The Inner Work To-Do-List
Times of Activity
Periods of Rest
“I do not particularly like the word ‘work’. Human beings are the only animals who have to work, and I think that is the most ridiculous thing in the world.”Masanobu Fukuoka
Everyone I know who is growing a business confirms that it takes many years of hard work. You work all the time, you don’t get a holiday, evenings and weekends are filled with thinking about the business, planning for the business, or simply doing the work that didn’t get done. The show must go on.
Developing anything new is an intense process. There are so many aspects to think about. So many things can go wrong. The initial idea might not work. You might have to learn new skills to get the project off the ground.
The process of growing a physical product or project in the outer world is usually very labour intensive. You need a clear goal, a good strategy, many resources, a lot of discipline, and plenty of elbow grease in order to get there.
When the goal is reached, the work of growth is done. Now you can sell your product with confidence. You might want to sell the whole business and retire. You might be ready to move onto the next project…
The Inner Work To-Do-List
“By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.”Robert Frost
It is no wonder that we tend to approach inner growth in a similar way. We set ourselves a goal, such as self-realisation, or fulfilment of our potential, and then try to figure out what we need to do in order to reach it.
Our normal operating mode seems to be programmed for constant activity. We can’t help but apply this mode to our inner growth projects. We even speak of ‘inner work’ that we need to do.
Here are some items on a typical inner work to-do list:
Keep a journal
Record your dreams
Connect with nature
Watch your thoughts
Beware of old habits
Do something different
Listen to your inner voice
Be careful what you wish for, et cetera ……
Inner work can soon become an overwhelming task. How is anyone supposed to be able to fit it into an already busy life?
The answer is simple. Inner work doesn’t work like that. It is not about ticking items off your to-do-list but about engaging in a dynamic process of growth.
If you have a garden – or if you’ve ever watched one plant grow – then you know that the growth of a plant is not something you can make happen through continuous work. The actual work is effectively indirect, and we can never be totally sure how much it has to do with our dedicated activity.
You can create the best possible conditions for your plants. You can give them water and nutrients, but the growth process happens by itself. It takes place spontaneously in harmony with natural cycles.
Times of Activity
“Work is almost the best way to pull oneself out of the depths.”Eleanor Roosevelt
Inner growth is a natural process comparable with the physical development of a plant, animal, or human. An (apparent) difference is that human inner growth affects all areas of our Consciousness.
The growth of our Consciousness requires our active participation. However, our activities must not interfere with the complex natural processes. Whenever we think we know what is required next, we are probably wrong, because we can’t possibly have authentic advance knowledge of the next stage of our own development.
This can be very confusing. On one hand we are supposed to get actively involved, on the other hand any interference or manipulation can corrupt our delicate evolutionary process.
When we get involved in the growth process of our Consciousness, it is usually because we want to change something in our life that isn’t working. We are keen to make the changes happen as quickly as possible.
Taking action is a proven strategy for making changes. This seems to make the most sense. But what is the ‘right action’ to take?
Organic personal growth is very similar to organic gardening. Virtually all activity is focused on preparing the soil, composting, mulching, improving the soil condition with organic matter, protecting young plants during sensitive phases, etc. In other words, we create the ideal environment, in which growth happens spontaneously in the most effective ways.
The types of activity we are talking about in the context of inner work can be relatively inconspicuous. Our main focus is to establish a healthy balance within our inner ecosystem.
Since all aspects of human Consciousness have an influence on our internal environment, the activities can be quite varied. All our Faculties are naturally involved in the process, and therefore all of them need to be considered. They fulfil different functions and contribute to a healthy dynamic environment. No matter what you do to improve or maintain the equilibrium of your inner soil, it always affects the whole inner universe.
With all our focus on intentional action, to promote and facilitate our own inner growth process, it is easy to forget an important part, of which Margaret Fuller — American women’s rights advocate and sister of Buckminster Fuller — reminds us when she says, “Men for the sake of getting a living forget to live.”
Periods of Rest
“Rest and repose are as much a part of life’s journeys as seeing all we came to see.”Gina Greenlee
In our contemporary mode of living it is easy to forget that times of activity must be followed by periods of rest. All the new information needs time to settle and sink in.
Wholesome inner growth is a continuous process of transformation. You start with the present condition and constellation of your Consciousness and grow from there.
A synonym for growth in this context is expansion of Consciousness. But we don’t just want to expand and become inflated. We want our Consciousness to evolve in a healthy and sustainable manner. The goal is to reach a whole new level of maturity.
Every activity in a sustainable inner growth process stimulates the expansion of our Consciousness. New information is gathered at all levels: physical, rational, emotional, intuitive, spiritual, etc. It takes time for this information to sink in, and we need the opportunity to let the newly found self-knowledge enter our everyday experience.
The actions we take in the process of inner work are fundamentally always about giving small and precise impulses for growth. The nature of the action is always guided by the requirements of our inner ecosystem, the types of ‘plants’ we intend to grow in our lives, and the current ‘season’ in our inner world.
Having given some impulses we need to allow them to do the intended work, and this takes time. After any new input the next job on the inner work ‘to-do-list’ is always to stand back and give our Consciousness some space to expand into.
If we don’t alternate activity with periods of rest it is like pushing a pendulum continuously in one direction without letting it swing out. It is like hitting a key on the piano without allowing the note to vibrate and resonate.
The actual process of growth, or expansion, happens during the period of rest, while we are apparently doing nothing. Any experienced gardener of the inner soil understands this phenomenon. She knows that periods of rest are as important as the timing, amount, and nature of the activity. The Roman poet Ovid knew this when he said, “A field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”
The longer and deeper I travel into the inner world the more I learn to appreciate the periods of rest as a ‘feminine’ type of activity. They are essential parts of the process. They should be simple, but they can be surprisingly hard to do.
This is the final article in the current season. There will be no posts on this blog until September. Have a great summer (or winter) and enjoy the periods of rest on your inner journey.
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