Antidote – a rich internal life

Seth Godin, former dot com business executive and author, said,

Instead of wondering when our next vacation is, we should set up a life we don’t need to escape from.

What a challenge!

A rich internal life is an antidote to the pervading sense of dread and anxiety that we come across each day. When we are in touch with the richness of our internal life, we will no longer be dependent on an external life for escape.

The present external life

No matter where you are on this quest of setting up a life which you don’t want to escape from, you’re likely experiencing a degree of disappointment and dejection in the current environment. The prospect of the next vacation is bleak, and international travel almost non-existent.

Where do you go now, when options to escape from a high-stress or dissatisfied life are narrower than before? The distractions you allow yourself as consolations or rewards, the activities you indulge in to remind yourself that the way you live is worthwhile indeed, the activities you attend as temporary anesthesia – they are now severely reduced.

Even the most outward focused of us are compelled to reconsider our options. We now must find our respite from our work and in our home, and to maintain our sense of connection and belonging within a smaller social group.

Why an internal life?

This is the epoch to return to our internal life. 

It is time to return to greater appreciation of introspection, depth and meaning. It is necessary especially when we have to keep our own company more often than before.

And this internal life can be scary. Consciously or otherwise, many of us have taken quite resolute steps to not peek into this space while others have been oblivious to the need for it. And many more are tapping into it to varying degrees.

Where are you?

An internal life is the world within us, encompassing the mental and emotional spaces and spiritual by nature.

A rich internal life means you are self-aware and clear about your values, and well-equipped to manage your emotions. It means you have a calm and focused mind, with optimal level of resilience. 

To attain a rich internal life

Here are the preconditions to having a rich internal life:

  • time alone – in this place where  you are not performing nor entertained, and you are required to keep yourself company. 
  • independence – you must do this exploration and interrogation of your internal life on your own; no amount of discussion with close family and friends will assist in a resolution, in fact it may be counter-productive. Take time to nurture your ability to comfort, discipline, inspire, educate and entertain yourself.

Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company. ~ Seneca

  • curiosity – and here, you will give yourself permission to explore all aspects of yourself, the desirables and the undesirables. Let your imagination and fantasies take flight.
  • focus – you will spend time making friends with your thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. Learn to discipline your thoughts, and to choose what you pay attention to. Most importantly, focus and choose your daily behaviours and habits. They matter.

Remember that at any given moment there are a thousand things you can love.  ~ David Levithan

Necessary growth

When we emerge from the current environmental restrictions, will we be more aware? Will we know ourselves better? Will we like ourselves better?

This is the growth to aspire to. 

© Transfigure Therapy 2020

 

Preparing for self-awareness

Can you conceive of the “why” to what you  say or do? Beyond the reasons and rationalising.

To thine own self be true”, Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet. So how can we “be true” unless we know our self?

What do we mean when we speak of self- awareness and “being conscious” of our words and actions??

To be self-aware requires attention and effort. It is easier and quicker to evaluate others’ words and actions, or judge their motives and intentions than it is to decipher ours.

Perhaps unthinkingly or unconsciously we direct our attention outwards more often than we do inwards because it is challenging to look at ourselves, especially our Shadow (to use Carl Jung’s term) – this unconscious aspect of our personality which our conscious ego has trouble acknowledging or seeing.

Self-awareness will allow us to know our humanity and our place in it. We then are able to understand and know others .

So how do we learn to be self-aware? We have to be prepared

  • to be present to, and aware of our thoughts and feelings. A contemplative practice is useful, and over time, it will become easier. I have no answer as to the measure of time this may be for you nor even for myself.  It is not about arriving somewhere. I am not certain if there is even a destination we need concern ourselves with.  It is the contemplative practice itself which brings to light the judgement, blame and shame we hold and from which we act.
  • to hold our flaws gently in the palms of my hands, sometimes in playful lightness, sometimes in repose, always mindful to not judge.  In this I do not always succeed. That is okay too. The very act of being aware of my Shadow is by itself, empowering and humbling – to walk this life with consciousness.  The crux is to know when we are judging; if we can name it, we are more likely to be able to let the act or thought go.  

The essence of any contemplative practice is twofold – silence and stillness. As opposed to being ‘silenced’ by a fear, in protest or by resignation, silence in meditation is empowering because we come to sit in that space in which we are aware of ourselves, of our world and our relationship with the world; and we then have the choice to accept ourselves for who we are – to be true.

“The point [of meditation] is not to improve yourself …but to come back to who you are, the awareness that is your birthright” ~ Jack Kornfield

To do this,

  • we need to be prepared to turn to which is difficult in order to learn something of value,
  • be willing to seat ourselves in the middle of everything, joys and sorrows,
  • to trust this space of awareness with a loving and compassionate heart, and
  • to acknowledge this is our humanity.

Be still instead of perpetually chasing or running away. This is what it means to be present – to not look to our history and judge and attempt to fix it, to not look to our future and judge it against ideals we have inherited from our past or history.

Presence and awareness becomes the springboard from which we take our next steps – understanding and evaluating, inwards and outwards.

As Zen master, Suzuki Roshi, said,

I do not know anything about higher consciousness, I just try to teach my students how to hear the birds sing.”  

How beautiful, how simple!  Be here.

When we do not look to judge, blame or shame, perhaps then the task of becoming self-aware becomes less confronting.

~ FlorenceT

© Transfigure Therapy 2019

You’re not normal, and it’s okay

Yale researchers have confirmed our feeling different is normal, in that there is no normal. Our experience is by reference to our environment and “normality” is circumstantial.

“Change is the only constant.” Don’t we know this already? Our struggle lays in our denial and persisting attempts to maintain a status quo.

Check out this article in Curiosity.

 

Finding balance

 

Time is no longer the arbiter for what is ‘work’ and what is ‘family’ or ‘leisure’. The demand, and the rationale, for flexible work practice is on the rise.

Peter Hirst, Associate Dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management states,

“Employers need to address these burdens not by seeing how time at work can be more enjoyable, but by identifying the ways that work requirements make life less manageable …”

and recommends the creation of support infrastruture as key, which includes prioritising inter-office communication.

“…it’s important to consider life outside the office walls and recognize that professionals with healthy and happy personal lives come to work with productive, positive attitudes.”

For more, see Hirst’s article on Entrepreneur.