Inner-life affects every part of worldly-life.
Most plans and goals arise from the desire to improve our worldly life; to help our family do well, to progress our careers, increase finances, and maintain and build social connections.
Plans and goals to improve our inner life; to develop a healthy mind, emotional and psychological resilience, and to grow our spirit, are undoubtedly desirable, but more often than not, inner life gets put on the backburner.
Because inner-life progress is less measurable and profitable, we often think of it as a luxury that can be indulged in at a future time, when we have more money, freedom, and time.
We say to ourselves, ‘I’ll work on my emotions when the kids start school.’ ‘I’ll develop my spiritual life when I’ve got enough money to relax.’ ‘ I’ll explore these prolific dreams once I feel settled at work.’ ‘I’ll learn to meditate when I find the right teacher… as they say, when the student is ready…’
Sure, the stories we tell ourselves make rational sense, but do they make us feel alive and connected to ourselves, or are they muting the call from a deeper part of us?
Tricks of the Rational Mind
I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.
– Albert Einstein
Science has taught us to think rationally; in linear timelines, and to see ourselves as beings made of separate parts. ‘My body is not my mind, my emotions are not my thoughts, my dreams do not impact my reality. My inner life has nothing to do with my worldly life.
The rational mind tends to dismiss what’s going on inside of us. It damps-down our most profound heartfelt desires, our imaginations, and our deepest fears.
Humans are a complex, interdependent network of systems, processes, and phenomena. This is what makes us whole.
If we neglect one part, it weakens our entire system. The rational mind is just one part of us, and from this perspective alone we miss the totality of who we are.
A preference for worldly life.
The rational mind prefers worldly life because it is tangible and knowable. It’s made up of structures and elements that we experience directly with our eyes, ears, and all of our senses.
Worldly life keeps us occupied mentally, sensually and socially.
Worldly life motivates us to search for and attach to a social identity and delivers nasty blows when it can’t found or is rejected.
Relying on our rational mind to direct our lives and placing all of our faith in the worldly life is a dangerous way to live.
Sooner or later both let us down and we are shocked to discover a harsh reality; that we’ve been led down a narrow path to a place that is neither caring nor just.
Woe betide the clown who grows old and drops his juggling pins. Circus life is over.
Our bubble bursts and we lose our footing.
When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.
– Victor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
Without an inner life, the landing is truly brutal. We feel that we’ve lost absolutely everything. We have no resilience to bear the collapse. We scurry in the dust desperate to find a new place to invest our faith.
My first and most revered teacher was a Taoist, doctor and martial artist who had seen thousands of patients over his 60-year working life.
He once told me this. ‘Most people won’t develop their inner lives until an emergency strikes, usually an accident, illness or a major loss of some sort. The irony is that the emergency may have been averted, or its impact significantly reduced, had they begun their inner-work sooner.’
If you can get over rationalizing away your life and putting most of your focus and faith in things outside of you, you will be eons ahead of the crowd. And you may well avert misfortune.
An Enlightened Era Of Irrationality
Science has destroyed even the refuge of the inner life. What was once a sheltering haven has become a place of terror
– Carl Jung
Fortunately, we as a civilization are becoming more enlightened around our error of rational, linear, isolationist thinking. We are making discoveries about the interdependence of all things.
Science, medicine, and education are blazing new and exciting paths; recognizing the connections between things that were previously considered to exist in isolation.
We have discovered that emotions are capable of affecting the physical body, that the left-brain-right-brain paradigm is an artificial construct, that gut-health affects every system in the body, including mental health, that meditation is in many medical cases more effective than pain medication, and that purposeful living impacts health and longevity.
Quantum physics has taught us that the past, present, future paradigm is an artificial construct separate from how the universe works.
Many of the above findings are not new, but empirical evidence has helped to make acceptable what mystics, seers, poets, and artists expressed long ago; what our deeper humanity feels to be true.
Time is not a linear flow, as we think it is, into the past, present and future. Time is an indivisible whole, a great pool in which all events are eternally embodied.
– Frank Waters, American Novelist
Stuck with limited thinking.
And while this is excellent news, despite ground-breaking research, we are still rational thinkers because, from a young age, this has been our training, and this is the world we live in.
We were trained to think habitually, linearly, and logically, and discouraged to think intuitively and imaginatively.
We have learned to dismiss the information that is continuously arising from our intuition, feelings, and imagery; the delicate sparks that invite us to heed the call of inner life.
Such is the karma of our birth era, Kali Yuga.
Disrupt limited thinking.
We need rational thought to function in the world, without a doubt. But we also need to become literate in feeling, intuiting and imagining. These are innate skills that enable us to experience the totality of who we are.
The best you can do to balance our rational training out is to:
1. Become aware of old training and conditioning and how it is influencing both your small daily decisions and big life choices.
2. Expose yourself to modern discoveries that debunk mechanistic thinking and reveal the mystery of connectedness.
3. Awaken and develop your inner-life, sooner rather than later.
What Is Inner Life?
Okay, but what does it mean to awaken your inner-life and where do you begin?
Depending on your culture and beliefs, inner life has different names: spirit, soul, psyche, atman.
Throughout the ages men have been intuitively aware of the existence of an inner center. Greeks; Daimon, Egypt: Ba-soul, Romans: Genius.
– Carl Jung
Inner life houses the unchanging essence of you. It’s where your spirit, feeling, intuition, and knowing mind lives. It is where the ultimate purpose of your whole existence is found. The ‘why’ of your life.
While every one of us already has an inner life, it remains unevolved if we are unaware of it.
Finding clarity in a crowded marketplace.
Inner life development brings infinite possibilities. Along with these comes confusion, especially when you start looking out there.
The crowded marketplace of self-development has millions of modalities, philosophies, paradigms, techniques, experts and charlatans.
Where do you turn? And who can you trust?
The road to inner life will be clearer and more certain if the very first person you place your trust in is yourself.
By doing a little work on your own, you can create self-trust. It doesn’t have to be onerous.
All you need to do is to initiate a relationship with your deeper nature through a process that attracts you.
I’ll recommend a few ways to do so, but first, let’s look at why.
Self-work = Self-worth
What you seek is seeking you.
Traditionally, authentic teachers prefer to teach someone who has done at least a little inner work alone. It shows keenness; someone who is serious about their own evolution, and who is self-motivated.
If you do initiate an inner-work process before approaching a teacher, you’ll show up with a degree of self-insight. You won’t expect your teacher to give you all the answers, which in any case, they won’t have.
An authentic teacher will give you a suggested path, and importantly, what to do next. There is a high chance that the teacher will take an interest in your development. They may then initiate you into the next stage of your self-development.
In this way, you are affirming and empowering yourself. You are saying, ‘I have a relationship with myself. I have some knowledge about who I am and what I need. And I want more.’
Through self-initiation, you will have sensed into your strengths and weaknesses and fired up your intuition.
If the teacher happens to be a charlatan, you’ll have a feeling about that; whether they respect you and want to assist your development for a fair exchange, or if they only want your money and the submission of your will.
Suggested Ways To Spark Inner Life Relationship
Begin with something that feels personally intriguing, attractive or highly compelling.
The chances are that you are already aware of an area of interest, but that you’ve been putting it off for another day.
Don’t be afraid to let go of your rational thoughts, your comfort zone, and to lose yourself in the mystery of inner-life. Let go and explore.
Read classic texts on a topic of great appeal; western or eastern philosophy, psychology, dreams, mythology, or spiritual texts. Or study the process of an artist who has sparked your imagination and admiration.
Why do I recommend classical texts? I am speaking here from what I have found to be helpful.
I personally experienced many awakenings through reading the works of western and eastern philosophers, the pioneering psychologists, and artists whose works I fell in love with.
For me, many of these texts, encountered at different times in my life, were initiatory; they re-orientated my inner-life so powerfully, that my worldly-life path was forever changed.
Ideally, you will combine your reading with a process.
If you are not afraid of the voices inside you, you will not feat the critics outside you. Besides, those voices are merely guardians and demons protecting the real treasure, the first thoughts of the mind.
– Natalie Goldberg
There are infinite styles of writing you can explore.
Poetry is excellent because it works with image, metaphor, and feeling — the language of your inner-life. You could write about a desire or fear that you hide.
Autobiography is illuminating. Write the short story of your life so far — from as far back as you can remember. Read it back to yourself aloud and try to pinpoint the essences and themes that are present and those that are missing.
Automatic Writing also called stream of consciousness writing can bring both delightful and disarming self-insights.
It is a process where you write without trying to construct a sensible story. You can in write single words, broken-phrases, nonsense. You don’t have to write left to right, or on the lines of the page.
You must write by hand.
Automatic writing elucidates hidden aspects of you. You lift the lid on your rational mind and let your angels and demons fly.
The rapid-fire, freeing process can identify your neurosis, eccentricities, emotional entanglements, soulful yearnings, and profound wisdom.
All of these aspects that you normally find so neatly separated can co-exist on one page or a paragraph.
Automatic writing in its simplest form:
- Pick a topic or an object to write about.
- Set your stopwatch to countdown 10, 15 or even 30-minutes.
- Start writing what comes to mind.
Write quickly non-stop without fear of changing direction between words and worlds go back around to the sky to the dream that was always there to the door of sad feeling of this halted dream mid-air to the kiss that deceived to the joy of that tree to love and loss to me to knock knock who’s there go on and on until the clock stops.
In my experience, the longer the duration, the better, because for me a lot of the mental garbage and neurotic concerns are top-layer.
The longer I spend, the deeper and more profound the illuminations become.
Your first session could start with a question about your inner life e.g.,
- What does my inner life look like?
- What do I most want from my inner-life?
- What do I expect my inner-life will bring me?
- What has blocked me from keenly pursuing my inner-life before today?
You could begin with a concept such as freedom, initiation, love, self, expression.
There are many more advanced forms of automatic writing, including cluster writing, metaphoric, and rhythmic writing.
In waking life, too, we continue to dream beneath the threshold of consciousness, especially when under the influence of the repressed or other unconscious complexes.
– Carl Jung
Dream exploration is not only for people who recall their night dreams. We dream all the time during the day. Both night dreams and daydreams are made of your desires, yearnings, hopes, and fears.
The most useful part of exploring your dreams is that you are being shown your unconscious; the buried emotions and feelings that tell you a great deal about your true nature and inner-life.
Repressed feelings and talents abound in the dream; all the things we wish to dissociate from such as rage, and those that we fear expressing, such as wild exuberance.
Although I have been educated in dream-work, and work with clients on their dreams, I believe that merely paying attention to dreams has immense value.
Whether you wish to work with a night dream or daydream take these steps:
- Begin by writing the dream out fully.
- Review your dream and write any associations you can find with each of your dream images. e.g., Image: a tall man in a white coat. Association — I went to the dentist yesterday and the dentist was wearing a white coat. Image: cityscape out of office window. Association — my bosses office.
- Then ask, what feelings does this image evoke in me? What are the words or ideas that come to mind when I recall the image? (Note: There may not be any real-life associations with specific images. That’s fine.)
- Repeat the steps above, focusing on feeling as you recall each image and try to locate the place in your body that feeling is arising from. e.g., White coat — I feel stiff across the shoulders, harnessed, held down. e.g., Cityscape — I feel free in my heart, I can fly, I have a broad perspective. Hold those feelings for a few moments.
As you tune into these feelings you will feel your real desires and fears more acutely, and this forges a connection between your them. They begin to talk to each other. The connection made conscious is alchemical healing.
There is so much more to the dream process but this is a powerful form of initiation. Don’t dismiss it because it’s subtle. The inner-life is a subtle but powerful place of transformation.
It’s like having a charger for your whole body and mind. That’s what Meditation is!
— Jerry Seinfeld
One of the fastest, most practical ways to develop your inner-life is to create a regular meditation routine with a meditation technique that feels good.
Meditation is one of my most recommended paths because it has significantly strengthened and evolved my inner-life. I began with Taoist meditations, explored Buddhist meditation, and then came to yoga-tantra meditations.
Although you may have read that the aim of meditation is to create inner-peace and to become mindful, this is just one style of meditation; a passive style.
Different styles of meditation address different needs. Meditation can aid physical health, emotional resilience, psychological insight, and spiritual development. It depends on who you are and what you need and want.
Meditation can form the basis of a whole relationship and a path of inner life development.
The most basic form of meditation:
- Close your eyes.
- Be aware of your breath
Another form of meditation:
- Ask yourself, Who am I and what do I need now?
- Focus on the three levels of being; the body, the breath, and the mind.
- Connect with the feelings within each level.
Often people believe that meditating for a long period of time is the only way to achieve anything of value. But 10 minutes of meditation daily over a year will give you better results than a one-hour meditation performed once weekly.
If you only have a few minutes a day, use that time to touch your physical body, mind, and heart with your awareness. Focus on the rise and fall of your natural breath in the remaining minutes.
The act of connecting your awareness to your body-mind is nourishing, centering, healing, and initiatory of your inner life.
You can realize more profound benefits with more certainty through our expertly guided meditations for healing, psychological and spiritual development.
Balancing Inner Life and Worldly Life
The inner world is the world of your requirements and your energies and your structure and your possibilities that meets the outer-world. And the outer-world is the field of incarnation. That’s where you are. You’ve got to keep both going.
– Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
The terrain of your inner-life has no straight lines, and so progress is rarely linear.
Your inner life development is not about creating a perfect plan. It’s about you making a sincere effort to connect with and understand yourself while maintaining your worldly obligations.
The more you respond to your feelings and internal needs the more meaning, deep intelligence, and fulfillment you can inject into your worldly-life.
Taking the time to connect with your inner life is the highest form of self-love, and it improves every relationship you will ever have.
Call To Action
Whatever you choose to develop your inner life, BEGIN. Thinking about it won’t do anything – you have to act to be in the process.
My personal path combines dreamwork, meditation, and writing.
If you would like advice on starting or expanding effective inner-life development enquire about a consultation with me.
This article was first published on Medium.com