“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
― C.G. Jung
It’s sort of ironic that my last blog post, over a year ago was titled “I seem to have fallen out of time,” a quote from one of my favorite movies “The Hours.”
I know, to some extent, I thrive on change, but the last year was a lot of changes…a lot. This blog is not a personal journal, it is instead a composition of thoughts around issues that affect many of us and those issues and factors can frequently change. We connect on different aspects at different times.
The past year for me has brought immense changes. And again, while to some extent I thrive on change, the past year might have been a bit much even by my standards. Why? Because it was impossible to focus on any aspect of my life and be introspective. I think introspection is healthy and it minimizes the probability of making the same mistake over and over again – it teaches us much needed life lessons that nobody else can teach us. It got the point where I couldn’t even complete a simple blog entry. Yes, I started a few but never completed it. I had one for the new year (2019) all planned in my mind and even outlined it in a word document. Looking at my notes, it was a highly relevant one, but then another change, and I abandoned it. This sums up most of 2018 and so far 2019.
I did get around to some Yelp reviews; they were quick and easy to write. I wondered, should I create an editorial calendar, or just go with the flow? Since this is not a blog that generates any revenue, I will not add on structure. I don’t like structure in creative outlets. So as I’m flying to a conference right now, I decided to write a blog on the airplane (five hour flight-was really looking forward to it) and at least create something that is semi useful. There is not much else to do on this plane: the wifi is horrid and not secured and I forget to bring my book by Goethe: Faust. So instead, I chose to listen to Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with Vladimir Horowitz, New York Philharmonic conducted by Eugene Ormandy. In my opinion, Horowitz is one of the finest, if not the finest, classical pianist. Now the challenge is to finish this entry and then publish it.
With the constant noise of social media, day to day life and obligations, I am constantly craving to be introspective. Every day I think if I could just go somewhere alone and think. If I could just focus and hear thoughts that are racing in my head for months and months. To me, introspection is key to constantly adjusting the path you are on. At this point in my life, I have realized that plans don’t always (in fact, most of the time) materialize and you find yourself wondering: am I in the right place in my life, did I fall off the planned path, is this a better path, is this failure or decline, how should I adjust? And these questions circulate, unresolved. I became hungrier and hungrier for introspection. But daily distractions made it impossible. Besides, it’s easier to scroll through social media than think about where are you, why are you here and how to proceed given the changes.
During the past few weeks I have been somewhat introspective (as much as possible with career and all.) and find it to be extremely valuable. But it was piecemeal, half hour here and there..
“My friend…care for your psyche…know thyself, for once we know ourselves, we may learn how to care for ourselves” -Socrates”
I think prioritizing and finding a time and place to be introspective is critical or your mind will be in a increasing state of turmoil. You cannot adjust your path if you don’t do some serious introspection. Instead, you just go on and on with no revelations about what just happened, why and how to proceed.
Why we need introspection?
Unless you are very lucky, the choices you make often don’t result in your intended outcome. Relationships, career, places, randomness of the world, don’t turn out the way you thought they would. But whining ‘why me’ a la Nancy Kerrigan will not really advance your brain or teach you a life lesson. Instead, you then wallow in your misery and learn nothing, only to be doomed to make the same mistakes over and over again. With proper introspection, you can at least hope to learn from the bad choices or mistakes or even the so-called bad luck. It can lead to agility and more changes, not the wallowing in misery of why. Understand the world, situations and mostly yourself; learn and adjust your path as necessary.
It is also calming. Maybe because
“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
(note this quote was written into my ‘memory book” by my father when I was 9. I should have listened.)
Looking deep into yourself provides a sense of control about potential future outcomes. It forces you to listen and trust yourself. At least you are trying to learn and move on with minimal misery about why life doesn’t work in spite of your efforts. And, maybe the next time you face a similar situation, you will not waste as much time because you have a better understanding of the and why.
Another way to think about it is listent to that inner voice. We often hear listen to your gut, listen to your inner voice, and so on. How can you do that without have true introspection? My father wrote that Goethe quote into a ‘memory book’ when I was 9 years old (European custom to have people write into a child’s memory book). Why didn’t I listen earlier?
Where should we look deep into ourselves?
This one is difficult to answer because everyone is different. Ideally, away from it all; in a beautiful lake house in the middle of nowhere with beautiful sunsets and dark skies. That would be the ideal for me. Of course that is not in my day-to-day set of feasible options. I don’t have a vacation house to run to for introspection. At this moment for me, it’s on a five hour flight. But actually, that’s not ideal either. People sitting too close to you, strange smells, and so on. But as I’m writing this it’s working and that’s all that matters. Sometimes I find some good introspection time on my terrace because it is sort of away from everyone and I get some fix of nature with sunsets, moon, sky and trees. But now, with colder temperatures that will no longer be an option.
Guiding principles for where:
Home – away from where you spend most of your time. If you chose introspection at home, find a part of your home away from the kitchen, living space. One often sees work that needs to be done and I personally find it very hard to disconnect.
Away from home – sometimes even a coffee shop will suffice because it’s easy to tune everyone out. I love the smell of coffee (I have not mastered tuning out bad smells and probably never will).
Outdoors – if it’s warm, it’s ideal.
Travelling – I am travelling alone to a conference. Once I’m there it will be hectic and social, but there will be periods of down time and that will lend itself to introspection. I’m really looking forward to those times. If you don’t have a business trip, try to get away somewhere and not be concerned with being social scene – focus on yourself, look inside. Being social is also important in nurturing yourself but there are times you need to step away and just think.
Anywhere else where you can detach from day to day demands and, a big one: memories. Why away from memories? Because memories will stir emotions that hijack your ability to be introspective. Instead you will fall into the trap of why this happened or how you miss or don’t miss someone. Introspection should be revealing about yourself and not an emotional journey.
Music – if you prefer; sometimes silence is the best. If you listen to music, try something non-vocal. Lyrics often distract from introspection or influence it. I prefer some Rachmaninoff, Chopin piano pieces because they wake up my brain. And since I’m not a character in a romance movie, I have no strong memories associated with the music; it’s pure music. And again, it’s critical to refrain from music that you associate memories (people) with. An emotional state does not enable fruitful introspection.
How – what do I think of?
I think most people know how. Think through what went well and what didn’t and how you have diverted from your goals/path. What are the leanings? How can you better control the outcomes? What patterns in your behavior lead to dissatisfaction with yourself? Understanding your patterns, wrong or right, will help you lessen duration of a bad outcome. Life is short, while introspection doesn’t prevent you from making future mistakes, or having bad things be dealt to you, an increased understanding of yourself and the world around you should lead to better outcomes. If you understand yourself, then it’s easier to live into ‘to thyself be true.’
How much introspection?
Is there too much or too little? I know when it’s too little, I crave introspection and I want to just crawl into some solitude and think. What is too much? Where is the line between isolation and too much introspection and thinking? I find that introspection is similar to a fine meal, satiety comes naturally, but if you lack it, you keep thinking about how starved you are for it (as for me recently).
It’s strange and common how often we ignore ourselves physically, emotionally and analytically. But without introspection, there is no learning. And life is a continuous learning in all aspects.
40 minutes from landing. Yes, I wasted some time trying to get wifi and do mindless entertaining things, but I finally started this blog entry – and even this activity took some introspection. Now I just have to make sure that I upload the content in the hotel. Do I have introspection perfected? No, of course not, it’s a continuous learning process, but I finally understand how important it is.
Note: I didn’t upload this blog entry the night I arrived. There were some work/social functions which I also enjoyed. But now I needed some quiet time:
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”
“Many people suffer from the fear of finding oneself alone, and so they don’t find themselves at all.”
― Rollo May, Man’s Search for Himself
Wonderful concepts. Very helpful.
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