The Only Way Out, Is In

THE NIGHT SKY FADED FROM orange into purple, into blue, into darkness. The infinitesimal stars began to shine; the moon illuminated our steps along the edge of the cliff. After a weekend with some of my closest friends, it was down to just the two of us — brothers by choice.

We walked by others staring out to sea, taking in the cold evening under the shimmering stars. We walked like shadows, floating along. There’s something mystifying about the night; to walk under the light of the moon feels ancient — the norms of the day have faded.

I looked into the blackness and imagined the world as a rock not of this time, but from billions of years ago. Humans hadn’t yet evolved. But there was life. Unimaginable life. Forming, existing, waiting. Maybe for this day — today, to make a change.

It can feel like there are answers to questions just floating out there, perhaps that we’ll never hear or read or see. I can read as many books as I want, but books are just perspectives.

They’re helpful to understand what others have gone through, but in the end we have to turn inward to find the answers.

One can look into the depths of space and reflect on the depths of their soul — that’s where meaning exists, beauty exists, energy exists.

The unknown makes life a consistent search for meaning. Is meaning a single answer, or is it a way of being? If meaning is an answer, then the question might be: why are we really here?

If meaning is a way of being, we must ask: what does it mean to be alive? We walked from the edge of the cliff down to the shore. The stars of the night sky inspired us to wonder about existence, the kind of people we are, what life is all about.

We’ve pondered these philosophical ideas around the world —  The World. 

The word contains so much. 

Inner World. 

Outer World. 

All Comprising.

The answers to the questions never become any clearer. I don’t think they’re supposed to.

Maybe just being out there together looking up no matter where we are provides meaning in itself.

The world out there is the world in here. 

As we stood side by side, I felt profound gratitude for a weekend full of laughter and memories, for the love that my friends and I share, for the moment we were in. Gratitude simplifies things. I believe it’s the greatest medicine in the known universe.

When we feel grateful, we stop thinking about what’s next, what we don’t have, what’s missing in our lives. When we feel grateful, we stop searching, at least for a moment. I’m Proud of who I am. I’m Happy with where I’m going.

Help me give in any way that I can. Then, Let Go.

When I feel gratitude for all that I have — my friends, my family, my body, my mind, the love I feel for all things, the hope that each step of this journey will work out the way it’s meant to — there’s nothing else to search for. There’s nothing else even to be.

I brought up an idea I’d read about in the book Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy by the Indian mystic Sadhguru.

Thousands of years ago a Yogi appeared in the upper reaches of the Himalayas,

Sadhguru writes.

He came to be known as Adiyogi the first yogi. If we were to distill the essence of his wisdom in a few lines, it would be just this: Up and down, good and bad, sacred and profane: these are all assumed. But inward and outward: this is the one context we are sure of: The only way out is in. If you go outward, it is an endless journey. If you turn inward, it is just one moment. In that one moment, everything changes. In that one moment, you are not in pursuit of joy anymore. Instead, your life becomes an expression of your joyfulness.

This is the message behind the book, that how we feel inside dictates how we interact with the world. It doesn’t matter what happens on the exterior; if we’re joyful on the inside, then life becomes an expression of our joyfulness in any situation.

Fostering joy doesn’t mean you’re running in the streets hugging everybody, (it can, your call). It means living a life that’s interrelated with all things, even in the subtlest of ways. It means being fully human, a conscious spirit of the universe living your truth.

I’ve been grappling with this concept recently; I feel I always will. To reach a sense of unwavering inner joy is a lifelong pursuit. As long as we’re breathing, there is no end to the dance that is life.

We may keep dancing when we stop breathing, but while we’re here we have a decision to make. How will we make the world a more joyful place?

Whether joy is an innately “good” or “bad” emotion is a complex question. What if what brings someone joy is harmful to the planet, to others and to being itself? What are good and bad, really?

From the way I see it and how I increasingly strive to live my life, good is thinking bigger than the self. Good is striving to raise the overall level of peace and well-being from the ground up.

It’s feeling the pain of others; it’s feeling a sense of responsibility to make things right. Still, with this as the highest aim, we can be lured off course.

We are born as beings of light connected with others, with the planet, with the universe — but our mind can play tricks on us. We can easily become afflicted by the pressures of society and lose sight of what’s truly important.

To live in empathy is not some esoteric principle,

Sadhguru writes.

This is the way a human being is made. If you do not identify with anything you have accumulated over a period of time, including your body and mind, you will be able to experience this.

I can write about being good or bad all I want, but the words don’t matter if they don’t match how I act. I have best friends that I’m lucky to call my brothers.

Sometimes I don’t know how to put into words how lucky I am to have my friends. We’re on separate trajectories in life if we look at our paths by the standards of our culture: our jobs, our interests, our “success.” But if we look simply at how we’re growing, we’re all on the same plane.

Still, it’s tough to discuss these things because, even with friends, we often don’t know how to say: how are you growing these days? Or tell me what you’re truly feeling because I want to feel it too.

We’re not separate; we are one. The complexities of being human make it difficult to put into words what “good” and “bad” really are. If you cause harm to humanity and afflict pain on others — we can agree that that’s objectively bad.

But that pain had to come from somewhere. People who are in pain cause pain. I know from the bottom of my heart that the people I surround myself with are good. It’s an intrinsic feeling, and that’s what brings us together.

But is being good enough in this world? With so many other facets of being vying for our attention, it can feel like simply being good isn’t enough.

We may have to compete to get what we want, and that competition can bring out the worst in us. We start comparing, we want what others have, we may even see our friends as competition. We must make the conscious decision to never go down that route.

The book 12 Rules for Life by psychologist Jordan Peterson has given me some personal insights as I’ve grappled with the concepts of good and bad and what constitutes a meaningful life.

Take care with yourself. Define who you are. Refine your personality,

Peterson writes.

Choose your destination and articulate your Being. As the great nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche so brilliantly noted: 'He whose life has a why can bear almost any how.' You could help direct the world on its careening trajectory a bit more toward heaven and a bit more away from Hell. Once having understood Hell, researched it, so to speak - particularly your own individual Hell - you could decide against going there or creating that. You could aim elsewhere. You could, in fact, devote your life to this. That would give you a Meaning, with a capital M.

I believe being good in the world does provide the individual with meaning. It isn’t that we’re just searching for ways to be good (and we very well may be), but we’re doing what’s good in every adventure we embark on.

To be good is to be the best version of ourselves, whoever that might be. We want what others have because we think that will bring us joy. We compare ourselves to others because we believe they’ve reached a level of success that we should have. But that means we’re then seeking joy from the world, instead of from within.

Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who somebody else is today,

writes Peterson.

When we are very young we are neither individual nor informed. We have not had the time nor gained the wisdom to develop our own standards. In consequence, we must compare ourselves to others, because standards are necessary. Without them, there is nowhere to go and nothing to do. As we mature we become, by contrast, increasingly individual and unique. The conditions of our lives become more and more personal and less and less comparable with those of others. We must then rediscover the values of our culture - veiled from us by our ignorance, hidden in the dusty treasure-trove of the past - rescue them, and integrate them int our own lives. This is what gives existence its full and necessary meaning.

We have to make the conscious decision to follow our individual truth. We’re born with it; it’s always been there, yet who we are and what we’re meant to do becomes confused as we become integrated into society throughout our lives. But this doesn’t mean stop living.

It means, as Sadghuru writes, we must go inward. This will provide the adventure of a lifetime. The only way out, is in.

When we go in, we become magnetic to all living things. We are then able to stop looking, and see.

When you were in a pleasant inner state, you're naturally pleasant everyone and everything around you,

says Sadhguru.

No scripture or philosophy is needed to instruct you to be good to others. It's a natural outcome when you're feeling good within yourself. Your pleasantness is a surefire insurance for the making of a peaceful society in a joyful world.

When we find joy in ourselves and who we are, we can see the true nature of existence. We see life for what it is, a place without labels and self-imposed fear. We’re all connected in this world. When I’m with my friends, when I meet new people, when I pass strangers in the street, it’s not just me, it’s us.

How do we find pleasantness within, then? That’s the great journey of being, the individual pursuit of the depths of self as profound and real as the strongest friendship.

I ask these questions of myself; how do I find what I’m meant to do in this life? We sit and wait; we try and fail; we laugh throughout the process with the people we love —  the ones we make life worth it.

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