My answer to this question is: “yes.” I came to this conclusion in my mid-30s after asking myself this very thing over and over. At the time I was well, I guess what you could call obsessed with self-esteem-building, spirit-lifting, relationship-advising, co-dependent, neurotic, feminist, esoteric, astrological, paleontological, philosophical paradigms and relief. There was enough of it in my personal library to diagnose and heal several galaxies.
Looking For Self-Help?
I had it all – from the esoteric to Far East philosophies to New Age modalities and even the dead: Kierkegaard, Swedenborg, Kant, Borges. And I didn’t stop there: I devoured books on sex, business, the inner workings of the mind and ecstatic dance. If it was nonfiction and said “help” ANYWHERE in or on the book, I READ IT! I was on a path (with frequent intermissions) to find out EXACTLY how to be free and NOT suffer unless absolutely necessary. Spoiler alert: I ended up finding what I was looking for, but not in the way I thought I would. As you might imagine, I was over-loaded, and this form of my quest came to an abrupt halt at 33. I had crossed a line.
And funnily enough, just prior to that I had asked myself—or rather, I heard that still small voice that I hear and know as the Great Divine inside of me say… “Maryanne…dear. Can it be, after so many years of relentless pursuit of the internal fortress you seek, that the answer does not lie somewhere in even one of these books?”
When Self-Help Lies Within Yourself
I was actually embarrassed, because in all this time it was like that notion had been too simple to even cross my mind. Yet in that moment, I realized how truly profound it was. When you come down to it, awakening and staying awake is not a new concept. Yes, we are complicated beings, but many great people have devoted their lives to taking on the complex material of spiritual laws and have done a really tremendous job of breaking it down for us. Yet there I was, face-to-face with a question that led me across the abyss of awareness – KNOWING all the stuff that was in all those books didn’t really help me at all! - to transformation.
It was time, at last, to take all “I knew” and actually create a practice. You see, I had become addicted to the buzz. A self-help junkie. And why not? I am pretty sure that of all my addictions this one actually paid off! But like all things the time had come for me to fish or cut bait. Change or die—well, I wanted to die, anyway.
Don’t Force It - It Will Come Naturally!
SO - I woke up! Yup. Just like that. For me it took what it took, and, like all of us on a path, it takes what it takes – we can’t force it, and we can’t expect it. It just happens.. So could it be that had I read one book fewer I would have had my awakening, being delivered from suffering? Would I not have found that which I had sought my entire life? I can never know, it seems.
What I do know is that when asked the question: “What do you want? And what are you willing to do about it?” The answer for me was simple. I wanted true freedom of being and freedom from suffering. I said a prayer. “God, please show me the way!” And I woke up. But not before I had spent almost twenty years trying everything else!