What is the purpose of Introspection? Usually it is to gain new insights as to our past or our being. By gaining these things we are able to re-engineer ourselves into the image we see ourselves in. Whether this means being more focused, patient, enlightened, understanding – whatever. It is the examination of the Self through the past, and learning the details so as to make improvements as we see fit.
Learning through Introspection
In order to learn, we need to be able to recall clearly and accurately the past, and to analytically be able to understand the causality of what has occurred. Within this process we go through several stages such as
- Remembering – Rediscovery of the past
- Embracing – Acceptance of the events as it played out without trying to alter/change/rationalize
- Analysis – critical thinking about other choices and actions in likely similar scenarios
- Owning – Taking responsibility for the results, outcomes, or consequences
- Integration – Making it part of your new life choice habit, committing to change
- Forgiveness – Since its in the past, it cannot be changed, we can only forgive ourselves and do better going forward
The analysis requires an objective view and almost surgical like dissection of your feelings about these things. This is where you decide what parts you will keep, what parts you will discard, and above all – why you decide to either retain or abandon them. Beyond that should be the integration of any new conclusions you have reached, and then returning to living as you would with your new sense of perspective, codes, etc in place. I call this simply, Being.
Introspection of this kind (reflection and analysis) offers us the ability to make marked changes in our own behavior. To reshape how we currently define ourselves into that which we would rather see ourselves as. Ultimately, we are the ones who have to face ourselves in the mirror every morning. Of course, there is the choice not to progress – but I’ll leave that for another discussion altogether.
In the process of Remembering, however, there is the dangerous tendency to live within the moments of the past. As the past is a thing immutable and untouchable, to dwell there almost reveling in a time which you cannot return to nor change will only be counter-productive. Within that trap lies the way to reliving the same events over and over again because you yourself have not extended yourself beyond them. You are now caught in a seemingly endless cycle whose theme repeats itself in a loop of your own design – inadvertent or otherwise.
In the process of Reflection & Analysis we must be wary of the trap of staying too long, and perhaps rationalize everything into their own cubby-holes while ignoring the emotional impact that these events had upon you, as well as your comfort with your own decisions in the matters. Here we can often anesthetize ourselves to what causes us some degree of distress and accept the status quo for its comfort and familiarity. We give up our dream because we begin to realize that our feelings would demand change – and there is a certain innate fear most have to the prospect of change for it introduces the larger than life shadow of the unknown.
Of course, as in all things, a certain degree of movement is required. Stagnation or getting caught in your own traps is the way most are held up in their own progress. Just being aware of this allows you a certain advantage in avoiding some of the more basic pitfalls before you. The key, however, is the integration of it all. Remembering without releasing only leads to repetition. Reflection & Analysis without feeling only leads to delusion. It is the integration of these events and discoveries that allows the change to occur – but you cannot change if you do not live. That is where the Art of Being comes into play.
What is frequently called the Art of Being is the active participation in the present and being as aware as possible (not self-critical, aware). Allow me to give an example. While taking TaiChi lessons my instructor said something that really stuck with me. He said:
“Be aware of what you are doing, have a clear image in your mind and your body will follow; but never allow yourself to dwell on what you are doing. Let it go, let the moment come and pass you, for you cannot learn if you are not Doing. Be – do not just try – Be.”
They were some of the wisest words spoken. I was personally reminded of this when a friend told me that I was spending too much time “inside and reflecting”. She was right, I was – and I recalled my instructors words and snapped right out of that, fast, because the longer you linger the longer it takes to pull out of it again. Even worse, you have to sometimes retrace your steps and relearn so you can take the journey up again, although this time without being lost in the proverbial wilderness.
Some might argue that Being is a Passive state, not in a negative sense, but in the sense of openness to external influences. Furthermore, you may say that Living is the Active in the sense that you create your state of being. Whereas simple survival, or Existing, is rather more of survival state where the attitude becomes akin to just managing without participation nor necessarily neglect, a rather bare minimum effort required and acceptance of the status quo. I would also agree with these terms, although I consider the Art of Being to be more than passive – assuredly it is open, but it is participatory for it is indeed an art.
Existing, rather, is a state where you are being acted upon, drifting without any true examination of one’s responses nor reflecting so as to determine how you will integrate this later on. You are in a truly passive state where you are an object of the action of life. This is somewhat akin to those that feel someone else should be able to make them happy – and then becomes hostile towards or disappointed in the person who is unable to force that state upon them.
We are responsible for our own, be they emotions or actions, or the manner in which we assimilate and express them. Examining uncomfortable feelings or memories offers the opportunity to learn of undercurrents within life. It may not always be possible to control one’s emotions, but it is possible to understand and accept them – and in doing so there lies the opportunity to integrate and transmute them into something that assists both growth and healing. That is what I mean by introspection. True, it is often uncomfortable and painful – probably because it entails taking responsibility for one’s role and choices in any given situation, be they martyr, victim, savior, dupe, etc…
The Art of Being is to do what you would do, regardless. It is accepting yourself for who and what you are as you wish to be. You make the changes if you are uncomfortable with your past decisions, or you change your attitude about yourself. Either way, you make the change and you STOP dwelling – but make the movement to leap forward and take active participation in life again. This may mean different things for some. Personally, I work, go to the museums or galleries, compose my music, listen to a few performances, practice TaiChi, read, and write… lots of writing. But while doing these things I am fully engaged. I am feeling with all of my senses extended and my focus is within that moment. Right then, nothing else exists. The Art of Being becomes not just a theory, but the way you live as fully as possible, and to the extent you can.
From that point, you have moved forward.
In essence, we can state that Being is the end result of reflection and introspection as the integration and acceptance of one’s feelings, motivations, and history and taking an active participation in the life you lead and the in shaping of yourself. We are the amalgamation of our experiences at any given point in our lives – whether or not we are willing to accept responsibility for what we are may be another story altogether.
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