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Excerpt from "Your Essential Self"

The Inner Journey

by Richard Harvey

The inner journey is a response to a deep longing… for the truth, for the divine, for ourselves. Once, the mystical philosopher Ouspensky was speaking to a group of pupils. He said “I…” and fell into a profound meditative silence. It was a long time before he came out of that silence. Inner work is like that. “I” is the subject title of the accumulated experience of a human life. We unpack and explore the unfinished business of our lives until one day, unexpectedly, we arrive here – in the moment.

The inner journey returns us to ourselves, to our original sense of being. We lose ourselves in our attachments to actions, achievements, and outer relationships; we “do” so much physically and mentally that the doer gets lost in the doing and we lose touch with our being.

Over the years, many people have shared their inner journeys with me. They have spoken of their most private feelings, thoughts, and experiences; unpacked the baggage of their personality and discovered deeper truths beneath their self-image. Some have used this insight to deepen their exploration and seek even more profound levels of awareness, being, and consciousness. Out of a deep longing and intuition that there must be more, they have sought their true nature, their essential self.

The inner journey spirals around our true self. Each turn of the spiral brings us closer to it. In time we arrive at the border of timeless space and being. Then we need journey no more, because we have become one with our self; we have awakened. As the ancient Indian rishis would say, the river has remembered and returned to the ocean.

But how will we remember? Where will we turn to for guidance? How is it to be done? And how will we navigate through the awesome geography of our inner world and find the ocean?

Inner Work Practice

1. Do it your way. Inner work may be done on your own, with a friend, or in a group. No precedent has been set to dictate how you should go about it; for everybody it is different, because everybody’s personal journey is unique – as unique as fingerprints, as unique as each of the billions of pebbles on the beach. So don’t let anyone fool you, you should and must do it your way.

2. Methods explore themes appropriately using a variety of ways and means. Your criterion should be which techniques are relevant and inspiring. For example, writing, drawing, contemplation, meditation, dance and movement, active imagination (interacting and dialoging with inner parts of yourself), fantasy and visualization, free association (spontaneous “first thoughts”), keeping a dream diary, keeping a notebook for insights and recording major life statements,[1] awareness exercises, and conscious breathing. The notebook will be of particular use when you feel dejected about inner work and require some evidence that you have made progress, as well as when you need to revise your inner work or recall some event or insight. Sometimes seekers have even published their notebooks to serve as guidance for others. Often I have resorted to my inner work notes for illustrative purposes in this book.

3. Space and Equipment – have a space where you can gather what you need for your inner work practice. Often you will choose a method intuitively, so it is essential that you have everything you may need ready so you are not distracted by having to find things. This may include: paper, a notebook, drawing pad, pencils and pen, wax crayons (preferably not felt-tips because they are nowhere near as expressive). Please write by hand with pencils and pen rather than use a keyboard, because the hand and the body, and particularly the heart, is linked through hand-writing in a way that is virtually impossible to preserve through writing with a keyboard. You may also require: musical instruments, a sound system, an altar evoking higher energy concerns, and aesthetic or devotional objects that give you pleasure. The room or space should be private, comfortable, warm, and safe. Disconnect telephones, turn off mobile devices and the door bell if you can, and be sure that all your chores are done or scheduled ahead, so they don’t worry you during your inner work time.

4. Timeinner work should be scheduled and made as regular as possible, preferably at the same time each day. An alarm clock or visible time piece may be desirable. Setting the time – say, half an hour – ahead encourages you to persevere, even when you don’t feel like it, and to stop, even when you feel like going on. Giving yourself a time boundary contains your inner work and helps to ensure that you keep to your discipline, but it also gives your ego the chance to play up and become visible, which in turn gives you material to work on. Either way, you win.

5. Help from others – when the time is right, be willing to ask. There are unparalleled advantages to working with others. A trusted friend or a group of like-minded seekers are indispensable to your journey at some point. When the time is right try it, persist in it when it feels right, and use the reflection, mirroring, witnessing, and understanding of the other to highlight and bring to awareness your projections and transferences and provide insights into your emotional, behavioral, and relational patterns in ways that you could never do on your own.

At some point too you will need a guide to support, encourage, and conduct you over significant thresholds. When the time comes, remember two things which are of the utmost importance. One, the most vital aspect of the healing process with your guide is the relationship. Two, take responsibility for choosing the right (not the easiest, not the most obvious, not always even the most difficult) material to work on and don’t waste any time. While you are practicing inner work on your own these two points still apply.

5. Finally, attitude – the way you approach inner work practice is crucial, because your success or failure depend on it. At the outset of an inner work session, ritualize your approach to your work. This ritual should be self-directed and it can be as simple or elaborate as you wish, but it should bring you to your inner work in a relaxed, alert, vibrant, and open state of heart and mind. So conscious relaxation, breathing, physical centering, lighting incense or a candle, preparing the room mindfully, bowing, stretching, humming, chanting, or bringing hands together in the prayer position are all appropriate examples. The important point is that the ritual has inner significance for you.

Richard Harvey is a psychotherapist, author, and spiritual teacher with thirty-five years of experience. He is the founder-director of Therapy and Spirituality, a personal and spiritual growth center in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Spain. He has helped thousands of people find greater peace and fulfillment in their lives through workshops, courses, training, and private therapy practice. Harvey lives in Granada, Spain. Visit him online at www.TherapyandSpirituality.com.

Your Essential Self can be found at your local independent book store, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, IndieBound, and Amazon.

From Your Essential Self by Richard Harvey. © 2013 by Richard Harvey. Used by permission from Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.,
www.Llewellyn.com  .

[1] Life statements are family beliefs either tacitly or explicitly expressed that we come to adhere to in early life and which serve as unconscious guidance in later life – until we start to examine them in inner work.

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