Internal vs. External (speaking of fulfillment…)
It is pretty much always the case: when you find yourself fussing over, wanting to change, or otherwise trying to control your external environment, look first to your internal environment, where you will find lots to change. Only then does it make sense to address your external environment.
Remember the question from May, does this way lead to fulfillment, or is it resistance?
You can assume that focusing on what’s wrong with your external environment is resistance. Perhaps it isn’t always the case, but just assume it is, and check out your internal environment first.
Check it out
Close your eyes and take a look at your internal environment. Imagine it as a place. What does it look/feel like? Have people been there with spray cans, writing graffiti all over? What does it say? Who put it there? Do you want to keep it?
Is there garbage strewn about? What is it? How did it get there?
Is your space cluttered? With what? Who put it there? What will you do with it?
How does it feel to be in your internal environment?
My own experience
I spent the July 4th weekend with my in-laws in the beautiful north woods of Minnesota. It was a delightful time. The wildflowers were stunning, and the air smelled of pine. At one point however, I found myself wishing that certain people would just see what they were doing wrong! Since I had begun this newsletter before I left on holiday, I thought I’d practice what I teach. I checked out my internal environment.
Here’s what I found
I closed my eyes, intending to experience my internal environment. I found I was walking in a rut. This rut was so deep that you’d have to call it a trench. All I could see were the sides of the trench. Aha! All I could see was dirt! This was an old rut, deepened by walking it so many times in my life.
I climbed out and proceeded to lay planks across the trench so I could move around without falling in again. I laid several sturdy planks, and then I walked across on them. As I stepped on a plank, it changed from wood to beautiful light, infused with a specific quality of energy. One plank was “appreciation,” another was “I don’t really know anything about any other person’s story.” There was “que sera, sera,” and “wonder.” One I particularly liked was, “Dare to live the adventure of love.”
Then I looked outside
Once I had tended to my internal environment, I returned to the external. Now, instead of seeing people who were screwing up, I saw people who were trying to do their best.
Wash the dishes
I like to tidy my home before I go to bed — do the dishes and put things away. So it is with my internal environment. As I’m falling asleep, I visit my internal environment and do what I can to tidy it up.
Here’s someone else’s example
My co-worker is sooo irritating! He dresses like a slob, he’s always late for meetings, and yet the boss praises his work, work that I help him with! In the meantime, I’m invisible.
I can think of many ways to change my external environment. And I do think about them, endlessly. They range from quitting my job, to poking an ice pick into my co-worker’s tires.
When I sit down and take a look at my internal environment, it looks like a dead-end alley, one you might see in a noir movie about New York — dark, dirty, lots of graffiti. I begin to read the graffiti, and I find: “Being a secretary is a good job for a girl.” (I even remember the teacher who said that to me when I was in 7th grade.) “You can’t go out like that, you look like a bum!” I remember that one, too. It was my mother, and I was going to wear blue jeans to the school football game.
There’s lots of graffiti. Some of it I can identify as coming from a specific source, and some of it is just in the air of the culture — stuff about women and work, about the importance of being good-looking, about what good-looking means, about being nice vs. being a bitch, about life being hard, work being a burden, about sleeping in the bed you made.
Clean up your mess
There are many ways to deal with graffiti. You can sandblast the walls, dismantling the energy structure of the statements. You can take a mighty breath, and blow them away. You can scrub the walls, singing songs of joy as you watch the statements dissolve. Think of any healing technique you know, and you will find a way to address your internal environment.
I like to use: breath, toning, dancing, visualization/imagination, and appreciation for who I am and what I know now.
Back to the example
Once it is clean, I arrange my environment in a way that pleases me. In my alley I place cafe tables and chairs, and planters with flowers and trees. There is music playing, and a fountain where birds bathe. Jugglers are there, and dancers. The sky above is blue, the air is soft and warm. I’ve put some posters on the walls. One says, “All you need is love.” And then there’s, “The degree to which I am undefended is the degree to which I can experience life as an adventure.” (You’ll recognize that one, Jett!) On a line strung above, between two buildings, fly fabric flags of beautiful colors. I am pleased to be there, pleased with the sense of conviviality and pleasure.
Return to the external
What happens at work? Nothing short of a small miracle. I spontaneously greet my co-worker with a friendly “Good morning,” surprising myself as much as him. And it is a good morning. That afternoon I have a brainstorm, and I go to my boss with a new idea for dealing with a recurring problem. She likes the idea, and suggests that I work with my co-worker on it. I talk to him, we make a plan, and I email my boss with the plan, telling her I’ll keep her apprised of our progress. On the way home, on the spur of the moment, I stop at a fabric store and buy some beautiful fabric, which I drape over the back of the couch until I decide what else I want to do with it — not the kind of luxury I could ever imagine myself indulging in.
I can see that a beautiful and pleasant internal environment is more conducive to creative brainstorms than one filled with negative graffiti.
And so it goes.
What you said about fulfillment:
* fulfillment (love) or resistance (fear). Yep, the only 2 basic feelings from which all others flow (or of which all others are but expressions).
resistance: giving up, feeling of futility, impatience, arrogance, righteousness, doubt, separation, apathy.
fulfillment: connection, excitement, expectancy, calm, contentment, faith, openness, wonderment, expansion
* That is such a useful way to frame life. Am I on the path to fulfillment, or am I in resistance. I’ve been doing it for a month now, and truthfully, everything does seem to be either one or the other.
* Nancy, your newsletter is inspiring and speaks to the desire we have for ultimate meaning/oneness/peace with all life and the mystery that is life. Thanks for doing it and continuing it. You provide people with an anchor and lessons that provide great help. Thanks.
Yes it’s true, some people still call me Nancy. And that’s fine. I sometimes still call myself Nancy.
And that quote on the poster on her internal wall that she said I would recognize? That’s from a class I taught that seemed filled with those “the degree to which you do this is the degree to which you can do that” statements. Every week I had more, I couldn’t stop myself!
Let me know what you think, how you like this internal/external process.
Do you know someone who’d like to see this newsletter? Please feel free to forward it to them. Also feel free to make paper copies, if you like. All I ask is that you include my name and contact information.