A Beginner’s Guide To Change: Live The Questions. Don’t Be afraid.


“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.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903, from Letters to a Young Poet

Have patience with everything unresolved.

What’s most perplexing about life these days, is this overwhelming sense of limbo that most of the people I talk with feel. Everything is raw, ragged, confusing. There’s no sense to be made or found anywhere. It seems there aren’t answers to any of our burning questions.

It is as though we are forever in flux, walking a dead landscape of uprooted trees, smashed cars, swollen rivers spilling their banks. We wander in neighborhoods of broken houses full of random (and often useless) belongings. An egg beater. A wheel. One lonely shoe.

Love the questions like locked rooms or books written in a foreign tongue.

We want to feel some sort of solace, but there is none. There’s just a sense that everything in this wide world is shifting, but nothing has shifted, yet.

Live the questions. And, perhaps, as Rilke wrote a hundred and ten years ago, we cannot live the answers. Yet.

So we must live the questions.

To me, this is what this particular time is all about. Living with this sense of foreboding. Living with the acid burn of negative potentials. Catastrophic climate change. The rapacious over-use of our natural world. The senseless killing of our own wildness, simply for the sake of killing.

We must live inside these terrible questions. These questions that make us ache, so we will become larger, more pliable, and more open.

Finding our way into the answers.

We cannot solve the problems we face with the same sort of thinking that created them. We cannot be so certain of which path to take. We must all become beginners. We are slowly cracking and breaking the outer shell (ego) in order to reveal the true. We have never been here before. We are brand new.

So, as I sit shaking in my boots and shitting my pants at the mere thought of all this change — of these paradigm shifts that are unseen in any lifetime before ours — I keep reminding myself, always be a beginner, always realize there is something to learn, always remember that you know far less than you think.

Be a novice. Be a blank page. Be embryonic in your sense of yourself. You are just learning the steps. You are just starting out. It is okay to be stupid or blind or to not have the answers. It is okay to be wrong, to make mistakes, to muck it all up. This is all part of the process of becoming. Of enlightenment. Of living.

Love it all.

The confusion. The mess. The raw, red rims of your eyes. Love the experience of being born. Love the experience of watching the old way of life die. Watch everything burn. Watch everything go. Don’t be afraid.

This. This is how you find your way. You don’t notice the changes as they come. You just wake up, one bright morning — sky the color of robin’s eggs — and you realize that you are there. And you open the door and smell the restless air and say a prayer of profound thanks.

{Love your life. It’s all you really have.}

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Shavawn M. Berry
Shavawn M. Berry’s work has appeared in The Huffington Post, elephant journal, The Good Men Project, The Anjana Network, Be You Media Group, Journey of the Heart: Women's Spiritual Poetry, Olentangy Review, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Vagina - The Zine, Rebelle Society, The Cancer Poetry Project 2, Kinema Poetics, Kalliope, Poet Lore, Westview – A Journal of Western Oklahoma, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Concho River Review, North Atlantic Review, Synapse, Living Buddhism, Blue Mountain Arts/SPS, and Poetry Seattle. She's been writing about spiritual topics for more than twenty years, and has been a practicing Buddhist for the past 29 years. In addition to her blog and Rebelle Society, she regularly writes for Be You Media Group. Her technique essay on the dramatic monologue/persona poem is featured in a poetry database published in 2013 by Ebsco Publishing. In 1998, she received her MPW in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles where she specialized in Creative Nonfiction and Memoir. Ms. Berry teaches writing at Arizona State University where she received a Lincoln Ethics Teaching Fellowship in 2013 and has been honored for curriculum design and innovative pedagogy. She is one of just two teachers at ASU involved with Prison Education and The Pen Project, a unique writing and editing internship that allows undergraduate students the opportunity to critique the writing of maximum security inmates in New Mexico and Arizona, while learning about the need for better educational opportunities for prisoners throughout the US. You can follow her on Facebook or read more of her work on her blog. Her website featuring a selection of her essays, blog postings, and prose is available at shavawnmberry.com.
Shavawn M. Berry

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