What does it mean to ask smaller questions? It means to find a heading instead of a destination, a way of life instead of a martial art and joy instead of fear.
The martial artist prepares the body for combat, prepares the spirit for the clash and the heart for trial. The one who lives past the battlefield may find that living a full life makes the body more supple and ready; the spirit at ease with itself to ride the ebbs of warfare and the heart that loves can more easily relinquish pride and dogma for learning and freedom.
The one who pursues a destination draws the eyes narrow to focus on the end goal. The goal whether set or moving will determine the mindset and actions of the pursuer rather than the core of the person. There is little freedom on that path. A heading is not as much of a choice as much as it is self-awareness. Know what you are and follow through to be of service to yourself and to those you care for. The focus of your work will not stray or be a slave to outside forces and freedom is abound on this path.
Two practical examples:
1. You ride the bus to work and someone keeps shoving you as you stand in the crowded enclosure. You can shove back if you consider short term comfort or use an expletive to shove verbally but both of them while being valid at times, are responses, not collected choices. Most time we react because we do not allow for the thought and feel loop to reach its end. We become crowded within with thoughts, projections and fluff put there by people with causes that are not your causes.
A long question can be “why is this person shoving me at my side on the bus on this time of day?” That question while looking somewhat detailed is also very limiting and narrow in focus. It may seem counter intuitive but the more you stay in yourself, the easier it is to broaden your horizons. Placing the focus of another person on you in your mind limits the options a lot. Look past the initial contact and see if he is pushed himself by relaxing your eyes (The small question – Am I comfortable?). Pay attention to your feet and see if the bus is moving in a jerky motion and you have a stable spot which the other person does not? And sometimes, though you are tranquil within, you can choose to be violent but without any show of aggression or increase of tension which comes from fighting with yourself.
2. A knife is thrust to your middle. Fear of pain and the unknown future spasm your arms and hips to block and bend as the feral side surfaces and you see just what is in front of you. Fighting fear is a brave quest but is it really a small question?
Seeing is much shorter than judgment and has far less filters between senses and sense.
Judgment is an integral and inseparable part of us all but acknowledging it is the small step we do not take which separates us from tranquility and our natural vigilance.
Fear is actions we do not control fully such as instincts and emotion – response we all have to keep us safe and reproducing. Our bodies through evolution record the actions that keep us reproducing and launch them at what our core sees as survival moments. Accepting fear as a part of us allows us to use the energy it releases into the various systems of the body without disengaging the non-automatic functions. Things become much simpler once we stop fighting ourselves.
The knife comes to the body. One leg releases tension already held and the body is out of the way. The arm moves from the body relaxation without tension to gyro the knife into the person and you are able to avoid harm while maneuvering whining calm. All this is allowed by using small simple questions that do not have definitive answers.
Am I comfortable?
Why am I afraid?
What made that noise?
Keep the loop small and simple.