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Every life is driven by essential questions—riddles planted in us as children in response to how we were first wounded.
For one person, the wound is an abandoning parent who leaves him asking, for the rest of his life, if he is unlovable. For another, a terrible body image drives her to seek approval from men and question her own femininity. For a third, an experience of physical violence robs him of a sense of safety and leaves him wondering where to find this lost sense of security in the world.
I begin my Writing to Awaken workshops often by asking students what parts of themselves they most need to understand. What are their most urgent questions? The responses are sometimes superficial (Will I get the promotion? Will my IRA tank? Does she still love me?), but more often their questions are existential and concerned with spiritual issues.
Self-worth, mortality, purpose, suffering, and faith are among them.
In some way or another, our essential questions are always linked to our need for connection and the long-awaited return to wholeness we are either craving or pursuing.
It's critical that we pay attention to our essential questions. When we bypass them, our lives remain locked rooms. We are cut off from our ourselves, unable to locate the key that reveals our particular emptiness, the thing we believe we're missing, the wound that needs to be healed.
Many of us spend our lives this way, with doors forever closed to our true selves.
We never make our way past the locked door into the space where we first got lost. Why? Because we haven't asked the right questions.
In his writing, J. Krishnamurti talks about the "flame of discontent" that burns in a seeker—the sacred longing that wakes us up and needs to be tended with inquiry. When we respond to our deep curiosity, we fan the flame of this holy yearning and burn away what's untrue in our lives. This keeps us curious, flexible, and brave.
Writing to Awaken
January 25 - 27, 2019
When you tell the truth, your personal story expands and your life is transformed. Join best-selling author Mark Matousek for an intimate exploration of personal identity through expressive writing and self-inquiry. Learn to tell your whole truth and come to...
What are your questions that need asking? Which locked doors do you avoid and how are they linked to your earliest pain? Have you considered writing down the clues you find—in emotion, in experience, in relationship?
Writing is an unparalleled tool for discovering the connections between seemingly unrelated things.
Often, the practice of writing reveals to us what we already know.
In the silent mirror between self and Self (the little Me and the Witness who answers), insight is born, the door flies open, and you meet your deepest, most intimate Self.
Of course, our questions change over time. They're bound to morph and evolve as we age. But even still, they tend to remain linked in uncanny ways. We have grooves of conditioning in our minds (sanskaras in Sanskrit) that draw our primal questions together and carry them along through time. When you gaze inward, you see the patterns between them, and that is what frees you from being controlled by your past.
Socrates famously warned against the unexamined life.
When we use the mind to untangle our stories and reveal their sources, we cease being strangers to ourselves, sleepwalkers in a repetitive dream. That is a life worth living.
Mark Matousek is the best-selling author of Writing to Awaken: A Journey of Truth, Transformation, and Self-Discovery.