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11 September 2015 3 Comments

Managing Your Energy, Part #61: What IS Personal Development? & Guidelines for Whether to Remain in Difficult Circumstances

Managing Your Energy, Part #61: What IS Personal Development? & Guidelines for Whether to Remain in Difficult Circumstances

“When a defect becomes common, it is considered as the normal state by the generality.” ~ Inayat Khan

These behaviors indicate the kind of personal development I have been referring to in the last few posts:

—the ability to accurately self observe
—familiarity with one’s defenses and ability to see them in action
—having a healthy relationship with power
—the ability to observe everything one does not like about one’s self without losing at least partial objectivity or self love, including any abuses of power
—having established an observing center of consciousness that is present and operates like the hub of a wheel, like the still point within all personality manifestations
—the ability to be consistent over time, when choosing to do so
—a high degree of personal congruence between thought, speech, and action
—being able to observe and acknowledge lack of congruence or inconsistency without activating defensive behaviors
—knowing where one’s blind spots are and being willing to recognize and explore them if someone points them out
—the ability to intentionally produce authentic positive states
—the ability to observe one’s reactive emotional states without overly identifying with them, while simultaneously in touch with parts of Self that are not in reaction

Obviously, if someone cannot self assess accurately, they will be unable to evaluate their relationship with the above capacities.

Again, we are not consistent. We have aspects of ourselves that are more developed, and aspects which are less. We are susceptible to conditions, circumstances, physiology, and many other influences that can conspire to activate hidden places we have not mined, or push us P1140113beyond our ability to cope. For those on a path of development and awareness, it can be said that these stresses not only SHOW us what we are made of, but BUILD who we become. 

Given that the pressures of life assist in bringing out who we are and in forming who we become, by what basis do you determine whether or not a difficult set of circumstances serves you? 

Comfort may keep one embedded in habitual conditions that do not support Awakening. 

How do we determine whether or not a stressful situation serves us? Here are some useful questions or potential guidelines for your consideration:

—Am I able to learn through the distress this situation brings up?
—Does this distress further my development?
—Am I discovering something new, or repeating something?
—Am actively in the process of learning how to engage with the same circumstances in ways that do not evoke distress?
—If the situation is resistant to change, are there any elements of the situation that CAN be modified, that will take pressure off of it? What would I need to do to enact this change? How can I enable myself to do so?
—Does my intuition support remaining in the situation?
—Do I sense a karmic aspect to this situation? If so, what does it call for?
—What would I need to do or learn to create a sense of resolution?
—Is remaining in this situation the Highest Possible Option at this point in time?

While they can certainly help, even clear guidelines do not always transfer into the messiness of life itself. Especially in moments of overwhelm, we may make choices that do not serve us. The more we seek to learn from these experiences and aim not to repeat them, the more reliably we can use them to enhance positive values.

When a situation becomes static and is not changing, it is time to do something different. Flatness or a deadened heart must not become a status quo. With the exception of conscious, living ritual, repetitive, scripted or patterned interactions usually consume time and life energy without offering much in return.

How do YOU sense whether a stressful set of circumstances is useful to you?

How do you make use of stressful circumstances?

What does it take to keep you engaged if the conditions are difficult?

9 January 2015 2 Comments

Managing Your Energy, Part 32: Do You Scare Yourself Out of Developing?

Managing Your Energy, Part 32: Do You Scare Yourself Out of Developing?

Working with a spiritual teacher several decades ago, I remember getting really scared. I was thinking: “If I REALLY open my heart I will have to give everything to the poor and live like Mother Teresa.”

That was my concept about spirituality.

A dear client felt afraid to take her next step in personal and spiritual development. As we looked into this fear, she formulated its underpinning as something like this: “If I become perfect, I will have to give up getting angry, and therefore will have to do what my husband wants me to do and give up the control I feel through my resistance.”

Most of us fear transformation. Faced with the possibility of profound change, we often have an underlying, anxious construct like: “If I become like _____ I will have to _____, and therefore ______.”

Such constructs and resulting predicaments stem from unexamined assumptions, driven by fear. Either/or thinking often plays a part. The initial premise is usually an inaccurate assessment, which leads to an unrealistic extrapolation about a frightening and fictional future.

Noticing and investigating rhetoric or propaganda from our less-developed inner sectors is essential to successful personal and spiritual development.

Here is a line of inquiry for investigating fears and conflicts about inner growth:

  • What are you actually afraid of?
  • Is this fear warranted?
  • How does this fear indicate a conflict of values between different parts of yourself?
  • What part or value is most important to your life satisfaction?
  • Can you intentionally choose your most important value and go with it?
  • What inner resources would serve you in doing so?

Let’s walk this through with the fear I began with:
What are you actually afraid of? I was afraid that I would be compelled to sacrifice myself entirely in order to have spiritual validity.IMG_0105

Is this fear warranted? No. In actual fact, my issue has been with over-giving; too much sacrifice. My spiritual path has actually helped me to give in healthier ways.

How does this fear indicate a conflict of values between different parts of yourself? Part of me wants to give everything, while part of me is survival-oriented and selfish.

What part or value is most important to your life satisfaction? Balance and healthy adjustment are more important to me than either sacrifice or selfishness.

Can you intentionally choose your most important value and go with it? Yes, and I have been practicing. When I begin to feel too self-sacrificing or too selfish, I make adjustments.

What inner resources would serve you in doing so? I understand that very life time has different requirements for balance, and that the things that serve my soul bring about real happiness.

When we become fully loyal to our most comprehensive values, we resolve mental conflict and can use our values to navigate life challenges.

A few more thoughts about scaring ourselves with ideas about growth:

  • States of awareness that we move toward in the process of healthy development are rarely the way we imagine them from within our current limitations.
  • We usually enter new states having developed the foundations that support them.
  • A new state may require adjustment, but after adjusting we feel better than we did before.
  • We usually develop new stages of awareness gradually, and must work to stabilize them so we do not regress. This process is like adding drops into a bucket of a waterwheel, which begins to move slowly once its weight hits critical mass. If we do not keep adding water it may come to a stop.

Spiritual work consists largely of learning to be able to accept and tolerate WHAT IS. This includes ourselves! We are not attempting to transcend our humanity, but to integrate it within the Whole.

Do YOU ever scare yourself about doing the things that are most important to you?

If so, how do you construct or deconstruct your rhetoric about it?

3 September 2010 4 Comments

How To Benefit from Inner Conflict

How To Benefit from Inner Conflict

Intensifying inner conflict–intentionally as a technique–can be used to stimulate awareness and transformation. Try this:

Pit an old way of life you’re addicted to against a new way of life you long for but are scaredDSC_0176 of. Instead of trying to get rid of your fear and anxiety with some other technique, come into the diamond center of self-observation and VIEW your conflict in detail. View it with the understanding that you are bigger than the parts that are in conflict. View it with curiosity and wonder.

If you are not on the verge of a big life change you can still benefit from inner conflict:

Craft some creative tension by focusing on both sides of an inner conflict, however small. If you can generate stronger conflict your Inner Work will be more potent. Bring hidden conflict into the light of your awareness, without letting your stories about it interfere with neutral observation.

Do not waste your conflict and dissipate its energy. Use it for transformation.

Conflict Intensification Exercise (broken down more explicitly):

  • Pick a conflict.
  • Bring your conflict under the microscope of focused attention.
  • Track the sensations that occur in your body when you focus first on one side or part of the conflict and then the other/s. Sensations speak volumes. Attend to their messages. Which thoughts or feelings cause certain parts of your body to get tense, tight, or painful, or change your breath or posture?
  • Stay in impartial observation with at least a third of your attention. Do not turn away from or shut down conflicting parts. Give them each a voice. Listen to what they say when you allow them to speak, and write it down if this helps.
  • Ask yourself questions that clarify who you are and what you are trying to become, observing your sensations as you explore.
  • Let each inner voice express through your body, one at a time, as if it had your body to itself.
  • Attend to and memorize what it feels like when one side or part of your conflict is running your body. Sensation will assist you to recognize what is going on later, when conflict occurs on its own.
  • Live in the questions that come up. You are not trying to solve anything, but exploring who you are and what you do.

Resolution is not the aim here, but will arise on its own at some point. The aims of this exercise are self-awareness, learning to sense, release of resistance, and learning to recognize feeling states. Intensifying inner conflict helps to strengthen your capacity for impartial observation, building your core strength, clarity, and integrity.

DSC_0189Example: Suppose you have some conflict between your desire for approval or acknowledgment and a part of you that needs authentic expression. These parts hold different values. Bring each part into sharp focus, one by one. Get to know them without allowing the other part to interfere. When you feel a sense of clarity about exactly how these parts work within you, relax the conflict by embracing both parts within your comprehensive Whole.

Example Questions: Who will I be and what will I be doing over time if I allow my need for approval to guide my life direction?
Who will I be and what will I be doing in life if I allow authenticity and inner knowing to direct my actions?
What do I desire and what am I resisting?

The struggle between your urge to remain unaware and your urge to wake up is fundamental. It is not useful to judge your parts by seeing some as good and others as bad. Learn to embrace and accept each part as a gift of awareness.

Note: If you tend to get stuck in either/or dilemmas, seek to discover and observe more than two sets of values and voices. Seek multiple options.

Using conflict for Inner Work goes a long way toward building an unshakable habit of self-observation.

What have you found valuable in going through inner conflict?

How have you used conflict to create awareness or transformation?

27 August 2010 3 Comments

Inner Work Part 8: Inner Conflict And Transformation

Inner Work Part 8: Inner Conflict And Transformation

Conflict can be used as fuel for Inner Work, to promote spiritual transformation.

DSC_0107Whenever we attempt significant change we engage conflict about whether to remain the same—in the ‘comfort’ of our familiar blind spots—or whether to hazard new states of Being. Any wish to become more aware, responsible, or capable creates a clash, however subtle, with the parts of us that are established in the way we are now. As much as we stand to gain from positive change there are reasons that we are the way we are now.

Desire for change is, in itself, a form of conflict.

Positive change means giving up some of our suffering–which is usually an attempt to control something we don’t yet know how to manage any better than we already do. In a very real sense we have become addicted to our habitual circumstances. If we attempt to create a better life–whatever that may mean to us–parts of us may resist tooth and nail.

Gluing affirmations on top of fears and conflicts without exploring exactly how they arise and function may pacify them for the moment, leaving our conflicts in the dark to create life circumstances all by their lonesome.

As Jung pointed out, when we are unaware of our internal dynamics they show up in actual life events. Personally I would rather experience internal conflict and become more self-aware than to unconsciously set up and live out my interior dramas on the stage of life.

Exploring conflict through self-observation may temporarily intensify the conflict, but leads to increased awareness, self-knowledge, and much broader options for potential resolution.

Inner work eventually creates states of internal continuity that can remain unaffected by conflict, such as the ocean may be calm at its depth even during a surface storm. The unity-of-self at the central hub of your awareness is built on a foundation of neutral observation. Once developed, this center of gravity provides some consistency of experience regardless of disturbances such as conflict. Your judgments and condemnation of self or others becomes unimportant when you view yourself and others with impartiality.

How does this internal continuity and unity-of-self come about? Partly by stayingDSC_0090connected with internal conflict! Conflict can pull you apart or be used to discover yourself.

When you have conflict, seek to stay related to each part. Do not duck out of it by shutting down awareness. Seek to be in touch with each and every part of yourself. Observe impartially.

As you become skilled at neutral self-observation you become able to sense extremely subtle conflict–and to endure intense inner conflict, using both to feed awareness. Intense conflict, used well, can provoke staggering transformation.

How have YOU used conflict to provoke awareness?

What have you noticed about witnessing inner conflict without judging yourself for having it?

20 August 2010 7 Comments

Inner Work Part 7: The Perfection Trap

Inner Work Part 7: The Perfection Trap

P1010082Following lack of application, Perfectionism may be the second biggest obstacle to Inner Work.

Your biggest block to Waking Up will directly relate to unconscious defense strategies you use to cope with deep fears. If you work hard to avoid blame, to compete for love, or to feel adequate, Perfectionism may be a key survival strategy that you employ. If you instead refuse to try your best in order to protect yourself from feeling the defeat of failure, lack of application may be your key challenge. There are other survival strategies, and these two can alternate in the same person.

Most of us are fairly clear about the ways that lack of application limits results. Perfectionism is subtler self sabotage.

Hmmm. Perfectionism as sabotage? Yes. Over-effort and under-effort spring from the same fears. Over-effort has obvious advantages over under-effort. But it is a compulsion. In Inner Work, compulsions and other automatic or mechanical behavior are seen for what they are: a form of sleep.

Why sleep? Because they are automatic, not intentional. This does not make these behaviors wrong; it just shows that we are not Awake and Aware while we enact them. And this is also true of so much that we do! The more we Wake Up the more we realize how asleep we are, how automatic. None of us likes to believe this about ourselves, so discovering it in ourselves can be shocking: a real Awakening. 😉

Let’s look more at perfectionism. This issue masks itself as an advantage. Perfectionism makes self-observation extremely difficult because criticism tends to masquerade as observation.

Perfectionism is driven by the fantasy that you can MAKE yourself all right. The hidden lie—that hides the cruelty of this stance–is that you not all right in the first place.

Effort driven by Perfectionism is characterized by a particular type or quality of attention. How does it operate? When we try really really hard to get everything right we are quite possibly:

  • out of touch with the fear driving us
  • in our heads; thinking too much and feeling too little
  • lacking perspective on the relative importance of details
  • overlooking our impact on others
  • critical
  • controlling
  • about to get frustrated or angry because we did not master this yesterday
  • shaming ourselves subconsciously
  • less than ideally open to exploration, wonder, and creativity

The quality of attention we bring to Inner Work—the energy frequencies we are running as we do it—bias exactly what we are able to discover. Don’t pin the butterflies on a board. Just get close and watch what their antennae do when they sense a change in the breeze.

Perfectionists may be drawn to Inner Work to try and make ourselves perfect. Our efforts pay bigger dividends when the perfectionism itself is examined as a symptom of sleep.

In the nature of Waking Up is the sleepy circumstance of forgetting to wake up NOW and NOW and in the now that happens later on when we’re not paying attention. REMEMBERING to practice is the biggest key to Inner Work.

As with all habit patterns, USE your Perfectionism to Wake Up by carefully observing exactly how it functions within you.

What have you noticed about Perfectionism?

13 August 2010 6 Comments

Inner Work Part 6, Becoming Aware of Your Blind Spots

Inner Work Part 6, Becoming Aware of Your Blind Spots

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.” Carl Jung

Do you notice what you are doing, or do you do things without being aware of and deciding to do them? Take scratchingDSC04057 for example, playing with your hair, crossing your legs, reaching for another handful of chips. Did you decide to do it, or did your body do it on its own?

Sometimes we have more lapses than moments of awareness, yet we imagine that we have continuity of awareness and one, consistent Self. We do not.

The simple behaviors listed above are mere lapses of awareness. Blind spots are more entrenched. We generally defend them. This means that if someone points them out, we have an unpleasant reaction, even a hostile one.

What if you woke up one day and learned that you were a multiple personality? Closely observed, every one of us contains many different parts, and as many different ways of expressing our selves. The important question is: How aware are we of these differences? The stronger your “central hub of awareness” the more able you are to observe and influence the way these parts show up in your life.

Ever get mad without knowing what you are mad about, suddenly shut down, push someone away when you really want to be close, or find yourself unable to speak up when you need something? You may have left on the edit room floor some of the inner film footage of exactly what took you to this moment.

Issues that cause blind spots block your capacity to be self- aware.

As we adapt and react to painful or fearful events we form blind spots to protect ourselves from insight and awareness that seem too painful to manage. We cope. Blind spots may run large chunks of our lives. They produce behavior that is automatic, reactive, and unintentional. Wherever we have a blind spot we are not aware of having Choice.

We have little-to-no influence when we do not notice that we are behaving any differently from usual; that we have ‘checked-out’ and are going through automatic motions.

As Inner Work gradually grinds into focus the facets of a central diamond at the hub of awareness, your assorted parts and pieces–sub-personalities and chunks that are stuck at different ages or levels of development, etc.–become like satellites or spokes around this hub. Your core becomes a place of strength from which to access each part with respect to your hub of self-awareness.

Inner Work gradually thins and removes the walls between the different parts of yourself so you can access all of your parts with your awareness. Learning to notice and feel the shifts in awareness and sensation that occur when you move from one satellite personality to another is a huge accomplishment.

In addition to gradually discoverinDSC00638g who we are beneath our blind spots and reclaiming those parts of ourselves, Inner Work enhances your ability to import skills from one set of circumstances to another. Here is an example of importing a skill:

Rick felt incompetent about responding to his infant daughter’s needs. He had no idea how to ìread her signals.î I pointed out that he did great with cats. He could tell by their body language, sounds, and movements how they wanted to be treated. Rick intentionally imported this skill. When he felt overwhelmed and inadequate around his daughter he noticed his feelings, relaxed, and thought about exactly what he did when he was tuning in and responding to cats.

I saw Rick with his daughter several months later and was moved to tears by his lovely ability to respond to her signals. He had done some excellent Inner Work in observing his issue, staying present, and making an aware response.

Blind spots can be complicated, and can conceal trauma. They can be heavily defended and take time and assistance to gradually unveil to the point that we can stay present to all of the feelings and sensations they dampen.

How open are you to discovering your blind spots?

6 August 2010 3 Comments

Inner Work, Part 5: Inner Work and Psychology

Inner Work, Part 5: Inner Work and Psychology

What is the difference between Psychological Work and Inner Work?

DSC00694Aim is the primary difference. Psychological Work generally aims at functional social adaptation. Inner Work aims at awakening; enlightenment. Gradually-increasing self-knowledge and Presence in the moment are more immediate goals that contribute greatly to a meaningful life. Psychological Work and Inner Work both aim to integrate Self by bringing the parts into relation with the Whole.

From the perspective of Inner Work, our psychology is a limitation. Our human possibilities far exceed complexes, history, and patterns that can be explained. Building coping skills makes you more socially functional, but this doesn’t necessarily wake you up. Inner Work includes our pasts as part of our entirety. It is not an aim of Inner Work to explain the mystery of the present with the past or to package you in socially acceptable behaviors. Inner Work rests on self discovery in the moment, opening potential in real time, not theory.

Sometimes our past is actively informing the present moment. At these times we operate on automatic, asleep to the real possibilities latent in the moment. Focusing on a particular scenario from the past as it plays out in the present moment can provide useful insight. Much of the time looking to the past is a distraction or an avoidance of exactly what is going on in the moment. Using the past to explain away the present may stop self-observation with theory or memory. Inner Work is about experience in the present, not theory. It evokes different type of insight than does Psychological Work.

As we covered in Part 2, Inner Work is not about knowing. Knowing your patterns and what you think you should do or analyzing and judging your behaviors can keep you stuck in your head like a hamster in a cage. Intellectualization or even emotional expression can become subtle ways to avoid deeper self-observation.

Mental and emotional work are useful, but until you take your observation down into the body and quit struggling to change yourself before you know who you are, you are not doing authentic Inner Work.

DSC00690The most effective Psychological Work can and does include at least some degree of Inner Work. “Sub-personalities”–Jung’s word for the different parts of you—can become integrated around your central hub of awareness. These parts of you have different values, agendas and ways of expressing themselves. Self-sabotage, for example, shows that the agendas of different parts of you are in conflict. Effective Psychological Work combined with Inner Work make it possible to directly experience each of your parts, contributing to your ability to be awake, aware, and whole in the present moment.

Deeper Inner Work takes integration a step farther by focusing less on fixing or eliminating issues and more on using them as focal points for self-observation. Try this: In circumstances where you tend to ‘check out’ or become automatic, stick around and watch yourself. Use the issue that prompts you to dissociate as a tool for awakening.

What does it mean to YOU to use one of your issues as a focal point of self-observation? Comments about Psychology and Inner Work welcome!

30 July 2010 2 Comments

Inner Work Part 4: Inner Work and Self Development Techniques

Inner Work Part 4: Inner Work and Self Development Techniques

You may think you are doing Inner Work already. Are you?

We naturally jump to what we know already when reaching for a new concept. Assumptions based on previous knowledge can undermine understanding and insight.

DSC00724First hearing about Inner Work, you may assume that the techniques you are already doing are Inner Work–especially when you practice methods that involve “observational skills;” noticing your inner processes, energy, or body sensations. Qi gong, martial arts, meditation and yoga are several techniques that develop observational skills.

So what is the difference between doing Inner Work and developing observational techniques?

Observational techniques focus on different parts and layers of yourself. Inner Work focuses on bringing ALL parts into awareness. Skills in sensing and awareness form a platform for and contribute greatly TO inner work. But they are not Inner Work itself. They are great tools. Inner Work is the toolbox. It IS none of those skills yet can contain them all.

I am all for observational skills. They develop attention, focus, and intention–prerequisites for Presence. I have, however, seen many nearly master meditation, yoga, spiritual disciplines, or qi gong without becoming self-aware in daily life. I was initially shocked to see people with staggering development in one or more of these skills whose blind spots could swallow Texas.

Observational skills can be used to turn away from parts of ourselves we dislike or do not wish to DSC00740recognize. Intense focus on the skills themselves can substitute for broader, integrative self-awareness.

Unless you develop the central hub of self-observation—your core inner diamond that develops from effective Inner Work—key issues remain hidden from yourself. Inner Work brings whatever we practice and develop into relationship with authentic expression. This differs from grafting a shiny set of tools over a morass of seething denial.

Effective Inner Work addresses blind spots in the interests of wholeness and integrated self-awareness. I will discuss the relationship between Inner Work and Blind Spots in my next post.

What have YOU noticed in yourself or observed in others about practicing techniques? Have you seen techniques or belief systems used as a shield against life instead of a way to interface more deeply with life?

25 July 2010 2 Comments

Inner Work, Part 3: The Fruits of Inner Work

Inner Work, Part 3: The Fruits of Inner Work

DSC00672A consistent habit of Inner Work develops within you a central hub of self-observation. This capacity becomes a part of your core–central to you. It is like an inner diamond with facets that face each aspect of your personality equally, or like the center of a wheel. Each aspect of you is a spoke. The diamond image implies clarity and value. The spoke image implies direct connection between your core and the rim—expression and behavior.

Developing a central hub of awareness through effective Inner Work offers the following benefits:

  • Inner strength
  • Greater emotional balance
  • Impartial observation
  • Discernment
  • A more compassionate perspective
  • Extended capacity for real Choice
  • Evenness, from being less reactive
  • Greater ease in managing criticism from others
  • Reduced need for approval
  • Increased ability to remain consistent with your values
  • Capacity for true commitment
  • Personal agency/power
  • Ability to be true to yourself
  • Clarity regarding what is authentic and what is not
  • Greater capacity for honesty
  • Increased understanding of self and others
  • Increased capacity for authentic intimacy

Inner Work is the process of coming to know exactly who you really are, beneath all masks and behind all blind spots. As you become established in your sense of self you will be less afraid that you can lose this self to another.

The fruits of Inner Work take time to ripen and become sweeter as they do. Initial exercises in self-observation can “taste” like unripe fruit. Yet for self-observation to serve us we need to be able to do it at the times when it is difficult. As long as we check out during the moments when we are strangers to ourselves we have no real will or personal authority when we need it most.

The nature of unconsciousness is that when we are uncomfortable, scared, bored or hostile we tend to look out instead of looking in. This is like missing some of the footage on a film. We lack continuity of perception. Inner work is learning to stick around and watch ourselves as this is going on.

Continuity in self-observation is a huge challenge. If you take it on, it may be the most important thing you will ever do in your life.

DSC00755Every time you remember to notice that you are breathing, and bring your awareness fully to the moment is like putting a penny in a piggy bank. Each fully aware breath is a reward in the moment. Each breath builds equity in your capacity to string moments together and stay with yourself, Awake.

Your life cannot be transformed without changing the quality and focus of your moments. Consistently collecting a lucid moment here and a moment of awareness there transforms your entire life. If you are waiting for the coconut of enlightenment to fall upon your sleeping head, you may be sleeping under the tree when the angel of death comes along to claim you. Wake up one moment at a time.

Many different techniques lend themselves to waking up in the moment. Are these techniques Inner Work? It depends on whether or not you are working on that core diamond. I discuss the difference between Inner Work and various techniques in my next post: Inner Work Part 4: Inner Work and Self Development Techniques

Remember: Picking roses can be another chore to cross off your list or a lovely experience, depending on the quality of attention you bring to it.

Have you had a moment of lucid awareness that has inspired you or changed your life? It would be great to see your story or other comment on this post.

19 July 2010 2 Comments

Inner Work, Part 2: Knowing Is Not Enough

Inner Work, Part 2: Knowing Is Not Enough

Inner Work is the process of gradually awakening ourselves by coming to know and reclaiming all that we are. Knowing is not enough. Reclaiming means that we accept and embrace what we have come to know through direct, intimate experience. Direct experience does not require any particular belief. Belief, in fact, can interfere with open exploration.

Second only to love, Inner Work is arguably the one thing most able to give life meaning and purpose.DSC00655

Inner Work is not a method or a technique. It consists primarily of detailed of self-observation, with an aim to produce open and unbiased self-awareness.

Inner Work enhances all methods and all personal development techniques. Even the most advanced methods, techniques, and spiritual studies are severely limited unless we practice Inner Work at the same time. Without Inner Work, spiritual studies can foster arrogance, holier-than-thou attitudes, slavishness, hypocrisy, and other side-effects of making belief more important than actual experience.*

Effective Inner Work involves going into the dark caves that characterize unexplored parts of your Self, holding the wavering candle of self-awareness.

Why does the candle waver? Because we almost always fear what we might find inside. We shut down awareness and create Blind Spots in response to pain. Unfortunately lack of awareness can keep us from actually resolving our issues.

Here is a common example: Someone with a Blind Spot that functions to hide low self-esteem may habitually play the angry victim role, and feel entitled to receive without giving. Seeing this pattern would initially be painful. The Blind Spot prevents the self-reflection that might lead to change.

Inner Work is not about analyzing this type of pattern. It consists of staying present and aware while watching your self act the patterns out: Attending fully to sensations, postures, expressions, and voice tones, feeling the fears, anger, etc. that motivate our behavior. Instead of practicing—or faking–substitute behaviors you engage so fully with you are currently doing that you begin to transform from the core out. YOU do not DO this change. It occurs organically as you release resistance to what is actually happening inside.

DSC00606Inner Work is not about knowing. Knowing your patterns and what you think you should do and changing your external behavior is superficial. Analyzing and judging it will never stop you from blanking out and doing it just the same. Until you can stay WITH yourself as you act and FEEL what it is really like to be where you are inside right now, your fears and feelings are driven underground, only to crop up elsewhere, in yet another unintended act.

Inner Work cannot be done by remaining in the bright light of what you already know. Taking refuge from your fears by running from darkness is much less powerful than bringing light into that darkness.

Inner Work starts almost imperceptibly and gains momentum over a long period of time. It requires persistence, even when no results are apparent. Initially we need a trusted guide to keep our feet to the fire until we are able to sustain our own motivation and passion for deep work.

A client recently made an across-the-board life breakthrough. He compared doing Inner Work to getting a very long train moving: “At first it seems like nothing is happening, but at some point you begin gathering momentum.” Inner Work begins with simply becoming willing and able to see what is each train car and compartment.

*Part 4 of this series clarify the difference between Inner Work and methods or techniques used for personal development. Part 5, with psychology.

I would love to have your comments and observations about Inner Work!