The mind. From much of what I write about my inner life, my examinations of experiences that by their nature are intensely personal and private, it might be inferred that this is where I think life is to be lived.
This is about as far from the truth as can be.
The mind is merely the vehicle in which we ride through life. Life itself is only real when it puts our mind through the conflicts and corrosions that come from interaction with the physical world, and, even more so, other people. A goal of inner peace may be a good maintenance practice, but in reality that peace is always being forced off balance, we are always struggling to absorb and cope with the latest in life's endless series of challenges.
So where does this process of housekeeping, of maintenance, of inner probing, come into the picture? It operates at several levels. At the most fundamental, this vehicle with which we will scramble to navigate the sometimes rocky terrain of our real lives will perform best when it is at peak operating condition, as with any other machine. If we allow our inner landscape to become cluttered and polluted, our reponses to the events in which we participate will be hampered and clumsy. Our adventures will be most successful and fulfilling if our "command center" is operating at as close to peak efficiency as possible.
At an intermediate level, the process of negotiating ongoing compromises with our environment (both physical and social), closely resembles the process of self actualisation, the basic housekeeping. If we are to look within ourselves for solutions to our problems and not just blame them on the outside world, we must be practiced in self evaluation and directed inner growth. Just as it is important not to blame all our troubles ont he outside world, it is also vital not to blame them all upon ourselves... we must be able to distinguish the nature of the conflicts we encounter, and how much of their cause is simply the result of people being different, how much is something we ourselves can grow to encompass and rise above, and how much exists completely outside ourselves. These all require a different style of solution, though the first two are similar in that we cna work on them alone. The third is more subtle and is essentially the root of where our inner life helps us cope with interpersonal issues that are due to flaws and failings outside of of our own self.
The process of self actualisation can be a rude and selfish one. Many, many people develop in such a way that they hold dear a few maxims or rules which help them justify their personality rather than purify it, rules they use to keep other people at bay, modes of analysis that help them heap the burden of their conflicts on the other parties. I do not think this really counts as having an inner life. When you truly seek to develop your own self to be the best that it can be at most times, you will draw upon many resources, ranging from your own personal meditations to the described experiences and theories of others. The key here is that while you may not find certain traits inside yourself, this process will acquaint you with their presence and nature in others, for better or for worse.
This information about how some other peoples minds are organised will be invaluable to resolving conflicts that appear to emanate from the outside, more specifically from the minds of those you interact with. It allows you to come to some understanding of why they do what they do, what needs in them this serves, and even whether or not the traits are the honest result of their pursuit of peace and truth or just psychological flaws in their personality they cannot or will not do anything about. It is important not to play "psychologist" in this process - the best information you can start with is what the other person actually says about themselves. If this, in time, seems not to corrrespond to the reality of who they are and how they act, then we can adjust our responses to them and understanding of their inner conflicts. It is not enough to just examine their behaviour, however, and judge them on that.
Just as we may perform acts that we do not wish judged externally, that we wish those close to us would take time to understand from the point of veiw of why we chose to act that way, others also should not be treated as objects in the environment. They are self propelled, motivated by more than a set of conditioned responses, and their thoughts leading up to their actions are critical to understanding those actions.
With a partial (all there ever is) understanding of their inner life and how it relates to their outer deeds, we can begin to decide how to cope with them. Whether we want to try to change them, at their invitation, or change ourselves and our reactions and needs in order to widen our range of compatibility, will depend on the nature of their inner self.
This is, after all, how we would wish to be treated by those around us, is it not?
© Huw Powell