23 Apr There’s Nothing We Must Prove to the World to Show How Much We’re Growing
A POINT IN THE SKY, a single spot, seems boundless. We can look into the sky and see a pale shade of blue, as subtle and striking as a budding spring flower.
Within the limitations of a flower petal lays the vast expanse of sky, for they share the same shade. Yet, they’re different, as we may look into the sky and envision what we might become — infinite, too.
When entranced by a flower’s acute and confined beauty, we may connect with what we already are — beautiful, grounded, enough.
Still, it often feels like we must be more.
We’re told to shoot for the stars; aim high; spread our wings to soar. So perhaps we do, hoping that we might reach previously unimaginable heights. But what if we miss our mark and fall back down to Earth?
What if we never spread our wings at all? Then we’d simply be back where we started, as beautiful and gentle as a pale blue flower.
Why do I write about flowers and the sky so much? Because they make me happy. The majesty of nature helps me to simplify by turning inward to ask myself what matters.
The macro and the micro, the sky and a flower, and then me — drifting in between in ceaseless curiosity.
There’s something meaningful within a flower, as its growth, as slight as it might be, inspires me to stop and wonder. There’s purpose in feeling grounded, content, grateful for what is without the need to keep expanding.
There’s nothing to prove, for our spirit, that which we share with the sky and the flora of the Earth, is already boundless. All we must do, is realize this.
The Two Forces Within Us
The sky seems to expand continually on a dark night where there’s no light to bring us back down to Earth.
The light that emanates from our cities and cars dulls the lights in the sky and confines us. It’s as if we aren’t boundless, spiritual beings, but constrained by our material limitations.
We don’t like to feel restricted — like there’s nowhere to move, a limit to what we can do. So we try to do more, believing we aren’t enough already.
To show the world that we are enough, we strive for more things, better things, a better body, a better career, a better relationship.
There are two basic forces in you,
writes the mystic Sadhguru in Inner Engineering: A Yogi’s Guide to Joy, a book that has inspired me tremendously.
Most people see them as being in conflict. One is the instinct of self-preservation, which compels you to build walls around yourself to protect yourself. The other is the constant desire to expand, to become boundless. These two longings - to preserve and to expand - are not opposing forces, though they may seem to be. They are related to two different aspects of your life. If you have the necessary awareness to separate the two, there is no conflict.
Limiting Self-Preservation to the Physical
As physical human beings, we are finite. Unlike the depths of space, we have a beginning and an end — an end we can’t foresee with perfect clarity. But knowing it’s there causes us to use our time, perhaps even use it well, to make something of ourselves.
But what am I trying to make? Is it the best me I can be, or is it the best me, based on what I see? What we experience when we want what others have is a physical type of boundlessness. Yet Sadhguru says:
Self-preservation needs to be limited to the physical body.
Instead of striving for more material wealth, we simply must preserve in the physical sense. If it was that easy, we’d all be healthy, wealthy, and wise!
At a certain point in our lives, if we’re lucky, we start believing we can shape our own existence. It’s an awakening, a genuine sense of freedom that comes from realizing we have something unique to give to the world.
So we begin building. That desire to become something goes hand in hand with being responsible for our future.
What I’ve been grappling with is the line that separates the ability to seek joy, growth, and innate fulfillment and the need to prove something to the world.
That line can get blurry rather quickly, especially in our modern day where it feels mandatory to create a persona on social media that represents who we are, what we’re doing with our time, and how we’re moving through life.
The Burnout Generation
In her book Can’t Even: How Millennials Become The Burnout Generation, writer and journalist Anne Helen Petersen says that one of the biggest challenges in the internet age is the illusion that doing it all isn’t just possible, but it’s mandatory.
She writes that the biggest cause of burnout for millennials today is the continuous failure to reach the impossible expectations we’ve set for ourselves.
We work hard to keep up with others doing the same, yet they’re likely just trying to keep up as well. We’re stuck in this mode of grinding without a breath to stop and look around and ask why we’re striving to reach a goal that might not even be our own.
When we must simply preserve in the physical sense, we continually seek more. It’s tiring to always try and get ahead. Maybe we don’t have to.
Our Boundless Soul
Our soul longs to expand, and this desire manifests itself in a way that strives to prove to the world that it’s growing.
Where does this need to expand and constantly improve come from? It’s as if we are constantly trying to prove something to ourselves, but perhaps more so and subconsciously, to others.
We want to discover what we’re truly capable of if we give this thing called life everything we have. We’re creatures that defy odds. We strive to prove that we have what it takes. But to do what? To make the most money, get the most done, attain the most followers?
If we don’t show the world how we’re getting ahead, it’s easy to feel lost, like what we’re doing isn’t worthwhile. Yet, only we know if we’re truly flourishing from the inside out.
That’s what I believe Sadhguru means when he says:
If you are identified with the physical, then instead of working in collaboration, these two fundamental forces become a source of tension.
Who am I, really, and what does it take to get the best out of myself without feeling like I’m just trying to keep up, to prove that I’m enough, to prove that I can, too, be boundless?
I don’t want to keep up. I don’t want to have to prove that I can keep feeding the machine. I don’t want to have to feel the need to prove my inner worth through physical means.
You shouldn’t either.
Woven into your being is who you truly are; there is nothing you must prove to yourself to realize this. Our soul wants to grow — and it must. Spiritual growth will naturally manifest itself in the physical world through the glint in your eye, the energy you exude, and the peace you feel. You don’t have to prove anything.
You are already enough.
Our Soul Expands Through Every Challenge
It’s logical to believe we’re stuck when we haven’t found the answers to what might make life truly rewarding, when we aren’t making the same progress in the material world as our friends and those on social media, and when we aren’t getting the breaks we believe we deserve.
But we aren’t stuck.
Just because our outer world may not look perfect doesn’t mean we’re not progressing. According to Vishen Lakhiani in his book The Buddha and the Badass, we must first focus on our inner world if we want to better understand the outer world we live in. He writes:
There is our outer world, which is shared with other humans. We place so much emphasis on regimenting and ordering this outside world. But we also have our inner world inside our own heads. It's our hopes, fears, aspirations, dreams, and daily cascade of emotions. This world for most people is completely unstructured, messy, and disorganized.
To attain balance a person must bring order to this inner world. This requires knowing what this world consists of and having clear intentions for what you want to experience in this inner world before you go after getting them in your outer world.
What is it that you truly want to do with your time? What will help you develop your inner world that’s meaningful and brings you joy, fulfillment, and peace?
Is it taking more time away from technology to think deeply about what you love? Is it spending more free time doing creative work? Truly think about it, because I am too. Lakhiani continues:
This means refusing to buy into the lie of hard work. Replace it with this: The Soul's Experience on Earth Is Not Meant for Hard Work and Toil. It's Meant for Freedom, Ease, and Expansion.
We’re not machines. Sometimes it’s necessary to grind away because we’re sincerely inspired, or there’s work that must be done. But there are also times when we must take our foot off the pedal to rest, to look up at the sky and wonder for a while.
Our soul is growing every day if we allow it to, in both scenarios.
The only way to not burn out is to realize this, to appreciate it, and to let go of pursuing material wants like everybody else. I’ll strive to do the same; we’re on this journey of growth together.
There is nothing to prove.