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The Power of “Why?”

Most people are familiar with the stage that children go through, where they ask endless questions, and every answer is followed by the question of “Why?”. Children go through this stage because it allows them to explore the world around them,  and make meaningful connections with the new knowledge they are gaining. As adults, we seem to stop asking “why?” and become comfortable with “it just is”. The “it just is” attitude can lead to stagnation in your personal and spiritual life, because instead of exploring yourself and the world around you, you become complacent and simply accept what you have been taught or conditioned to believe.

However, if you were accused of some sort of crime, I am relatively sure that you would not be so complacent, you would demand answers, proof, you would start asking “why?”. In the same way it is important to live your life by contemplating and asking “why?” about all matters in your life, including personal and spiritual matters. You must not only ask why, but you must explore the reasoning behind your response, then question your response, continue to repeat this process until you get to the root of your beliefs.

This method of constantly asking questions, and examining the responses given, in order to thoroughly analyze an issue is known as the “Socratic Method”, because it mirrors how the famous Greek philosopher Socrates examined the world. The Socratic Method is both loved and loathed by those who have attended law school, or institutions that use this method. While sometimes uncomfortable, the Socratic Method can lead to unexpectedly deep understandings, because it forces you to truly debate an issue until its core, its root, is found. You can only understand and truly accept or change an issue after you have truly analyzed its root cause.

Applying the Socratic Method to your personal and spiritual life can be uncomfortable, and at times it may appear to yield little fruit; however, if you keep practicing this method, you will be surprised at how deep “Why?” can take you. For example, I am unhappy with myself. Why? because I don’t like how X. Why do I think being/having X is bad?…… follow it through until you find the root cause. Once you discover the root cause of your feeling, belief, or thought, you then need to decide whether or not you can accept it, or how you can change it in a way that will cause the “negative” to become a “positive”. Doing this over and over again will allow you to work through some of the mental, spiritual, and emotional clutter that each of us carry around. By working through this accumulated clutter you will become more comfortable with yourself and the world around you, which will then allow you to live in the now, as well as experience God and the world around you in a much more meaningful way.

Practical Tip: During the day when a thought or feeling arises in your mind, do not accept it for what it is, explore it. Why do you believe your religious beliefs? Why do you do make the choices that you do? Why do you feel a certain feeling in certain situations? Why do you think something is wrong? Why do you think something is correct?, etc. Don’t be afraid to keep going until you get to the end, the root of your beliefs.

Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop.  ~Lewis Carrol, Alice in Wonderland

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Also, please check out my book, “The Path: Using the Religions of the World as a Guide to Personal and Spiritual Development.” (Click on the book cover to view on Amazon.com)

  1. August 13, 2011 at 10:21 PM

    While I enjoy a majority of the thoughts that you post, I have to thank you for the last quote… It’s a rare day when I don’t think to myself “Oh, good G*d, what do I do at this point??” and then I always come back to the quote:

    “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop…”

    I’ve read Carrol all of my life. I’ve studied the math hidden in the chapters. I’ve worked through the Chess game played out in the lettering. But I never ascribed much to this line until I read it in this context.

    Well played, sir. Well played.

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