What lies behind us and what lies before us
are tiny matters compared to what lies within us
- Ralph Waldo Emerson
We tend to focus on the past or the future. We may think about our mistakes or remember good times; we may think back with anger, regret, blame or nostalgia. And we may look ahead with anticipation, hope, fear, worry or planning. So often we really are not living in the moment as our thoughts are occupied with things that have already happened or that haven't yet happened.
And although our past certainly informs who we are and we need to spend some time at least, planning for the future, generally there is an imbalance of most of our energy going either backward or forward (or outward) and not within.
For it is within us where we truly reside. This is where we find ourselves, where we learn again and again to come back to ourselves, to seek ourselves. All the answers to our questions, to who we are or what is ours to do, live within us. It's a matter of learning the language of the inner world. A language that is not primarily rational or logical. It is a language that is richly metaphorical and symbolic, that may appear in images or movement or sounds.
Often it feels like learning a foreign language- like learning a romance language like Spanish, French or Italian or possibly a language with an entirely different alphabet like Chinese or Russian. It takes the same patience and dedication to learn this inner language, as it is often laden with emotion and forgotten memories of our lives and of who we truly are. And it is equally rewarding, for as we learn this language we will more easily navigate our inner world; we will more confidently travel to the deepest part of our being, bringing back into our daily life the treasure we find within.
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley