Cultivating Inner Life

We often ask ourselves, “Who am I really?” “How can I cultivate an inner life?”

Am I my emotions, my desires, my roles, my dreams? Somehow the answers that come up don’t ring true. Is there something more that is really me? How can I discover who I really am?

Pondering these questions has led me to be more aware of what is happening in the world around me. How do I fit in? I discovered that I am affected by what’s happening to me in the world around me. While, at the same time, I also have a vast inner life that is just as real and affects the quality of my life.

Reaching for our inner life
Reaching higher and discovering possibilities

Observing and Cultivating my Inner Life

Inner life, although it is always there, needs to be observed and cultivated. My inner life was a vast unknown territory. However, I felt that within lay the true meaning of my life. Thus, I began my work of inner discovery.

At first glance I saw that I was living mostly on the surface. My thoughts and feelings dominated what affected my external life. As a surface “liver”, I was continuously batted around by one reaction after the other. For example, surface living was an irritation and a dose of frustration, followed by criticism of someone else. Usually this was followed by a thought of shame or a feeling I was right.

And this rocky ride was accompanied by my mental dialogue. It was always jabbering away, interpreting what was happening and how I should feel about it. It seemed to me that this mental drone was what life was. Simply because I hadn’t looked beyond these surface movements, I assume that this is who I was. I needed to look deeper to find real answers. Not knowing my authentic self produced a great loneliness inside that nothing outside me could fill.

Awareness of the Inner Depths

Looking within began my work on spiritual unfolding. I yearned to know myself and my life more deeply. I wanted to look beyond the surface movements of my mind and find my inner depth. This can lead me to discover my real self.

How to explore my inner life? I felt that this was equivalent to jumping off a little dingy floating through the surface of a vast ocean of life. I needed to jump into the unknown depth that was the real me. Where to start? In this search, I have found the spiritual path of Cafh. Cafh offers a guide to finding my inner work. This inner work is focused on expanding my consciousness and assisting all humankind.

The Method presented by Cafh is an external one. However, it is based on self-knowledge and self-control. Self-knowledge and self-control work together resulting in the expansion of consciousness. When I do spiritual practices externally in my life, it produces a change in my inner life. And in turn, this inner change affects how I live. 

Cafh offers practices that can be performed in daily life which enrich inner life. These practices are not performed to make us better people, although this may be a byproduct. They are done with inner unfolding in mind, as well as the unfolding of humanity. It also meets a real need to relieve my own suffering and that of all human beings.  

Using Meditation to Explore Inner Life

The meditation exercise is one of the Cafh practices that has helped me to explore my inner life. Meditation is how I discovered the vast previously unrecognized inner depth where my authentic-self dwells. I discovered potential there that I hadn’t imagined before.

As long as I remained on the surface, I responded to life with my habitual personality. As I matured into adulthood, my thoughts, desires, feelings, and direction were determined by my conditioning, upbringing, and education. I had learned to be a “good person”, at least as defined by my culture. Was that my real being.

The meditation exercise helped me to find my real being. I learned that I have an inner life. This inner life has a great effect on how I experience life. And, above all, this is something that I could learn to influence and control.

What is inner life? How can I discover it? The fact is that not all of us know how to explore inner life on our own. When we search within, we find ourselves in unknown territory that sometimes confuses us.   

Please, don’t give up when you encounter confusion. This is just the beginning. Realizing that inner life is not limited to some movements of our mind and our heart is a very important step. Thoughts and feelings guide and direct, but as I discovered, they don’t come from my authentic self.

Working with Thoughts and Feelings

My thoughts and feelings not only came from my conditioning, but they are also self-centered. My habitual attitude was me, mine, and myself. This was very limiting to my state of consciousness. When I remained in this restricted realm of consciousness, I was unable to discover who I really am. I am relentlessly tossed around by the ups and downs of my daily experiences and my reactions to them. Seeing beyond my habitual self-centered approach to life, I needed to go deeper into myself. Who I really am was the hoped for result, my authentic self. And this authentic self is not my self-centered self. It is much more than that.

As an explorer of inner life, I learned that personal objectives, those which have driven me since I was two years old, are no longer enough. Personal values are the ones that are used to identify and maintain my separate existence. This perception is that everything needs to be mine and under my control. It may give me a feeling of safety, but it limits the perception of what is around me. This perception is reinforced by habitual thoughts and feelings. These thoughts and feelings form a personal identity.

This understanding opened a greater understanding of not only who I am, but who I am not.

Meditation as Priority to deepening into our inner life
Simple Seated Meditation

Finding New Viewpoints and Changing Behavior

When identity is no longer limited to my thoughts, feelings, and actions of putting myself first, I expand my viewpoint. I become aware that there is much more to life than just me. It doesn’t take much humility to confirm this. Just take an honest look. It’s not just about me. This understanding helped transcend this personal perspective to include more than just me in my awareness.

Going beyond my habitual, conditioned personality was taking me into new territory. I needed to stay open when searching for the real source of my being. I wasn’t sure where I was going and what I was looking for. Going beyond my personality required work.

Going Beyond the “Me”

Keeping this in mind, I thought about how I would like to be. I looked at people I admired to see what made them admirable. Some of the values I have found are kindness, gratitude, generosity, deep listening, and silence. There are many more. These are just a few I would like to focus on. I invite you to choose some of your own to direct your search for who you want to be.

We are all different. Each of us yearns to embrace spiritual love throughout our lives in unique and individual ways. There are no right or wrong answers. There are no answers at all. What is important are the questions, and not knowing, just going in the direction you know is right for you.

How does this look in my life? For example, I get a call from my coworker with a complaint about something that went wrong. An immediate response could be, “It’s not my problem. Fix it yourself.” Is that how I want to respond based on the values I want to pursue. A kind response could be, “Tell me about it. It sounds important to you.” A generous response could be, “How can I help?” This may sound like good manners. However, it is not only good manners. It is a shift in my inner being toward a more expansive vision.

Finding Transcendent Meaning in Simple Acts

Finding transcendent meaning in daily life is usually simple and often goes unnoticed. For example, I come home from work tired from a stressful day. Then I remember, it’s my turn to cook dinner. Inside, I think. “This is too much. I just want to vent my problems. Let’s order out.”

Another approach could be to stop and recognize this attitude. Is this what I want to think and do? What am I creating with this attitude? What is a more conscious and loving way to respond? Setting aside my noisy mind and irritated feelings allowed me to think of others. I think of those who I am preparing a meal for. I offer them my best and put love into this simple task. Not only do I nourish my loved ones, I feel better than if I had sat down and complained about my day. I have created a response that includes those I love in this simple task.

Finding Inner Strength

With this daily effort to expand my consciousness, I found an inner strength I wasn’t aware of before. This inner strength was not the same as having a strong will. With a strong will I could focus my attention and energy in fulfilling a task. Strengthening my will is important as it enabled me to fulfill the exercises I had chosen. In turn, fulfilling these exercises strengthened my will. This strength is necessary for me to persevere through hard and dry times.

Along with a strong will, I needed the inner strength to keep my principles in mind and respond to difficult circumstances. My spiritual ideal did not remain dormant. Once tapped into it gave me energy and vision.

Strong Woman holding the jaws of the lion closed

This is symbolized by the Tarot Card Strength. The original name for this card was Cafh. It is an image of the strong women holding a lion’s jaws closed. The lion is a symbol of strength, but it is raw physical energy or actions based on passions. The woman symbolizes a higher spiritual strength which manifests itself through means other than physical.

What kind of strength is this? Where does it come from.

What kind of strength is this? Where does it come from?

Delving into the depths within, I found this inner strength is there when I surrender to it. It comes when I am aware that I live in a larger context that is beyond my limited reality. I challenge you to remember times when you found this strength to face a difficult situation. It is to know that whatever happens, I can take it. It is an opportunity to learn and to offer this learning to others who will experience similar situations.

What are some of the ways I can discover my inner life? How can I tap into my inner strength?

What gets in the way of tapping into my inner strength is identifying and putting aside old ideas. I had mistaken these outdated ideas for who I was. There are opinions and world views that I don’t question. I think they are me, not just ideas. Because I was conditioned to have them from an early age, they were difficult to leave aside. It felt like cutting off an arm, instead of ripping off a band aid. It sounds funny now, but who am I really? I’m still finding out.

Being at peace with the search

Meditation and contemplation have helped me to come to peace with this search. What felt like cutting away, is really an opening up to a deeper self. And there is no quick fix. Walking in nature, sitting in silence and deep conversations with my spiritual companions helps me along the way. Using these practices, I was able to find a stillness within. This stillness is pregnant with possibilities.

Artwork can be a means to discovering our inner life.
artwork by Delia Tolz

There are many ways to find stillness. For example, to help you on the way, another source of inspiration is a book, “Awakening: An Illustrated Search for Meaning.” In it, Delia Tolz shares her journey of inner discovery through colored pencil drawings of signs on the inner road. With the drawings there is a prayer or a verse. This is accompanied by a daily exercise and open-ended questions to stimulate inner reflection. It’s not a recipe for perfection. It is simply a map of inner life made by her reflective drawings. It is up to each one of us to use them as we find what works for us.

I was drawn to the book by her drawing called “From Within” and the prayer that accompanied it. With her permission, I put it here:

“Going into my heart to listen,

Responding to the life within.”

You can contact Delia Tolz: [email protected]. And yes, her book, “Awakening: An Illustrated Search for Meaning” is available on Amazon. There is also a Spanish version if you are interested.

A Worthwhile Journey

I wish you luck on your inner journey. Take some time to sit and listen to what is going on inside. You can use meditation techniques to help you focus your thoughts and guide you on your journey. The journey may not be easy, but it is worthwhile, not only for yourself but for all of us on the path of spiritual unfolding. I wish you love and strength to sustain you.

About the Author(s)

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Diana Autumn lives in a spiritual community in Southern California. She likes trees, walking and being with friends.