December 3, 2021

The Deeper Significance of “How are you?”


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How do you answer the question “How are you?”

A lot of the time, I resort to telling someone what I’m up to or what I’ve just finished doing. It’s not that I intentionally avoid the question, but it’s more that I don’t really have an answer.

I don’t often reflect on how I am, especially at any given moment. My mood changes from time to time and throughout the course of the day. Although I may occasionally reflect on how I’m doing, I don’t always have an answer in the heat of the moment.

The question is often a reaction or an impulse—something we are trained to do.

Do we consciously think or care about how the other person is doing? Or, is there an emptiness that precludes the question, and oftentimes, a void to be filled in an otherwise silent conversation?

Regardless, there is some serious thought to be given to the question. We may not be ready for it when prompted, but perhaps it begs the question—are we paying enough attention to ourselves?

Should we be tuning into our feelings a bit more throughout the day?

Maybe this will give us the answer to our question. Maybe. Otherwise, the reaction or impulse proposes a serious criticism about how little we are feeling.

Do we need a culture reawakening to take place in order to have an answer that doesn’t avoid the question altogether?

I can’t help but wonder if the way we live our lives is the reason we know so little about ourselves.

Most of us have jobs. Most of us lead our lives day in and day out with some sort of a routine in place that dictates the tone of our day.

Is this all relative? Is going through the motions of answering the culprit of such mundane feelings that we do not even know how we’re feeling?

The significance of this question calls for deeper reflection as a society but also calls for a revamping of how we live our lives.

Time, here, is not our friend. We are losing it and losing it quickly. We need to find a way to make up for lost time and find out what it is that makes us tick and have what we call a good day, so we are always feeling our best.

Another thing to think about is if the things we are spending our time on are worth the investment. We need to consider that perhaps what we do isn’t really bringing us the joy we deserve. But what if we are working the job of our dreams and allotting a genuine amount of time for fun? What could it then be that we don’t know how we feel half of the time?

I wonder if what we are really lacking is the ability to give ourselves the freedom to enjoy that fun. What I mean is that a lot of us are strict in the sense that we take praise in thinking, self-reflection, and what a lot of us call some sense of a spiritual relationship with ourselves. I’m experiencing that this coming into awareness, and awareness all the time, can be hurtful when we are living for philosophies, like “live” (and live well.)

On the contrary, our ability to live is hindered by our need to over-exploit that living. Taking time out of a day to think about how to live our lives, how we are living it, and whether or not we are living it to the max, is counterproductive—and I don’t have to tell you that. This constant narrative that we run in an attempt to bring peace to our lives can manipulate the course of the events throughout the day in a way that sometimes blinds us to how little we do see.

There are many ways to see the world. There is what is—what we can see, and what we know. Among these ways, there are also several ways to come to experience these ways, and that’s where feelings come in. With a focus on analytical thinking, we may not always allot time for our emotions to run wild.

When we come to experience life with feelings, we find a personal sense of enjoyment. The narrative that takes over becomes truly our own, and we become free of the lens that what we see is really not what we see. And there is so much to see. Depending on the moment, we might come to see something differently, where the same thing was before.

For example, we might see a reason to laugh, where we might have instead seen that someone was telling a joke, but not have laughed. All this is really left up to the way we are experiencing the world.

My bet is that if we give ourselves some breathing room, take some space to turn off our need to hack everything with tools like mediation and to-do lists, and just fall into a state of relaxation, we might come to experience more joy and actually feel it more than half-of-the-time.

So, how do we fall into this state of relaxation?

While I’m no expert, I think doing things in a way that takes the attention away from thinking, allows us to immerse ourselves in conversations with others, and fall into a natural rhythm of doing things that doesn’t require us to do them in the way they are set out to do, are good starting points.

If you find good ways to relax, feel free to share them, as I too would like to know.

All I’m doing here is raising the questions about how we feel and don’t feel, and how we can feel better.

I hope that you are feeling better—not “good”—but whatever other adjective captures the elusiveness of this moment for you.

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