Let me start with a rather unorthodox idea: That how we feel on the inside has to be more captivating than the picture we project of ourselves on the outside.
That is to say, if we are to grow content with ourselves we need to balance our energy towards cultivating an inner awareness, in tandem with the energy we place on finessing our external appearance.
For a brief moment, consider how much time you spend “bettering” your external appearance vs the amount of time you spend on internal reflection, meditation, introspection.
How cohesive is your awareness of what it is like to be you!?
Last month I wrote about the current mindfulness trend in the West (you can read that blog here). Particularly in the Wellbeing industry there is a big push towards being as opposed to doing. Although I have problems with the diluted concept of mindfulness as it is now presented in the West, it is this aspect of the trend I believe is truly healthy.
There is great value in slowing down, taking space and resting. In taking time out for ourselves to reflect inwards (rather that be through long baths, walks in nature, staring out the window or more formal reified techniques like meditation or somatic practices) we get to know our inner landscape better. We get to understand where our wounds are and how to dress them … but this doesn’t come easy. It is much easier to address our external appearance and slap concealer on those dark circles under our eyes.
Arguably, inside and outside aren’t really divisible. Our inside reflects our outside and vice versa. Here’s a sweeping general example: you’re concerned about aging so you get botox injections. Your internal landscape houses a feeling of disgruntlement around aging and therefore prompts you to seek out botox injections in order to change your external picture. The external picture that people around you see (i.e. someone with botox) in turn reveals to them that aging is a concern of yours. In short, the botox doesn’t make your internal concern of aging go away it just morphs your external picture.
Like Jimmy Buffet says, “The tattooed man is wearing his points of view.”
I’m not advocating being a slob or completely negating your external picture (“cleanliness is godliness”) in order to show to the world that you just don’t give a shit about how you look but if you take a brief inventory of how your time is spent i.e. the ratio of time allotted to external appearance vs internal work it may reveal to you some interesting insights.
Accepting oneself is difficult today (insofar as it was ever easy!) with so many “perfect” images on social media. Just today I had one of my yoga students say to me during her practice, “but in the videos I’ve seen it’s supposed to look like this!” My immediate advice to her was “I think it’s time to stop watching those videos because they really don’t give you any insight on how it’s supposed to feel.”
I’ve started deleting images from my feed [instagram, twitter, facebook] and un-following companies and individuals whose posts make me feel ‘less than’ or to look at it the Marie Kondo way: if it doesn’t spark joy, bin it. (For those of you not familiar with Marie Kondo, she is an author of several books advocating ways of de-cluttering your life of objects that do not “spark joy”).
Many years ago my yoga teacher Lucy Crawford said to me “The practice needs to feed you, to give you energy. It shouldn’t deplete you.” Although she was speaking specifically about Ashtanga yoga, really this is true about all our practices.
Is it possible to create a way of being where everything you’re doing lifts you up?
Perhaps this ideal could inspire you to take ‘inventory’ of your life. Where do you pour your energy? Money? Time? Maybe it all feels such a jumbled mess that you cannot even say at this point. Awareness of this alone is a good place to start.
My advice: start doing less. However this can feasibly manifest in your life. Clean out a drawer. Throw away a few of those Alan keys that you have lying around. Set an alarm for 10minutes and lie on the floor and daydream. Cancel a playdate (if you’re a mom), cancel a social engagement (yes, you will still be liked), take off you shoes and stand barefoot on the grass and feel your feet on the earth.
These are simple things and are just a few suggestions among an infinite list of how to make more space in your life. As you start to make space and come to better know your internal landscape you will start to notice external shifts.
Maybe the inflammation in your joints will go away, maybe your periods will return to normal, maybe you’ll stop grinding your teeth. These are all real external benefits I have experienced as a result of slowing down, taking more rest, saying ‘no’ to more engagements and whenever I can ... feeling, feeling, feeling and being with that internal landscape.
Texts I have found particularly helpful in creating both mental, physical and emotional space: