In our culture, we place a lot of emphasis on physical health and, increasingly, even on mental and emotional health. We are learning to understand, finding new techniques, and discovering where balance is needed.
Yet one of the most important daily practices often goes buried in the business of life: the practice of tending to our inner world. We know to de-stress, exercise, take mental health days. And yet what do we do on a mental health day? How do we deal with stress? Anxiety? Depression? Guilt? Fear? Loss? Do we know ourselves? What makes us alive? How do we grow that?
Tending our inner world is one of the most loving and important practices we can engage. It lays the groundwork for much of the change we long for and allows us to tend the roots instead of spending all our time trimming the branches. Spend enough time diligently turning inward, and you will reap the rewards of a healthier inner world and a closer alignment to your true self. Your creativity and self-love will improve, self-esteem will grow, you will start to trust yourself and work through the things that hold you back. You will develop partnerships with what you had thought were enemies: fear, anger, grief, anxiety. Once you change internally, the external seems to shift almost on its own.
Turning inward allows you to take care of yourself on a very deep level, and yet we often don’t do this work. Why?
It may be that inner work is overwhelming, especially if you have a lot to do or if you’ve never learned how to navigate that territory. I know I’ve been overwhelmed and felt in over my head more than once. The trick is to start slowly and ease your way in. Maybe light a candle during your session and blow it out at the end, to signal a return back to the moment and out of the deep spaces. Another suggestion is to have patience with yourself. Probe into unknown terrain, but do so slowly and gently and honor yourself if you feel you need to head toward better-charted territory.
It could also be that because of our often fast-paced lives, we feel uncomfortable or antsy slowing down enough to turn inward. I used to be so comfortable slowing down and spending large chunks of time on a single task, but especially as technology and instant gratification has entered my life, I have trouble focusing for an extended period of time, and just sitting with myself or journaling can seem just so slow-paced! And yet that’s exactly why it’s so important—so we can relearn how to slow down and turn inward and not only face but also transform what we find there.
Challenge!: Start slow! Pick a practice you enjoy and know you can stick with, even if for just 5-10 minutes a day. Also know your practice my adjust during the course of the week or even the day, because different practices meet different places or settle differently inside of you. Perhaps start with stretching or yoga every morning before you dive into the rest of your day. Maybe journal for a few minutes. Maybe close your eyes and focus on your breathing. There are so many techniques! Mantras, exercise, dialoging, visualization, drawing, challenging thought patterns using a cognitive behavioral thought record, meditation, yoga and stretching, taking a walk, and listening to music that stirs you and creates space to connect with yourself. And these are just a handful! Explore, play, and find the things that connect with you and push you to meet, love, and grow your inner self!