Inner work is motivated by the longing to be free of boundaries - psychological and physical limitations - to live optimally, happily.
Work is mental or physical effort done to achieve a purpose or result. Inner and outer work are intertwined in our lives. The way we do this work makes the difference between a life of continuous growth and healthy living and one of going round and round in a circle of habitual behavior that perpetuates our limitations.
is the work done to overcome the tendencies, mental models and habits that get in the way of happiness. It is introspection and the commitment to personal perfection.
Turning inward is the process of using mindful awareness to know your own mind so you can make the effort to cut through programmed living to live creatively.
is the activity you do to manage relationships, earn a living, clean the house and all the other things involved in living in the world. Outer work is normal and inevitable. Just about everyone does it.
Not everyone does inner work. It is optional. It is only necessary if you want to be free of the limitations that keep you from optimal living and experiencing unconditional happiness -the subtle innate satisfaction with things as they are.
One part of the inner work recognizes that we are responsible for managing our own pain and discomfort.
Pain-causing events occur. For example, stepping on a tack, getting stung, not getting what you want, arthritis, loss of a loved one, or hearing an insulting remark. Pain causing events are part of life.
The way you experience these events depends on your state of mind, your mental models, beliefs, mood, and your mindful awareness.
In the parable of the two arrows, the first arrow is the pain causing event, The second arrow represents the reflection on the first arrow with thoughts and related feelings like "Why me?" "How unfair" "This is soooooo bad." "It will never go away."
The second arrow creates the tightening that makes the pain worse. The same illness or injury can have you writhing in pain or accepting the pain without the unnecessary tension.
The difference is your attitude and the inner work you do to avoid the firing of the second arrow or, if you can't avoid it, to change your response to the second arrow.
Motivation for Inner Work
Working with discomfort is one dimension of the inner work motivated by the desire to be happy. It includes the psychological work that is done to eliminate unskillful habits and behavior and to promote healthy relationships.
Inner work is not easy. It requires that you confront your beliefs and cultivate the mindful awareness that leads to acceptance and responsiveness as opposed to reaction. For example, when you find yourself faced with anger, fear, jealousy or sadness, you question what in you is causing the emotion. It is easy to assume that your emotion is caused by an event or by a person. That assumption keeps you at the mercy of your environment.
For example, L, a business person is frustrated and angry because a client chronically pays his bill's after 60 days rather than the agreed upon 30. The frustration is blamed on the client, creating a tense relationship and stress. Once L realizes that his expectation that bills should be paid on time is the source of his frustration he can accept the situation with far less stress. Then he can manage the relationship more effectively.
It is hard to drop into an objective assessment of what you are bringing to the situation. It is hard work to hold back from acting out, driven by your emotion. Though, holding back, while feeling the energy of the emotion, enables you to decide what to do - being responsive as opposed to reactive.
It is hard work to break old habits and let go of unfounded beliefs. It is hard work to be with painful and disturbing feelings.
This work becomes even more challenging when you are faced with pleasant feelings that lead to attachment and reactive behavior - "It tastes so good I must have another helping." "It feels good, so why not do it."
Using outer work in doing the inner work
Inner work meets outer work when we consider relationships and ethical values. If there is a motivation to cultivate healthy relationships of any kind, it becomes necessary to do the inner work.
In relationships, inner work enables the reflection to assess behavior, filtered through values and societal norms, to make choices that will benefit all parties.
In our day to day world of work and play - we do the outer work, of creating, communicating, resolving conflict and collaborating. Each of the things we do, everything we are confronted with in our lives becomes fuel for the inner work.
We see ourselves in relationships and have the opportunity to do something different. We see our frustration and stop blaming it on the guy who doesn't pay on time, inaccurate instructions or the website that doesn't work.
The friction in the situation wakes us up to apply the effort to reflect.
The next step is to choose to be responsive rather that reactive and to do the inner work.
© 2018 George Pitagorsky