Cultivate the Inner Life

Care of One for the Benefit of Many (part 4)

I remember a few years back when a friend of mine was carting her young child around attempting to do several errands.  At each stop, my friend would unbuckle her child out of his car seat, drag him to the errand, and return him to his car seat, buckling him in, only to repeat this scenario again.  After a number of stops, mom and child were back in the car, driving to the next errand, when out of the back seat piped a young voice, “Get me out of here; this is crazy!”

I have not only chuckled at that story many times, but I have related to it often when I have similar feelings…when life feels crazy and I just want to get out of here!

But there is a place for us to go that isn’t crazy.  It is inside of us, and we can all cultivate that place and visit it often through meditation, prayer, and quiet time.

Our personal greatness sits inside of us.  Our character, our compassion, our wisdom, and our integrity get developed and accessed through cultivation of the inner life.

This cultivation of the inner life turns the outer world and is messages upside down:

The world says:  hurry, faster

The inner life says:  slowly slowly

The world says:  get more, more

The inner life says:  let go, need less

The world says:  you aren’t perfect:  you need this and a little of that and a lot of this

The inner life says:  you have everything you need inside you; you are already complete

The world says:  people should notice you

The inner life says:  you should notice others

The world says:  your life should be perfect

The inner life says:  you should be perfect in your life

There is nothing more inspiring than a well-crafted life.  We have only to look at the great ones of all walks of life who have achieved a high degree of character and compassion, to hear our hearts beat a little faster with admiration and our minds grasp a new possibility for our own lives.

This well-crafted life comes ultimately from the time we spend alone with ourselves in prayer, reflection, and meditation.  It is here that we face our wounds, our greed, our anger, and our grief.  It is here that we plant the seeds of strength and trust that carry us through the hard times.  It is here that we grow a fortitude that keeps us kinder for a little bit longer when things don’t go the way we want them to.

I opened with a confession that I wished life could be easier.  But those are the words of someone who sees only obligation.  For those of us who care to see all the hardships and delights of life as opportunity, life can be an amazing chance to grow ourselves into our own unique greatness and someone worthy of the challenges of our times.

As we practice passion and unreasonable kindness and cultivating an inner life, may we always keep a grateful heart for the obligations and opportunities that life brings us.

And may we remember that real change and lasting self-care come from practice.  It is the positive, slow, small steps towards something radically wonderful that ultimately shapes each one of us and the work we do.

I close with these words from Pattabi Jois:  Practice and all is coming.

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