Years ago I was burned out, living life on a treadmill, unhappy most of the time. I wanted my life to be different. But how? I didn’t know. I knew I needed to make a change, but what kind of change? What did I want? What would make me happy? I felt utterly confused.
Confusion. UGH! I hate it when I feel this way, don’t you? So unsettling! When confused, we naturally search for answers. We comb the archives of our minds, analyze our thoughts, and ask others for advice. We rehash ideas and mull things over, but if answers don’t come quickly, we often give up.
Thankfully I didn’t give up. My therapist wouldn’t let me. She suggested that I stop trying so hard to figure things out, and instead, simply allow my thoughts to come and go. Confusion always comes before clarity, she said. Be patient. Answers will come.
The great German poet, Rainier Maria Rilke, offered similar advise to a confused young poet:
Be patient toward all that is unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far into the future, you will gradually, without noticing it, live your way into the answers…You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise you or help you – no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Be attentive to what is arising in you, and place that above everything you perceive around you.
Go into yourself. Live the questions. Talk about confusing! Waiting for answers to “arise” is something most of us weren’t taught to do. We were taught to arrive at a solution as fast as possible. Remember those timed tests we took in school? We were taught to analyze facts, apply reason, and logically figure things — quickly. Seldom were we encouraged to pay attention to what was arising in our minds — slowly. That was called daydreaming, and daydreaming meant you weren’t paying attention to the teacher, the teacher “outside” of you.
Well, let me introduce you to another teacher, your “inner teacher.” I believe that each of us has an inner guide, a wise-self that emanates from soul, not ego or intellect. This intuitive voice offers up subtle clues and serendipitous occurrences when we stop searching outside ourselves, and instead, start listening to our true self within. This quiet voice of soul can’t be rushed. It surfaces when times and conditions are right.
I remember a momentous day when the time was right for my inner teacher to redirect the course of my life. It was January 1, 2007. I was taking a walk on a crisp, blue-sky day, nothing to do except enjoy a quiet beginning to the New Year. All the questions I’d been asking were nowhere in mind. Interestingly, that’s when the answer appeared out of nowhere. A voice rang out, clear as a bell, Go back to school! My analytical mind immediately intruded, Graduate school at age 50. Really? But the mystical voice didn’t concede. It continued, reminding me of two friends who had gone back to school at mid-life to get their degrees in counseling. Wow! Better sleep on this, I thought. After all, it was a big commitment to make at any age, especially my age.
The next day I proceeded to get back to business, and as always, the first thing I did was check my email. OMG! In the mix of mostly junk, two significant emails appeared — one from each woman who had come to mind the day before. I was blown away. You see, I hadn’t communicated with either in over three months. But on Jan 2nd, their emails affirmed that it was time for me to go back to school.
Amazing, yes, but not at all surprising. I had started my masters in counseling at 25-years old, but abandoned my dream to start a career in business. I had told myself then that I could return to school later in life, and later was apparently now.
Just as Rilke had advised, I had lived the question, patiently. Life had prepared me to be a psychotherapist in ways academia never could. Confusion was gone. My answer had arrived at the perfect time.