The Road Inward
We started this week’s class with some readings, first from the Guides and then from a couple of poets:
When the soul has traveled every possible route toward fulfillment, through a countless number of human incarnations, the soul will finally realize there is only one way left: the inward way.
To venture into the self is to take the greatest journey. To know one’s heart is to know the heart of God.
When you turn inward—truly turn inward, with patience and forbearance for the turbulence that can arise at first—you will begin to hear the voice of God within.
It is through silence that we may become aware of the soul’s agenda and what it requires.
And then this quote from one of my favorite poets:
I don’t want to stay folded anywhere, for where I am folded, there I am a lie.
—Rainer Maria Rilke
And this poem:
I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
—Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?
—“Oceans,” Juan Ramon Jimenez
Our BIG questions for Week 2:
- What does it mean to go inward?
- How do I go inward?
- What does going inward look like and feel like?
- What keeps us from going there?
I. AWARENESS MEDITATION
We did another brief meditation, this time just playing with awareness and attention, and noticing what it feels like to pay inner attention in different ways. This is slightly different version from what we did in class, but the same idea. Give it a try at home. It’s about 10 minutes long.
II. INNER SELF-PORTRAITS
We used art as a way of going inward this week!
We created self-portraits, but instead of trying to capture our outsides, we explored what’s on the inside. To do this at home, just take a big piece of paper, and create an image that represents your inner self in some way.
You can use words, pictures, colors, shapes—whatever occurs to you. Your drawing can be totally abstract, more literal, anything! There’s no right way to do it. The whole point is just to use it as a way of exploring and watching what comes up. No judgment!
Here’s an example (one I did last spring):
Reflection question for afterward:
What did you notice about that process? Did anything surprise you? What does your drawing tell you about yourself?
III. VENTURING INWARD
We split up into pairs, and each pair brainstormed their answers to one of the following questions. Below you’ll find the questions, and sample answers (the lists in the photos are from another class, but our responses were very similar).
What helps to bring us inward? (What things/activities/circumstances/places/environments?)
What keeps us from going inward? In what ways might we keep yourself distracted or outside of ourselves? (What things/activities/circumstances/places/environments?)
What are some reasons why we might avoid going inward?
Which of these feel relevant for you? Are there any others you would add?
IV. BIG IDEA OF THE WEEK: Going inward
What does it mean to go inward?
It means taking our inner life seriously enough that we make time and space to honor it and to honor what we find there, even if it’s not always easy. It means finding our own way(s) of cultivating inner silence and actually making time to do them. Not letting our external lives and the demands on us be the only “truth” or reality, or the only thing that defines us.
From the Guides (from last week’s at-home reading):
The real “action,” if you will, is all inside.
Can you face yourself in the dark? Can you make the journey into your own silence and stand it there? Can you do this very heroic, very private, totally invisible thing for which you will get no outside reward, not in the typical sense, and which in fact may carry with it certain disadvantages in an earthly sense? A sense that you are separate from others, that your “achievements,” while great indeed, are not easily shared?
This is the true meaning, in our eyes, of the word Pioneer. This is what it means to brave the unknown, to explore, to go where few have gone before. The Self, in a sense, is an unknown country, and one to which only you truly have access. And the work you do on that self/Self, if you will, since the lower self and clearing it out is an inevitable part of the work, is the one true achievement, the one true journey, the journey to which all other journeys—mythic, real-world, epic, fictional—actually refer.
VII: AT HOME:
Again, set aside time for the at-home reading for the week (you can find it here), a slightly longer one this time.
I also asked folks to schedule some time during the week to commit to going inward in some way for at least 30 minutes. This could be a quiet solo walk, time spent writing, meditating, or just sitting quietly—whatever sounds like a gift you can give yourself (rather than a chore you don’t want to do).
We’ll talk about those experiences next week!
Finally, I added a link to some bonus material this week: a video I made, and a bit my favorite meditative music, in case you’re interested!
Next week’s topic is Encountering the Multi-Layered Self. Have a wonderful week, and see you then!
To bonus video/music link for this week! (Surprise!)