Sunday, October 2, 2011

Capturing Susan Piver's "The Hard Questions for an Authentic Life"

The Hard Questions for an Authentic Life by Susan Piver, 2004

I picked this book up at the library because I'm interested in learning to ask better questions. The one hundred questions that Piver poses here (on Family; Friendships; Intimate Relationships; Work; Money; Creativity; Spiritual Life) did not appeal to me nearly as much, however, as what she said in her Introduction and Afterword.

Piver on living an Authentic Life:
-Your inner world (feelings, values, gifts, needs, spirituality, passions) matches your outer world (job, relationships, home, community).
-Three goals: 1) discover what you can offer to others 2) find and follow your unique path 3) maintain an ongoing, honest, reliable connection to your inner wisdom.
-Authentic living comes as a natural result of being present today, and focusing on the moment.
-It comes from an ongoing inner dialogue based on inquiry and a commitment to listen to the answers that arise.
-It is impossible to plan an authentic life It is only possible to be authentic and watch as your authentic life manifests around you. 
Piver on discovering our inner voice by asking questions:
-Piver's life has been driven by this thought:  Tell me what I should do with my life and I will give everything to it.  Who am I?  Why am I here?  What are my special gifts?  Often, the last place we look for answers to these questions is within.
-It is difficult to distinguish our own thoughts from the thoughts of others; we are profoundly disconnected from what is real, simple, and true for us.  Tapping into our own inner wisdom is difficult.  We long for it, yet we lack the ability to hear ourselves clearly.  When we try to tune in, often the first thing we encounter is others' voices, telling us what life should look like.  Most of us can't separate these voices from our own.  If we listen carefully and take the time to trace each voice back to its root, we can almost always identify the strands.
-We begin to tune into our real voice by asking questions.
-Asking a question can be a sacred act.  If we can simply ask, wonder, and become curious, an opening for an answer will be created.  Questioning is a spiritual practice.  We come into dialogue with God/ our true nature/ wisdom whenever we stop, look inside, and take the time and effort to really listen to ourselves.
-If our questions are a genuine inquiry, reliable answers will emerge.  Listening requires emptiness and receptivity.
-The only reliable way to cultivate presence (awareness, or the ability to observe our own minds) is through a regular contemplative practice, such as meditation, journaling, walking, yoga.  It doesn't matter which practice you choose, but you must set the intention to take time for contemplation and remain consistent with your chosen practice.  Having a daily contemplative practice is like permanently installing a satellite dish outside your house--our inner voice requires an unmoving target to receive its broadcasts.  Spiritual practice creates a steady, reliable way to receive our own wisdom.
-Ask yourself questions every day to keep fine-tuning your ear to the sound of your inner voice.  Come up with a personalized list of questions to help you stay connected with yourself.  Ask them in the morning to make sure your day is launched with consciousness.  Ask them in the evening to review, learn, and summarize what really happened that day. 
Piver's start of the day questions:
What do I need to say today?  To whom?
With whom do I need to connect today?
What would I like to see unfold in my life today?
What can I contribute today?  To whom?  To what?
What can I focus on today that will bring me closer to my authentic life? 
End of the day:
What did I leave unsaid today?
What did I allow myself to feel?  What didn't I allow myself to feel?
What did I love about myself today?  What did I not love about myself today?
What began to unfold in my life today?
What happened today for which I am grateful?
What happened today that wasn't in accord with my highest values?
What did I say, do, think, or feel today that brought me closer to my authentic life?

PG: If anything in here leaps out at you, perhaps you could comment on it, and I will try to respond.  Do you have any questions that you like to ask yourself?

1 comment:

Larry Dewey said...

I don't think I could ever ask myself that many questions. I do have a few simple questions though that are important to me. They are Did I exercise enough today? That is important because my patriarchal blessing basically says that and I know that when I stop exercising my body will fail. I also ask did I feed my self spiritually today? I need spiritual exercise also. The questions I worry most about are Does my family know how much I love them? and Am I valiant in the testimony of Jesus? I want to pass on to some degree the love He has given me. Too often though I let what I perceive to be the necessary labors of the day crowd out these thoughts. Love, Dad