The Lost Art of Introspection Why You Must Master Yourself
Sometimes you just feel lost. No matter which direction you take a step in it never feels quite right. Pause for a moment and look at the decisions and projects you've started over the past month. All over the place, right?
All you have left in your wake are a bunch of unfinished projects, and trails that lead nowhere. You dream of having your next project be your best work. The vision you had for your life was doing work that matters and making a lasting impact. You would love to make decisions that align with the core of who you are. Living a fully intentional life.
Yet, here you are scattered, lost and unfocused. Still left with decisions and actions that never feel quite right.
You Haven't Taken the Time to Become a Self-ExpertToday we're so wrapped up in a culture of doing that we're rarely ever given downtime to sit and reflect. This constant cycle of doing even plagues us in our sleep. The moment you open your eyes in the morning your mind starts racing and the cycle begins again. Never a free moment from your thoughts and the distractions of the modern world. Even when you try to sit still you can't help but fidget. It's either your body or your mind pulling you in a new direction.
We have over 50,000 thoughts a day, over half are negative and over 90% are just repeating from the day before. That doesn't leave much room for growth and change does it? In Buddhist thought your mind is likened to a drunk monkey. If you don't take the time to tame this drunk monkey your life might as well be run on autopilot. Never actually acting for yourself, simply doing them out of a conditioned response. There is a way to break free from this societal conditioning, however.
All you need to do is create a little more space. By adding just a little time each day for self-reflection and soul digging you'll be on your way towards building a wealth of understanding about yourself. The path isn't rugged or treacherous, but it does take work. Especially, if you've spent your entire life wrapped up in seeking behavior, such as, only acting for external rewards, like money, wealth or power. A little more space is all you need to start laying the foundation
Knowing Yourself Isn't Directly Valued In Our CultureIf you feel lost and confused it's not your fault. Yes, you're ultimately in charge of your life. It's you who needs to play the main character in your journey and start to live a life that's worth living, but if you're not there yet just realize that it's not all on your shoulders. At the core it's the culture you've been raised in.
In the modern world, we place massive value on status and money. We grow up being taught and shaped more by the media and advertisements than the books and teachers we learn from. The reason all boils down to our psychology.
Without going too in-depth here, advertising makes money by selling a certain image. In order to sell that image on a massive scale it needs to address certain psychological triggers. Instead of selling us the message that "we're already perfect and should love ourselves just the way we are", we are told that "we need to be fixed, and this product will bring (insert positive thing) into your life".
We're constantly wrapped up in seeking behavior. We never stop for a moment to ask why we're consuming and doing these things in the first place. The values of our culture condition you to become a passive consumer who fuels the current economic model. By keeping within the norms you'll be safe, comfortable and supposedly happy. If you've been through this process for anytime whatsoever, which I'm sure you have. You're always left with a feeling of emptiness no matter how much money you make, or new objects you buy. It's time to shake things up.
Take Your Power Back and Use the Art of IntrospectionLao Tzu said it best.
“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.”Introspection and reflection are all about getting to know yourself at the core, uncovering your values and then deciding for yourself what's the best action to take. You take the power away from the way you've been conditioned, away from the systems that try to hold you in place and bring your focus of control back to where it belongs, within you.
In doing this you'll uncover a lot of resistance. Both internally and from family and friends. After all, you're gracefully bowing out from the way most people process the world. This liberation comes with uncertainty, but also a newfound sense of freedom and purpose. By taking the time to become an expert of yourself first you have the power to make decisions that make you feel good. By cultivating a bond of understanding you bring your dream life within reach. No more stumbling, no more feeling lost.
Even the times of uncertainty will be more secure, as you're always pointed north towards your purpose. This can also be called living from your center. You become a force of power in your own life. Your actions and work that comes from this point will be able to bring this light into other's lives as well. This all sounds incredible, how do I start?
Make Some Room For YourselfThe following steps can be done anywhere but, it's best if you build routines around them. Start small and do your best to build the habit of introspection into your life.
1. Create Quiet SpaceThis can come in many forms. For some it may be taking a quiet walk through the woods. For others, it might be grabbing a cup of tea and sitting at the table. For some, it might even be taking a few extra moments to lie in bed in the morning. The crucial element is to make sure no one is going to interrupt you. This has to be some serious you time! No one else allowed, except maybe your dog or cat.
I've found it really helpful if you make it the same time everyday, whether it's immediately before breakfast or right before bed. It's easier to in grain a habit if you do it consistently, same time, same place.
2. Ask Deep Open Ended QuestionsNow that you've created this space for yourself. Make sure it's very peaceful and relaxing for you. If it helps take a few deep breaths. Really try to follow your breath, in and out. Let the sensations lull you into a relax state. Once you're there now comes the fun part, the exploration.
Use the following questions if you'd like:
- What is my deepest passion?
- What sets my soul on fire?
- If I had all the money in the world how would I spend my time?
- What do I love most about myself?
- What are my deepest values?
3. See What Comes Up With No JudgementMake sure you hold your heart and mind wide open to any potentials that may arise. If this is one of your first times doing this you may be shocked or amused with what you find. Remember, nothing is to outlandish, don't judge whatever comes out. It's all a part of you. Sometimes there are parts of ourselves that haven't been given time to shine.
When you start to give yourself space, the deeper passionate and playful parts of yourself all seize the moment and do whatever they can to come out. Enjoy the ride, and hold space.
4. Take NotesThis can be done either mentally or with pen and paper in hand. Personally, I love to write down my thoughts and reflections. It makes it easier to track themes that keep occurring and give me something to look back on. It all depends on the situation.
Sometimes I like to ponder one of these questions while walking around in the woods, letting my thoughts drift and the insights come and go. Other times I'm all about recording and will ask a question and write until I feel the answer.
If it's your first time I recommend having something by your side to record your insights. Think of it as a search for gold, you might want a map to document your experience.
5. Reflect and RepeatAfter you've gone through this process let it sit with you and see how it feels. The more often you ask yourself these questions the more clarity you'll get. Think of it as practice. You'll never become a master of your craft if you only do it once or twice. Make it part of your routine and reap the massive rewards of self-knowledge. Slowly, but surely you'll build the tools to become captain of your own inner universe.
What is one thing you're dying to know about yourself? Share in the comments.
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