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  • Writer's pictureMary Margaret Folds

Is It Dark Inside?

"Go within", "Look inside yourself", "Do the internal work", “As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul…”

All these catchy phrases about doing the internal work. But what does it mean exactly. We say these things so often that sometimes we don't stop to really think about what the words mean. My kid brain, when I slow down and really listen, will wonder if going within means imagining the inside of my body. My internal organs and the world living inside my skin. It's weird to imagine that I've never actually seen my heart or my stomach or my brain. But what does it actually mean to people when we say these new age catch phrases. What is self love? What is intention? All these concepts that are thrown around these days. It has become a trend and we just take for granted that we are actually saying and meaning the same thing but what if we all have wildly different ideas and thoughts on what these words mean. It's like color. What if my idea of red is different than yours?

Some of my automatic assumptions about going within: I need to close my eyes. It means meditation which again requires me to close my eyes. It's dark inside me. There's only me inside. I'm surrounded by space, black space. I go down to go within. Going within is retreating or moving backwards. "Within" or "inside" is located somewhere around my heart and stomach.

I'm not exactly sure where I got these ideas. Maybe it's a cultural thing or maybe it's unique to me. I've never asked other people what they think of when they hear the words "internal work" or all the other references. But let's explore the idea.

What do I categorize as my internal work? I learned transcendental meditation in 2007. I've been practicing it for fifteen years. I consider that internal work. I do visualization exercises regularly where I pop in my earbuds, lay on the bed and listen to healing music while I imagine myself in different timelines with an ideal partner doing ideal work in an ideal setting. Or sometimes I'm meeting historical figures like Nikola Tesla or Mary Magdalene and we are having conversations about esoteric knowledge. At night I close my eyes and do a review of my day. I think about interactions I had or conversations and whether or not I acted from a place of love or fear. All of those activities are done alone. But they aren't really in the dark and yes I'm physically alone but I'm imagining other people. Meditation usually starts out dark but then I begin to imagine things. When I realize I'm "doing something" I come back to the mantra and things go dark again. I say dark but I'm not sure that's what I really mean. It's more like quiet nothingness. Sometimes, a lot of times, I'm in space. Like outer space. I see what I imagine outer space to look like with stars and planets and I'm floating but sitting crossed legged. I take walks alone almost everyday. I guess I would categorize that as internal work because I am practicing controlling my thoughts and focusing on certain mental/emotional exercises. Obviously my eyes aren't closed. And now that I think about it I'm doing internal work when I have a triggering interaction with someone and I walk myself through not acting from fear or anger.

What are some of the assumptions you have when you hear people talking about going within or looking inside yourself? What are ways you do internal work? How do you categorize it?

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