Seeing the best in life's challenges

Being In the Question

I am so fortunate to have friends that go deep.  One of these friends used this phrase “Being In the Question” the other day, and I have been thinking a lot about it since.

This is a friend who knows me, knows my family, and knows so much of my experience.

When we sat down to lunch, one of us said something like, “How is everything?” and we completely skipped the small talk and went right into the deep.  We both noticed it and talked about it – how we went straight there.  It’s a wonderful bond to share.  She is a friend that I met by chance (haha!) and even at that first meeting, she instinctively shared with me something that was sensitive information.  She told me later how she worried at the time that she shouldn’t have done that!

We have worked on a common goal together, in the roles of women who care about teaching kids.  We created together with others, at a time when the world didn’t quite support what we were doing, but we forged ahead anyway.  We both observed along the way.  We talked it through.  We learned a ton, about life, about ourselves, and about each other.

And through it all, we have maintained a safe zone.  We can tell each other anything, we can ask any question, we can face defeat, all without resorting to making someone wrong or retreating into fear.  Oh, if you could see her in action…..she is amazing!

We have shared our challenges and helped each other, mostly just by listening.  Because of her, I know how valuable it is just to hash things out with someone who is willing to just be there.

So I was telling her more about my ponderings, the concepts I question, the dilemmas in my head.  Really, truly, most people would think I am off my rocker.  Instead, she comes up with a zinger.  When she said, “you’re In the Question” and “the answer doesn’t matter” she hit the nail on the head.  YES!!!

We’ve all heard It’s The Journey, Not The Destination.  I think most people get that — it’s the process that’s important, not just where you are going.  But this is definitely linear thinking – there’s a path to be followed, it might twist and turn, but it’s still one step and then another, and there is a final place to get to.  A beginning and an end.  It’s a great saying, and really helpful, because it says to pay attention to those steps, to what you are doing now, because it is all important.

But as we move beyond linear thinking to conceptual thinking, we need to understand that idea on a different level.  And to me, Being In the Question describes that equivalent concept.

I have always been a person who likes to analyze and understand things.  In various capacities, it seems I always end up collecting lots of data, researching, organizing it, and analyzing it to come up with conclusions or common threads, or nuggets of wisdom.  It’s just me.  It’s why I am so all over the place with this blog.  It may seem random but I am always working to see how it all fits together.  And for me, this is being In the Question.  It’s quantum thinking/being.

The answer is irrelevant.  There is no destination.  You might get to the answer for one question, but by then you are already In another Question.  And the truth is, it’s not just one Question I am In at a time, it is several intersecting and interacting Questions.

Being In the Question, for me, describes how one’s mind can play its rightful part in the process, while I am BEING totally in the NOW. It’s freedom — my mind plays with the details while my soul dances with the possibilities.

The motivation for the questioning is curiosity.  It has nothing to do with having to control an outcome.  It has nothing to do with worrying about an answer that is good enough or doesn’t fit what is “supposed” to be. It’s more a frame of mind, an approach that includes no fear, no expectations, no assumptions that can’t be questioned.  There is no longer a place or reason for “right” or “wrong” rather, it is all about understanding.  I am In the Question for the pure joy of understanding, and the satisfaction of clarity that comes with seeing the big picture.

As I have spent time In my Questions, I can tell you that everything does become clear and the pieces do fall into place.  I can see how a challenge in one aspect of my life has taught me the exact lesson or given me the exact experience I needed to be able to interpret something that is a central part of another Question.  I am here to tell you, you CAN absolutely know your soul’s purpose, you CAN know the bigger picture… is all there, but there is a lot of seeking and stretching outside the box and leaping off cliffs before you can get there.  All metaphorical, you know.  You can’t expect to understand it in a linear fashion, it will never make sense that way.

And I also want to say, this approach might seem to be intellectualized and logical as I have described it.  But it has as much to do with paying attention to the data that comes from your heart (feelings and intuition) as the data that comes from your head.  It’s about trust and faith and knowing, all things that can only come from the heart.

M and I don’t spend that much time together.  We have separate lives and backgrounds and sets of friends and that’s just fine.  We are working on different Questions.  And to me it has always been so interesting that we seem to have gotten to the same place and come to the same conclusions, from very different angles and sets of experiences.  We both have the skill set and the openness to be there for each other.  We have that safe zone when we need it.  Having that, we empower and encourage each other.  And we SEE each other and love each other for exactly who we are and for the Questions we are In.

Just another one of the many reasons I am a very lucky girl. 🙂

snoopy question


The Scientific Mind: Linear or Conceptual?

Science is reliable.  We can trust its conclusions.  It is logical.  It tells us what’s true.  Do you agree?

In school, we teach the scientific method.  It’s how we test a question (or hypothesis) to determine whether it is correct or not.



For basic scientific concepts, this is a straightforward process, one that is practiced in the labs of every high school.  An experiment can be replicated over and over to show consistent results. Scientific method is the linear framework that we use to test a hypothesis step by step.

Much of what we would commonly think of as science or scientific professions deals with subjects that have been tested and proven.  The medical profession, for example, relies on what is known about how the human body functions, the effects of pharmaceuticals, the effects of diet and exercise, and the role of genetics.  All of this has been demonstrated by rigorous and numerous scientific studies.

But physicians, for example, pretty much stick to following the established rules and procedures that have been determined for them.  They are not acting as “scientists” who are coming up with new hypotheses and testing new treatments.  Physicians follow a linear paradigm of applied science.

There are exceptions, but they tend not to be well-received.  The example that opened my eyes is the story of Dr. Robert Atkins.  He read about a diet, experimented on himself and got good results, then had certain of his cardiology patients follow the diet and got similarly good results.  He documented his findings.  He did everything you are supposed to do as a scientist……except that his conclusions ran counter to the accepted body of knowledge at the time.  And in our world, we really don’t want physicians acting as scientists.  We don’t want them experimenting on us.  We expect the medical profession to follow the rules.  Linear application of science.

The medical profession is not unusual.  A large number of those trained as scientists, end up working in situations where they are applying known scientific principles to, say, produce a product in a consistent manner.  This is using science in a linear manner.

I dare say this is why so many with science degrees who go out and get a “real job,” lose interest, and switch into business roles.  Studying science encourages thinking and creativity, but working in applied science is all about following the rules (linear) and NOT stepping out of bounds or being creative (being conceptual).

The general population is comfortable with the scientific principles that are known, proven, and well-established.  This is nothing new.  We are happy to embrace the idea of science when it proves what we are already comfortable with.

It’s a different story when you go outside the box.

Conceptual science is the domain of the researcher.  And that’s where science gets complicated because there are all kinds of assumptions and outside influences that are messy.  The more complicated the hypothesis that is being tested, the harder it is to control the variables of an experiment.  And most real-life situations are complicated.

So, what exactly is Science, anyway?  Is it the proven facts that we use in Applied Science?  Or is it the constant questioning of the unknown?

This is an interesting paradox.  Most people want science to tell them the absolute answers, but testing what is outside the box is really what science is all about.  It’s easy and safe to follow established procedures and that is what has allowed us to take advantage of the discoveries that science has found so far.

It’s a different thing altogether to come up with some crazy hypothesis and test it out.  But this is what higher education in the sciences teaches you.  It’s creative thinking, experimentation (i.e. play), and then documenting what you did.



A pure scientist will be free of bias of any kind.  This is very, very rare in our world.  Who is paying for the research?  Who does the scientist work for?  Is there an expected result, and how will the researchers feel if they do years of research, only to come up with nothing?  Are the conclusions too far from generally accepted wisdom?  If the conclusions seem crazy, will they be able to compete for that next research grant?

Some become so attached to their hypothesis that they have a very hard time seeing the facts that contradict it, and only see and pursue the research that affirms it.

After all, we are talking about humans here.

I’ve done enough research, analysis, and documentation to know that there is much more room to “spin” one’s conclusions than most people realize.  You can do all your work but then you have to “tell the story.”  Some are better at telling stories than others.  Some have motivations to tell their stories from one angle rather than another.  If telling your story in a slightly different way means you can keep your job and feed your family, what do you think most people will do?

Science Outside the Box

If you really want to explore and think about these ideas, read The Field by Lynne McTaggert.  It is an easy-to-read book about cutting edge scientists who are looking at observable things in the world that don’t fit into our established paradigm.

A linear thinker who works in a scientific field will color within the lines.  He or she will follow the principles that are proven.  Understand, this is how our world functions!   Otherwise, there would be mass chaos!  There is absolutely nothing wrong with this role, unless the linear thinkers become so comfortable in their paradigm that they are unable to leave room for the role of the conceptual thinkers.

The conceptual thinkers approach the world of science with a mind that has no limits.  There are relatively few of these people, but we need them!  Those that think conceptually, outside the box.  This is where progress is made.  This is where our comfortable paradigms get questioned and stretched.  This is where there are no forbidden questions.  This is where we ask “What If?” without fear of where that will lead us.

This kind of scientist is less concerned with being right and knowing “the answer” – rather, it is all about gaining a better understanding.  This scientist is never done with the quest.

My conceptual-thinking, science-trained mind is always open to learning something new.  It’s why I constantly ponder and wonder.  I think and think because I find it interesting, like working on a puzzle.  I’m sure it can appear obsessive, and I also think this can be misunderstood because it might resemble worrying.  But fear has no place in the obsessively thinking mind of a scientist.  At least that’s how it is for me.  It’s also why I’m driven to “tell my story” and be understood.  It’s why I welcome dialog and other viewpoints.  The process never ends, it just keeps looping on toward a greater understanding.

That’s my attempt to explain the Scientific Mind.



Conceptual vs. Linear Thinking

(note:  I wrote some more on the topic more recently: Looking Toward the Future:  Linear vs. Conceptual Views.)

I was listening to something the other day, that spoke about the idea that more kids these days are born “conceptual” thinkers.  They already see the big picture, they already intuitively understand things.  The suggestion was, give them the big picture, then ask what questions they have.

The step-by-step approach, or linear thinking, just makes these kids bored.

Well, I can relate.  I realized from the description, that I am a conceptual thinker.  My mind is always multi-tasking and working out puzzles and possibilities.

Have you seen the move Next with Nicholas Cage?  Cage’s character, Cris Johnson, is a magician who has a special ability to see a few minutes into the future.  When I watched the movie, this idea didn’t seem so far-fetched to me — most of the time, if you are paying attention, the consequences of people’s actions and human behavior aren’t too hard to predict.  Ok, so the movie goes on….. Cris meets a girl named Liz.  Somehow, when Cris is with Liz, he can see far into the future.

At the end of the movie, as Cris is trying to figure out how to handle a situation so that it works out for everyone, there is a scene where he runs through possible scenarios in his mind, very quickly one after the other.  When I saw this, it blew me away, because THAT’S HOW I THINK.  I thought, that’s me, that’s it.

No, I can’t see into the future.  But I can, very quickly, weigh possible outcomes, what is likely to happen, and how it will affect people.  It’s a constant search for the best outcome.  It’s not just thinking logically, it’s a big part inspiration or intuition, and it happens all at once.  It’s definitely not a step-by-step, linear process.  If I had to force myself to slow down, or to explain the steps, that would be really difficult and maybe impossible.  It just happens.

No wonder we label these kids with ADD.  Their brains don’t work the way we expect them to.  We put them in school, which is still primarily linear, and drive them crazy, bore them to death, tell them there is something “wrong” with them….

Inside, these kids “know” that they understand things.  If you talk with them and observe them and let them tell you about something they are interested in, this is very obvious.

In years past, when we needed to educate people to live in a linear world of assembly lines and accounting firms, we needed people to be linear thinkers.  And now, as China is following in our footsteps, they are churning out linear thinkers, kids who spend hours and hours doing homework, who follow the steps and the rules, and they are doing a better job at it than we are.

MAYBE that’s because we are moving on to the next step.  Our innovators and creative thinkers, those who will come up with cutting edge technologies and ideas, aren’t linear thinkers….they are conceptual thinkers.

Read about Steve Jobs and how he drove his employees crazy with his approach (“I’ll know it when I see it.”)  Malcolm Gladwell wrote a great article that speaks to this.  Jobs life story is a good example of how a creative, conceptual thinker navigated a largely linear world.

Seems to me that there is a lot of hand-wringing going on, that is a result of trying to fit square pegs (conceptual thinkers) into round holes (the linear paradigm).  If we reframe the issue, and instead focus on how we can nurture the conceptual thinkers, the path forward will be much easier!

A continuation of this discussion is here, in case you are interested.