Asking questions is a great way to expand your awareness.
Unless you ask the questions, you won’t get the answers. And if you don’t get the answers, you live your life based on the answers given to you by the mass media.
Here is an exercise that can help you broaden your thinking and consciousness. When you find the time, ask yourself some of these questions and ponder on the answers. Try to think beyond what you have been taught.
Even though these questions might sound very basic, they are powerful. They have the power to broaden you mind and your perspective on life.
1.) Who am I?
Am I my thoughts? Am I my mind? Am I my body? Am I the intelligence present in each one of my cells? Am I universal intelligence? Am I life energy? Am I the culmination of all of these?
We derive our identity from the world around us.
When we look at others, our mind relates to the similarities and dissimilarities and uses this information to generate an image of our being. When people call us by a name, we start relating our identity to that name.
In other words, we create an identity for our being by comparing/contrasting and by the inputs we receive from the environment around us.
But once this identity develops, we get lost in it and soon the questioning of our true identity stops. The mind does not need to question any further as it has everything it needs for basic survival.
The only answer that comes to our mind on the surface level when asked ‘Who am I?’ is ‘I am so and so’, ‘I am a Christian’, ‘I am a male’, so on and so forth. But deep down, we know that we are so much more than these limited identities.
So ask the question ‘who am I’ and spend time pondering over the answer. Think beyond your name, your gender and your beliefs. Ask this question multiple times a day or while meditating.
Don’t expect to come-up with a rational answer though!
If you think your mind has come up with a rational answer like, “oh right, I am the spirit” or “I am consciousness” or anything of that sort, then realize that this is just the mind trying to come up with rational answers to something that is very irrational. Something that is beyond comprehension.
This question does not have to have an answer. But asking it will help you explore infinite depths of your being.
The inquiry ‘Who am I?’ turns the mind introvert and makes it calm – Ramana Maharishi.
Be a loner. That gives you time to wonder, to search for the truth. Have holy curiosity. Make your life worth living – Albert Einstein
2.) What am I breathing in?
It’s easy to dismiss this question using a rational answer like, I am breathing air or oxygen.
But have you ever questioned what this so called ‘air’ is? Yes, scientifically speaking, air consists of natural gases, including oxygen that our body needs to survive. But think beyond this answer.
As you ask yourself this question, become more and more conscious of the air you are breathing and the energy (prana) it contains. Also become aware that every other living being is breathing it too.
We are all connected by this single stream of energy!
3.) How big is this universe?
Does the universe have a boundary? If you were to travel infinitely in a straight line will you ever reach a boundary?
If there is a boundary, what is beyond this boundary? Is there nothing? If so, how do you define nothing? If you think nothing is just dark empty space then empty space is also something.
Is there really an end? Or is the universe infinite or an endless loop?
It’s easy to dismiss this question as a joke and most will do, but that does not negate the reality. For the ponderer this is indeed a very deep question.
I have found that thinking about the amazing vastness of the universe can have a calming effect on the mind and body.It shuts down your ego and helps you put things into perspective.
4.) Can happiness exist without sadness?
Everything is life is polarized by its exact opposite – Osho
Our mind generates a self image through comparison.
Our mind perceives the good only by comparing it with the bad or evil. If everyone on earth was good, the mind will not be able to see good. So for the good to exist, you need the bad. The same concept applies to everything in our universe.
In a similar way, happiness and sadness are two sides of the same coin. True happiness cannot exist without sadness. If you were in a perpetual state of happiness, you wouldn’t know what happiness is. You need to contrast it with sadness to realize you are happy.
For example, remember the day when you were really thirsty but there was no water around? It was only after reaching home that you took your first sip and it tasted sublime. Water never tasted better. It’s only when we are really thirsty (sadness) that we can truly enjoy drinking water (happiness). Similarly, even ordinary food tastes amazing to something who has fasted for a day or two. Only he can truly enjoy that food.
In life, there is this amazing balance that exists between all these opposing states. Life wouldn’t exist without this balance.
If it was only day all the time, we wouldn’t know what day light is. It is only by comparing it with the night that we figure out what day is. Both day and night is required for survival of life on earth. So even though night is perceived as bad it is crucial for sustenance of life.
5.) What was before the big bang?
Science conveniently tells us that everything came out of a big bang and most of us happily accept this notion without any urge to question this further.
The real question is, what was before the big bang? Was there nothing? If so what is nothingness?
Many physicists believe that before the big bang, the entire universe was a million billion billion times smaller than a single atom. Some say that the universe was a very simple, extremely compact ball of energy. But still this does not answer the real question. Where and how did this all begin?
So even if at some point scientists do figure out what was before the big bang, another question would arise which is ‘what was before that which was discovered?’.
It can be a humbling experience for the egoistic mind to realize that we know so little and that our capacity is limited. Yes we are infinite beings, but we also come with our set of limitations as far as the physical world is concerned.
The only true wisdom is to know that you know nothing – Socrates
6.) What’s at the ultimate core of an atom?
If you look deeper into atoms (which are the smallest building blocks of matter) you can find sub-atomic particles like protons, neutrons and electrons.
But what are these sub-atomic particles made of? Let’s call them, super sub-atomic particles. Now what are these super-sub-atomic particles made of? You get the idea.. The list goes on.
The deeper we go, the more we will find. Is there an end to how deep we can go? No, cause for every smaller particle we find, there is another smaller particle that it is made of.
A lot of physicists actually agree that before the big bang the universe was billions of times smaller than an atom. Is there an end to how small things can get? The obvious answer is No.
So in other words, just like we cannot gauge how big the universe is, we cannot gauge how small or how deep the universe goes. We have infinity at both ends.
7.) What is my body doing right now?
When we are lost in our minds it’s so easy to forget about the various highly complex processes that are effortlessly going on in our bodies this very moment.
Your heart is beating and has been beating since the beginning purifying and sending life energy to all parts of the body; your lungs are drawing in air; extracting oxygen from it and sending it to all the cells; your stomach and intestines are engaged in the complex process of digesting and extracting energy from food; your ears are interpreting vibrations and converting them into sounds; eyes are picking up reflected light and creating imagery; liver and kidneys flushing out toxins and the list goes on.
At any given point, this and hundreds of other processes are happening in your body and the great thing is, these processes are happening on their own without your interference. You just need to sit back and relax and these processes will still continue. No monitoring is required.
This realization can be highly liberating as it gives you the idea that you don’t control everything and that it is okay to not be in control. There are a whole lot of things that are happening on their own and a superior intelligence is at play.
8.) Who taught the bird to build a nest?
No one tells a bird what to do. Yet, the bird knows exactly what type of nest to build and when to build it. The bird also knows how to hatch the eggs and then feed the young ones.
How did the bird know all this? Did an older, more mature bird give it nest building lessons? Did an older bird inform it when to build the nest, how to hatch the eggs, what to feed the baby or how to teach the baby to fly?
Yet, all of this happens automatically.
This is inner intelligence at play. The bird just knows inherently what to do. It does not need any guidance from anyone. It does not need thinking. It is just following its natural urges.
This is the same inner intelligence that operates within each and everyone of us!
9.) What is my true identity?
This question automatically arises out of the ‘who am I?’ question. If we ponder deeper on this question, we will soon realize that our identity is a relative concept.
The mind generates its identity by studying its environment both on a micro and macro level.
For example, a person comes to the conclusion that he is a tall guy, by comparing himself to other shorter guys. He further strengthens this identity by listening to others call him tall or by checking facts on the average height of humans.
This is very similar to loading a computer with a particular program. It simply starts acting out the program once loaded. If you load it with windows, it works as a windows computer and if you remove the windows and load it with Linux (or Mac or any other operating system), it works as a Linux machine. So the hardware is the same, but the machine takes different forms based on the software.
Mind generated identity is similar. It is limited and does not define us as its very nature is dependent on the programming it receives from the outside and pre-loaded information present on the inside (at the DNA level).
Realizing this is crucial if you want to break free from negative and limiting mind patterns. Once you become aware of this you become more aware of your mind and the thoughts it generates. You can then discard limiting beliefs and work towards replacing them with positive ones.
10.) What is this burning ball of fire?
So we have this giant ball of fire that burns incessantly and then we have a few other round balls of dust that revolve this ball of fire. Doesn’t that sound like a fairy tale?
Now, it’s easy to dismiss all of this when we attribute the creation of universe to a God or to a phenomenon like the big bang. When we do that, we can safely stop thinking of all this fairy tale business and get on with our lives. But who are we kidding?
People tend to safely attribute things like these to the supernatural because it helps take their mind off of the thinking. But thinking about these things gives us a different perspective of life. It helps us come out of our conditioned mind and look at the sun and everything else around us beyond the text-book definition.
I remember my science teacher teach us about the universe and how nonchalant her attitude was. As if all of these was nothing to her and that science had conquered it all.
She would say “there is this sun that burns cause of all the hydrogen molecules and planets like earth rotate around it cause of the gravitational pull. And yes, there are 8 planets. Make sure to memorize the names”. And then she would teach us an acronym of sorts to remember the names.
Putting these things into text-book matter reduces them to mere lifeless information instead of something amazing, mysterious and magical.
11.) How much do we actually know about the world around us?
A true genius admits that he/she knows nothing. – Einstein
Our brain interprets the electrical signals that it receives using all the sensory organs (like eyes, ears, skin etc.)
So in a way we are at best only guessing what’s out there.
The brain is limited in its functioning and hence it can only give us limited information and this again is based on the interpretation of sensory data it gathers from the sensory organs which again are limited in their functionality.
For example: Our ears cannot hear ultrasonic sounds. Our hearing range is limited to any sounds between 20 hz to 20 khz. Similarly our vision is restricted. Our eyes can see only a tiny range of waves between 390 to 700 nano meters. We cannot see gamma rays, x rays, ultra violet rays, infrared and microwaves to name a few.
There is a lot that we don’t know and it’s a fact that there’s a lot that we will never ever be able to know cause of our inherent limitations.
Knowing how little we know can help us become free from the conditioned mind and the resulting ego.