Finding What We Need Inside Ourselves
“Seek not outside yourself. For all your pain comes simply from a futile search for what you want, insisting where it must be found. What if it is not there? Do you prefer that you be right or happy?”
– A Course in Miracles
In this case, being right means thinking that something outside of ourselves will give us peace. This would be anything outside—not just money or possessions, but achievements, our careers, relationships with our family, friends, partners, acknowledgement from others, health, spiritual attainment, etc.
It’s not about stopping the pursuit of external things …
Of course we know from a variety of studies that, on an observational level, money does correlate with happiness up to a certain point. (This is especially true when we spend money on experiences and on others). We know that health increases happiness, and we know that meaningful work and relationships are incredibly important.
Pursuing the things that we want outside of ourselves is not a problem, it is holding on to that pursuit too tightly that is a problem. Because then we are forgetting the point.
It’s about holding things lightly.
For example, sacrificing our health to work long hours when the point of money is to enjoy a healthy life doesn’t make sense. Or sacrificing our peacefulness with a friend for an argument about the meaning of a spiritual teaching on peacefulness.
So today I invite you to hold your pursuit of the external (being right) lightly. Hold that pursuit of money lightly—it’s perfectly fine to work long hours, just become more aware of the tradeoffs you are making. It’s perfectly fine to want to be right in that spiritual debate, just notice how it might keep you from a deeper spiritual connection with the person you are debating.
Let’s dive just a little deeper…
The pursuit of external fulfillment often covers up our deep internal feelings of inadequacy and guilt. And it is these feelings that keep us from feeling the peace that is completely independent of circumstances. As we forgive these self-doubts and insecurities in ourselves—by first welcoming them in our experience—the deeper peace begins to shine through in loving attitudes and actions.
So when we find ourselves seeking outside of ourselves, we can use that as an opportunity to put our attention inward instead. Each moment holds an incredibly rich range of experiences for us to explore, and in these we will often find that we already have the essence of what we thought we lacked.
To sum this principle up:
We only seek that which we do not have.
So my second invitation to you today is to consider what you are pursuing outside, and ask yourself if you might already have it inside.
Ask yourself “What I am I trying to get right now?”
Ask, “Why am I trying to get that?”
Ask, “Do I already have the why in this moment?”