Living from the Inside Out

Many mystical traditions have the image of the maze or labyrinth quick at hand. Physically, these are spaces designed so that as you walk, you spiral in and out of the center. Symbolically, the labyrinth represents the work of insight, of going into yourself for answers and then living from the inside out. Glennon Doyle talks about how the real definition of bravery is matching your insides and your outsides; bravery is making what is true and beautiful inside of you evident in your external life. Doing the work requires understanding who you are on the inside and then cultivating the bravery to show it to the rest of the world; Brené Brown calls this vulnerability and teaches that this work is at the heart of connection, belonging, and courage.

Doing the work is an inside job. Trust, belonging, insight, and intentionality are all things you negotiate internally. No one can know you as well as you can know yourself. You are the only person who has access to your inner landscape. Anthropologists talk about how you cannot study the thoughts and experience of another person first hand, so instead you study their words, behaviors, and interactions. As an individual, you are able to study your thoughts and experiences first-hand, and thus are singularly able to form a grounded understanding of how the layers that compose you move through worlds.

“In choosing how we are in the world, we shape our experience of that world, our contribution to it. We shape our world, our inner world, our outer world, which is really the only one we’ll ever know. And to me, that’s the substance of the spiritual journey.” Maria Popova

Internal Validation

A person who lives from the inside out has done the work of attending to their inner world and is laboring to bring it into the outer world. They are people who have the ability to find guidance and answers within themselves. They trust their own expertise about their life and lead with internal validation.

Our health is not bounded by our body. Our inner worlds and our outer worlds are intimately connected in body, mind, and soul. Because of these entanglements, doing the work requires that we acknowledge the ways they are connected and show up for both of them. Being brave and matching your insides to your outsides is doing the work. You are courageous when you are able to hear yourself, listen to your wisdom, and live from it.

Live What You Believe 

When you are living intentionally, practicing insight & mettle, and belong to yourself, you know who you are. The invitation now is to practice all of this, to build a life, and to live what you believe. Doing the work is walking the walk, not just talking the talk. Living from the inside out is about making what you know on the inside real on the outside, too. Brené Brown calls this living into our values. She defines values as: a way of being or believing that we hold most important. For example, community, freedom, and integrity are values. (You can find a list of examples here.) Brené says, “Living into our values means that we do more than profess our values, we practice them. We walk our talk – we are clear about what we believe and hold important, and we take care that our intentions, words, thoughts, and behaviors align with those beliefs.” The root of the word integrate is ‘integrare,’ which means: to make whole. Living what we believe is a process of integration, of moving towards wholeness.

integrare: to make whole

Being clear about what is important to you and why is crucial in living a life full of meaning and wellbeing. And the next step is learning how to live it. Once you know your values, you can choose to live them, you can use them as a guide. Suzuki Roshi says, “The most important thing is to remember the most important thing.” Living what we believe means remembering what is important to us and using that knowledge to shape our choices and behavior.

Soren Kierkegaard talks about “transforming the leap of life into a gait.” In other words, transforming a leap to a gait is being able to sustain change. It means to take the jump you made (living authentically, changing habits) and turn it into the way you walk through the world. Taking the leap to the gait is walking the talk; it is doing and practicing the things you used to think about. It is living out your choices and living from the life you consciously choose instead of the life you found yourself in on autopilot.

“You know who you are when you become independent enough to believe your own thoughts and become responsible for your own actions. And you not only believe what you want but you live what you believe.” Matthew McConaughey

Doing the Work

Doing the work is a collection of slow, sustainable choices and actions towards authenticity and wholeness. It is brushing up against our edges, understanding our capabilities and limitations, and connecting with our deepest, most true, and most beautiful lives. It is in this work that healing is found and relationships thrive.

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