I started this interview series because I wanted to know more about the people that are doing health differently and helping us to radically up-level our lives in all arenas.
Mary O’Malley is one of those people. Meet Mary!
Mary O’Malley is an author, teacher and counselor whose work awakens others to the joy of being fully alive. Her inspired and transformative approach to compulsions offers a way to move from fear, hopelessness and struggle into ease, well-being and joy.
In the early 1970′s, a powerful awakening set Mary on the path to changing her whole relationship with her compulsions, freeing her from a lifelong struggle and opening her to the joy and the wonder of being fully awake to Life.
Since then, she has dedicated her life to helping others heal themselves by seeing what truly blocks them from life’s joy. Through her individual counseling and coaching, books, classes, retreats and ongoing groups, Mary invites people to experience the miracle of awakening.
Now, let’s hear from Mary!
1. To start off, please tell us about the powerful awakening that happened over 40 years ago? Did it happen out of the blue or was it gradual?
My awakening was gradual. I was on a journey into darkness at a very young age, which included sexual abuse, and then numbing myself with alcohol, drugs, and food. By my early-twenties, I had been in two psychiatric hospitals and tried to kill myself three times. I had essentially given up all hope. Then a few years later, a teacher came into my life who said that what I had been trying to do my whole life was fix myself and that is an endless game. Instead, he told me to be curious. His core statement was “In the seeing is the movement”. In other words, you don’t need to fix things. In discovering the art of curiosity and compassion, you can transform the old patterns with the power of your attention. A few years later I met an amazing human being named Stephen Levine who taught me how to meet myself with my heart. People began to ask me to share what I had discovered and that is when it all started. Groups came out of that, retreats, books and eventually I became a counselor of awakening.
2. Since then you have guided thousands of people on the journey from struggle to well-being. If you look back, how has your teaching evolved over the years?
When I was writing my new book, I was just typing away one day and this wonderful little statement came to me:
Life is set up
to bring up
what has been bound up
so it can open up
to be freed up
so you can show up for Life!
The evolution of my teaching has resulted in sharing what I have learned myself, and that is, the challenges in your life are for you, hence the title of my new book, What’s In the Way IS the Way. You begin to realize that Life will put you in these situations, not because you’ve done something wrong, but because something is asking to be seen and transformed by your attention.
3. In your new book, “What’s in The Way IS the Way” you refer to the internal struggle as a cloud bank of stories. Can you describe what you mean by that? In your opinion what is the way out that struggle?
I use a metaphor in my new book of a beautiful meadow. Water flows in the meadow; life appears, then death; light appears, then darkness. Nothing in that meadow resists the flow of life. The fir tree does not want to be a maple tree. Everything flows and there is no resistance. We were all born from that meadow. There was a time when there were no thoughts in your head and you were fully connected with Life. As you grew up, slowly and surely, the beautiful clouds above the meadow stopped dancing through the sky and lowered themselves until they completely swirled around your head. This represents how you (and everyone else) pulled yourself out of your body and ran away to your head because it was too confusing and scary to stay open to life. You then became a human doing, rather than a human being. I call this state the cloud bank of struggle.
The amazing thing is that you never left the meadow, you just think you have. The way out of struggle is to say “I see you”. It is about developing the art of compassionate curiosity so you can get to know the storyteller in your head and all of its stories of struggle. Then you can relate to them rather than from them. You can begin to say “that is fear” rather than “I am afraid” or “that is the lonely one” rather than “I am lonely”. Then the clouds begin to thin and you can realize that the meadow has always been with you. Everything that you truly are is right here in this moment.
4. As I read your book, I noticed many over-lapping principles with the practice of yoga. Has yoga influenced your teachings? Where have you drawn most of your awareness and knowledge from?
It is interesting that you ask me this question. As a matter of fact, my very first teacher was a yoga teacher. Yes, there are a lot of over-lapping principles with the practice of yoga, especially with breath. Throughout my book, I invite you to just notice your breath. Most of the time, we are holding our breath. That is an important piece of information. If you can learn to take just one long, slow, deep breath every day, this is an important gift to begin to discover how to meet yourself exactly as you are. In addition, the meaning of yoga is “union” and that is the intention of this work – to open us back again into communion with life.
5. Throughout your book, you provide opportunity for pause and practice? How essential are the pauses to creating the transformation for the reader?
Pausing and practicing is an important part of the journey of awakening, because we have lived in our heads for most of our lives. Through awakening, you learn how to get out of your head and back into your body by just noticing, not trying to change, fix, rearrange, or control anything. Pausing may look like meditation in the book, but I don’t like to use the word meditation because there are so many stories that can come up around the word “meditation”, like “I have to”, “I should”, “I ought to”. I like to call it a Returning Practice or a Listening Practice.
6. You’ve designed the book into a 10-week journey. Complete with a remembering session at the end of each chapter. In your experience is 10 weeks enough time for the healing process to take place?
The healing process is an amazing journey of a lifetime and the 10-week journey in my book is a beginning. It is a process, and slowly and surely you learn to give yourself the gift of turning towards yourself rather than away.
7. You have been published before, including “Belonging to Life” and “The Gift of Our Compulsions”. What makes this book special to you?
This book is special to me because it all about the transforming power of trusting your life – All of It! I love what my good friend and colleague, Neale Donald Walsh (author of Conversations with God), says: “…this book will show you the way to a better life, without needing a single thing to be different for you to reclaim your inner peace, your outer joy, and your overall well-being.”
8. How do you understand and self-define the word “purpose”? How does someone pursue their goals and purpose while not getting caught in struggle?
There is a wonderful quote by Joseph Campbell that touches on the core of what my awakening works explores:
People say what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our innermost being and reality so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.
I believe that our purpose in life is to be truly alive. It is so exciting to me that we are at a time in evolution when more and more human beings are waking up out of the addiction to struggle. This will bring a shift in human evolution from suffering to peace and well-being, and this will ultimately heal our planet. When we can understand that there is no place to go, nothing to do, that we are already here in the meadow of life that is Life, we can wake up from our addiction to struggle and begin to experience the joy of truly being alive in this moment. It is not that we don’t have particular things that trigger us anymore. It just means that the more we unhook from the addiction to struggle, the more we will be able to respond to life rather than living in reaction.
9. How can we start our journey into ease and well being today? What is the very first step?
Getting out of your head is all about noticing “What Is?” right here, right now. You can start by giving yourself five minutes a day of just noticing this moment. One way is to follow your breath, and I guide you to learn to do this in my book. When I first started on the path of awakening and turning toward myself, I could not follow my breath. It was too scary, too intimate. So, I started with sounds. There are always sounds – sounds inside your body, airplanes going overhead, a bird chirping, your stomach grumbling. Most of the time you will be thinking about something other than the sounds and you will be off in the storyteller in your head, but that is okay. You have only lived in this stream of thought your whole life. If you give yourself the gift of five minutes every day, you will start wanting to do it longer because it is fascinating. You will start drifting off into the stories, and then it will get easier and easier to bring yourself back to the sounds. That is the first foundation, strengthening the muscle of your attention.
10. How else can we follow you or get more information? Do you have any upcoming events or webinars?
The best way to get more information about my awakening work is to go to my website, www.maryomalley.com. There are free talks on my website, you-tube videos, newsletters, lots of CDs, and my four books. I also do phone counseling, phone groups and retreats. These are all good ways to begin to nourish yourself by discovering the power of compassionate curiosity. I also have two phone groups and two in-person groups that meet once a week. We explore together and it is so amazing to gather with groups of people who are awakening because we need that kind of support. One of the important things about gathering together with other people is that you see that everyone is as nutty as a fruit cake. Everybody else has what I call “spells”, so it takes the stigma away and you can become much more interested in what Life is showing you in any given situation.
Thank You Mary!
Mary O’Malley is an author, inspirational speaker, and transformational life coach. She has over 30 years of experience living and teaching the art of being fully alive. You can find her at her website @ www.maryomalley.com/ or on her Facebook page.