Image description: Two fall leaves are in focus. They are red, yellow, and green. Behind them is out of focus green. Photo credit: Stasha Huntingford.

This is a Year of Sacred Attendance | #tenderyear post. You can read the first in this series here, and you can sign up for the Tender Year email list here.

The Year of Sacred Attendance will run from October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018.

Each day of the week has a unique focus. You can participate in all of them, or pick and choose the ones that resonate for you. We will be using #tenderyear for every post related to the project, with daily tags as well (to make it easier for folks to find each other on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter).

Over the next while, I will be sharing a blog post for each day of the week.

You can read the post for Sunday’s Venn diagramming #challengethebinary prompt, and an interview with Stasha, here.

This post is about the Monday focus. In the welcome post about this year, this is how Monday was framed:

Monday

Attending to the Questions. #questioneverything

A significant focus of this project is inviting and facilitating compassionate self-awareness. You can ask yourself whatever questions feel right for you – the focus of Monday is simply to take time to ask yourself how things are going. If you’re not sure what to ask, here are some sample questions, and you can answer whichever feel right for you. Not everyone participating in this project will be working on creative projects, and not everyone will feel comfortable with a goal of presence – trauma is a real factor in many of our lives, and can make presence a real challenge. These are just a place to start:

What are you creating?

What do you need?

Do you feel present?

Could you try something different?

What are you wondering about?

Now that we are three weeks into the Year of Sacred Attendance, it is abundantly clear that Mondays (like every day in this Tender Year) are open to a wide range of potential interpretations.

This post is meant to be a brief introduction to some of the ways you can use this focus.

Choose a theme:

Do you feel like you’re disconnected? Maybe focusing on presence would help. Try questions like –

Have you felt present with yourself this week?

Do you feel present with yourself now?

What would help you feel present with yourself?

Or maybe you feel curious, and focusing on discovery would the right fit for you. Try questions like –

What do I want to know more about?

What have I learned in the last week?

What can I find in my environment that I’ve never noticed before?

Choose a type:

What would a series of “what” questions look like?

How would you structure a series of “how” questions?

Why* would you be interested in a series of “why” questions?

Who would benefit from a list of “who” questions?

When would there be value in a set of “when” questions?

Are you excited about hypothetical questions?

Will you find theoretical questions creative and energizing?

* A note on the “why” questions. Nathan Fawaz wisely pointed out that why questions can be harsh and judgemental,

After last week, I shared with the group that “both Mondays so far, I have had a FLOOD of “why” questions. It takes a significant amount of effort to get past the whys and into something more compassionate and generous, and even then, it’s so tight. I feel so much anger at the unfairness and injustice of things. It is getting in the way of feeling any tenderness, or even any true presence, in the moment. I’m not sure what to do about it, but it’s just something I’m noticing.”

Stasha calls this “the ‘anxiety wants to know’ part of my morning and mourning.”

Nathan echoed the experience of “The anxiety of the mo(u)rning.”

I think many of us have felt it.

This wanting to know, to understand the source and reason for the injustice, is such a deeply human and compassionate drive. Although we are grasping at control that isn’t ours to hold, the desire is valid and makes sense. It appears that if we can figure out why, then maybe we can fix it instead of feeling so helpless and in pain.

Quoting Stasha’s brilliance again, “It is about avoiding helplessness, or at least having the illusion that we can help.”

If your why questions are fueled by anxiety, fear, and anger – that is okay. Those are valid questions.

It might bring some additional tenderness to your Monday practice to add something gentler to the questioning, when you’re caught in the mourning why. But you may find that you need space for that grief and anger, and that is okay.

Let it be light:

Nathan suggested the following series of questions:

I would add some of these (with lots of cookies and love for all manner of answer. I think people might feel that the Monday questions have to be really weighty.  Sometimes the question is: and what else will I put on my delicious sandwich. And those questions are incredibly important):

In this moment, one of thousands in your day, what questions are arising?

In this moment, what is calling your attention? Something inside?  Something outside?  What questions are being asked by whatever is calling your attention?

In this moment, maybe your brain is being very loud and possibly unkind. If you could put a silly hat and rollerskates on that voice and interview it, what would be the top three questions you asked it?

In this moment, threaded throughout all of our layers of demand and terror there is a heartstring that asks generous questions of love and openness. What are these questions?

Let yourself follow whatever questioning path feels right for you:

Stasha identified one of the most powerful things about making space to ask questions when she said, “I think there is potential to make space to explore on Mondays. I find this liberating because many of my experiences with oppression have involved my questions being silenced, punished, or redirected.”

Allow yourself to ask the questions without being silenced by the old voices in your past.

You do not have to share the questions publicly, or even write them down. There is power in letting ourselves slide up to the side of an important question and just nudge it before retreating again. There is value in shouting the questions out. There is value in writing the questions down and burning them.

Allowing ourselves to question – to question everything – is a powerful process.

It doesn’t mean we’ll get rid of our old beliefs.

We can question something and still hold on to it. I think that a big part of why we’re afraid of questioning is because we feel that if we question something, we’ll always find out that it’s broken or bad. But this is not true.

You can question your faith, question your relationships, question your life goals, without jeopardizing them. The questions can make these things stronger. And they can empower you to bring your critical, playful, expansive, curious, amazing mind into the dynamic in new and loving ways.

Separate the question from the answer:

Sometimes you’ll want to answer the questions you ask – that’s awesome!

But sometimes we don’t let ourselves ask a question because we don’t have the answer yet, and one of the most delightful and liberating things about the Monday focus is that you have explicit, enthusiastic permission to ask questions that don’t have answers.

Take a leaf from Stasha’s book:

On October 9, Stasha posted –

“Another chance to #questioneverything, joy! Today we explore why leaves turn different colors in the fall. This is a cool question because the chlorophyll green hides the colors underneath, and the red we see in the death of the leaves also appears when the leaves are new. I love how Mondays encourage our curiosity. I think curiosity is sacred. During my doctoral studies I would not have looked this up because I felt that I didn’t have time, now I feel that I don’t have the time to not look it up. What a wonderful #tenderyear so far!”

Or make a fruitful discovery, like Nathan had:

Nathan’s October 9 post was equally playful –

“Question: Can one remove the central sphere of a Concord grape from its delicious membranous sac, without rupturing it?

Answer: Yes. Reliably.

This was not the question I’d originally planned to ask today, but then a compassionate friend invited me to this question and I realized it was exactly the question I needed.

That and it’s follow-up: Wouldn’t this make a great bowl of eyeballs for Hallowe’en?

Somatic and fun. Also delicious.”

May we all have such delight, and such satisfying explorations, on our Tender Year Mondays.