Inner work

December is the reflective time of the year. In December 2020, I spent 3 days in this beautiful cabin, scribbling down many thoughts - old and new - that eventually became this post on peace and joy. During breaks, I indulged in short walks and drives around the beautiful Olympic National Park, and studied a Buddhist book on the Eightfold path and the Almanac of Naval Ravikant. I have hugely benefited from this "inner work" that's helped me understand my existence and what I want to do with it. That elaborate exercise, weekly check-ins, and the resulting clarity have kept me grounded and led me to make some bold and positive changes over this year. 

Inner work sounds like a suspect Indian guru term, but I think it’s quite apt. It is "work" because it takes systematic effort and the subject of the work is largely your mind. 

Beliefs, habits, needs, environment, triggers -> Thoughts and actions -> Feelings and outcomes. 

We have all developed beliefs, thought and reaction patterns, mostly unconsciously,  throughout our lives. If we want to understand and fix what we do and how we feel, we need to dig deeper to understand the inner layers. Naval Ravikant refers to this as running your brain in a "debug" mode, a software development practice to execute your program line by line and observe the changes.

Inner work takes multiple and regular long blocks of free time and solitude. It takes deliberate practice, curiosity, a clear mind, an understanding of general psychology, and sometimes expert guidance. As with most things, the initial answers are often not right or interesting - they are simply narratives that we have developed. You must keep pressure testing them and peeling the onion to get to the core beliefs and your "true self". Meditation, journaling, blogging, discussing, reading about different perspectives, therapy, and guided psychedelics are some techniques that can help with this work. Inner work is not one and done. Layers of dust always form again, and you must regularly tidy up.  

Once you become familiar with your underlying beliefs, you can try to change them or live them fully. But that is a whole other process that requires ongoing reflection, drive, and regular, small, and progressive steps. 

I highly recommend this life-changing practice.