One of the most difficult things is the shift away from external focus to internal focus.
What does this mean, and why is it relevant?
I can illustrate it by example. In Chinese cultivation practices, there is a distinction between external practices (weigong) and internal practices (neigong).
Weigong places most of its emphasis on forms, techniques, writings, and other outer expressions. These are certainly valuable practices. They promote discipline, focus, strength, flexibility and self-preservation.
Neigong pays greater emphasis on inner cultivation. This includes opening energy flows in the body. It also includes expanding awareness beyond normal perception. And at the deepest levels, it emphasizes becoming one with the totality of life.
As mentioned in the last post, most of the time people focus on the outer world. They react to external events constantly. In the best case, people develop adaptive skills to respond to these outer events. But even so, their reality is driven by this external focus. This limits them to things they already know from the past. The result is that their past becomes their future. It’s an endlessly self-creating loop. And it puts them in a kind of box.
By contrast, when someone focuses on the inner world, they can transcend the effects of past experience. This opens virtually limitless possibilities.
There is a famous quote by Albert Einstein about this:
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”
But as I said, the shift from outer to inner focus can be hard. In a way, it is the reverse of the conditioning process everyone goes through after being born. You come into the world in a state of wonder and innocence. Everything is possible. Only over time do you learn to shut down this precious awareness and conform to what others think is possible. A great description of this process is in the book, “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz.
The process of shifting to inner focus usually starts with a sense of unease or dissatisfaction. Other times it starts with disease. We get restless. We feel like there’s something more that’s missing.
When someone has feelings like this, it’s tempting to try to find distractions. Practically every kind of addiction comes from this. Drinking, gambling, “mid-life crisis” behavior, internet addiction… all of these come from trying to cover over this uneasy feeling. And the distraction doesn’t have to be so extreme. We become addicted to our beliefs, emotions and actions.
But of course none of these distractions work ultimately. It keeps taking more and more to cover up the deeper feeling.
However, at some point, it becomes clear that another approach is needed. That’s when people turn inward on one path or another. This is when the real change becomes possible. The shift starts.
Over time, when someone is serious, they find those past emotions and feelings that block progress. They learn how to release them and access greater potential. And they learn how to work with greater possibilities than their past experiences would allow for. Things change. The inner world starts influencing the outer world.
And this is where things get interesting…
All the best for your health and happiness,