“You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul.”
I spent the first quarter of my life living from the “outside in.” In other words, I was searching for things outside myself—such as success, wealth, validation, and possessions— to make me feel whole and complete. I grew up in an alcoholic household, feeling disconnected from others, feeling alone and uncertain, and unaware that I was already complete.
By age 21 I had attained all the success society tells us we need to “have made it.” But for seven years, I also suffered from the eating disorder bulimia. In 1984, I woke up and said, “I can’t live this way anymore,” so I checked myself into treatment. During my six-week stay, I learned that to feel complete, I simply needed to start living my life from the “inside out.” Through therapy, meditation, yoga, reading for inspiration, and other mindfulness practices, I discovered that by living life first from within myself—learning to accept and love myself—I could then go out into the world to make it complete, rather than the other way around.
Albert Einstein once wrote, “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
Don’t you just love this? Albert Einstein’s wisdom here teaches that each of us, individually and collectively, completes the universe. Forgetting that we are already whole leads us to think we must take from the universe, that what is outside of us is what we need. However, it truly is just the opposite: We must give to the world from the whole of our being so that we can all achieve the success of life well lived, as an integral part of humanity and what lies beyond.
How do we begin living from the inside out? The first step is “wake up and sit”; go within through a daily practice of meditation and get in touch with the part of ourselves that knows on a very deep level that we are connected to one another and that we are strong, courageous, secure, and loving.
This is our true source of happiness, that feeling of completeness we yearn for, which we can share with the world through our words, actions, and deeds. We are complete. We are enough. There is nothing we need to take from the universe. It gives to us freely when we realize that the source of everything we need is already within.
I set the intention on a daily basis to live my life from the inside out. I sit with myself every morning and connect with me before I go connect with others. This is our preparation for whatever may come our way during the day. We cannot control anything in the external world, but we can control how we will respond and which choices we will make to thrive! What can I suggest to you for living your best life in mind, body, and spirit? Find your practice and practice it—with your whole being!
“Our ordinary life is our spiritual life.”
- Greet your day with enthusiasm and gratitude! Before your feet touch the ground say to yourself, “Thank you for the gift of this new day.” You woke up, which is never a given, so you can truly approach the new day with much gratitude! With this grateful heart, go into your morning meditation with enthusiasm, feeling that this day is the best thing that has ever happened to you. Because it really is. This day is a blessing—another incredible opportunity to experience life. Brushing your teeth, showering, getting dressed, preparing breakfast, helping the kids get ready for school, checking emails—all of these everyday tasks are opportunities to live in the present moment and really appreciate that these are the moments that make up your life.
- Focus your attention completely on the less than desirable things you have to do. Must you take out the trash…in the rain? We all need to do things we may not want to do, but think about making even the most unpleasant task a mindful experience by placing your undivided attention on every single aspect of that task—for example, shaking the bag to get the garbage to settle, tying the ends of the bag into a knot, then pulling the bag out of the trash bin. Our day is not one long thread; it is made up of moments. When we take it step by step like this, we are making each and every present moment count. This could really make taking out the trash, not a chore, but a meaningful moment. After all, we have no choice; it has to be done so why not be grateful for the opportunity!
- Go on a scavenger hunt! Do you have a list of items you need to pick up at the store? Get out a fresh piece of paper and make a list of what you need before you head out. As you place the items in your cart, place a big checkmark next to the item and spend a moment appreciating what it means to you. Is it a bag of fresh lemons, maybe? Think about how those lemons will flavor your tea, and reflect on the gratitude you feel for this sour but delightful fruit. In this way, each thing you cross off your list brings you closer to your goal of finding all the items you need and offers you a chance to really appreciate why they made it to your list in the first place! Making this list keeps you focused, on track, and in the moment. It is so easy to get distracted and use up your valuable energy for the day. Staying focused on your list conserves your energy for the other meaningful things in your life!
- Put on a cooking show in your kitchen. Have you ever watched a chef prepare a meal on television? They explain everything they are doing and how the various ingredients add to the flavors and texture of the dish. While you prepare the dinner—even if it is not a gourmet meal—speak to the “camera” as you chop the vegetables for the stir fry, as you prepare the rice for a boil, and so on. If you have children around, this can be a really fun way to instruct them in the preparation of dinner. I recently met Pure Bar founder Veronica Bosgraaf at a Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life event. Her new book Pure Food speaks about being a “Peaceful Chef.” I love her book and this concept so much that I may start cooking—and put on a “show” in my own kitchen!
- Clean up to music. When it is time to clean up—whether after the evening meal or anytime when there is straightening up to be done—put on your favorite music and move to the rhythm as you go through the motions of cleaning. Really bring your mind, body, and heart into the task at hand. Chances are you may notice that you are actually having a really good time while taking care of this necessary, boring chore that keeps your home comfortable and welcoming!
Having fun while being mindful of what we are doing really can be as simple as this.
“Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.”