At that point, I realised that my level of happiness was only about a 4 out of 10, and had been all my life. I sensed that something deeper was missing from my life, but I didn’t know what. I spent about 10 years enthusiastically searching for that missing something in every spiritual, psychological and esoteric book I could lay my hands on. Unfortunately, it didn’t really help… I was still the same old me, and my level of happiness was still about a 4 out of 10. That’s when I realised I had to try something completely different, because my intellectual approach hadn’t brought me any more happiness or fulfilment. Simply filling my head with information, even amazing mind-blowing information, didn’t change who I was. I mean, how could it? It was just information passively sitting there in my mind! How could that possibly change me or improve my quality of life?
That’s when the penny really dropped, and I knew I needed to take a more experiential approach if I really wanted to change myself and my life. For a while I became a bit of a course junkie – attending every workshop and training I could find, as my search for “the holy grail” continued. It’s fair to say that I wasted quite a bit of money during this second phase of my journey of self-discovery. But I learnt lots of really useful stuff too, and had some amazing experiences, insights and revelations. The main thing I learnt was that “going inside” is the key to everything!
But to my surprise, it wasn’t just unpleasant psychological stuff (limiting beliefs, emotional traumas and reactive behaviours) that I experienced. What blew my mind and really sparked my enthusiasm for “inner work” was the profound spiritual experiences that became more and more common. My inquiry sessions would typically begin with a psychological issue, then once I had explored and worked my way through that, I would often find myself having a wonderful spiritual experience (and I’d never been spiritual before).
I learned that psychology and spirituality are two poles of the same continuum – our own consciousness. In fact, our pure, unadulterated, un-traumatised, un-patterned consciousness is spiritual in nature – it is our true nature – our soul’s essence. And our psychological “stuff” is that same true nature or soul essence that has become stuck, patterned or programmed with false, distorted or limiting beliefs. So, once we have worked our way through an emotional issue and released the hurt or whatever, our soul essence is free to return to its natural state, which is inherently happy, free and fulfilled.
Like most people, I had been trying to avoid facing, yet alone feeling, my inner hurt, sadness and conflicts. I did that by staying in my head, away from all the chaotic emotions in my heart, and all the really repressed stuff down in my belly. Some people use alcohol, emotional eating, TV, gaming, sex, exercise or staying busy to avoid feeling their “stuff” – basically anything that distracts, represses or suppresses.
The most surprising thing I learnt from my early “inner work” was that it was nothing like as bad as I expected. I expected my repressed emotional and mental issues would be really challenging and painful, but they were nowhere near that bad. My fear of feeling the issue was much stronger than the issue itself. Fear is our primary psychological defence mechanisms – it’s like a scary warning sign that keep us from going in any further.
But if we have the courage, and the right support, to feel our way through the fear, we can cope with what’s inside. You see, our adult-self has much more capacity to deal with emotional hurts and psychological conflicts than our child-self ever had. “Fear walls” were erected around anything we couldn’t handle to protect our younger self from facing anything that might overwhelm us. Initially, our adult-self still sees a “fear wall” as our younger self did, so we still believe what lies within will overwhelm us, but it probably won’t anymore, at least not for long. Thoughts and emotions are messages – once they have been delivered (i.e. once they have been seen, heard or felt) they can dissolve. The structure of the thought-form or emotional-form dissolves, which reveals our unstructured, liberated, soul essence.
Actively choosing to “go inside” and go looking for psychological “stuff”, like sadness, pain, anxiety and trauma, does seem counter intuitive at first, because it’s the exact opposite of what we’ve subconsciously been doing our whole life. But, when you think about it, it actually makes perfect sense, and it becomes clear that it is the only sensible thing to do. How can we ever hope to improve our life, emotional wellbeing or state of mind if we don’t address the root cause of our issues?
Anyway, back to my story… The “thing” that was missing from my life – the “thing” that I spent so much time, money and effort searching for, was simply my true nature. When I experientially discovered my true nature, my soul essence, I began to feel genuinely fulfilled and happy. I was gradually becoming whole again, and that’s all I ever wanted. In fact, I think it’s all everyone has ever wanted!