inner knowledge that this feels right.
Ten years later, when you ask ourselves the same question, you might find that your answer to it is different. You might have become more spiritually mature, or you might have had some enlightening life experiences, or you might have had some guidance that changes your inner landscape through subtle realizations and a more nuanced understanding of life.
Even after a year you may be surprised to find how much your answers to some of these basic, but far-reaching questions have changed.
5 Questions to Ask Every Year
I'm working on a project to ask life's big questions, so I'm weeding through hundreds of them. However, I listed five of the biggest life questions below. Ask them on your path to self realization: think about them, journal about them, talk about them, live with them, grow with them. Soon enough you'll notice that you're making progress on your spiritual path.
1. Who are you when you're alone?
2. What does true freedom mean to you?
3. What is your deepest fear?
4. What do you know is no longer serving you, and you need to let go?
5. What one step can you take today to grow into who you want to become?