by Berenice Boxler.

I look out the window and I see the forest I walked through this morning. Nature currently offers so much colour and life, texture and abundance. In the garden the flowers come out or have already passed into the next stage of their season.

There are so many exciting things to look at, whether in nature, in people‘s faces, on television, on vacation. Usually we humans are so immersed in the outside that an introspection seems strange and unnecessary at first. In all my classes and workshops I regularly notice frowning and incomprehension, especially at the beginning: „Why should I close my eyes and feel how my body is breathing? Why should I want to observe my thoughts and feelings?“

Life in the outside

The visual sense is so strong that we constantly look outward. There is nothing wrong with that, that’s how we grow up and that‘s how life is: colourful, diverse, attention-grabbing, constantly on the move. However, there is sometimes an over-stimulation. When my kids are constantly jumping around, I feel stressed out. And if they are fidgeting at the dinner-table, then I don‘t taste the food anymore. But others are less sensitive than me, for sure. Nevertheless, I notice that through my eyes I constantly send new stimuli to my brain and thus it can never come to rest.

Life on the outside can also be enormously exhausting, if we always check the outer world not only with the eyes but also mentally: What do the others think of me? How do I look? How should I present myself in order to be accepted? It easily happens that one‘s own life becomes a role by using this filter of outside perception of oneself and it moves us further and further away from how life actually is. This outward orientation is instilled, socially conditioned and an expression of the fundamental human desire to belong.

Why look inside?

If this outward orientation becomes the only measure of life, then at some point a quiet voice inside may whisper: „And me? What about me?“ It does not have to be that way, many are happy with their lives or have simply settled into their world and their habits. That‘s totally fine – but for some it is not enough.

In mindfulness practice you learn to observe the inner landscape. And this is immensely rich: thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, impulses, cravings … Life is so exciting when we open ourselves to everything that is here: outside AND inside of us.

And why should we look inside? Because the inside, our thought patterns and drives, our emotions, and also our present state of the body – all this determines what we do and how we do it. It determines how much someone annoys us or how intensively we receive a kind gesture. It influences how we feel and allows us to understand why we are doing what we are doing. And from this arises the choice for an action that will be more meaningful and helpful than any unconscious impulse.

The only control we have is about ourselves

Life outside cannot be controlled or completely planned. But would it not be nice to know the inner life and learn to control this? Almost all participants struggle to find time for formal mindfulness practice. It often takes a while for the understanding of the „why“ to develop – and usually a little longer until a conviction forms that these 2, 5, or 15 minutes of regular introspection are so deeply enriching and very helpful for daily life.

Jane Fulton Alt, an American photographer, says, „We need to go inward instead of outward, and learn to trust our own inner guide, preserving our identity and finding the answers from within.“

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