Living the Questions

Friday 26 January 2018 - Posted by Julia McCutchen

“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 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

Big Questions

In my early 30s I went through one of my (many!) intense phases of deep transformation and was faced with some big questions.

A friend advised me to “live the questions” rather than wrestle with all the different possible scenarios to work out the answers.

It led me to Rilke’s classic book Letters to a Young Poet and his much-loved quote as the source of this timeless advice.

Leaning In to Not Knowing

It was just the nudge I needed to let go of the search and surrender to the reality I found myself in at the time.

My process of enquiry led me to lean in to the not-knowing rather than struggle to force a resolution that would have come from my head rather than my heart.

I set the intention to remain open to clarity arising from deep within me and focused on creating the right conditions by immersing myself in simply being with the questions.

Living More Skilfully

This led me to play with a mix of meditation, journaling, walking, paying attention to my dreams, remaining alert to reading the signs of the world, and more.

Sure enough, in what undoubtedly was perfect timing, solutions eventually surfaced and I gradually found my way into the answers.

I learnt from that experience just how valuable it is to “live the questions” in a way that works for me to create more authentically and live more skilfully in all areas of my life.

Array of Unknowns

Since then I’ve regularly drawn on this vital component of the conscious approach to creativity, writing and living that I’m now so deeply engaged with as a practitioner, mentor and teacher.

Today, as I begin the process of creating yet another new project that feels especially significant, I’m facing the usual array of unknowns as I stretch beyond my existing experience.

I’m following my intuition and remaining in trust that “living the questions” as part of my regular conscious and creative practice will provide the answers along the way.

I’ll keep you posted, and we shall see!

Where do you need to “live the questions” in relation to your creative projects at the moment? Please share your comments or ask a question below. Thank you!


  • A friend gave me this quote many years ago. since then, I’ve more consciously chosen to “be with the questions” which, for me, has meant: sitting with the questions, feeling them–listening–letting go of my resistance–trusting my intuition–allowing stuff to surface that could not if i was using my mind only to seek the answers.

    Thank you, Julia, for reminding me to reflect on this truly “timeless” advice from Rilke.

    • Good for you Helen; your description of how you’ve consciously chosen to be with your questions sounds ideal. I’m glad this has reminded you of Rilke’s advice and very much appreciate your comment. Thank you!

  • I love this, Julia … such a different way of being in the world. Brought to mind other lines from Rilke and shed new light on the reference to “expectations”:

    A wave
    lifted towards you out of the past, or, as you walked
    past an open window, a violin
    gave of itself. All this was mission.
    But could you handle it? Were you not always,
    still, distracted by expectation, as if all you experienced,
    like a Beloved, came near to you?

    THxos for all you are and do … Susan

    • Thank you Susan. I love the other lines from Rilke you’ve quoted here! Thank you so much for sharing them. Perfect timing perhaps? Then again, the perfect moment for new light being shed is always Now! x

  • Thank you for this beautiful quote, Julia. It resonates with me deeply at this time. I also love the Quote above. It reminded me of a moment passing by a house and hearing a piano being played,and how it delighted me. I must have been in the NOW!

    • Hello Daphne, it’s good to hear that this this quote is resonating deeply with you right now, and what a lovely memory. You must indeed have been in the NOW! Thanks for sharing x

  • THANK you,julia,for reminding us of Rilke’s classic book. a great comfort.Its hard to stay with the ‘openness’ he teaches but i think experiencing the way the pressure goes off when i do so keeps nudging me back to his place of easeFULNESS of discovery.thanks for delivering to us rilke at the start of the year.

    • Hi Peter, yes I know what you mean about this being a “great comfort” because you’re so right, the pressure does fall away when you’re in this open state of being. I love your description of the place being one of “easefulness and discovery”. Thank you for your comment.

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