May 27, 2019

When you want to ask “Why?” ask This Instead.


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I’ve spent years searching for the answers:

Why do we exist?
Why am I here?
What should I be doing?

Does this sound familiar to anyone else? Do these questions keep you up at night?

My search has revealed…

More questions. And my journey revealed even more questions.

This didn’t seem satisfying, which made me wonder, “Can I accept that the answer to the ‘why’ reveals more of a mystery?”

The answer seems to begin with learning how to accept the unknown. I can make peace with the barrage of questions spinning in my brain. As a result, questions can remain questions that I explore with patience, love, and compassion.

Through meditation, time, and reading piles of books on theology and philosophy, I found that I can slowly open up to the mystery of our existence by approaching life with love and compassion. That is the gist of most spiritual texts, right? Be love and open yourself up to something greater?

These days, I find solace in being love and compassion instead of spinning on the “why?” (Uff da! That sounds like a squishy and amorphous concept.)

Here is what I mean: I cannot control many external factors in my life, my spinning brain will never have all of the answers, I will never know why there is so much suffering on this planet, and material items and jobs or social titles will never bring meaningful fulfillment. Clinging to such ideas and searching for “the concrete why” will only bring suffering—as I loosely paraphrase my spiritual teachings. (I highly recommend The Dhammapada for your next reading.)

In my daily life, I can be love and compassion. That is all that I can control. I can approach the “real world” with actions based in love and compassion. I can approach (or at least try to) all relationships and interactions with love and compassion, and without expectation or attachment. And I don’t mean romantic love, like taking your partner to Applebee’s for the 2-for-20 meal deal, but the love for all beings, creations, and the universe type love.

For example, let’s talk injustice. I serve a criminal defense lawyer and see systemic injustice and trauma on a daily basis. It is a tough existence. I can’t change the system overnight. I can only control my actions and intentions. I serve my clients through authentic connection. I serve my clients by telling their genuine story. In an adversarial system, I can help the judge, jury, and prosecutor see my client’s human nature. Through compassion, I can take care of my clients and myself for the benefit of all.

This isn’t easy though. I try not to get caught up in the results, actions of others, or even my own ego. As I said, I am work in progress. My clients benefit when I act with compassion for all instead of endlessly fighting and battling egos within the system. My mental health seems to benefit as well.

Can opening up to the mystery—to the why—with love and compassion be the answer, or at least the practice?

Love and compassion isn’t inaction. It isn’t escaping the real world to meditate in a cave for the rest of my days. Compassion-based actions are for the benefit of our ourselves and our community. The endless spinning questions were not serving me, or anyone else. And mediation, learning with an open mind, and compassion-based actions brought an unexpected answer to these questions.

Today, I try to approach the “why” questions with “how” questions: How can I be love and compassion? How can I take care of myself and my community? How can I take small moments to simply be? How can I be present with others?

And as I implement mindfulness tools such as yoga, meditation, nature walks, or having coffee with a good friend, my mind slowly releases those screaming questions of, “Who am I? Why am I here?!?”—because I realize those questions need not be answered when I approach each day with love and compassion.

I believe this is something we can all do? I shared my “I” journey—can this be a “we” practice?


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