We all have questions about ourselves and our world. In the eternal quest to understand how to be happy, healthy, and effective, we can easily get lost in the multitude of opinions and ideas floating around. Some information is helpful to get from the outside world, like how to make a raw pie or how to dance Tango, but the deep questions, the existential questions about life and meaning, importance and purpose, motivation and desire, cannot be answered by anyone or anything outside of ourselves.

No Experts On You

While there are experts in almost every field imaginable from yoga to stamp collecting, no one can be an expert on you but yourself. Teachers, mentors, guides, and friends can provide insight and mirroring to help you see yourself more clearly. They can offer advice and wisdom about the paths they took to understand themselves.

Particularly insightful teachers and counselors can even help you see parts of yourself that are hidden. They may be able to suggest helpful questions, or provide tools and a safe space for deeper self-inquiry. But ultimately they can only help you refine your curiosity and turn your gaze inward; they cannot provide any true answers about you.

Live Inside the Questions

To begin to find your answers, you must learn to be comfortable with discomfort. Relax into not knowing, into the mystery of life. From the uncomfortable uncertainty that comes when we are willing to ask questions, self-awareness can arise.

Focusing on answers given by outside sources narrows your mind and chokes your creativity. Living inside the questions turns on your intuition. When you honestly ask yourself what is true for you, with as much curiosity and deep listening as possible, answers well up from the ground of your being.

The key is to focus on the questions with sincerity and whole-heartedness. To bring your full attention to each question as you ask it, whether it be something small like what to eat for lunch or huge like what to do with your life.

Ask the Right Questions

The next step to finding your answers is to ask appropriate questions. This will be different in different situations, but ultimately you want to get to the root of your habits, motivations, joys, desires, and needs. When you are thinking about what to do with your free time, for example, ask yourself what brings you the most joy. Then explore why those activities or moments bring you joy. Then explore how those experiences of joy connect with your life mission. Distill the essence of what is truly joyful for you. Then you can choose activities for your day that offer the same essence of joy.

Trust Yourself

The voice of the mind, our stories and judgments and fears, is quite loud. It will demand your attention, spread doubt and worry, and do anything to distract you from your truth. The minds job is to maintain the status quo, to keep us safe. Deep self-awareness is not safe. True self-knowing is dangerous, because when you actually understand yourself you may make choices or act in ways that completely change your life.

You may realize that everything you think about yourself is based on false information and internalized distortions of reality. You may realize that you have to transform. This possibility of radical transformation makes the mind nervous, so it will do everything in its power to keep you from really seeing and trusting your deep truth.

The voice of the heart is quiet and calm. It is persistent, and will outlast the loudest of mental yells. But you must be patient and attentive to hear it. When you ask yourself a question, to receive the true answer from the deepest part of yourself you will need to focus past all the distractions and fears. Past all the voices from outside and inside of yourself that would spread doubt. You must listen to small quiet, steady voice of your heart. And you must trust it; you must trust what it tells you about yourself, your life, and the world.

You may not like what you hear, but you will feel how it rings true. And then you must act on it. Once you know your truth, once you find your answers inside yourself, you must have the courage to act on them. And then ask more questions, and wait patiently for those answers, and act on them. Again and again, trusting the mystery, trusting the process, and especially trusting yourself.

True wisdom can never come from outside of us. We can learn from others, but to truly live our most fulfilled life we must cultivate self-awareness which can only be found by exploring our inner realms. Recognize that you will probably never have all the answers. But keep asking the questions of yourself, asking what is underneath the surface of your life, what is really going on inside you. Let the questions keep you alive.