Mary O’Malley

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Mary O'Malley is an author, counselor, and acknowledged leader in the field of awakening. Through her writing and teaching, she empowers people to work with the difficulties of life in a way that enhances their capacity for joy. For more, visit

Listen to Tami Simon's in-depth audio podcast interview with Mary O'Malley:
What's in the Way Is the Way »

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Mary O’Malley: What’s in the Way Is the Way

Mary O’Malley is an author, counselor, and acknowledged leader in the field of spiritual awakening. With Sounds True, Mary has published What’s in the Way Is the Way: A Practical Guide for Waking Up to Life. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon and Mary discuss the eight “spells” that keep us feeling separate from life—as well as the remedies that bring us more fully into the energetic flow of existence. They speak on the need for curiosity and the role it plays in uniting our attention with our present-moment experience. Finally, Mary explains her understanding of the awakening process and the skills one can cultivate to come into a robust and joyous alignment with life itself. (60 minutes)

Tami’s Takeaway
One of the worst feelings for me is helplessness. Mary teaches that “life is destined to bring up what is bound up.” This podcast brought up for me how I push away feelings of helplessness. According to Mary, “what’s in the way is the way,” and we can become what she calls “tightness detectives” to see how we clamp down in certain situations and resist what we don’t want to feel. When instead we meet our feelings with curiosity and spaciousness, we discover the free flow of aliveness and the absolute trustworthiness in every experience.

Are You Enough?

By Mary O’Malley

Are you enough?  Take a moment and be honest with yourself.  Do you live with a sense that you are okay and life is okay exactly as it is? Probably not, because you, like most people, have been conditioned to think that you need to be better or different to be okay. This brings forth the belief that it is only when you get it all together (in the future) that you will be enough.

To get a glimpse into this constant seeking, ask yourself these questions:

Is your body enough because you have gotten rid of the weight, the wrinkles, the too big nose?

Is your mate enough, always relating to you in ways that you want them to?

Are your meditations enough, or are you always seeking for better states of mind?

Are your career, your finances, even your children ever enough in your mind?

If you look closely, you would have to say that, even though your life is how you want it to be for moments, your mind always takes over again in its endless search for lasting satisfaction. We are all like a hungry ghost searching, searching, searching. We seek and long and grasp at what our mind says will bring lasting satisfaction, only to get caught in the illusion that more, more, more will finally fill the empty hole inside of us:

You finally lose the weight and then think either you should lose five more pounds or you become afraid of gaining it back.

You find your perfect mate only to discover six months into the relationship that there are things about them that drive you crazy.

You finally get a raise at work only to find out that you’re living in the same financial stress because you can now buy fancier toys or more complex plastic surgeries, hoping that this will bring you lasting satisfaction.

Stephen Levine once told a story about a 93-year-old woman on her deathbed who said, “It can’t end now because it hasn’t started yet!” It is amazing that most of us don’t see this endless search for satisfaction and how unsatisfying it is in the long run.

If you look with great curiosity, you will see that this search for something out there – a skinnier body, a different mate, more money, deeper meditations, better sex, a happier mind, a fancier house, more, more, more – is a thirst that will never be quenched except for a moment here and a moment there. Read the studies on how much misery winning the lottery brings into people’s lives and you will see the truth of this.

What would happen if you discovered that there is a field of enoughness that is always with you? What would happen if you finally understood that the deep and lasting satisfaction you have been searching for your whole life is always here? To look for lasting satisfaction in the constantly changing flow of life is suffering. To relax the search for more, more, more and to discover an intimate connection with this living moment of your life is to finally come home.

I invite you for a moment to stop reading this blog and lift your eyes to receive your life. This is a unique moment in your life and it is the only moment that matters. See it as if you have never been on this planet before.  Even if you have been in this exact place a thousand times, still, it is brand new.

If your attention doesn’t yet know how to ground here, close your eyes and focus on all the sounds that are arising and passing. There are loud sounds like somebody talking in the next room and soft sounds, like the hum of your computer.  There are sounds far away like an airplane in the sky and there are sounds very close like your breath in your nostrils.

To truly listen to your life is to come home to the only moment that matters – right now. And in an intimate connection with Life the moment it appears out of mystery, you are no longer caught in the endless and unsatisfactory search for satisfaction.

Of course, when your mind sees this, it is very likely that its newest search will be to try to live in ‘the now’, for it believes that will bring it lasting satisfaction.  This doesn’t work! Why? For you are already in the now and any attempt to get there is just more searching.

But what you can do is remember that in all your searching you are already home. You don’t need to try to get here. Instead you can discover how to see and not get seduced into the endless search for satisfaction. Whenever you are caught in wanting things to be different than what they are, it can help to simply say to yourself, “This moment is enough, exactly as it is. I am enough, exactly as I am.”

In order to rest in your natural enoughness, it is important to recognize that nothing in this ever-changing world will bring lasting satisfaction. It can certainly bring temporary happiness and we can enjoy that happiness. But to require that Life, in its ever-changing flow, is where lasting satisfaction will be found is truly suffering.

You can also understand that life is putting you in the exact set of circumstances that will allow you to see how restless and busy your mind is in trying to get to the peace you long for.

You can also finally understand that it is truly a blessing to not get what you want. The pain of having your constant search blocked is the doorway out of the endless seeking and back into an intimate connection with Life. For, what is in the way IS the way!

If you are interested in exploring this further, I encourage you to visit my website and listen to my Radio Show. I am also offering a class on What’s in the Way IS the Way.


Mary O’Malley is an author, counselor and awakening mentor in Kirkland, Washington. In the early 1970’s, a powerful awakening led Mary to begin changing her relationship with her challenges, freeing her from a lifelong struggle with darkness. Mary’s latest book, What’s In the Way Is the Way, provides a revolutionary approach for healing your fears, anxieties, shame, and confusion, so you can live from a place of ease.


Mary O’Malley: What’s in the Way Is the Way

Mary O’Malley is an author, counselor, and acknowledged leader in the field of spiritual awakening. With Sounds True, Mary has published What’s in the Way Is the Way: A Practical Guide for Waking Up to Life. In this episode of Insights at the Edge, Tami Simon and Mary discuss the eight “spells” that keep us feeling separate from life—as well as the remedies that bring us more fully into the energetic flow of existence. They speak on the need for curiosity, and the role it plays in uniting our attention with our present-moment experience. Finally, Mary explains her understanding of the awakening process and the skills one can cultivate to come into a robust and joyous alignment with life itself.
(60 minutes)

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Growing through the Peak of Your Pain

A doctor of Chinese medicine who was a famous bonesetter in China once said to me with a heavy accent, “Here, you [meaning Americans] don’t like to feel pain. You don’t like to suffer.” He said this as he wrung my neck as one would a chicken’s, snapping it back and forth in a way I had never experienced. I screamed as if he were breaking my bones.

For a month prior, I hadn’t been able to move my head to the left or right. My left arm was nearly immobile. I had just started a new job that probably should have ended the moment my body locked up. I went for acupuncture, then pain pills; used ice and hot water bottles. I went to medical doctors, and they X-rayed the area and gave me more pills and a brace to keep my head still—the kind used for whiplash. I later tried one of the best chiropractors in the city, and she gave me the number of a neurosurgeon, thinking I had a herniated disk and would need surgery. I did not seek out the surgeon and stayed in pain for weeks. Finally, a friend from my job gave me the number of her doctor, the famous bonesetter mentioned above. I called him at 10:00 pm that night. That’s how much pain I was in. To my surprise, he answered the phone. He said, “Come in. I wait for you.”

I said, “Now?”

“Yes!” he said. “You have pain, come now.”

Wow, I thought. Now that’s a healer. It didn’t matter that it was the middle of the night.

My partner at the time drove me across the Bay Bridge to San Francisco, and I met my friend from work at the healer’s office. She had come to translate from Mandarin to English. The place was tiny, with photos on the wall of city dignitaries and other famous people who were his clients.

“Hi.” The bonesetter smiled like a boy. “I’m Dr. Fu.”

I sat down in his small room and showed him my X-ray. He threw it on the floor without looking at it. He took the brace off my neck and threw that on the floor, too, right next to the X-ray. Then he twisted me into a pretzel. I howled, yelped, screamed, and hollered.

All of it. No wonder he had me come when no other patients were there. He told me to breathe, and I did my best. Suddenly, at the peak of the pain, I felt my muscles release in my neck, shoulders, and back. It was in fact a miracle to me. I had suffered so long.

I carried my brace and X-ray out in my hands. It was as if I had never been in pain or unable to move. The night sky filled with stars made me feel like I was on another planet. I was in bliss. When I returned to work, everyone was shocked. Was it a miracle, or was it the ability to withstand a greater amount pain to be free of the pain? I would have never imagined that I needed to go deeper into the pain, deeper into the darkness of it. All I had wanted was out.

We are averse to pain and suffering and understandably so, given our American sensibility. We have access to a large market of remedies, products, spiritual paths, and, yes, gateways to the freedom from suffering. I wonder how many times we have diverted our own freedom when we have discovered there is more pain, more trouble, more darkness ahead and we keep adding on remedies. What is the mindset, along with fear and terror, that causes us to avoid our suffering rather than go deeper into seeing what is there? Yes, I should have quit that job on the spot when the pain started, even though I had been there for only a few weeks. I didn’t know at the time, but the pain that was deep inside was because I wanted something different for my life than the job I had accepted. The pain was my impatience, and it was at the same time physical pain in real time. I didn’t wait to allow that“something different” to be revealed in the darkness.

Since all paths—religious, spiritual, or without name—intersect in the place of darkness, darkness is the place where the mind is forced to detach itself from whatever it has grabbed onto in life. And in that nothingness, in that dark place, we awaken.

What of darkness terrorizes us so that we run from it, rather than go deeper into it? How can we bear dark times, or, more explicitly, horrifying times, with the skill of an awakened one? Misery, struggle, and sorrow are not the sole intentions of this life. Yet we can respect our interrelationship with everything in the world, including the suffering in, around, and between us. Is there a way to live in unsettling times that we have forgotten?

Excerpted from Opening to Darkness: Eight Gateways for Being with the Absence of Light in Unsettling Times by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel.

Osho Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, PhD, is an author, poet, ordained Zen Buddhist priest, teacher, and artist, whose diverse background, education, and experience all provide a unique integral and cultural perspective within the space of religion and spirituality. She is the author of The Shamanic Bones of Zen, The Way of Tenderness, The Deepest Peace, and more. Manuel is a native of California and now resides in New Mexico. Learn more at