Years ago, when I first started making changes in my life, I was looking for a way out. A way out of feeling awful in and about my body. A way out of negative and self-debasing thoughts. A way out of unbearable emotions. A way out of un-supportive and dissatisfying relationships. A way out of work that did not feed me. A way out of all of the habits that I had picked up along the way in an attempt to handle, medicate and get away from all that I was feeling. And while the impulse was to bring ease and greater balance through these habits, an attempt on my part to feel better, this band-aid approach of covering over what didn’t feel good, always left me somehow worse off.
My yoga teacher once said that the first impulse on the path is the urge to feel better. Different. Other than how you are currently experiencing yourself and life. Even if you do not have a clue about what the “better” or “different” is, or even looks like. Even if you do not know what it will take or how you will do it. Looking back, I can most definitely vouch for this sentiment. For it is not easy to be a human being, and there can be much that we are looking for a way out of. There is so much to feel. There are so many physical sensations to move through. So many thoughts and so many encounters to be with. Given the sometimes overwhelming nature of what it means to be alive, it is only natural to want to get away from certain aspects of living in an attempt to feel better.
Enter the choice to commit yourself to self-discovery and self-awareness. The intention and the subsequent grit you must exert to get out from under unhealthy patterns, conditioning, beliefs, attitudes and more. And while it is easy to believe that the way out is the name of the game, at its very heart, any attempts you make in this regard are always about, a way in. But because the suffering can be so all encompassing, this is an easy thing to miss, leaving us to believe that the point is to get away from something, when in fact, we are really trying to find our way back in to something.
And while it can seem like the way out and the way in are two sides of the same coin, which they are, it matters tremendously which one you choose to focus on. For if you try and find a way out of yourself and what you are experiencing, that is a vastly different orientation than trying to find your way back into yourself. The first approach contains within it the underlying belief that there is something you need to get away from; a kind of separation from something, but without giving you a place to land. The second approach implies a moving towards; a kind of finding your way back to something that already exists. A homecoming, if you will; a place that continues to be there whether you choose it or not. A way in that awaits your notice.
Which side of the coin do you tend to live on? Are you trying to get over, away from, or past the experiences of your life? Or do you find yourself moving in and towards something? Watch yourself as you go through your days. Catch the moments where you feel at odds with something and watch your attempts to get away. And if you can, wonder what it would look and feel like to find a way back in towards yourself, as opposed to looking for a way out. Maybe it means softening something that has gotten too tight in body or mind. Maybe it means a gentle smile to yourself as you acknowledge what you are up against as a human being living in a vulnerable body and a mind that just won’t quit. Maybe it means forgiving yourself; making room for all of the reasons and all of the ways that you try and escape yourself and the life you have created.
And maybe, more than anything else, it becomes a decision on your part to choose to recognize that the way in is far more interesting and far more valuable than all of the things you are trying to find a way out of.