What to do before you know, how to know what to know, what to do when you know.
Everyone who wants to know how to ask compassionate questions needs to know basics of Socratic Method that is to ask question without defined goal. The skill is to begin with what you know, connect it with bigger problem, observe where it fits and where it is not, ask why, try different approaches. In Socratic conversation no one is authority except your personal experience and reasoning. The conversations are search only for your own truth.
Why to ask?
We work on a question to be in our best form. Each question is growth, strength, and new balance in uncertainty. In each dialogue two people support each other by offering their knowledge: ask the question and wait for answer, get an agreement on each definition, clarify each similarity and difference, define common values, look for missing details and concrete examples, check if they can see bigger picture, find comfort in search for parallels between familiar and unfamiliar experiences. If we are relaxed in the same opinion, we are in danger of failing into habit and compulsion.
The way of practice is never claiming expertise and never leave your partner helpless. Always wish your partner to win! Avoid offend and be offended, take own mistake as an advantage. Remember to have the same attitude when examine yourself! Socratic Method does not allow leading questions at the beginning. Each personality with opinions, experiences and injures needs to be learned first. Through the further exploration right speed, rhythm, and intensity of communication will be found.
Socratic Method is Slow, Consistent and Flexible. You perform in your best only with careful steps. Small questions make conversation easier to follow and build. Search for unique truth tends to be complicated – complexity cannot be seen in hurry. Questions and answers are clear and consistence steps. Consistency is required because inconsistency became a pressing problem and requesting immediate change that always made in hurry. People cannot be flexible if they trapped in own opinion, fear of shame. Freedom of method is a commitment to process.
Another big Socratic skill is understanding that similarities are different, and differences are similar. It helps to feel quality of many and get wider angle, then always remember that everything is different. Differences showed in use of analogies: as larger the topic as smaller Socratic focus, as smaller and concrete the example as wider angle of examination is expected. Socratic method assumes that any rule can be broken if it is appropriate and ethical. The main requirement is internal consistency, honesty, and humbleness of the practitioner. Practitioner must be honest because if you are not real, you are not affected by experience. Own beliefs must be pushed back because of the high risk of self-validation and as result compulsion and ignorance.
Why is important to train the mind?
Regular daily life of untrained mind is mix of opinions, reactions, worries, hopes, pleasures and regrets. What to do with all these ingredients? What are outcomes from using each of them? Where and how to move from there? What are the options and directions for development?
Socrates teaches to begin with awareness of your own ignorance, be ironic to own wisdom and have lowest opinion about own knowledge. Remember that you are not an expert in anyone’s opinion and experience. If you forget you will be infected by the most difficult condition – double ignorance when you do not know but think you do.
Double ignorance that in Feldenkrais Method discusses as inner opposition often bring partner to Aporia (irresolvable internal contradiction) when you feel that you lost all ability and wisdom. With practice you have a chance to realize that it is not loss of wisdom but the arrival of it which is necessary stage in adult learning.
Adult life is not a journey from question to answer, but from one question to another question in search for uncertainty because bigger truth cannot be spoken.
Farnsworth, W. (2021) The Socratic Method: A Practitioner’s Handbook. David R. Godine
Feldenkrais, M. (1981). The elusive obvious. Meta Publications.