Perhaps it’s my Concord upbringing coming through once again, but I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration from Emerson’s writings over the years. But the more I have read of Emerson, and the more I have learned of the Quakers, the more it becomes clear to me just how much American Transcendentalism was influenced by the Quaker concept of “inner light” and the importance of listening for that “still, small voice.” I’ve had plenty of experience “shooting of the gulf” and “darting to an aim,” but goodness knows I could use more practice in listening to what moves me to act.
So today’s experiment is Emersonian, to some degree, but more accurately, it comes out of the Quaker practice of queries. According to the Friends General Conference,
Queries are questions that guide personal and group reflection on how our lives and actions are shaped by Love and Truth. The emphasis is on how to live a life more completely aligned with the life of the spirit.
For today, I’ve tried to keep bringing myself back to a rather basic query:
Why am I doing what I am doing? What guides my actions?
Sadly, a majority of my actions today seem to be driven by:
- Instinct/Stimulus Response
I would love to say that after three weeks of attention toward simple living that I am more finely attuned to the flow and texture of my daily life, and that I am living life more deliberately….
But that would be a lie.
But don’t get me wrong–today’s post isn’t written in a slump of dejection. Rather, it’s an admission to the fact that for a vast majority of my day, I’m still caught up in all sorts of emotional, mental, intellectual, and financial entanglements that make me more reactive than intentional in my actions.
So the query stands: Why am I doing what I am doing? What guides my actions?
The question really serves two purposes. Yes, certainly it helps me think about my drives and motivations. But before I can get there, something else has to happen first. I have to be aware of my actions in the first place. Sounds stupid to type it out and see those words on my screen, but the truth is: half the time I don’t know what I’m doing while I’m doing it… much less what motivates me to do what I am doing.
So like slowing down, stopping, looking, and listening, the query serves as a tool to help me see myself and my actions–so I can then start taking those actions in a more conscious and deliberate fashion.