There is nothing I like more than to be asked a question that makes me stop in my tracks; to breathe, to sense how the question impacts my physical body, and to take time to respond intuitively from a relaxed state of being.
When I was a kid growing up on a big prairie farm, I really don’t ever recall being asked my opinion on anything. Being a middle child, with a sister and a brother on either side, one can only imagine the challenges our parents had trying to keep a lid on at the dinner table, let alone communicate consciously to the hired men, who lived in the little house down the lane, employed as helpers during the haying and harvest seasons.
Turns out my older sister was a “squeaky wheel”. In my memory, she was the one who not only asked most of the questions but she also seemed to have all the answers! I learned at an early age what it was like to sit silently with words unspoken in my throat. This became my modus operandi … wanting to be asked how I felt about things, and at the same time being afraid of what might come out of my mouth. Would it be the ‘right’ thing, would it be clever or even relevant?
What I would have given for my parents, or my favourite Auntie to ask me what lit me up, made me happy, or dragged me down? Instead the words I remember hearing when I’d go home for family gatherings were, “So, when did you arrive and when are you going back?” Innocent as they were, these words left me feeling marginalized, vacant and essentially passed over. It was unfortunate because this might have been a rare occasion to learn and appreciate one another on a whole different level.
Who’s responsible? Was it mine, or was it someone else’s responsibility to formulate a meaningful question? The marvellous thing about a good question is that it shapes our identity as much by the asking as it does by the answering. Questions can make or unmake a life. Over the years at the yoga studio, I’ve gotten pretty comfortable sitting in a circle sharing my feelings and asking others about theirs. Being authentic and speaking from a soft place in my heart has allowed others to do the same.
A few years ago, I conjured up the courage to initiate a circle conversation around our familiar dinner table. Initially, a lot of eyebrows were raised and there was some easing away from the table from my young nieces … but over time, we all looked forward to the moment when we entered into a dialogue.
In our case, it meant we each had the spot light shone on us for a few moments. The simple rule we agreed upon was that we could take as much time as we needed to say how we felt about one thing or another and no one could interrupt or interject with a comment or a curiosity. Bragging was encouraged, as was saying something humbling about ourselves, or sharing a few words of gratitude. It was and continues to be a very special time, a heart-warming and transformational experience for everyone, speakers and listeners alike.