Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Outer Doorway to the Inner Cause

I'm a believer in attacking the cause of problem, rather than merely wrestling with the symptom. What I'm about to say might seem like a contradiction to that fundamental approach to life, but bear with me.

I believe that our outer circumstances reflect something about our inner state of consciousness. I can't remember who sings the song, but I remember a particular line that illustrates this point, "I know my life's a mess 'cause all my clothes need pressing." There is some truth to that idea!

When we are scattered and cluttered on the inside, our outer life will probably look a bit scattered and cluttered as well.

There was a time in my life when I simply could not keep my car clean. It was always dirty on the outside and always filled with 'my life' on the inside. Garbage on the floor, items that I never got around to taking into the house... it was simply a mess. It's not like that anymore. True, sometimes it gets a bit dirty, and it isn't always spotless on the inside, but as the saying goes... "I've come a long way... baby!"

In order to address our issues in life, we can't simply wrestle with the outer circumstances and expect to create profound and lasting change. It just doesn't work that way. What fuels our issues is a matter of consciousness and our deeply held thoughts, feelings and beliefs. We have to alter ourselves at that level in order to affect change.

I used to go to a place of business regularly that was immaculately clean, spotless and organized. Having read what I just wrote above, one might think this automatically implies that the person or persons responsible for this place are healthy on the inside (if their environment is a reflection of their inner landscape). The truth is, however, that the level of cleanliness and 'order' in this particular place expressed a pathology of its own. There was a compulsiveness that oozed through the external order. People got bent out of shape, for example, if the toilet paper was put on the roll backwards. Tension was in the air when things weren't 'just so' on the outside. This too, is unhealthy.

We must 'read' the outer environment carefully to see what it tells us about ourselves and our inner landscape.

The true work must be done on the inside, in order to affect lasting change on the outside. That being said, however, there is a way to 'work with' our external reality in order to poke at, and address, the inner causal issues.

When I worked on my car clutter issue, for example, I started by making myself clean out the car regularly. I threw away the trash, took things into the house, and took the car through a car wash as often as I possibly could. I made this 'outer' effort a statement about my willingness to take the time and effort to address the 'inner' state of consciousness that was creating the mess.

It brought stuff up in me when I cleaned out the car. I felt picked on in a way. I never felt like I had the time to do the cleaning process. I felt that the messiness showed how busy and productive a person I was. All of these types of thoughts would come to my mind when I was cleaning. It revealed a lot to me about the 'inner origins' of the 'outer mess.'

I see this sort of 'working with the external world' as a 'doorway in' to the real problem. We will think and feel all sorts of things when we start to force ourselves to address the external reality. Those are our clues as to the deeper issues at work in sustaining the outer condition that we are troubled by. We need to pay attention to those clues and then work to address them.

I think there is a lot to be said for taking action on the outer reality in order to stir up and illuminate the inner, causal factors.

If you have an area of your life that is out of control or 'messy' I encourage you to give this a try. Whether it is a physical reality like a messy desk, closet, car or house... or something like your checkbook, finances or a relationship... explore the outer doorway as a path to actually resolving the issue. It's a lot of work and sometimes can be quite uncomfortable, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

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