Tell me if this sounds familiar - you're trucking along in life, things aren't “great” but they're not terrible either. Yet somehow, you begin to feel the inklings of doubt moving into your consciousness. Am I living the life that I want? Am I in the right career? Am I in the right relationship? Do I need to travel more? Should I move? What is my PURPOSE on this earth?! Before you know it, you are stuck in a murky pit of indecision and uncertainty.
This “pit” has varying degrees of depth. Sometimes it's just like getting your shoe stuck in thick mud. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to get out and move on. Other times, it's waist high, but there may be a vine within your grasp and, with a decent amount of exertion, you can pull yourself out of it. Then there are times it feels like you are Atreyu’s horse from The Never Ending Story, getting lost and sucked into the muddy swamp of sadness (that scene has been forever branded in my mind…I can still hear Atreyu screaming for his horse, and feeling utter disbelief and sadness that the horse DIED!!! WTF!!! Who kills a horse in a kids movie?! Seriously!! Anyways, I digress…)
While it's terribly uncomfortable to be in this place of confusion and doubt, it's also entirely natural, and part and parcel of living a meaningful life. Questioning is an important process, where we run into trouble is when it becomes debilitating.
Recently, I had an intimate experience with this “murky pit of indecision” that lasted 3 months and a bit. It felt like I was in a pit up to my chest. As it turns out, I had one arm free and had to patiently watch a vine grow until I could reach it.
It started out as a slow trickle of questions - “What should my next training be?” and “Should I start making almond milk?” then eventually, “Where should I teach my next yoga retreat?” Then the flood gates began to open - “I think we need to move, I want land so we can have chickens and goats! Should I try to write a book? What about starting a podcast? Am I failing as a parent?” to the crescendo “ WHY AM I HERE ON THIS EARTH? AM I LIVING MY LIFES PURPOSE? AM I?!!!!!!
I was hoping to find clarity in the new *fresh* year of 2018. Normally, I am swept by the collective energetic momentum around New Years. I make lists and clean closets and cupboards. But alas, not this year. Instead, I continued on the path of what felt like stagnancy and indecision. (It turns out that I am not the only one who had this type of experience at the beginning of this year).
The Friday before New Years Eve I participated in a small Sangha (gathering) at my teachers home. She asked a question that struck an inner cord: How can I evolve from quantity to quality in all aspects of my life?
The sheer number of questions and ideas about what I “should do next” was a great reflection of the concept of quantity. The dilemma was, that in order for any of these things to be successful or fulfilling they had to be imbued with quality. Something that my teacher pointed out; is that quality is connected to our “inner life” our connection to spirit. When we live from this place we are grounded in the present moment. Meditation, yoga, and being in nature are all doorways for me to access this inner realm.
With some honest reflection (and compassion towards myself), I began to see that I was neglecting this sacred inner space. I was sleeping in and missing some of my meditations. There was a complacency around what I was eating. My mind was scattered and focusing on the myriad of external circumstances in my life —my titles, roles, home, clothing, money, and strong desires for “stuff” to soothe my discomfort. With most of my attention consumed by my “outer” life it was no wonder I was feeling crippled by indecision and feeling ungrounded.
It took a while for the current of uncertainty to slow its momentum in my mind. I began to tend more carefully to my inner life. Waking up early and meditating in the dark mornings. Reading spiritual texts. Walking outside and listening to the birds, feeling the rain on my skin, and witnessing the last of the leaves flutter from the trees. After a few weeks of these practices and allowing myself to just be as I was —a mixture of sadness, impatience, and discomfort mixed with little sparks of joy — I began to see a vine slowly growing within reach. Instead of the questions causing a sense of paralysis, they began to feel more like inspiration, and calls to action. I believe that this shift was because I was no longer feeling defined by my “outer life”. Instead I was living, thinking, and moving from a connected place —my inner life aka “spirit”. I also realized that this shift in my perspective required that I continue to practice in this way with love, patience and dedication.
Moral of my story is: I must diligently tend to my inner life. When I live in this inner place, things naturally unfold. Though this phase of questioning felt uncomfortable, it really opened my eyes to the power of patience, self compassion, and the importance of spiritual practice. In fact, there really was no real “problem” and that has become clear. In this day and age there are so many opportunities it can be overwhelming. I have a choice, I can get sucked into the idea that I need to do MORE, be MORE, get MORE and be swept into the “pit of sadness” or I can continue to practice and just be as I am. The questions will still come, the feelings won’t always be pleasant, and that is OK.
Things you can do to strengthen your inner life:
Pause and feel what you are feeling in your body. Don’t try to make it go away.Breathe into whatever is there. Give your feeling space.
Get outside, lie on the ground and watch the clouds and the trees.
Create a sacred space or corner in your home
Wake up before the sun and light a candle
Start a meditation practice
Dedicate a day to being “curious”
Walk in nature
Nurture a house plant
I would love to hear from you about the ways you connect to your inner life.
With love, Nicole