Smart, courageous and innovative, Linda Paralez holds a Ph.D. and is the president of her own company. With twenty-five years of leadership experience across a broad spectrum of industries, Linda radiates success. Each fall, Linda challenges herself. She takes a “self-exploration” vacation to Wyoming. There, surrounded by the Grand Teton Mountains, she ponders a new agenda for that year. One year she decided to explore a series of questions: “What would I do differently if I had unlimited time? Unlimited money? Unlimited market share? Unlimited knowledge?” Her answers to these questions were less than satisfying, since she realized in most ways she had achieved unlimited time, unlimited money and unlimited market share. None of these presented obstacles to her satisfaction. These were the wrong questions.
Near the last day of her vacation, while walking around the pristine waters of Jenny Lake, Linda came up with a better question: “What if I had unlimited courage?” This turned out to be the right question. Linda said, “What makes that question powerful, hopeful and confidence-inspiring for me is that I am a person who has access to courage. When I tell that story to people who do not have much access to courage, their reaction is often ‘Yeah, but, you can’t just be reckless,’ meaning that the reflection of courage in their eyes is something not confidence-inspiring or hopeful, but critical and reckless.”
With her wonderful insight, Linda resumed her regular workaday routine and immediately began to apply the new question in all aspects of her life. Soon, she began to notice a greater satisfaction with her work and relationships and more inner peace as she applied her courage to daily problems. She fully believes that the hardest thing to do in life is find the right questions to ask … far harder than answering them.
In retrospect, Linda’s insight seems inspired. Three months later, she found herself facing breast cancer, and she needed her newly activated courage more than ever. Linda now says, “Courage is a part of my ‘success toolbox.’” Linda’s courage enabled her to invite this new unknown into her life, accepting it in courage instead of allowing the ego’s innate fears to paralyze her in a state of inertia. “We are all destined to come up against the unknown—above all, the unknown within ourselves. Are we prepared to accept what we do not know? Or do we stop short at the edge of the mystery, only feeling at ease with ready-made explanations that are anathema to true understanding? Indeed, making friends with the unknown is a prerequisite in any transpersonal search.”[i] How comfortable are you with the mysteries of your own life?
Every fall Linda becomes a spiritual seeker, using consciousness “as an instrument of exploration and will toward making awareness as transparent as possible, releasing it from false assumptions, passions, and attachments. In this manner, consciousness is refined, clarified, and freed from envy and shame, regrets and fantasies.”[ii] Challenging ourselves to overcome inertia requires us to ask daunting questions: How am I holding myself back from accomplishing my goals? How am I disguising my courage? Ask questions. Ask more questions. Then, ask another question. Do not seek the right answer.
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers,
which cannot be given to 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.[iii]
As psychologist Piero Ferucci observes, “The unsought voice seeks us, comforts and leads us. This happens mainly in supreme moments of choice, or in crisis, when all has been tried again and again, and one feels lost. Then the voice points the way to follow.”[iv] Linda’s motivation for getting away each fall is intentionally to stop, be silent, look inside, wait for the voice and be open to the direction. “I try really hard to pay attention to my motivations, to what I really want, to what I’ve been doing, to what I like and don’t, to what makes me tick and to what I do to and with people. I have a firm belief that I must do an extra special job of paying attention to how I behave. Usually, I’m glad I do.”
Not all of us can manage an annual vacation in Wyoming, but we can “choose to set aside time and a place to enter into spiritual quietness. (Those who never do this, or who shrink from it, run a very grave risk of remaining only half fulfilled as humans.)”[v] But how can your work life bring joy and happiness when external obstacles limit or eliminate your options? The mental attitudes that shape your perceptions of your external situation reflect the inner reality of your true Self. With the right work, you are able to manifest and fulfill the aspirations of your heart, and you are happy. “For us to be habitually happy, nobody has to change except ourselves.”[vi]
[i] Ferrucci, Piero, Inevitable Grace: Breakthroughs in the Lives of Great Men and Women, (Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1990), 294.
[ii] Ferrucci, Piero, Inevitable Grace: Breakthroughs in the Lives of Great Men and Women, (Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1990), 143.
[iii] Rilke, Rainer Maria, (translated by M.D. Herter Norton), Letters to a Young Poet, (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1962 Edition), 35.
[iv] Ferrucci, Piero, Inevitable Grace: Breakthroughs in the Lives of Great Men and Women, (Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1990), 307.
[v] Beckett, Sister Wendy, Meditations on Silence, (London: Dorling Kindersley, 1995), 26.
[vi] Keating, Thomas, The Daily Reader for Contemplative Living (New York: Continuum, 2003), 128.
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