Life is a journey of two parts that run simultaneously but separately. One journey is the exterior journey and the other journey is the interior journey. The two are not wholly unconnected and influence each other but there are definitely elements of the two being separate. Mostly the means for focusing on each journey are distinct from each other though there are circumstances where they can overlap or run more closely in parallel. Once we become aware of these two distinct aspects of our life, we can work to facilitate progress on both sides.
The exterior journey is the story of our survival as an organism, as a creature. We need to eat, drink, and find shelter. In modern life, this is what most people focus on and spend their time doing. Working to earn money and buying what we need to survive comfortably for ourselves and our families. Most of our education is designed to facilitate progress on this exterior journey so that we can get a job and earn some money. This is necessary and vital but progress in this journey can sometimes be at the expense of our interior journey. Many of us are more comfortable focusing on this journey because the parameters are more concrete and we can more easily judge our progress. This is completely understandable but over time some of us can start to feel empty and wonder if survival is all there is to life.
The interior journey is the story of our progress as a person or a soul. It is about how we develop our minds, our psychology, our behaviour, our attitudes, and how we develop an understanding of our meaning. Not so many people focus on developing and actively pursuing this other journey. For many of us, this happens by default and interior progress is then only provoked by major shocks or changes in our exterior journey – for example, marriage, the birth of a child, the loss of a loved one, losing a job, or a major health issue. At these times of major shift, we can be provoked to look inward more closely and consider how our beliefs, attitudes, or feelings have to change in order to accommodate the new situation.
Both of these journeys are happening whether we pursue them or not. It is easy to understand what progress looks like for our exterior journey as their are countless media that show us what a comfortable situation looks like. We develop preferences and aspirations for the environment in which we would like to find ourselves. It is less easy perhaps to understand what progress looks like in our interior journey or indeed how we might pursue it. The primary means for making progress on the interior journey is honest self-knowledge. You have to understand who you are and where your strengths and weaknesses lie before you can understand how to move forward.
To begin to make progress on this interior journey, we must begin to cultivate self-knowledge. The first step on the journey to self-knowledge is to spend some time with yourself. This is not about hours spent on the floor with your legs crossed. All you have to do is find a quiet spot and focus on yourself with love and compassion. In fact, I would suggest that to start you could choose silence. 🙂