“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!
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly,
but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”
With the arrival of spring just a week away, I can feel nature’s miracles and the new life that is ahead for so many beings on this magnificent planet of ours. I spent some time reading on my patio last week here in South Florida, and I witnessed one breathtaking example: the butterfly.
Butterflies are simply gorgeous. To be in their presence is an honor. For me, they symbolize hope, strength, and love. Like all things in nature, the butterfly has many lessons to share with us. Let’s take a look at one that really stands out: the importance of being who we are.
Imagine the grand metamorphosis of the butterfly. Let’s relate the stages of this experience to the various aspects of our lives: first the tiny egg of potential, then the tireless caterpillar working toward that potential, then the chrysalis allowing that potential to take shape, and finally the butterfly who realizes that potential and takes flight.
The butterfly teaches us that it is not possible to go from egg to butterfly without the stages in between. And in our lives we cannot go from birth to death without the journey. So like the caterpillar, we must do the work. George Carlin once joked, “The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity.” This is so true! We often admire the beauty of the butterfly and rarely think about what it went through to get where it is! So it is for all of us that we must have a grand ideal for our lives and walk the path, putting one foot in front of the other.
Many people ask me, “How do I know what my life purpose is?” My answer is this: we sit with ourselves in silence and just listen. In this sitting, we place our attention within on the breath and drop our attention into our heart. By spending time each day listening to our heart’s whisperings, our life’s work takes shape, and we begin the journey—strong, loving, and connected within.
I founded the non-profit Peaceful Mind Peaceful Life as a result of my meditation practice. About eight years ago, I heard my heart say, “You are meant to bring love and peace to every being in the world.” Just how could I say no?
I promise that as you spend time with you every day, you will come to know exactly what you came to this life to do. Like the butterfly, you will experience the magnificence of being who you are!
“If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.”
“Teach your children well,” wrote Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and I believe these are some of the wisest words ever written. It has been said that the future belongs to our children, and the future I envision is one where all people—young and old—across the world can live in peace, well-being, and happiness.
My purpose in life is to spread a message of peace to all who will listen. I believe deeply and say regularly, “Outer peace begins with inner peace,” so I teach tools for cultivating inner peace in our lives in my book The Practice. When we feel peaceful, strong, and loving, these feelings permeate everything we do and have a ripple effect on those around us.
We all know that children pick up our vibes and copy our behavior, so what better way to instill in them a sense of inner peace than to reflect that within ourselves? I have had the wonderful opportunity to teach parts of The Practice to high school students in my area and in other workshops geared for young people. I love how receptive they are to the idea that each of us has a steady source of inner peace that we can turn to throughout the day for support. I have even convinced some of them to sit in silence for one minute when they wake up before using the phone or computer!
As a child and a young girl, I didn’t have tools for cultivating inner peace, and so I found myself looking outside to the world for peace and happiness rather than within. It was a long, difficult road for me to find my way “home” to myself. For many, the times feel different in this age of technology and kids really do seem to have more stress and issues facing them; however, the desire for peace, courage, and happiness is never changing.
It Is Never Too Soon to Start a Practice
Whether or not you call it meditation, it is never too soon to teach children the idea of sitting quietly with themselves first thing in the morning and learning to allow their thoughts to come and go without judgment or engagement to start their day at their best.
Helping your child select a Sacred Mantra—or as I often call it with students, a Focus Phrase—gives them a positive, calming word or phrase to turn to when they are feeling stressed, scared, angry, or sad throughout the day.
As the day comes to a close, teaching your child how to reflect briefly on the day and then leaving it in peace can help them sleep more soundly, knowing that they did the best they could.
Teaching young people these three simple tools and helping them to develop a regular practice of using them will lead to a cultivation of their inner sense of peace. The vibe and message they will be sharing out in the world will be one of peace and love. How amazing it is that their generation has the potential to become the generation that brought light to all.