Much of what I’ve written on this site concerns ways of finding clarity on life’s great questions: Who am I, what is my purpose, what really matters? As a life coach and hypnotherapist I have a range of processes that can be used to help people dive deeply into these questions and find answers or new directions that bring greater meaning to life. But what happens when the answers are elusive, or when you get several answers to one question?
I was thinking about this recently when I found myself in my characteristic condition of alternating frustratingly between two quite different modes of being. One part of me wants to be out there making a name for myself, and the other wants to sit quietly in a chair, contemplating life and letting the world go its way undisturbed. So who am I, which path should I follow? As I sat with this perennial question, I noticed a kind of quiet space develop around it. The question had always been with me and always would. It was a knowing that a straight answer would not be forthcoming, and that it wasn’t required. I could have several answers at a practical level about who I was and what I could do with my life, but at a deeper level, where I tried to connect everything, logic did not work. The tools and processes ran aground. The purpose of my life, then, was not a thing at all but rather a space between things. The question would be forever asked and never answered.
Perhaps it is never answered because the answer is hidden within the question itself. The answer is to be in the “I don’t know” space, in the not-knowing. When we find answers to things we discover certainty, and certainty hardens our self-image, our separation. But when we discover the question that refuses to be answered it is like stumbling upon a doorway into Being itself. Suddenly our words stop, our constant stream of self-defining thoughts have nowhere to go. In that moment there is space, the peace of knowing you do not need the answer. You don’t know, and that’s OK.
It can be a great comfort for people who are suffering an intractable problem or serious illness to finally put down the burden that they should know how to fix it or how to heal themselves. In the end you simply don’t know the purpose of your condition or what it means, and perhaps there is no meaning other than that it has brought you to the place of silence, of not knowing. You don’t know what death is, either, and if you’re honest, you don’t know what life is. Do whatever you can to know, but if the question evades your best efforts, perhaps it’s one of those questions … the questions that open up into Being itself. Sit with it, be with it, there’s nowhere to go, nothing to do. This is it.