Inner Knowing vs Practical Doing [Part One]

It’s funny how I always find myself back at the beginning.

I started my spiritual path as a Buddhist and Taoist, which gradually evolved into New Age Spirituality, and eventually Eclectic Paganism–but it always game back Buddha’s Middle Way. Well, actually, I wouldn’t say it’s a strictly  Buddhist thing–the essential philosophy of Middle Way is that of balance, or the moderation between two extremes. As far as spiritual paths go, that seems like the grand scheme of things.

But of course, I shouldn’t assume that everybody’s path to spirituality is so generalized, because it’s not. I identify it as a Buddhist thing because it was packaged in Buddhism when I first encountered the idea. I remember watching one of the old television series in Taiwan, Journey to the West, which is a heavily Buddhist themed epic about the Monkey King  who goes on a pilgrimage with a Buddhist monk in order to retrieve a collection of sacred texts. If you’re familiar with Buddhist myths and lores (which are fascinating, if you’re into myths and lores and that kind of thing)–the human incarnation of Buddha experiences an epiphany about the Middle Way after going through two extremes: extreme pleasure and extreme austerity. He asks the Heavens if his insight is correct, and releases a wooden bowl into the river.

“If I am right, let it go against the river currents. If I am wrong, let it drift aimlessly as it should.”

And of course, the bowl swims upstream in delicate swirls, confirming Buddha’s profound insight which became one of the philosophical pillars that shaped Buddhism.

But I digress. Although, in many ways, I went through an experience similar to Buddha in Buddhist myths. The difference is, I went through one extreme, dug too eagerly and too deeply on one end, and felt the balance shift and crumble.

Self-knowing has always been my primary way of–how should I put this without sounding disgustingly sophisticated and surreptitiously obscure?–well, self-knowing has always been my primary way of existence. What I mean by that is that I like to make inner journies towards self-knowing and self-understanding; that is my way of dealing with things in general. That’s how I deal with negativity or positivity, and that’s how I process and make sense of my life and experiences. For instance, the way I deal with insecurities since I became aware of my insecurities is to seek even more self-awareness. I ask myself: “Why?” And I try to get to the bottom of things. Why am I feeling this way? Why am I reacting this way? What’s buried deep down in my psyche that is causing me to feel insecure like this? I get to the bottom of it, I expose myself, and I release the pent-up emotional energies that come from “not knowing”.

In short, I am profoundly and at times frustratingly internal. If you practice self-awareness or have the habit of remaining self-aware, you’ll know what I mean. Ultimately, it’s good for you, but like everything else, there is such a thing as “too much self-awareness”. The fact remains that no matter how empowered and liberated I feel from getting in touch with my feelings and my psychological roots, I do not manifest them into the external world. In other words, there is a profound lack of action that accompanies my profound abundance of inner-knowledge. In other words, I exist in a peaceful bubble of Zen and “spiritual enlightenment”, but I have failed to participate in the world around me and address the problems that are occurring outside of my perfectly balanced internal universe.

Basically…I am a practiced thinker, but not much of a doer. Right now, I am tempted to ask myself: “Why?” For the most part, I think it’s because that was how I coped with my social anxieties and my self-esteem issues in my past. It gave me all the excuse I needed: Kim, there is no need for you to deal with others. You just have to deal with yourself. 

This had so much appeal back then because, truth to be told, I was incredibly shy and I didn’t want to deal with people, period. I told myself that as long as you remained positive and self-aware, you could be free. To some extent, I did become much more comfortable with who I was because, indeed, many of the self-esteem issues I was experiencing were internal.

The problem was, like any kind of relationship–if it’s social in nature, it is a two-way street. You can’t become a perfect and seasoned driver expecting other drives to not hit you by accident, or understand your driving attitudes completely. The problem was, in the end, I still needed to deal with people.

That was when I discovered that in addition to regular, healthy doses of Inner-Knowing, I also needed some serious Practical Doing.

[To be continued]