The Power Within
edited: Thursday, October 25, 2001
By Theodore J. Nottingham
Posted: Thursday, October 25, 2001
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The psychology of inner development.
Many of us know deep in our hearts that there is more to life than paying the bills and showing up to work on time. Countless books from all over the world fill the marketplace with teachings on awakening to our higher potential. A number of these methods require that we put on robes or twist our bodies into bizarre shapes or move far from home and family. But spiritual awakening is entirely an inward matter that deals with psychological choices.
The most profound teachings tell us that there is no need for exotic travels and the appropriation of external accoutrements from other cultures. It can all happen right in your own backyard, at the heart of your ordinary every day existence. This is the place where authentic transformation can occur.
Here then are some specific methods of nourishing our spirit that can open the door to the power within regardless of your external circumstances. The first and most fundamental effort is the objective study of ourselves. Why? Because nothing real can take place until we know what we are dealing with. We cannot take for granted that we know how or why we function the way we do. If you want to operate a computer, you have to learn the software.
Human beings are complex software indeed and are rarely user friendly. So try observing yourself from a completely neutral standpoint. Do not judge what you see. Just see it. Observe your reactions, your attitudes, your moods and the many aspects of yourself that take charge from moment to moment. If you do this with sincerity and courage, not justifying every action and passing thought, a deeper dimension of yourself will begin to be nourished.
This simple effort begins the process of creating a space within you that is not completely hypnotized by external events. Though you still react to external circumstances through ingrained habit, there is now this sliver of your Self that is not pulled out of you. A new space of inner freedom is being created along with a new sense of what constitutes the self.
Another critical aspect of this observation is the study of our negative states. You'll be amazed at how much of our time is spent under the dominance of these dark moods and thoughts. You'll catch yourself grumbling about other people, feeling dejected over this or that event, complaining about the weather, resenting something somebody said. Nothing healthy can grow under the constant downpour of this acid rain within you. Eventually, you will discover that you can free yourself from such unpleasant behavior and states of mind. Step one is to turn off the leaking faucet: stop expressing negative emotions.
This effort of not manifesting such feelings is the beginning of separating yourself from them. You don't have to accept living in those dark states. You are not them. They are bad habits acquired over a lifetime. If you want healing and joy in your life, you must stop the momentum of negativity. If you want healthy nourishment, you cannot feed on such rotten states of mind.
One of the other important things to observe about negative states is how much energy they take away from us. If you are aware of yourself before and after a moment of rage, you will see very clearly how much energy has been lost in that brief moment. We only have so much energy available to us each day, and we can use it to be healed and renewed, or we can squander it thoughtlessly.
This is the beginning of clearing the path for new states and qualities of consciousness, where the spirit is regenerated and strengthened with the nourishment of another way of being in the world. So notice your thoughts before they plant themselves in your feelings and eventually manifest in your actions. Stop being asleep at the switch! Anger at a colleague or spouse can be caught before it has caused internal and external damage.
In that more rational, detached place before the feeling has caught you by the throat, you can notice why you are angry. What is it in you that is reacting that way? What is it in your colleague that has caused his or her behavior which is so disturbing? Anger can then turn into compassion, or at least into a new insight about yourself or another.
After self-observation and seperation from negative states comes the next all-important practice: becoming present to the moment. Experience the moment as it is, for what it is. Becoming present grounds you in reality here and now and takes you out of the tempests of imagination and inner talking that fill the mind with so much noise. Become present not only to your surroundings, but to your body. Relax the tensions that you haven't even noticed before: In the shoulders, in the jaws, in the stomach. Begin to experience the revitalizing peace of being alive in this moment.
Those of you familiar with meditation know how helpful it is to regulate one's breathing in order to center oneself. Just breathing in and out slowly to ease the inner tensions is a powerful tool for nourishing your spirit in the moment. Learn to sit quietly for awhile. This is no luxury or idle behavior. We are so wracked with stress and worry that we can't even get back in touch with ourselves until we have managed to release ourselves from the grip fo our anxieties.
We rob ourselves of the very joy of living when we let ourselves fall into endless worry and nervous tension. Take time to let go of all that. This daily effort teaches us to stop or at least to step back from the constant flow of thoughts that creates reality for us. This means that most of our worrying and anxious considerations fall by the wayside and we are able to rise above the clouds of our immediate concerns to the larger picture of our existence as a whole. Sometimes, however, the flood of thoughts refuses to slow no matter what we do. Our nerves are so freyed that we cannot achieve the simple peace of looking out the window and enjoying the view without anything coming to mind. That's when you might employ the stop exercise.
In the midst of a thought or daydream, tell yourself to stop and abruptly cut short what is going on in your mind. Then relax your body and look around you, just seeing what is there. Take a vacation from the inner turmoil. So our daily practice for the inner nourishment of the spirit includes: objective observation of our selves, separation from negative states, quieting the mind, and becoming present to the moment. You will notice how these practices begin to take us out of our usual nervous tension: they keep us from mindlessly responding to everything around us by turning a portion of our attention inward and by expanding our perspective in the moment so that we begin to be more than just our self-centered, habitual mass of reactions.
If you apply these techniques regularly, and that is the key -- consistency -- you will soon find yourself living more frequently in that space of peace, of centeredness, of liberation from being victims of our automatic reactions. Then you will find that you become capable of a serenity, of an acceptance of what is, and of a surrender of selfishness that empowers you to help others as well as yourself.
That is when you begin to tap into the power within where true nourishment (the daily bread that seekers of spiritual awakening long for) becomes available. What is this daily bread? It is the spiritual empowerment that enables us to accept life as it comes, even with all its complications and the capacity to act rightly in any given situation. This developing inner power creates a free human being who is no longer entangled in his or her selfishness and constant stream of fears and desires. Such a person can journey through life in peace, with wisdom and compassion. Such a person makes the world a better place.