My entire last decade hinged on the power of one question alone. The answer, when I lived into it, dismantled all I had known and transported me into a life that looked nothing like the one I expected to be living.
No doubt, questions can hold a tremendous sort of power.
Tonight I find myself wondering – what might that question be for you? The one that you hold tucked deep inside. The one that hints at itself from time to time, appearing, and disappearing like mist, slowly revealing itself as the key to self-discovery, awakening, or transformation. The one that can’t be forced, but that must rise, organically, from the center of your very being?
If you get quiet with yourself, right now, I have a feeling you likely have at least some idea what that question is for you.
And what If I told you that you didn’t have to seek or force or find an answer to that question in order to harness its power – at least not in the way that you might think.
“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Rainer Maria Rilke
Almost two years ago I was feeling utterly lost and alone. No job. A relationship imploded. The holidays. Single Motherhood. No plan. No idea. Unsure of who I was or what I wanted or where I was going. One night that December I sat down and hastily wrote out a list of 30 questions.
It turns out those very questions would allow me to chart own map home. I just didn’t know it yet.
All I knew that night is that everything was crumbling and nothing seemed certain and that the solid ground I thought I could rest on was suddenly unstable in every direction. In that moment, I had no answers – no innate knowing. No fucking idea what I was going to do.
Without answers, I turned to the questions.
If I was empty of knowing, the only place to start was inside of the questions I longed to answer.
If I wanted to find myself, it seemed I would have to relearn (and unlearn) who I was. What I knew. What I wanted. What was waiting to be born. Who I was becoming.
And so I let the questions rise. Questions that would take me forward and backward and root me in the present. That would lead deep and high and far and wide. I didn’t think. I didn’t plan. I just wrote.
I knew somehow, then, even if I couldn’t have yet articulated, that the path I was seeking wouldn’t be found by getting it all figured out. Instead, all would be slowly revealed by allowing the questions to be named, to fill the space around me, to settle deep into my bones.
And then, as Rilke suggested, I could throw myself into living those questions in fullness until I one day lived my way into the answers. Whatever those answers might be and however long that might take and whatever might change along the way.
The first messily scrawled version of these questions – written by fountain pen after tears and whiskey and one of the most alone and lost sensations I had ever felt – showed no hint of what they would soon become.
After all, they were never intended to be anything other than simple journaling prompts – a guide just for myself.
It turns out that these particular questions had much bigger plans.
That night I hadn’t the slightest inkling that the unlined paper I was holding was the beginning of my new path, a new vocation, a calling, a community, a home. But I knew it held something. A whisper of possibility. A hint of what may come. All I really knew for sure is that they were the beginnings of the map that would lead me back to myself.
Back home. A place I desperately wanted to be.
It was months later before I fully realized the power of Rilke’s quote. Months of writing into the questions (and writing and writing and writing) and inviting you all to live into the questions with me (and watching with wonder what unfolded from that invitation). Only then did I fully understand that it wasn’t the just answers that hold power.
It was the living questions themselves that were the catalyst for all the rest because it was the questions that called in all the rest of you. You restless seekers, and you word witches, all you steady and true pinpricks of light against the darkest night sky.
The questions did more than trace my way back home. They cast a searchlight that allowed us to find each other.
Because beings like us, for all the depth of our knowing and wisdom and wanting, tend to get tangled sometimes. It is that brave ability to forge our own way in the world, to forgo the expected, to take the road less traveled, that sometimes leaves us – on those darkest nights of the soul – suddenly without meaning or moorings. We uproot as a matter of our nature, us seekers, and yet we crave a way to root down even in the most inhospitable soil.
Yes, It is our very ability to step into wide open discomfort that often leaves us lost. But it is also that very thing that allows us to be found.
Again and again and again.
And so we found ourselves living in the expansive space inside the questions. In the dance of unknowing. In the learning and unlearning and remembering and letting go. Allowing the questions to unfold within us and between us and around us. Individually and collectively and universally on a sacred journey.
Wild Heart Writers, one and all.
The writing mattered, of course it does. It always will. But what mattered more was the willingness to give ourselves over to the practice of inquiry. The peeling away of layers. To sit with the discomfort of the spaces without requiring the answers to flood in immediately. To expand and let the question live inside, to fill in the empty spaces until it is ready to become what it wants to become.
The questions are the crucible – they hold the alchemy of transformation.
And when the answers are ready? Holy. Holy. Holy.
That’s when the magic begins.
If you are ready to live inside of the questions within a beautiful community of Wild Hearted Writers, we open the doors in less than one week for the 2018 Wild Heart Writing Journey.
If your living questions are ready for safe space, supportive community and fierce inspiration, come and join us as we dive into the depths of inquiry, the power of story, and the safe space where the answers fly freely.
Do you want to know the question that changed everything for me? It is one of the questions included in the upcoming 30-day writing journey. If you’d like me to send you this question, and a sneak peek into the essays that make up the daily structure of the course, send me a quick email or comment here and I’ll send it to you right away.