Voyage into the Inner Climate (2) – The Dance Between Inner and Outer

[Continued from Inner Climate Activism (1) – Activism in a new frontier]

Inner climate activism holds the inner and outer actions in a both/and relationship. The inner and outer are not set up as oppositional each other.

Rather, the inner is the foundation that supplies the outer action with power, and the outer is the expression that makes the inner visible and accessible by other people. The inner replenishes and renews itself continuously through its outer expression. The outer becomes amplified and expanded with its connection to the inner foundation.

The coordination between the inner and outer actions can be seen as a dance. If we accept that, then we enter the following inquiries. How should we choregraph this dance? What do we try to express through this dance? Are there movement motifs? Is there a rhythm to this dance? Imagine a group of people who are all coordinating such a dance between their inner and outer worlds, how should we collaborate with each other?

In order to dance back and forth between the inner and outer actions, one has to develop some new skills. These skills include the ability to fluidly switch one’s attention back and forth between the inner and outer, the perception of how the inner climate and outer actions influence each other, and the knowledge of how to adjust one’s inner climate to support one’s outer action, as well as how to take outer action to care for the inner climate. These are the skills that are currently being explored at the Inner Climate Lab, an experiment conducted at our institute.

Here I would like to share some simplest principles I have learned from my own experience. First principle is an unwavering commitment to a continuous process of self-transformation. I see every action I take as an experimentation through which I will gain deeper understanding of myself. Gradually, what motivates my action is no longer the obsession with external results, but a wellspring of drive for inner transformation. Paradoxically, as I release my fixation on the external results, I become more productive than I ever have been.

Someone once asked me, “Are you an activist?”

I asked, “What do you mean by activist?”

He said, “Someone who sets out to change the world.”

I replied, “If that is what activist means, then no, I am not an activist. My commitment is to change myself. When I change myself deeply enough, I often experience people, events and circumstances changing around me. Then change becomes a fun, learning adventure, rather than a mission to carry out.”

Sometime people criticize that this approach centered around self-transformation is a selfish approach. “It is all about ‘self’”! The critics say. A Self that is continuously working on integrating in its body, mind and soul is a gift to the world. The world needs more of that kind of Self, not less. Such Self always strives to engage the inner and outer world with delicate balance. I would stand up against any critics and say, “A Self like that is self-wise, not selfish!”

The second principle is aligning the inner sense of coherence as the “true north” of course of action. As we commit to the continuous process of self-transformation, a sense of inner coherence arises out organically. This coherence is an integration of all the dimensions of my inner landscape, biological instinct, somatic sensation, emotion, feeling, mind and soul. I don’t particularly privilege any dimension of them; however I have spent a long time to study each dimension of myself well enough that they feel like any instrument that I can play.

Then, given a particular circumstance, I can choose to compose my actions by using these instruments. Sometimes it is my soul that is the lead singer, with my mind as the base and emotion as the violin. Sometime my biological instinct shouts out as the drum beat and all other instruments give space to it. Sometime my heart takes its harp and plays a solo. Sometime my mind plays an action-packed duet with my soul … There can be endless permutations. I will play the “music” that I see fit for that circumstance.

The inner coherence is not an absence of incoherence. Instead, it threads through one episode of incoherence to anther like a necklace. Living with incoherence, paradox and tension are part of the process of constantly adjusting one’s course with the “true north.”

The third principle, perhaps the hardest, is trust. To shift the central principle of action away from the outer, demonstrable results, into this inner coherence, requires a tremendous amount of trust. Our civilization is full of distractions to drown out our sensitivity to our inner coherence. To attune inward often feels like salmon homing into the source stream in which it was born, out of the entire vast ocean. To follow our inner guidance often feels like swimming against the currents.

In my 11-year journey of homing into the “true north” of my inner landscape, I have faced so many moments when I felt like my world was coming to an end and I was about to lose everything I treasure in life. Yet living through those moments has endowed me with an ability to trust the grace in life. As I trust, that grace comes into my life more powerfully. Thus, I enter a generative cycle of power and abundance… When that happens, taking action even in today’s crisis-riddled world can be a joy!

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