Waking up to Wisdom
In Stillness and Community

Live the Questions Now

--by Rainer Maria Rilke (May 31, 2011)

In the great silence of these distances, I am touched by your beautiful anxiety about life, even more than I was in Paris, where everything echoes and fades away differently because of the excessive noise that makes Things tremble. Here, where I am surrounded by an enormous landscape, which the winds move across as they come from the seas, here I feel that there is no one anywhere who can answer for you those questions and feelings which, in their depths, have a life of their own; for even the most articulate people are unable to help, since what words point to is so very delicate, is almost unsayable.

But even so, I think that you will not have to remain without a solution if you trust in Things that are like the ones my eyes are now resting upon. If you trust in Nature, in the small Things that hardly anyone sees and that can so suddenly become huge, immeasurable; if you have this love for what is humble and try very simply, as someone who serves, to win the confidence of what seems poor: then everything will become easier for you, more coherent and somehow more reconciling, not in your conscious mind perhaps, which stays behind, astonished, but in your innermost awareness, awakeness, and knowledge.

You are so young, so much before all beginning, and I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. Perhaps you do carry within you the possibility of creating and forming, as an especially blessed and pure way of living; train yourself for that -- but take whatever comes, with great trust, and as long as it comes out of your will, out of some need of your innermost self, then take it upon yourself.

--Rainer Maria Rilke, from "Letters to a Young Poet"

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On May 29, 2011 Edit Lak wrote:

This is simply a divine passage – pure honesty to the soul-spirit of life’s truth’s... Just Devine. 

I take a breath from my contemplative thoughts from this question of;
"What has been the role of questions in your spiritual cultivation?"   I smile and say;
‘Ohh my goodness’   for without any of my inquisitive, annoying, constant, nagging, persisting and genuinely wanting to know questions of things and stuff – without those ‘thing and stuff’ I wouldn’t be here today... Those questions are ‘life’.  I honestly believe without those many, many questions and many, many mistakes to re-ask many more questions, I wouldn’t have had a growing life... 
Be it we nurture a child with breast to give nourishment and sustenance to growing life;
The same be it for my life’s questions, that’s the nurturing and sustenance of answers to my inquisitive question for ‘a life’ Now, my sustenance and strength to ask questions came later for me, as strengths and courage’s had to be sought first – and though those questionings a new ‘life’s spark’ of new questions grew as well, but no matter when and how – ‘each step of life is, or has a question’.... 
I am just an average person with no special skills, but my great achievement is to ‘life’ and to want to live life, and to ask some more questions from everyone, from all walks of life, without embarrassment, but of a friendly unity in nature... this road leads me to know ‘me’ with the learning’s,
and re-learning’s of how to be first...  then from that my spirit grows and thus relaxes, leading me to a more comfortable understanding of knowing, or just accepting, as I comfort my soul ... Knowing I did, I can and, I will, at some stage, no matter how still I be, I will ask a question just to smile and talk to you.... Because the question of ‘Hi – How are you?’ is very important for ‘our’ cultivation, as that’s my spiritual growth and development – to cultivate the ‘US’.. 
Hehehehe  ;-)  I had to stop for a moment on a quick additional thought of;
Trust in everything, but be weary, for not everyone you trust – or trust in, will be, or is the truth that you actually want to hear, be it in nature, stillness or a frenzied quest for an internal answer ... spiritual growth and development knows when you’re ready to know and grow more....
And it doesn’t matter ‘if or when’ the answers come
 For if you do not try or ask, we will never really know ‘how to grow’,
 to choose the developmental road we want to take, or be on ...
Much much, gratitude for this moment....

On May 30, 2011 Trushna Mehta wrote:

I'm recently learning more and more that my connection to nature is vast and very deep.  My personal experience is teaching me that in those moments when I am surrounded by nature and open to all that it offers, the questions arise more simply, without effort or seeking.  I feel it is the stillness outside of us that speaks to the stillness within us that allows for the deeper inquiry.  I like how Rainer says "And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."  It's interesting how this concept shifts the perceptive from the future to living in the present, right here, right now.  This passage was beautifully written and very poetic.

On May 30, 2011 Conrad wrote:

Thanks much Viral for the opportunity to respond.  Questions often lead us to growth.  Excessive questioning, however, may arise from our desire to be certain.  Richard Rohr states that wanting to be certain is our original sin/mistake.  I agree. Accepting "what is" helps us accept uncertainty.  Knowing that I don't know and understanding that I do not understand have been helpful for me.  As it is natural to know, so is it natural to "not know."


Schools and universities could help students become more educated, as opposed to being primarily trained for jobs, when they allow students to freely explore what students find remarkable, interesting, and important  (in an ungraded atmosphere).  Noticing that training is surpassed by self-directing learning can lead us to noticing, as Shunryu Suzuki says;  we are not one and not two.


Kahlil Gibran's idea: "If the teacher is indeed wise, he is not bid you to enter the house of wisdom, but rather, leads you to the threshold of your own mind" is worth considering.  Now is the only time one can have a question.  Now is the only time one can accept uncertainty and understand that one does not understand.

As Robert Pirsig asks:  “And what is good Phaedrus, and what is not good; need we ask others to tell us these things?"

With much gratitude to all.


On May 30, 2011 susan schaller wrote:

"Why can't Mama kiss and hug me as you do, Daddy?," I asked when I was four.  That is my first memory of asking my father many, many questions about love, life, and how to love and live.  My mother thought I was "weird" and "too sensitive, " and I believed that something was wrong with me, spending many decades depressed.           Decades later, the questions have led me on such an unimaginable, inner journey, including back to my first teacher, my father, who would not follow the doctors' predictions of his death.  He had more questions to ask, even as his body wasted away and he was bed-ridden with pain.  The most precious answer he shared with me is what keeps bringing me back to him: "Susan, I don't know what will happen.  All I know is that love and life continue.  My job is not to decide to die.  My job is to reach out to love and life, everyday."  He lived many, many months, beyond all predictions, because he had to practice answering the question: How can I best reach out to love and live, today. That takes courage to ask questions and be in the "I don't know" place, and courage to shed as much of the little self, before shedding one's skin.

On May 30, 2011 Kate wrote:

Thank you Viral!

I have had a quote from this passage on the fridge for years - familiar as it may be, when I read it, it doesn't fail to hit me like a jokester/fool/coyote!  :)  Reminding me of something my head does not want to believe or go along with.  Even so, some thread of truth seems to make it into my system and resonate - even if it's just an "I know, I know!" - and I often feel my shoulders drop and a big or faint amount of relief.  

I was excited to read it today - because I was wondering over the weekend, can curiosity be a substitute for intention?  

I was reading a passage in "Callings" by G. Levoy (p. 150 on "The Burning Questions") about curiosity and Big Questions - and realized that sometimes it is easier for me to be curious about something, than it is to set a clear (and committed!) intention.  Asking if I can be curious about something, somehow feels different.  Can I be curious about the unknown (and, about the uncomfortable known)?  Is that enough?  I am more in a habit of asking if I can set an intention to get through something, to be open, compassionate.  Is that too controlling, or does that get me engaged, not avoiding things, if I bring intention/commitment into the picture?  Curiosity feels like a sister of intention...lighter, though.

I wonder where the line can be drawn, between the two - intention and curiosity?  I see the merits of both.  Maybe they're not too far distant, relatives??  Sister skills?

I am curious (no pun intended!) what others would think about this?

Love and thanks, Kate


On May 30, 2011 Ricky wrote:

Since I work with teens in a public school setting, I am most excited when they even have questions.  I'm not referring to the questions about the schedule or the class content; I am talking about questions of existence and how they may see themselves fit here in this lifetime.  If I had not been living the questions, I would not be able to help them share their questions and grow based on their ability now to still and be open for the answers.  It truly is a blessed existence, and sharing my journey of living the questions with these precious beings is blissful.   

On May 30, 2011 Katrina Olmstead wrote:

"to be or not to be"  I find this quote to help me when I am confused about something. Most have a lot of questions. Some that they never ask. I have a couple of master mind groups to help with the mudane ideas like how to make money, how to approach people. But for those questons that prevent us from our spirtual growth are most inticing. For these questions you could ask a preist or a religious organization but remind yourself that it is you that holds the answers. Ask yourself the same question you would someone else. you'll see that you can find clearity and solution.   If you find you are unable to see the answer, it is because you are not ready, your biases my not allow you to see the truth. Always with Love.

On May 31, 2011 KT wrote:

Recently someone asked me a very profound question, and I have been thinking about it a lot. She asked: Can you accept that life is not fair?

I thought about it and said no. 

She seemed to think that my inability to accept this fact is the source of my troubles. 

So, I turn the question back to you dear friends, Do you accept that life is unfair? Do you believe that life is unfair? 

I can't explain how this relates to the passage, but it does. :-) If I had to take a stab at it, I would ask, Is Nature unfair?

On May 31, 2011 Prasad wrote:

 Last weekend, I went to Henry Cowell Park in Felton. As I walked among the redwoods, I was asking myself the question, how old is the ground on which I am walking? What does the ground say to me if it has a voice? My daughter mentioned that some of the mature trees are over 2000 years old. But knowing the redwood trees, the root system allows for more trees to grow out of the same roots and what if the roots are 10000 or 15,000 years old. What would be the story of the roots and how different would it be from the story of the trees? Then, a volunteer who was walking with us mentioned that the roots are shallow and spread across the land to support the trees because the trees are some times over 200 feet tall. That means, the ground on which I am walking has roots not too far down, They have seen the birth and death of Christ, seen the wars, seen the peace, may be have seen the dinosaurs. If only we could listen to the stories they tell, what would we do differently? So the ground looks at roots as young. Roots look at 2000 year old trees as young trees. They look at us and what would they say?

How proud, how knowledgeable I think I am. Where will my knowledge fit in the ecosystem of the redwood forest? What questions do I not even know to ask?

So all my answers are so temporary -- short term, shallow answers. But the questions -- if I could only hold onto the questions -- then maybe I can enjoy the kind of answers I had at different times of my life...

You are right, Rainier -- it is not the answers that matter -- the questions do. Do I know the right questions to ask? That is a good question to reflect on...

On Jun 1, 2011 Katrina Olmstead wrote:

LIFE... is it fair?  Right now in my opinion I believe that life Is fair, Very fair. you only get what you put in. With the Law of Attraction we get what we put out into the universe. I can't say much to make any one believe in the Law of Attracton, but it is real. The problem that most people have is the ability to recognize a good thing and to accept it for what it is. Also Change is naturally very hard but necessary. When something fails or changes I believe that the universe is making room for something else, something Great. So always keep an open mind and trust that everything is Good.


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On Jun 4, 2011 Bill MIller wrote:


Upon first reading this letter by Rilke, I griped: "Jeez, I feel like I've been 'living the questions' for decades! When am I going to get to live some of the answers?! (grumble, grumble)"


However, upon hearing it read again for the evening, my perspective began to expand. A logical follow-on thought to the above might be: "Well, are you asking the right questions?" (But that also makes me want to grumble.)


Finally, I remembered an idea I'd seen in several books ("The User Illusion", "The Secret Teachings of Plants" - and I suppose Wittgenstein's "Blue" and "Brown" books) - that words, that language, is not reality but merely a pointer to reality. When an experience - or for that matter, a *question* - has been reduced to words (and a mental concept is usually also expressed in words), then you are no longer dealing with reality. You're working with a limited model of reality - sort of like using a map, rather than being in the actual terrain that the map points to.


So that was my ultimate take-away from the Rilke piece: Don't become preoccupied with your verbalized questions. Just be present to the experience. Live it, flow with it - and try to appreciate where it takes you.

On Jun 25, 2011 Kat Jackson wrote:

.....this musing and advice is such a lovely reminder to be with what is. We are so driven to solve, discover and become.  Personally, my quest is to become my best self, explore, learn and strive.  This Rilke observation is gentle advice that sometimes the "knowing" will just present itself.  It may be sitting on top of the pile we are digging through or by the park bench we are running by.  Be still and the knowing may just come.....

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On Apr 9, 2016 luv4all wrote:

 Live the questions, experience it and flow where it takes you, thankyou for this wonderful message.

On Apr 10, 2016 luv4all wrote:

Prasad, your response is thought provoking - how could I even consider myself knowledgeable in the scheme of Universe, when i hardly know anything , not even which questions to ask. Its hits rightly so.
Holding on to questions is another wise piece of advise. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

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