“The universe is not outside of you. Look inside yourself; Everything that you want, you already are.” Rumi
I’m just completing a fourth week of living “the new normal.” And like most of you, my new normal consists of staying at home, and connecting with family, friends and work through online resources. It’s been amazing to see just how much more connected we are when we make a serious effort to stay in touch.
One of the aspects of the new normal that I’d like to address in this article is the current inability to get our “external fixes,” and the impact this has on our daily lives.
What are “external fixes”? They are the comforts we all enjoy: going for coffee with friends; seeing a movie, play or concert; working out at the gym, visiting family, getting a haircut. In short, engaging in activities that nurture us, give us pleasure, and allow us to take care of ourselves. The fact that our time is now controlled by an outside force is making us rely on ourselves. This is requiring us to step up our emotional intelligence and utilize more of our inner resources, like being productive, being patient, being creative.
This is not easy for most people, especially when the outside world provides a great distraction, one which leads us to ignore what’s going on internally. As a society, we tend to excuse our distracted behavior, like watching TV, drinking, texting or overeating. We even go so far as to applaud people who are workaholics or those who engage in extreme sports, perhaps not realizing those very activities provide a form of escape. But it doesn’t stop there. We teach our children that it is ok to chill out in front of the TV and we often fail to teach them how to deal with emotions such as frustration, anger, anxiety and feeling out of control.
Looking back at my own life, there was a time when I was so busy that I didn’t have time to catch my breath. I was working full time, starting my own business and buying a house that needed a complete renovation. I was busy, so busy, with activities that were important. But I was also running away from a relationship (something that seemed out of my control) that was destined to fail. My coaching business ultimately became a source of outside comfort to me for many years. As I struggled with my inside world, I focused on growing my business, something I could control and that made me feel good.
Is there a problem with looking to the outside world to feel good on the inside? Why shouldn’t I go for a “get my hair done” fix to make me feel better? There is not a problem with this at all, per se, unless of course, the hair salon is no longer an available option. The problem only arises when we are not able to deal with “upsetting” emotions.
Perhaps you have begun to notice that these fixes expire sooner and faster than they used to, or that once-in-a-while fixes stop working. You may continue to collect experiences, but inside you are still left with an empty feeling or upset. Nothing has actually been addressed, and your deeper needs haven’t been met. You have just created a happy distraction for yourself. A fleeting but happy distraction.
Since we don’t have as many of those external escapes available to us at the moment I would like to suggest that you use this imposed break on “external fixes” as an opportunity to break a cycle that isn’t allowing you to feel good about yourself. How? Let me show you.
There are many ways to break this cycle. The first and most important step is to realize that you are using external fixes to deal with a turbulent inner world; and that you will begin to look inside yourself to deal with your turbulent inner world. It’s a big step and it just may change your life.
Now take a deep breath and continue reading.
This unusual period is a chance to take a look at what is bothering you, without the distractions and band-aids that we usually use to push them off. Recognize that you are reaching out for temporary comfort instead of deeper fulfillment and use this time to just feel that which you have avoided. Things may feel rocky at first. You may not know how or where to begin; perhaps you will experience painful emotions. For many, this is a process of healing, learning and embracing what’s most important.
Let me give you an example. I tend to wake up cranky on Saturday mornings and I don’t always know why. If I was to look for an outside fix, I would probably eat a big breakfast, drink coffee, be on my phone – in other words, I’d try to numb my feelings. When I take some time instead to figure out what is going on and be with my feelings, I am able to take care of myself and enjoy my day. Taking care might mean forgiving myself for my judgments, stretching my back, or meditating for 15 minutes.
Finding ways to address your internal needs that actually do address them can often be as simple as forgiving yourself, or others, for old hurt. Or choosing to let issues, resentments or habits go. Switching a routine. Being honest with yourself that what you think you want, isn’t really what you want. Having the courage to ask a loved one for help in a way you never have. While these are all small, they can feel, at the time, so big. Certainly harder than a distracting trip to the salon or coffee date.
Once you take this step, there’s no going back. You will have opened yourself up to a whole new world, one that can shape your life and give you everything you have ever wanted. As you begin to look inside yourself, your inner beauty will reveal itself to you. You’ll fall in love and create a relationship with yourself that is rock solid and develop the confidence to know that you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. Once you are willing to be with your feelings and experience them, you’ll be able to lead your life from the inside out.
My charge to you is this: Be brave and embrace yourself – all of you. The universe will meet you and help you as you set your intention to be free. I guarantee that you will be able to enjoy your external fixes in a brand-new way. You could even emerge from this challenging time with yourself renewed and rediscovered, choosing your external pleasures differently, and ready to take on the world in a whole new way.