I am learning to become an observer, without judgement. This is tricky for me, cause I have a pretty loud Judge inside me. But yoga is helping me learn to observe, to watch, to just notice, without judging. My asana practice (physical postures) helps with this, my meditation practice helps with this, my pranayama practice (breath work) helps with this.
Here's what I observed this week. In me, and in others.
We have a habit of looking outward, instead of looking inward.
One morning this week, I took the bus to work, as I do most mornings. As I sat on my always-crowded bus, I noticed a young woman sitting across from me. She might have been 20, 22 years old. She looked really unhappy. She had sad eyes, her lips were drawn down in a frown, she looked like a discontented commuter (I get it, I likely look the same to others, especially on Monday mornings!!). Then, her phone must have vibrated, because she quickly picked it up and checked it. Immediately, her countenance brightened, her eyes lifted, her mouth turned into a soft smile, and a nice lightness came into her shoulders. She was uplifted by whatever came through on that text. I looked around, and all around me, people were on their phones, texting, reading, listening to music, checking out their Facebook, all those things people do with their amaz-a-phones these days!
And I started thinking, how easy it is to stay outside ourselves, all day long now. There is constant external stimuli for us, if we want to engage.
And I started to think about this young woman, who had seemed so sad, so unhappy, sitting there with her own thoughts, until something outside herself reached for her, and then the happiness came. There seemed to be such misery inside her (and I'm only noting what her face and body language were expressing), and she needed something outside her to bring her joy.
I relate to this. A couple of years ago, I became very aware that every time I felt alone, sad, lonely, I would desperately reach outside myself, to stop that feeling. I would pick up my phone and call anyone and everyone, until I could reach someone I could talk with. It was an urgency, an insistency, almost a panic, that I needed to get outside myself to soothe the pain of loneliness. I'd check my texts with a compulsion, to see if anyone was out there. If I couldn't get anyone, I'd cruise around Facebook, desperately trying to connect with someone, find someone who could make me feel happy. Other times, when I felt a lot of stress, I'd reach outside myself to turn on the TV, to numb the feelings.
But what I've slowly been learning, or remembering, is that everything I need is inside me. What I've discovered, as I watch these compulsions in me, is that every time I feel lonely, disconnected, or sad, it is usually as a result of my overly-busy life where I have not taken time to sit and be with me - I haven't journalled, meditated, gone for a walk, had a cup of tea with just me, in a few days. And what I've begun to remember, is that I like me. That I like being alone. That when I draw inside, and listen to how I'm feeling, and check in with myself, I can bring myself to a greater sense of joy and peace and contentment, than anything outside me ever could. I'm not undermining how important strong, healthy, loving relationships with others are. My dear friends and family are so important to me, and bring me great joy and wonderful support when I need it. But what I'm saying is, I'm responsible for drawing inward and finding my own joy, not waiting for something outside me to bring it along. That external "joy" is fleeting; the internal peace and stability is long-lasting.
We are an external-reaching society - look outside yourself for how you should look, act, be. Look to others for your worth, for your joy, for acceptance. And, as far as I can tell, it's not working so well. It has never worked for me. And with such horribly high rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide in our world, this habit of looking outside ourselves for happiness and worth just doesn't seem to be working for many people. So, people, look inside! Just try it - when you feel sad, lonely, or anxious, try something new. Instead of hoping on that phone, try going inside yourself and sit with your thoughts and your feelings. Sit there with softness, kindness, love and gentleness for yourself. All you need is there.