Our world, along with seven (sorry Pluto) others, spins around this massive star called the sun. Yet this system is only a speck of the total universe, and it seems plausible to think that the universe has no end. Here we stand-the human race-looking for other species out there in the great chasm of space. We search the outside for something new, something that will entice us and make us awe and wonder at unforetold marvels. However, I think that our external curiosity has gotten the better of us, especially when you apply it to Western society. When one searches the external world, one is filled with the hope of finding something new, something to escape the mundane, and this is evidenced by the onset of a consumerist culture wherein people are attached to the free market because it brings them new toys to play with so that they don’t have to face their own boredom of inner life. All of these new toys promise us “happiness”, but they really only distract us from dealing with painful inner realizations that perhaps there is more to life than having the latest-model-everything. We must look inside our selves for genuine happiness, which begs the question:
Whatever happened to the art of introspection?
Introspection is the ability to look into yourself; to reflect on and contemplate your day or any past events and reconcile them with your current emotions and thoughts about what went terrifically well or terribly wrong as well as with your ideal version of yourself (who you’d like to be as a person). The ability to successfully introspect is crucial in order to develop spiritually, mentally, and physically. Without introspection, life is dull and meaningless, because each day simply goes by in mechanical fashion and you don’t appreciate everything that occurred and how it affected you or how you could have become stronger from the occurrences of any given day. In short, passivity dominates the life of one without introspection. No matter what happens, you still move on, but not encouragingly. Instead, you move on in a zombie state of mind-in one ear and out the other. Makes me think of the 9a-5p worker sitting at the desk all day punching in and punching out to get those hours in each and every monotonous day.
On the other hand, one’s life with introspection is rich and dense, packed with meaningful interactions at every turn. Every moment can be relived if so desired and analyzed for its benefits or shortcomings. More importantly, you can see how others affect you, how you affect others, AND how you affect yourself! Experiential reality is replayed in your mind and you give yourself a chance to grow stronger. All you need to do is ask yourself these questions: What did I do today that I could do better tomorrow? Did I accomplish all that was asked of me today? Did I at least try to act according to my values? These three questions will bring you closer to oneness with yourself by forcing you to see not only your own shortcomings and contradictions, but also your strengths and virtues. It’s the best of both worlds.
The next step s integration, whereby you analyze your good and bad qualities in light of what was out of your control or what control you did have in the situation. This way, you get a realistic sense of the circumstances of the events and your position in them. For instance, it’s completely out of my control that a traffic accident made me late for the meeting, so I’m not going to feel like I’m not living up to my personal value of showing up on time.
By incorporating introspection and integration, you can ignore the distractions set out by our consumerist culture, promising you happiness with every new shiny gadget that hits the shelves. A cool dude by the name of Erich Fromm kept on saying that the idolization of materialism only brings about human destruction because it tears us apart from our innately human virtues of oneness with inner selves, which is a requisite for communion and love in human interaction. We must learn to BE instead of to HAVE. Be in this world, but not of it-don’t conform to the passive state of mind that takes no stance in life. Empower yourself through the power of introspection and find oneness with yourself so that you don’t have to rely on meeting the external standards of society to fulfill your life. Ground yourself by finding your values-what kind of person do you want to be more than anything else? This is central to all of your dealings with others, and you do everyone a great service by always striving to be the best you can be! Inner strength precedes external strength. The heart, soul, mind, and body must grow in unity. When they do, you become unstoppable because your entire being becomes a cohesive unit with the capacity to enhance your sense of self-confidence as you move in the direction of your own choosing. Loving yourself is a never-ending journey, centering around the art of introspection.