How To Navigate Internal Space Whilst External Space Is On Lockdown
If We Don’t Know Where We Are Internally, Then We’re At Danger Of Getting Lost
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We all know which way is up: It’s the opposite of down!
Left, right, sideways, 90°, clockwise… we all know what these mean.
If you are going west, for example, you understand which way you’re going in the external world. But mentally, in your internal world, do you know which way you’re going? You could be on your way to the happiest place in the world, but it won’t matter if you are going in the opposite direction in your internal world.
External Space VS. Internal Space
We have little to no trouble navigating and finding our way in the external world (the world of matter). But in Internal space; the realm of thoughts and feelings, navigation can be a little more challenging…
Why? I’m not so sure. Perhaps it’s because the complexity of our brains (AKA consciousness) is a relatively new evolutionary addition for us. After all, the first human ancestor is thought to have emerged about 5.8 million years ago, but homo sapiens only appeared about 195,000 years ago!
In the grand scheme of things, we’ve been navigating physical space for a lot longer than we have been navigating our own minds. At least to the degree that we are now.
In physical space, you know where you are thanks to contextual clues. If you are driving down a road, there might be signs to tell you which way to go. Or, even more basic, you know which direction the sun sets and rises in, so you can decipher which way you are going and even what time it is.
The same is true of Internal space. There are contextual clues for this world too, only we’re not really taught what they are... If we don’t know where we’re at internally, then we’re at danger of getting lost. Tragically, many of us get lost and lose hope to the point of taking our own lives, and it’s becoming more frequent amongst younger people today.
But knowing where you are situated in Internal space isn’t just for making sure you don’t get lost. It’s also for orientating your mind and soul in the direction that you want to go in. Or at least, in a direction you think you might like to go in. I don’t think it’s about knowing the destination, but rather, it’s about deciding which direction looks the most promising to you.
The Casualties Of A Modern World Which Neglects Internal Space
When you become deeply mentally distressed, the common response is awkwardness… people aren’t really sure how to act. They’ll leave you alone to ‘figure your shit out’. Some people (the most empathetic of us) will try their best to help you of course. But more often than not, the people around you are of little help.
Why? Because you’re lost in a place they’ve never been to. How can they guide you any better than you can? It’s like if you called your friend and asked them to give you directions in a city they’ve never set foot in. It might calm your nerves to hear a familiar voice, but they can’t help you.
I’m not saying everyone is useless. There are people who can relate to you, and who have traversed very similar mental terrain. Those people can actually help, but they’re rare… When I found one, I married her!
But why should they be so rare? It seems that mental health and internal space are not all that important to the modern man… We only have to look at the climate crisis or increasing suicide rates to see evidence of this. For a man who is truly aware of both external and internal space understands the fundamental need for balance and sustainability.
Things are changing for the positive of course, I don’t mean to be depressing! Mental health awareness, mindfulness, and research into alternative treatments such as psilocybin and MDMA are making huge strides. I am optimistic that things are progressing in a way that will see overall self-awareness and knowledge increase substantially.
I could write twelve articles about this (and I might), but let’s move on to what we can do here and now to better understand and navigate Internal space.
How To Better Understand And Navigate Internal Space
Illustration By Lemon Mingyue
You’ve been in internal space for most of your life, so lesson one: there is no better guide than you.
Others will help and provide useful information, but it is up to you to take that information on board and make sense of it within your own context.
It must also be said: I am by no means an expert. I am simply a humble traveller of my own inner space, hoping to help others… this is what I do, take from it what you will.
The Gateway To Internal Space: Rituals
Rituals are performed in external space. However, they are what bind external space to internal space. When I practice meditation, which we will talk about in a minute, I light a candle and bow to a statue of Buddha. This is a psychical primer, a kind of portal into internal space. It is the manifestation of internal space in external space. It is me, giving up any pride or ego and giving myself up to this ritual and practice.
The candle has no real significance, neither does the statue. It could be a plastic Minion toy from McDonald’s, it doesn’t matter. Though what a disturbing sight that would be…
The point is, there is a rhythm and a pace to it that I repeat every day. This ritual is my own personal gate to my own kingdom of heaven. It is my own sacred performance to myself: my acknowledgement of the sacred nature of what I am trying to do.
Because Internal space is sacred space. It is the dwelling of God. But you needn’t call it God if that word has too many negative associations for you. Call it whatever you want! I call it the essential nature, as I discovered it by studying Zen Buddhism. But in truth, it has no name or form, but we must give it one temporarily in order to discuss it.
If you want to learn more about rituals, then I also have an article on them here.
The first thing I must say about meditation is this: it is not about gain, it is about loss. And if you do it for long enough, it becomes about nothing at all.
Think of it like this: if your internal self is carrying around a giant rucksack full of delusions and useless junk, then how are you to make any progress in navigating internal space?
Meditation is a tool for letting go. It is a tool to aid you to return to your most essential self, to stop grasping onto thoughts and concepts as if they were your identity. They are not. You don’t need to chase after every thought and emotion, you don’t need to let your mind wander aimlessly through internal space, tumbling down hills and into valleys…
Not only does meditation release mental baggage, but it can help you to create stillness in your internal space. Meaning, you can asses where you are, and where you might like to go. It is not about stopping thoughts or emotions, it is not about destroying the ego… it is about letting go and just being. That’s it. You might need to think about some emotional trauma during meditation, or you might need to ask yourself questions. That’s okay. Other times you will foster a completely blank mind… there is no goal. There is no point.
Not to mention, there is a lot of evidence out there to suggest that meditation has a myriad of health benefits such as: reducing blood pressure, symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression, and insomnia.
A 2009 study conducted by Joshua Grant and Pierre Rainville at the department of psychology at the University of Montreal, studied the effects of heat-induced pain on a group of people who practised Zen meditation, and a group who didn’t practice any kind of meditation. They found that Zen meditators have lower pain sensitivity and experience analgesic effects during mindful states.
If you are interested in learning more about the most powerful tool you have at your disposal, then I have an article which should prove a useful guide (I hope). You can read it here.
Photo By Author
Sitting down for a specific period of time is formal meditation. You are taking a specific moment to be present.
Informal meditation is the exact same thing, only you are doing it moment to moment throughout your day.
The practise of mindfulness and meditation does not stop once you stop meditating. If we are to truly be connected with internal space and navigate it mindfully, then we must keep it in mind. What does that mean?
“I’ve got shit to do man! I can’t be thinking of one thing all the time!”
Ah! But keeping something in mind doesn’t mean thinking about it. You are not your thoughts good sir! This is the spiritual work of meditation. Once you remove your bum from the cushion, you will be tempted to run after this thought… run after that feeling… But if you take your meditative practice with you, then you will maintain more focus, self-awareness and clarity.
When I speak of the mind, I am not necessarily talking about your thinking mind. I am also talking about your body, your ‘soul’, your heart… I’m talking about your deepest self, not your ‘monkey mind’.
So informal meditation is not about thinking “stay in the moment, don’t wander, don’t wander…”. If you do that then you will create the opposite effect. Informal meditation is just writing a footnote at the bottom of the page that is you*.
*Once my mind indulges itself with delusions and useless thoughts and concepts, I will bring it back to the present, I will bring it back to the feeling of now.
If you maintain this practice, you will train yourself not to waste energy and only think when you truly need to. You will also feel much more peaceful and much more aware of yourself and others.
Photo By Author
Internal space can be tricky… but it needn’t be. You can foster habits and practices which will help you to explore this space. Your mind is a powerful force, it is generating the reality around you as you read this! Your senses are sending signals to your brain which is processing those signals and creating your reality!
Learn to better understand this internal realm of wonders and you will better understand the nature of reality itself, for it is here that it is created.
This article was originally published by Vincent kavanagh on medium.
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