My favorite thing about mindfulness and meditation practices is that they enable you to start looking for validation from within, not from everybody else around you. It can be difficult to harness your power from within. Often you may feel pressurized to succumb to what other people want you to do versus what you want to do. This creates an inner restlessness that becomes the death of concentration. So often I hear my clients and patients tell me how they have lived their lives trying to please everybody around them and how it has led to much internal frustration and lack of happiness in their own lives.
I am fully aware that nobody else can make me happy. My family, friends, and career can contribute to my sense of happiness and well-being, but ultimately I will always be disappointed if I am constantly searching outside of myself for my sense of happiness and validation. This can be a difficult concept to embrace, as in the West we are taught from childhood that happiness can be found outside of ourselves in relationships, jobs, material possessions, vacations, and so on.
Having success in life isn’t about some random stroke of luck that occurs or fate or talent necessarily. It is about believing something so wholeheartedly that there is no other possible outcome apart from what you are setting your intention to be. Athletes and Olympic gold medalists use this tool all of the time; if they think they will lose a game or a race, they will. The mind is the ultimate shaper of our reality. The repetition of affirmations or positive intentions can also help.
Success with these practices is having the ability to remain detached from the results looking a certain way and being open to receiving the blessings that are meant for you. What holds most of us back in this area is ourselves—we lack the self-love and self-belief to actually consider that we could make our dreams a reality. Or we are vilified and branded as arrogant or egotistical if we actually do have this self-belief, especially if we are women and even more so if we are women of color.
You are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. It is a crippling frame of mind that makes us too afraid to hope for an amazing future in case we wind up being disappointed that it does not work out, or publicly shamed if we go for what we wanted in life only to fall flat on our face with the naysayers waiting in the wings every ready to swoop in and say “I told you so.” Well guess what—it is far better to actually try at something and fail repeatedly than never try at all.
Drowning out the external noise and everybody else’s opinions is a big part of being able to feel more peace and joy from within.
Trying and failing still allows you to be one step closer to your dreams. If what you tried did not work, the second time around you can try something different. Not trying at all is never going to get you any nearer to happiness or inner peace. A very important point to also bear in mind is that the people who say “I told you so” when things don’t work out are often the ones who never actually go for what they want in life, preferring instead to rain on everybody else’s parade. Drowning out the external noise and everybody else’s opinions is a big part of being able to feel more peace and joy from within as we learn through meditation and mindfulness practices start tuning into our own voice and truth.
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We often look for love and acceptance outside of ourselves and spend our lives chasing after something that we need to start looking for from within. Only we can give ourselves the love and acceptance that we so eagerly desire from those around us. We end up being so disappointed when our sense of self-worth is not recognized or validated by others in the way we want them to. Social media can really fuel this in a negative way, as we begin to tally up in our minds how many likes or comments our posts are getting.
Let’s be honest: you would not be on social media if you weren’t wanting people to engage or like your posts, unless you are the person who never posts but just stalks everybody else. However, getting two likes or two thousand likes is not where your self-confidence should be coming from; if it is, that is a very slippery slope. Granted, nobody is delighted with two likes, but true confidence must come from within; otherwise it will always be fleeting.
So why are we waiting for others to make us feel worthy of our own love and acceptance?
There is an old Indian fable that Sri Swami Satchidananda recounts in his commentary on the Yoga Sutras, the story of the musk deer. This is one of the most endangered and rare species on our planet that are unaware of their own beauty and roam all of their lives not knowing the value that lies within them. Male musk deer produce one of the most expensive scents in the world known as kasturi in Ayurveda. In Ayurvedic medicine, kasturi was used as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antibacterial, and anti-aging agent. The scent is produced within the deer’s own body, on the underside of its stomach.
The musk deer is unaware of its ability to create the scent and is fascinated by it—it seems to permeate all of its surroundings. The musk deer spends its life searching for this scent, roaming for miles and miles in mad pursuit of finding this beautiful aroma. A musk deer can even unknowingly destroy his musk pod by rubbing against rough edges of the Himalayas, damaging the very thing it is hunting for.
The musk deer dies without finding out that all along what he was searching for was within him. If he were able to realize this truth, it would have given him a lot more inner peace and satisfaction!
If we too can live our lives for ourselves and learn to search for the beauty within by becoming our own best friend and supporter in life versus constantly searching for this outside of ourselves, we will see our lives transform in miraculous ways. So often we look for validation outside of ourselves and spend our lives doing this searching for it in relationships, our careers, material possessions or experiences as we are sold this false concept that all of these things can help us feel peace within. They can certainly contribute to our sense of wellbeing and happiness but ultimately the real work begins with looking for it and finding it inside of ourselves by tapping into our own power and truth within.
By becoming our own best friend and supporter in life versus constantly searching for this outside of ourselves, we will see our lives transform in miraculous ways.
Lasting joy and peace can only come from within and not without a lot of soul digging and toiling. With hard work and effort comes the reward, and when we find this inner beauty and peace, we realize that nothing and no one can take this away from us. Tuning into our eternal soul or jivatma as we call it in Sanskrit and yoga philosophy is the true source of our inner peace and light.
A great way to connect to that place of peace within is by spending time in nature. From four weeks old my son has accompanied me on my walks in nature and it is amazing to see how much he notices and hears on our walks. It always surprises me when I see people on their phones or blaring loud music on a walk in nature. Illustrating that even in nature we find it difficult to not look for external distractions. I always encourage my patients and clients to be fully present when they are out in nature. It is always a part of their homework whether they are on a walk, at the beach, in a park or in their back garden to be fully present.
To actually listen to the sounds of nature, notice the trees and the leaves stirring in the breeze. Hear the sounds of the birds chirping and notice the color of the sky and the formation of the clouds. It is amazing what we miss out on seeing because we are not present, aware of our surroundings or actually taking the time to look up! So much of our time these days is spent looking down at our phones that we are having neck and back issues as a result. Plus we miss seeing so many beautiful things. I make it a point every day to look up at the sky and notice the birds flying, the blue skies, and the cloud formations. At night I gaze at the stars and the moon, which is my favorite as I am slightly obsessed with the moon and have been since I was a small child.
Spending time in nature has been shown to have a multitude of healing benefits. I thoroughly enjoy immersing myself in nature and use that time as a way to reset and release, bringing my mind into the present moment and enjoying the beauty of my natural environment, wherever that may be. It really helps me to reflect, reset, and let go of any worries or tension I may be feeling in my day. The effects nature has on our bodies and minds are well known. Time in nature is helps our ability to focus, increases our happiness, lowers blood pressure, and improves our mental health. Nature is healing and allows the brain to reduce negative thought patterns.
So what are you waiting for? Get out in nature today and start reaping the benefits!
Find a spot in nature, even in your backyard or a nearby park or green area. Begin by closing your eyes and taking a few deep calming inhales and slow relaxing exhales. Focus on emptying your mind of your thoughts, worries and any anxieties in this moment. Allow yourself to bring your mind and body into a state of complete relaxation as you surrender yourself to nature and repeat this intention ten times: “I live my life for me.”
Release the intention and start to visualize what you would really like your life to be. Perhaps focus on one thing that you have really been yearning for and start to imagine what that would be like whether it is a relationship, good health, a new career or a big move. Whatever it may be, really start to breathe life into this picture on your blank canvas and imagine yourself at your destination, having achieved what you wished for. If your mind starts drifting to the negative in your visualization, use your breath to keep you anchored in the present. Tune into nature around you, opening yourself up to the notion that anything is possible; if you maintain a positive outlook and keep dreaming it, you can do it!
From Meditation with Intention by Anusha Wijeyakumar. © 2020 by Anusha Wijeyakumar PhD. Used by permission from Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd., www.Llewellyn.com.