Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time is thought by many to be a masterpiece. On its face, it’s a story about the power of love, but there are some soul-stirring undertones brought about by the plot and dialogue. I was watching the movie recently when a particular scene made my gears start to turn.
One of the characters in the story is called the Happy Medium—a seer capable of peering through time and space to garner answers to important questions. Of all the “celestial beings” in the movie, this character seemed to me the most down-to-earth. He lived in a cave on another planet, so the irony in his approachable dialogue (and, if we’re talking about the movie, Zach Galafianakis’s portrayal) made the Happy Medium unusually intriguing.
One piece of dialogue, in particular, struck me. It was the moment when the Happy Medium sat down Meg, the story’s protagonist, to start a meditation in which he would be able to use his psychic powers to locate Meg’s father, who is lost in the cosmos. Meg, who is battling her own demons, is afraid of what she might find, and so she’s resisting the meditation.
Seeing this, the Happy Medium looks Meg in the eye and tells her:
“It’s okay to fear the answers, Meg. But you can’t avoid them.”
Truer words have never been spoken…
Like Meg, we all have our own demons to battle: past trauma, trapped emotions, and limiting beliefs lurk within people of all backgrounds. They keep us trapped in the past or the future, cause us to judge others and ourselves, and ultimately hold us back from knowing ourselves to the fullest extent possible.
Escaping these pitfalls is impossible—they are part of life. The key to happiness is not how much of them we can avoid; rather, it is in how we process it.
The answers are unavoidable
Every time we are silent and look inward, we’re presented with a treasured opportunity to ask the deep questions that only we can answer: questions about our identity, our beliefs, our behavior, and beyond. The answers to these questions can sometimes be frightening, but they are essential. If you feel fear around a particular question, that is a sign that facing the answer head-on will radically improve your life in some way. It is the fear in asking the question that reveals the truth within the answer.
This is why I have so much respect for those who pursue deep healing and transformational work—they have made the decision to move through the fear and face the answers, regardless of the consequences.
The alternative is to live a life of delusion, and ultimately, rude awakenings.
Psychedelics offer us a more accentuated glimpse into the consequences of this delusion, even though this truth-avoiding behavior occurs in both sober as well as heightened states of awareness. Psychedelics simply make the delusion more obvious. I’ve spoken with many people who are afraid of experiencing a psychedelic journey for fear of what they may find.
Let’s say one of my friends, Joseph, is at a retreat in Amsterdam and is invited by the facilitators to go on a psychedelic journey to look inward. Joseph knows he has a lot of work to do on himself, but he’s “happy enough.” He’s afraid that, if he participates in the journey, he’ll leave his wife of twelve years. Things haven’t been going well for them, and the first thing he thinks about when considering whether to go on a psychedelic trip is whether he’s going to want to divorce his wife when he gets back home. Joseph loves his wife, or so he thinks, and he wants things to work out—so he decides against the journey.
Here’s another example:
Another (fictitious) female friend, Lily, is on vacation in South America. She’s been traveling through the Amazon and is invited by the locals on the Ucayali River to take part in an ayahuasca ceremony. Lily had already read up on ayahuasca and had considered the experience a few times. But she’s hesitant because she’s afraid she’ll emerge from the experience and realize she’s gay. Quite a specific fear, no? She’s never been with a woman before and she was brought up in a conservative household that didn’t tolerate homosexuality. She’s always been with men and believes she is quite happy with being heterosexual, but deep down, she has always been curious about being with a woman. This insecurity causes her to gratefully decline the invitation to join ceremony.
Both Joseph and Lily are avoiding the answers. They are suffering under such complete delusion that they don’t even want to ask the question that could change their lives for the better (Do I love my wife? Am I gay?). This separation from the truth makes it impossible for them to open up to any possible form of an answer. These are both signs of insecurity, whether conscious or not, and it is this insecurity that can cost people their lives (both literally and figuratively).
I’ve met a lot of people who are experiencing this kind of insecurity. Ten times out of ten, the cost of ignoring the answers within themselves ends up being much, much higher than the pain they may experience by facing the truth head-on. It’s the difference between living a life of abundance and living a life in someone else’s shoes with someone else’s priorities, someone else’s beliefs, someone else’s house, and someone else’s husband or wife.
The sooner we can each face the answers within us, regardless of the fear, the sooner we can live happier, more honest, and more abundant lives rather than wait in pain for the inevitable eruption of trapped emotions, breakdown from self-sabotaging behavior, or meltdown from unprocessed trauma that inevitably befalls those who refuse to “face the music.”
So—here’s the big question: what answers could you be avoiding?
Is there a question to which you fear the answer?
Is there a truth about yourself that you’ve been unwilling to accept?
Is there a memory, or a feeling, that you can’t seem to reconcile?
Facing these questions head on, and leaning into the fear, like a salmon who finds the strongest current to swim against on its journey upstream, is the single most powerful key to you breaking free from whatever limitations remain in your life. I wish you nothing but the most honest and loving assessment of yourself from here on out.