I know a woman who is ambitious, creative, sexy and beautiful. On the outside, her life looks perfect. On the inside her life is a mess.
Her marriage is in shambles, she is in debt, and feels exhausted, overwhelmed, scared and like something has to urgently change. And she doesn’t what, or how, or where to begin.
We recently had a conversation about how our life is often a mirror of what is going on within. More specifically, how messy her life feels, is a sign of how messy she is within herself.
I want to do the inner work to clear this mess up, she said, but I don’t know how!
This is what I told her:
The funny thing about healing and inner work is that it is mostly invisible and not something you “do” but rather an intention that you hold space for moment to moment.
This is what doing “inner work” looks like, for me, in case that can help you, too.
It often begins with a breakdown: relationship, work, stress, worries… something has gone too far. With the breakdown comes the awareness “something is not right here, something has to change”.
Once upon a time, I was living in Amsterdam, and was in a relationship with someone who was really, really bad for me. Over the course of our 6 month relationship he went from being a gentle artist to an addiction-riddled, gun-wielding drug dealer. I looking around at my life and wondered where the hell I had gone wrong.
Then the ‘inner work’ begins: I take responsibility for my part in the problem I am facing. After all, everything I experience in my life is in some way a reflection of something that I hold in my energetic field. Nothing can exist without my being in relationship with it in some way. Knowing that, doesn’t always mean I know WHAT it is that is causing this thing or how to fix it.
At the time, it was really hard to accept responsibility for what was going on. After all, I wasn’t the one going through a drug-addicted, gun-wielding identity crises… But I accepted that, in some strange way, I had attracted this. That somewhere in the depths of my psyche, my soul needed this to grow and to heal.
So I start to look for patterns. This is where journaling can be exceptionally useful. I start to write out all the scenarios where I felt similar fears, circumstances, responses and so on. I am looking for the key to my subconscious habit or belief that is the root cause. Sometimes I find it. Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes just knowing that it exists, even though I don’t know exactly what it is, is enough to start healing it. Sometimes the intellectual understanding of why I did or attracted the thing that I did or attracted doesn’t come until afterwards.
Being okay with not knowing and still having the intention to clear your vibration of beliefs and habits that don’t match the life you want for yourself is more than enough.
I looked at how, throughout my 20’s I chose unreliable ‘bad boys’ over wholesome, kind men. They gave me something I craved: adventure, excitement, and an easy excuse to not give myself over to someone else. On the surface, I was simply wanting to be with men that provided me with an entertaining life. In the depth, I was afraid of being truly vulnerable. Plus: my Papa was a drug-dealing ‘bad boy’ himself. He had modeled the kind of man I would be loved by. And I unwittingly accepted it. Until now…
Then, the thing I need the most, is space and time. Space and time to be alone, to do nothing, to focus on myself, to plan for my future, to nurture my soul with stillness and silence. It is in the ‘nothing’ space and time that most of the ‘inner work’ takes place. At the same time I ask for help and guidance, and pay attention to every single little synchronicity or sign or helping hand that comes my way. I stay open and say “yes” to many of these things because I know that they may be the help and guidance that I have asked for, even if they don’t seem to be directly related to the situation that my inner work appears to be around. Often, the picture is much, much bigger than I can possibly perceive, and it all only becomes clear in hindsight.
I cried, a lot. I felt lost and confused and hurt and angry. And I knew that I had to leave. Even though a large part of me didn’t want to. It was hard, feeling such conflicting emotions. I mourned the loss of the relationship, and grieved the ending of a pattern. I felt safe and comfortable being with men that allowed me to be emotionally detached. Yet I knew it had to end.
Being willing to be in the mess of it, to feel the emotions of it, whilst reaching for the light, what ‘inner work’ is. From this space of embodying the pain and confusion and suffering while also asking to be relieved of it and searching for a new path, healing is happening.
In its own time, miracles start to occur, new choices are made and life changes as a reflection of the inner work and clearing I have done, simply by being with my unhealthy patterns and holding space and awareness for them.
It took me 3 months. I continued to put up with the madness of being in love with someone who had unpredictable mood-swings, oscillating from kind and tender to verbally abusive. He threatened me when I spoke about leaving, and terrified me with his constant need to sniff white powders and smoke weed. Until one day. I had enough.
I was shaking but focused, adrenalin rushing through my body, as I packed all my belongings into my massive duffel bag, while he sat in the living room sniffing and smoking with his friends. As quietly as I could, I slipped out the door and made my way to the train station. I had to make a fast decision: to go somewhere he wouldn’t suspect in case he tried to stop me. I decided on the international bus station, where I booked the next bus leaving the country. Which is how I ended up in Prague. (But that’s another story…)
Don’t put so much pressure to “do your inner work the right way” and rather allow yourself to be guided. Use simple tools like meditation, journaling, running, walking and alone time to create space for the things you are working through and allow yourself to be guided on exactly what to do. More than anything inner work requires you to give it space and time, so try to avoid filling your space and time with people and activities.
A lot more ‘inner work’ took place after that. But it all started there. With time, for the first time ever, I was able to have healthy relationships with kind, wholesome men, that actually supported me. The mess I was in became the initiation I had to go through to create a life in alignment with my true self.