Personal Growth and Transformation

A Message from Mary

By Mary O’Malley

I want to share with you a quote by Joseph Campbell:

People say what we're all seeking is a meaning for life.  I don't think that's what we're really seeking.  I think that what we're seeking is an experience of being alive so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our innermost being and reality so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.

Everything we have been exploring together in these newsletters (I have permission to reprint Mary’s messages from her newsletters) comes from this intention - to rediscover and live from the joy, clarity and wisdom that come from truly being alive.  We have also touched on the truth that, even though our true nature is one of well being, most of us live most of the time in a very narrow world of our thoughts, always trying to make our lives be different than they are. 

The way out of this endless games of the mind is not to try to get rid of them - that would only keeps us stuck in the mind - but to cultivate the willingness to LOOK and to truly see our particular mind games - to see them, to love them and let them go.  In previous newsletters, we have been exploring how to bring our compassionate attention into our immediate experience so we can not only see through the stories in our minds, but also make contact with the joy that is always right here, right now.

But I want you to know that there were times in my awakening where I didn't know how to look and times where I didn't even want too.  In working with those times, I discovered that one of the most healing things we can do at all moments of our lives, but most especially when we are stuck, is to live in questions.  It is one of the most powerfully transformative tools available to us, and we are only beginning to tap into its power. No matter where we are, no matter what is happening, living in questions can bring clarity when we are confused, courage when our strength has failed us, hope when we are filled with despair, and vision when we don't have a clue about which way to go.

Living in questions is different from just asking questions. Our old way -- ask a question and look for the answer -- is necessary in our day-to-day lives. But asking questions in this way when we are caught in struggle can bring us frustration, confusion and despair. What I am talking about is a new way of working with questions in which we discover that the power of questions is not in finding answers. Rather, the power of questions lies in the questions themselves.

There are two keys to learning how to access the power of questions. The first is not to look for answers. The beauty of asking questions without looking for answers is that it doesn't seduce us into struggle.  The whirling, spinning, grasping mind that is always trying to figure things out puts up a barrier between us and the wisdom within us that knows how to bring balance in any given situation.  When we ask a question without looking for an answer, it creates a vacuum that has to be filled.  It is a law of physics.  The Intelligence of the Universe rushes into the vacuum of a question, and the answer automatically, in its own time, condenses out of the Unknown and into our lives.

The second key is to expect answers.  The art of trusting that the Intelligence of the Universe will answer our questions comes to each of us in its own time and in its own way.  It helps to notice that we do live in a sea of Intelligence.  Everywhere we look we see its handiwork, whether it is the exquisite balance of the web of Life or the amazing healing that happens in a body if we suffer a paper cut or are in a severe automobile accident.  The more we pay attention to Life, the more we see that this Intelligence permeates and penetrates absolutely everything, including the challenges in our lives.  It also becomes evident that the resolution to every problem we have ever had or ever will have is nestled in the heart of the challenge.  Life waits for the question.  Moments of pure questions always signal the Universe that we are willing to listen.

There are two ways to tap into this power. The first way is using what I call "check-in" questions which bring us into direct relationship with our immediate experience.  The second is what I call "open-ended" questions which tap into the intelligence at the heart of life, and we will explore those in the next newsletter. 

Check-in questions bring us back into a passionate and compassionate connection with whatever is happening right here, right now.  We are so used to living in the constantly becoming mind that we have forgotten the phenomenal power of being with what is, right here, right now. Take a moment now to stop reading and close your eyes.  Listen to the sounds of life as they appear and disappear all around you and within you. To keep more focused, you can count the many different sounds.  Whenever your mind drifts off, bring it back to the sounds.  Do this for just a minute and then come back to reading. 

Isn't it wonderful to simply be here?  And isn't it amazing how easy it is to just drift back into your mind, getting lost in the stories in your head rather than being here?  The important thing to realize is that you are not those stories; you are that which can see the stories.  And everything you long for and everything you truly are is to found right here, right now, in the space that the stories are floating in.  As we learn how to use the questions to connect us with our immediate experience, we train the mind to be curious rather than reactive and spacious rather than judgmental, so that we can bring our attention out of the stories in our minds and experience life fully in each moment.  

Following is a list of the four check in questions with their core intentions:

The First Question "In this moment, what am I experiencing?" helps us cultivate curiosity, so that we can explore what is gong on right now in our lives, both inside of us and out.  It is this curiosity that allows us to let go of the story about what we are experiencing so that we can actually experience it and invites us to look at whatever is happening in our minds that keeps us away from full connection with life.

The intent of the Second Question "For This Moment, Can I Let This Be Here?" is to move us beyond reaction into response.  It reminds us that if we resist what we are experiencing, we empower it more.   The quickest and most powerful way to dissolve our struggles is to let them be. If we can accept our experience, and then be willing to look and listen, the struggling mind loses its power over us.

The intent of the Third Question "For This Moment, Can I Touch This with Compassion?" is to cultivate the warmth of our hearts.  If you truly want to transform your experience, touch it with the spaciousness and mercy of your heart.  As Jack Kornfield's teacher Nisargadata says, "The mind creates the abyss; the heart crosses it." 

The intent of the Fourth Question "Right Now, What Do I Truly Need?" is to invite us into a deeper level of listening to our experience. This awakens the wellspring of deep knowing that is inside each of us. This is not a listening with our heads, but an internal listening to the wisdom within that knows in any situation what needs to happen to bring balance back into our lives.

Learning how to live through questions is a little bit like learning how to ride a bike.  We first need to start with a tricycle to see if we like it.  Then we try a two-wheeler with training wheels.  When the training wheels come off, we wobble a bit at first, but then we discover the absolute joy of moving through life on a bike.  The same is true for living in questions.  When they finally become a core way that you maneuver through life, you will feel the empowerment and joy that come from the willingness to meet your experience with curiosity and compassion rather than being lost in it or running away.

In the past several newsletters, we have been exploring together the power of living in questions.  As Gertrude Stein once said, "the power of questions isn't in the answers.  It is in the questions themselves."  Living in questions is one of the most healing tools I have found in my life to come out the reactive, struggling mind into a mind that is fully engaged with life. 

In the last newsletter, we explored Check-in Questions which help us to be compassionately curious about what is going on right now.  Another way of working with questions is to ask what I call Open-Ended Questions. I often use this type of question when my I am confused or hit a wall.  In Open-Ended Questions, we are not looking for answers. Instead we are opening ourselves so that answers can come to us from the deepest and wisest parts of ourselves. Maybe you are saying, "You must be crazy - ask a question and not look for an answer? That is insanity. I don't have time for this; I'm too busy trying to figure it all out." But if you watch carefully, you will see that looking for answers keeps you caught in your head, left only with your own limited understanding.  Lost in the search for answers to our lives, we miss the power of the questions themselves.

The power of Open-Ended Questions comes to us when we realize that life is a field of Intelligence. Everywhere we look, we see its handiwork, whether it is the dance of an electron, the play of the wind, or the laughter of a child. This Intelligence is beyond the ability of our limited human minds to comprehend. If you doubt that, consider your body. It is made up of more than one hundred trillion cells that all work together with barely a thought from you. Even to begin to grasp this astounding cooperation and creativity, imagine every person on Earth working with everybody else for the common good of the whole. Hard to imagine?  But that wouldn't even begin to come close to what your body does. It would take over sixteen thousand Earths, each with 6 billion people, all working together, even to approximate what your body does every day.

Although we may not be able to comprehend the working of the vast Intelligence at the heart of life, we can partner with it through asking open-ended questions. We need to understand that though we don't look for the answer, we can still expect an answer. In fact, asking Open-Ended Questions guarantees an answer. For to ask a question without looking for the answer literally creates a vacuum in the universe. It is a law of physics. The Intelligence of the Universe rushes into the vacuum of an open-ended question, and the answer automatically, in its own time, condenses out of the void and into our lives.

When I began to live in Open-Ended Questions, a wonderful truth became clear to me: problems and solutions are two sides of the same coin, and they always show up together. The resolution to every problem we have ever had or ever will have is nestled in the heart of the challenge, and life waits for the spaciousness of a question. Asking this type of question signals the Universe that we are willing to listen to the truth and the wisdom that comes with every challenge in our lives. This type of question doesn't work in linear time -- a question followed an answer. Answers will come in their own time and their own way. I've received them while reading a spy novel in which one sentence stands out from the rest, almost as if I were reading the whole book just to receive those few words. I've also overheard conversations in the grocery store in which a few words pierced my unknowing and answered my question. Answers come in dreams, while I'm taking a shower or cooking dinner. They can come with startling clarity or arrive gradually like the dawning of a day.

The art of trusting that the Intelligence of the Universe will answer our questions comes to each of us in its own time and in its own way. Slowly we move beyond our doubt that the Universe awaits our questions. We then see through the subtle but very strong illusion that we are in charge.  And finally we discover the patience to wait for the answers to come.


Mary O’Malley is a spiritual teacher and author. She explores the questions in depth in her book, The Gift of Our Compulsions






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