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Sherry Ruth Anderson

Listen for your own deep questions and follow them. Let them guide you the way a compass guides a lost traveler, marking true north when there are no maps… or when the maps you have no longer show the way to where you want to go.

Listening like this is soul level listening. You have to be willing, or longing, or desperate enough to turn away from other people’s answers. You have to turn toward your unknown self. To take time.

Your question doesn’t have to look like a question. It can be a fragment of conversation you overheard on the bus yesterday or the line of a song that won’t go away. Or a poem. It can be something someone asks you. My friend Vanda asked me- Is there a map for growing old? It had an echo, that question. A reverberation that didn’t stop. I wrote a book to answer it.

A question can come from something you see and can’t make sense of. It can come from a memory or a set of memories or a photograph hanging on a wall. The year I turned 35, I went to Auschwitz and walked through its unspeakable rooms. I came to a room lined with photographs of faces, their eyes flashing terror. That’s how I would have been, I thought.

I looked and looked. I must have been looking for something that made me keep on searching because when I came to one set of eyes, I stopped. The eyes, filled with the deepest kindness and sorrow, looked into mine. This is what is possible, they told me. I left that day with a question that has guided my life ever since: What does it mean to be a human being?

To talk about turning towards your own questions and letting them guide you brings up, I suppose, the matter of answers. How do you know when you have an answer? What kinds of answers can you trust? I’d have to say that I think answers are… well, not the answer. They’re not even all that interesting, once you begin to engage the questions.

Because living into the questions means opening to a quality of living presence flowing through you, through the moments of your days. So you become the questions, unfolding and ever new, revealing the possibilities of this human life.

Doesn’t it make you curious to discover your own real questions?

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Sherry Ruth Anderson writes and teaches about spiritual development, with a special interest in women's experience and aging as awakening. Her books include The Feminine Face of God and The Cultural Creatives, and her recent documentary is A Woman's Descent to the Sacred. She was associate professor and head of psychological research at the University of Toronto Medical School.

She currently lives in Novato, California and can be reached at

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