Live in the question

“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

We want answers and we want them now.

You see it across all areas of our life.

But we never live in the question.

What do I mean?

I mean we’re too impatient to understand what we’re really asking.

Take something like wellbeing. Perhaps it’s not yet universally acknowledged in the workplace or wherever else it shows up, but everyone seems to have an answer to it.

But what of the causes?

No, that’s not the question.

The question — the seminal question — that lies at the heart of wellbeing is:

Who am I?

Truthfully, no one wants to ask that question, let alone understand its ethereal, but redoubtable strength.

I dare you (not that I have a scintilla of authority) to ask yourself that question right now, right here and see where it takes you.

Where did you get to?

Not knowing?

No idea?

True self?


Who the f*ck cares!

For a long time now, I’ve been exploring the depths of that question.

And it hurts.

It hurts because to the ego identity it needs something (apparently) real — even a thought — to make sense of life.

The truth is, so far as I can establish, this question can’t be answered in words. The reason: the moment you label it your thinking mind is already trying to conceptualise.

“Enlightenment is ego’s ultimate disappointment.” ― Chögyam Trungpa

You might say, with more than a little smirk, that that’s great Jules, but it gets me nowhere.

And (sorry) that’s where you’re wrong. In fact, I’d say without, at least, being present to the moment and accepting everything as if you’d chosen it, you’re never going to find anything other than something else to own, achieve and hold on to; and it will drive you mad — that sense of never being at peace with true self.

“Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self. This is the man that I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. … My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love — outside of reality and outside of life. And such a life cannot help but be an illusion. … The secret of my identity is hidden in the love and mercy of God. … Therefore I cannot hope to find myself anywhere except in him. … Therefore there is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace and my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him, I will find myself, and if I find my true self I will find him (pp. 34-36).” — Thomas Merton

Back to my ‘live in the question’ rubric. Even if the question I’m inviting seems too woo woo, don’t be put off from applying this practice to the other day-to-day aspects of your life.

Trust me, you might be surprised where it takes you.


Photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash

PS. If you follow me on Twitter you’ll have seen me share a few Tweets yesterday on the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report. It’s pretty depressing. But the truth is, until we wake up to who we truly are and realise in a profound and meaningful way how we’re all interconnected on this planet — think, again, of the import of Merton’s message — frankly, no amount of exhortation, PR and guilt-ridden messaging is going to make a happeth of difference to us let alone the biodiversity and climate that we should be doing everything in our power to protect.

marsolek_christian balter