You must meet the outer world with your inner world or existence will crush you. — Mark Nemo
I came upon Mark’s words in his book, Inside The Miracle. The sentence echoes in my head as it sums up thoughts I’ve been grasping at but hadn’t yet been able to articulate because my intellectual acuity has felt impaired.
Too often I oscillate between inward reflection and outward realities and it can feel as though an elephant is doing box squats on my chest. It’s crushing at times as I abruptly jump from the outer world to inner world, then back inner to outer, trying to manage the weight of each as separate entities.
Rather, I should attempt to balance the two worlds as one. I’ve struggled with this notion for years. The need to go inward has caused me to reject, or be cynical of, much of the outer world. This has not led to a joyful existence. I put myself through a constant struggle of trying to see inwardly while my vision is impaired by a myriad of distractions and expectations from the outward facing world.
Today I question if too much inner reflection and not enough outer engagement is detrimental to my mental health. Perhaps I could thrive if isolated in a spiritual existence, but such a life seems a long and disengaging journey. It seems impossible to reach a peaceful monk-like existence while keeping one foot planted in the world in which we must exist. I wonder if too much inner and not enough outer reflection makes us spiritually portly, full of our “selves”, fattened on beliefs that a spiritual life will bring abundant joy and reduction of suffering. But, it just fuels the mental turmoil.
Being overly internally focused can create a life that lacks the relationships which only come from engaging with others. Conversely, too much outward and not enough inward starves us of the essential connection we need with our own guiding voice.
…many citizens either abdicate their individuality by mirroring the wants of their culture or they withdraw into a self-imposed exile, living as a hidden warrior in a land of conformity. — Mark Nemo
There are those that are successful at distancing themselves from the influences of our society. Those unique individuals stand with unwavering purpose, have a clear understanding of themselves, and have nurtured a resiliency to the sway of our culture. Ironically we attempt to emulate these individuals rather than look within ourselves for our own uniqueness.
We lack the balance they display because we transfer our full weight to each extreme of inner and outer engagement. We swing like a pendulum between the known and unknown of our selves, seeking clues of purpose from social cues only to then hesitate undertaking action because it doesn’t fully resonate inwardly.
The trick is allowing each, the internal dialog and the external influences, to play off one another. Each affects the other, to what extent depends on the strength of our individualism.
The unlocking of knowledge is the formulation of wisdom. The voices that come from within are influenced by the voices and experiences we encounter in the outer world. Conversely, we are all born with a shared innate knowledge. Our experiences, relationships, and connections aren’t necessarily teachers of the wisdom we gain over time, rather the keys that unlock what we already know. The greater our engagement, within and without, the more wisdom we gain. If we don’t engage at both ends, we impair wisdom that wishes to be discovered.