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What Is Your Question?

Taking the opportunity to read a women’s magazine recently while on a long flight, I was struck by the title of the Editor’s column “What’s Your Question?” (Lesley Jane Seymour, More Magazine, May 2014). The editor was reporting on a conference focusing on women’s issues at Duke University, and specifically on a presentation, “The Heart of the Matter—What is Your Question?” Commenting that she was looking for answers, not questions, she attended reluctantly. Yet, she was surprised to discover how personally meaningful the session turned out to be.

So often, our yearning is for answers. There are so many choices, so many decisions to be made. From the most mundane to the most serious, questions pervade our lives. Immediate responses are the plat du jour. Delayed gratification is a relic of past generations. Our technological accessories perpetuate the assault. Ringing, singing, and buzzing, they pursue us wherever we are. If only, there were moments that a pause switch could be activated, and the noise and chaos blocked.

Moments of silence, solitude, peace. And then, perhaps a question arises that emerges from deep within…. Our question, the one simmering beneath all the cacophony and chatter. The one that has been waiting for our attention, one that will move us beyond who and how we currently are.

The phrase “What is your question?” is familiar to most qualitative researchers, as it becomes the center point from which our search for new knowledge begins. The question comes from within, from our own lived experience, often as a distant wondering, a curiosity, until, when we are quiet and reflective, it eventually becomes figural in our minds.

This question soon becomes our major quest, and we seek to know as much of it as we can. We are explorers over familiar terrain as if seeing it for the first time, or into unknown and sometimes foreign territory. We shine a new light, see distinct colors, forms, and shapes that now stand out and gain new meaning. Novel aspects of self are exposed, fresh ideas are generated, innovative possibilities arise. Our search is compelling, and often profound, our thirst ever moving us toward revelation and discovery.

As a dawning of comprehension emerges, our thirst begins to diminish. The question no longer blazes; we feel a sense of assurance and direction.

There is satisfaction and relief as we complete our own self-inquiry. Our question, for now answered, recedes to join other wonderings and curiosities. Perhaps we may seek it soon again or ever as seekers, a new quest may arise.

Questions and answers permeate our life experience. Yet, the inquiry process, when focused on self, inspires spirit and vitality, and promotes growth. To live meaningfully and passionately, it is crucial to create moments that allow us to look inward and ask essential questions: what is my question, what is my growing edge? Where is my quest, what do I hunger to know?

*Originally posted on The New Existentialists blog on May 5, 2014.

Diane Blau, PhD psychology associateBy Dr. Diane Blau, PhD, MSP President
Dr. Blau co-founded the Michigan School of Professional Psychology (originally the Center for Humanistic Studies Graduate School) in 1980.  She has had a long-standing commitment to furthering its mission as a unique and outstanding graduate school. Prior to becoming its president in 2012, Dr. Blau held multiple academic and administrative roles at the school, including masters and doctoral faculty, masters program chair, accreditation coordinator, and dean of academic affairs.