Oct. 20, 2020

Living from the Inside Out (Part 2/2)

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Do you find yourself easily triggered by the events in your life and feeling overwhelmed by the noise of the world? 

In last week's episode, I explained with the help of an analogy using the avocado fruit, the three layers of living life. 

In today's episode, I'm going to take a closer look at these three layers of living, how they affect one another and what the implications are for our interior journey. 

Share this episode via this episode page.


(00:00:43) - Recap
(00:01:29) - A Closer Look at the 3 Layers
(00:04:27) - The Wagon Wheel Analogy
(00:07:29) - Signs of Living from the Outside-In
(00:13:54) - Story: Maximilian Kolbe
(00:16:12) - The Process of Integration
(00:17:58) - PRAXIS: Listen. Ponder. Act
Available here.

Available here.

- As you listened to the descriptions of living from the outside-in and living from the inside-out, what struck you?
- How did it make you feel?

Choose one thing that struck you most in this episode.
- Why do you think this point matters to you?
- Can you connect it with your own life experience?

Identify something in the outermost layer of your life that is affecting you deeply.
- Allow yourself to listen to what you actually feel about this thing. Give yourself permission to feel what you feel and try and name your emotion.
- In your journal, write this question down, “I wonder why I feel this way?”
- List down whatever might come to mind.

Download Wagon Wheel Reflection Prompt
More about Viktor Frankl and "Man's Search for Meaning"
More about St. Maximilian Kolbe


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Do you find yourself easily triggered by the events in your life and feeling overwhelmed by the noise of the world?

Welcome to Becoming Me, your podcast companion and coach in your journey to a more integrated and authentic self. I am your host Ann Yeong, and I'm here to help you grow in self-discovery and wholeness. If you long to live a more authentic and integrated life and would like to hear honest insights about the rewards and challenges of this journey, then take a deep breath, relax and listen on to Becoming Me.

[00:00:43] RECAP
Hello again dear listeners! Welcome to episode five of the Becoming Me podcast. This is the second part to a two-part topic on living from the inside out. In last week's episode, I explained with the help of an analogy using the avocado fruit, the three layers of living life. 

As I hope you would recall, the top-most layer of the avocado is analogous to the outermost layer of our experiences. 

The middle layer of the avocado – its flesh – is analogous to our interior experiences of emotions, thoughts, and inner physical sensations. And the inner most layer of the avocado, which is its pit is analogous to our inner most layer, which is our soul. 

In today's episode, I'm going to take a closer look at these three layers of living, how they affect one another. And what the implications are for our interior journey. If I asked you to think of some adjectives to describe the external circumstances of your life, such as what happens from day to day in your work, your family, or the national and international events that are happening around you – what would some of these words be? If we just think about this year, the year 2020, perhaps some adjectives that would come to mind would be unpredictable, unstable, stressful.

Many of us have had our routines up-ended, our sense of stability wrecked and to a great extent we have been forced to face an unknown future without any certain answers about when the pandemic will end. 

While this year has been particularly illustrative about how unpredictable and sudden grave changes can be launched into our lives, the truth is that life on this outermost layer has always been and will always be unpredictable. And for the most part also out of our control. We may still be in varying stages of denial about this fact. 

But in our hearts, we know it is true, don’t we? So, let's just say for now that some characteristics about the outer layer of living are that it is unpredictable, often unstable and often beyond our control.

The middle layer of our interior experiences is the layer that serves as the bridge between our exterior experiences and our inner most core. When our environment and situation consist mostly of positive affirming stimuli, such as when things are going well for us,

our emotions are generally positive. But when negative stimuli appear in our environment such as in this year, it is only natural that our emotions would become more negative as would our thoughts. 

In actual fact, the emotions and thoughts and inner sensations that occur in this middle layer are multi-faceted, nuanced and dynamic. But it requires our attention, patience and skill to be able to read our own interior experiences accurately. 

Most of the time, if our conscious attention is directed outwards towards the external layer. We only pick up generalities about our interior landscape. What happens then is that we only notice something important is going on when something explodes in our middle layer, or if there is an emotion of great amplitude.

Such as the example I gave in the last episode of the Friday evening I had with my husband. It was only when I snapped and had the meltdown that it really struck me that I was not doing okay.

Now the inner most layer of our core, which I also refer to as our soul and the ground of our being is the most stable of the three layers. Our core is like the fulcrum around which the other two layers are meant to turn. Imagine for a moment, an old wagon wheel, you know, the kind with a hub in the middle. 

And spokes that connect the hub to the rim. And the rim makes up the circumference of the wheel. Well, our core is the hub in that center. And the middle layer of our interior experiences are the spokes and the outermost layer of what is happening in our lives. Well, that would be the rim of the wheel. 

Now when that wheel is turning, when the wagon is moving, the rim of the wheel moves the greatest distance. And the hub, even though it turns, remains in the same place. 

Our core is the place from which we can know our identity and purpose. But it is the least accessible to us from the methods that we are most familiar with. So it is that the most mysterious of the three layers is our core and it is like a buried treasure. It requires a sustained commitment from us in order for it to be discovered and known. 

This is true in our relationships with other people as well. We can make a quick assessment based on what we see about another person on the surface, what they do, how they look at cetera. But it takes a real investment in time, energy and a willingness to be mutually vulnerable for us to really get to know someone.

How often does this happen nowadays? When everyone wants instant information and instant answers. Not enough! Some things are great to have access to fast, but all the science and technology in the world cannot change this, that to know ourselves or another person in a deep and meaningful way requires sustained and loving attention, plenty of patience, and a willingness to be surprised. 

Our core is stable. It is also deep. And as a saying, I know goes, "The soul likes slow". While our senses may like to be stimulated and excited, our souls love silence. And stillness. And depth.

Sometimes when we have been living too long on the surface and have been too inundated with its stimuli, we experience burnout, don't we? Our bodies might be screaming at us through different symptoms that we need a break, our tempers could be flaring, or we could be inching further and further into depression. 

These are ways I think that our souls try to tell us that we need to slow down. That we need quiet and stillness in order to be well. 

So now that we have taken a closer look at the three different layers, let's look at some signs that we are living from the outside in and how different that is from the signs that we are living from the inside out.

When I say living from the outside in, I refer to what happens when we let the outermost layer of our lives be our commander and leader. Here are some signs that we are living from the outside in. 

One, we find ourselves constantly reacting to what is happening around us. Instead of being able to respond thoughtfully, calmly and purposefully.

We find our emotions and thoughts are chaotic and that we have little control over them. Because our inner world is being led by the unstable, unpredictable and oversaturated stimuli that inundates us from the outside.

So often the decisions and choices that we make a knee-jerk reactions. We react and make choices without much thought because we are so stressed and everything is urgent. 

There is a beautiful quote from the book Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. The quote goes "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." Let me repeat that. "Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."

When we have been living too much on the surface layer without entering the deeper layers of ourself, we always find that we hardly have any space between stimulus and response. When we are constantly simply reacting to stimuli, instead of responding, we are deeply unhappy because we do not act with interior freedom. 

To grow in interior freedom requires us to make the interior journey. That constant reacting instead of being able to respond. That was the first sign that we're living from the outside in.

Two, we constantly feel overwhelmed and that we cannot catch up. Like the rim of the wagon wheel, when we are at the surface layer of our lives, we experience it as just one, never ending list of to-dos.

So many things demand our attention and often demand our attention right now. There are things that are part of our responsibilities to do, but there also seems to be a never-ending stream of distractions that demand our attention. Entertainment, social media. Instant messages. Books, we must read. 

People we need to meet. Social engagements we are invited to, and the list goes on. It's easy to feel breathless at times, wondering when we can ever catch up to all the many things we want or need to do.

Sometimes we may try to prioritize what is on our plate. But without the space and time to reflect and contemplate, we don't have a solid, confident criteria with which to make our discernment. So, what usually happens is that after an attempt or two, we give up trying to prioritize and we continue to run that hamster wheel as fast as we can.

Three, we are easily confused and have a lack of clarity about how we are living. Even after we have decided on a course of action. When a new situation or circumstance arises, it is easy for us to lose our bearings once again.

We are so dependent on external reality to tell us who we are and what decisions to make that the constant noise and unpredictability makes us feel like we are always in battle. Our senses and our minds feel like we have to be on constant alert, and even then, we can still feel quite easily overwhelmed in spite of our best efforts to stay on top of things.

We may find too late that we have repeated actions and decisions, which we have regretted in the past. And even when we do not wish to repeat some disordered or dysfunctional pattern of behavior, we find that we cannot help or stop ourselves.

When we live from our core, we live life with greater stability and grace. We will find that space that Viktor Frankl writes about growing larger because we grow in the interior freedom to choose a response that is true to who we are at our core, instead of just reacting quickly after being triggered by whatever is happening to us.

When we live from the inside out. We learn how to slow down when we feel overwhelmed and to be still in order to descend from the external stimuli that is inundating us into our hearts, where we can connect with our true selves. And when we have connected with our core, that is akin to engaging our core when we exercise, 

We can ascend back outwards into engaging the world with greater power and confidence because we have been reminded of who we are and what we stand for from within. 

Finally, when we make a habit of living from the inside out. We will find that we live less defensively because we are in touch with a stable core of ourselves and our convictions and values. We know we have a stable lens with which to look at the various different new situations and circumstances that life can throw at us. 

And even when we are knocked off our feet unexpectedly, we know much better than before how to find our center of gravity again and pick ourselves up. When we can live from the inside out. We will find that even our failures and humiliations can end up being our greatest allies in self-growth. 

Even trauma and tragedy can break us open in a way that makes us more fertile ground for deeper life to come out. 

Let me tell you a story about a man who was so grounded in his center that in the worst of times a person could possibly face, he was able to show heroic, courage and love for others, and shone even more brightly in his death than in his life. 

During the Second World War, there was a Catholic priest in Poland who, along with his fellow priests, harbored thousands of refugees from greater Poland. Including over 2000 Jews whom he hid from the Germans. He was eventually arrested, thrown into prison and then transferred to Auschwitz the infamous concentration camp while he was in the concentration camp. He continued to minister to his fellow prisoners and was often subject to beatings and lashings.

At the end of July 1941, one prisoner somehow managed to escape from the camp. In retaliation, the Nazi deputy camp commander picked 10 men at random to be starved to death in an underground bunker in order to deter future escape attempts. When one of the selected men cried out, "My wife! My children!" this priest stepped forward and volunteered to take that man's place.

Locked up with the other nine prisoners to be starved to death, this priest led them in prayer and remained a calm presence among them, even looking calmly at the guards whenever they came to check in on the prisoners. And after being starved and deprived of water for 14 days, this priest was the last person remaining alive. He was executed by lethal injection, which he also received calmly.

The name of this incredible priest was Maximilian Kolbe. And today he is honored as a saint in the Catholic Church. 

St. Maximilian Kolbe's story is indeed incredible and consists of supernatural and extraordinary grace through the faith that he had. But even among people who profess the same faith as him, we will find that many never learned to access the deep well of power and grace that comes from living their relationship with God from the inside out.

The journey towards authenticity and wholeness consists of learning to bring our experiences from the outer, most layer of life, through accessing and processing the middle layer of our thoughts and emotions to connect with the deepest layer, the core of our being. At the level of our core, we integrate the outer two layers and give them meaning and purpose. 

Then with renewed and deepened purpose our emotions and thoughts are realigned and reordered from the stable core of our identity. Then from our core, through our now refocused and clarified emotions and thoughts, we can reenter the outermost layer of life as actors whose decisions, choices, speech, and actions come from the deep interior sense of who we are.

When we live from the core, we are more resilient because our sense of worth and identity do not depend on the whims and changing opinions of other people. 

The more deeply anchored we are in our core, the more resilient we are and the more able we are to be authentic, joyful people, even when the surface layer of our lives are full of negative and disturbing stimuli.

The process I just described is not a onetime thing, but a discipline that is practiced daily, and even moment by moment. Just as in physical conditioning, the longer and more habitually we practice this, the more natural it will feel. and the easier it will be to continue.

I hope I've been able to convince you of the great importance of learning to live from the inside out in this episode.

So here are the praxis prompts for you to be nourished more deeply by what you have heard today. One: Listen – as you listened to the descriptions of living from the outside in and living from the inside out, what struck you? How did it make you feel? Could you identify with any of the symptoms?

Two: Ponder – choose one thing that struck you most in this episode. Why do you think this point matters to you? Can you connect it with your own life experience? 

Three: Act – identify something in the outermost layer of your life that is affecting you deeply, then try and allow yourself to listen to what you actually feel about this thing.

Give yourself permission to feel what you feel and try and name that emotion. In your journal, perhaps, write this question down: "I wonder why I feel this way?" List down whatever might come to mind. This is a simple listening exercise you can do whenever you feel overwhelmed. Simply doing this, even if you do not arrive at clarity can help you become more connected with your inner self. 

I have also created a downloadable resource for this episode. You can find the link in the show notes. And basically, it is an image of the wagon wheel that I was describing earlier. 

You could print it out if you wish and actually write on it. You could use it to identify what the various stimuli are that are impacting you at the external layer of your life right now. What are some emotions and thoughts that are preoccupying you? As well as if you are able to descend to the deepest part of yourself, what you hear your inner self telling you about who you are and what values you stand for.

It is a resource that you could use not just as a praxis activity for this episode, but whenever you feel that you need some help in grounding yourself.

So that's this week's episode. Next week, I will share with you a simple and powerful practice that you can use to start building your core strength and start living more intentionally from the inside out.

Remember the most important thing about making this journey is to keep taking steps in the right direction. No matter how small those steps might be, and no matter where you might be in your life right now, it is always possible to begin. The world would be a poorer place without you becoming more fully alive.

Don't forget to visit my website at becomingme.sg and to subscribe to my newsletter as well as to this podcast. Until the next episode, happy becoming!