Inner Work

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Usually when we think about our work we think about our jobs, studies or the daily tasks/chores of living. When we get¬† a good review from our boss, an ‘A’ on our exam , or a Tidy and organised home, we feel successful in our work. we thrive on seeing visible results and external achievements. Yet there are times when our energy and action needs to shift away from this type of external work and focus instead on inner work, Transformation of our thoughts, emotions and desires. the challenge with inner work that it is imperceptible. there is no gold star when our mindfulness practice helps us temper our reactivity. No one gives us an ‘A’ when meditation helps us improve our concentration. We don’t get a promotion when mindfulness helps us bring gratitude into our daily life. The inner work we do in this path doesn’t provide the visible external achievements we get from our job or responsibilities. But inner work¬† no less difficult. In fact sometimes it is far more difficult and it’s certainly no less important.

A powerful example of this can be seen in the life of Psychologist Dr Carl Yang. Dr Yang was already an influential psychiatrist when he had a mental crisis of his own. overcome with intense emotions, dreams and even terrifying visions, he withdrew from his professional work for several years. However he wasn’t inactive. Yang used this period of illness to search deep within himself. from the outside he seems to be breaking down but inwardly he was breaking through. Years later Dr Yang wrote that this intense period of inner work led him to his most original and influential insights about human psychology.

So the lesson we can take here that inner work can be some of the most valuable work we do. Overcoming fear, addiction, rejection, regret or grief¬† through patient inner work can lead to¬† significant and long lasting improvements in our lives and the lives of those around us.¬† So make a special effort to recognize and validate your inner-work¬† –¬† The hard effort of transformation, healing and growth.

As a guru writes ” peace and joy hither neither in the quietness of a forest nor out of the accomplishments of a market place, but only from within”

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The Moth’s Mistake

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This is about the deceptive nature of comfort. We are all searching for happiness and we often seek it through forms of comfort. Off course for each of us comfort looks different. For some it is found in food,  alcohol or intimacy, for others it is found in work, shopping or entertainment and when we reach for these remedies there is often instant relief but pleasure is fleeting and the lure of comfort can deceive us.

Consider  the way Moths tend to fly towards a flame. To the moth the flame represents the captivating sensation of light so they fly to the flickering glow. But this is clearly not a good choice. The moth seeks comfort but the flame actually causes suffering. And this is what we do. We are pulled towards what appears comforting but it is in fact harmful. We go an a alcohol binge and it feels enjoyable at first but the next day we pay the price. When we are angry at someone we begin to yell at them.  This too might feel good momentarily but it creates a wider rift and deeper hurt.

So it is up to us to use the skills of mindfulness and pay attention to how we respond to this comfort or agitation. We must ask ourselves what do we reach for as comfort and then notice, does our habit actually brings us comfort?  And if so, for how long?  Does that comfort comes at a price of long term suffering?

As Jeff Olson said “your habits operate at the unconscious level. You are not normally aware of them. It’s only by bringing habit into your conscious awareness that you can observe what it is doing. How it empowers and serves you or doesn’t”.

Ultimately we want to bring awareness to the impulses and urges that accompany unease and discomfort. so rather than unconsciously reaching for that old comfort or vice, we can consciously choose actions that serve our deeper happiness and well being.