You have an inner self that voices a constant commentary within you night and day! Meditation is a way to spend time with your inner self with its often unstoppable thoughts. Quite understandably, not all of us wish to do this!
Yet this inner self is the place you can draw on to help you get through the darkest times. To access it can be your greatest strength. Somehow, despite challenges of all kinds – we as humans motivate ourselves to keep going.
Dark times can provide rich experiences for our own personal self-growth. I am inspired by 3 people from the past who experienced incredibly difficult times. Yet they found ways to make their lives meaningful and drew strength from their inner resources. Their records are enduring and inspirational reminders.
Find meaning, whatever that is for you
1 Vera Brittain wrote:
Perhaps one can never rise to the heights until one has gone right down into the depths – such depths as I have known of late.
As a young woman during the First World War, she lost her fiancé and her only brother as well as other close friends. She became a VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) nurse and served through the war, experiencing the horror of it first-hand.
I wondered, looking with dull eyes into a singularly empty future, which seemed capable of being filled only by individual efforts that I did not feel in the least inclined to make.
Her book, ‘Testament of Youth’ details her experience poignantly. And describes how she developed her passion for peace. She would never forget her loved ones who died so young, but through her own inner resilience she found reasons to carry on. The meaning she gave to their deaths inspired her to became a prolific speaker for peace. Here is how she made sense of World War I and gave meaning to her losses:
I don’t know yet what I can do, … but at least I can begin by trying to understand where humanity failed and civilisation went wrong. If only I and a few other people succeed in this, it may be worth while that our lives have been lived; it may even be worth while that the lives of the others have been laid down. Perhaps that’s really why, when they died, I was left behind.
Allow yourself quiet moments of meditation
2 Etty Hillesum
Etty was born in 1914 just as the First World War began. She was to die at Auschwitz during the Second World War in November 1943, aged 29. Her letters and diaries from 1941 onwards reveal how her inner life of prayer and ‘meditation’ was such a source of strength for her during this difficult time.
I listen in to myself, allow myself to be led, not by anything on the outside, but by what wells up from deep within.
Ultimately, we have just one moral duty: to reclaim large areas of peace in ourselves, more and more peace, and to reflect it towards others. And the more peace there is in us, the more peace there will also be in our troubled world.
This astonishing young woman remained open-hearted towards all around her. She didn’t try to hide her difficult thoughts and experiences, yet balanced them with her ability to dig deep within herself.
In the last four months of her life, based at Westerbork, where hundreds of German and Dutch Jews were being held, she continued in this way:
Life here hardly touches my deepest resources – physically, perhaps, you do decline a little, and sometimes you are infinitely sad – but fundamentally you keep growing stronger.
She refers to her ‘deepest resources’ and suggests that ‘somewhere between your ribs you need to have a great deal of inner sunshine’. And she was very aware that not everyone could keep going in this way. She observed:
People are dying here even now of a broken spirit, because they can no longer find any meaning in life.
3 Viktor E. Frankl
Etty Hillesum reiterates what Viktor E. Frankl also confirmed as a survivor of the holocaust:
There were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom …
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
Your life and your inner self
Your life is important.
You may, or may not, be experiencing such dark and terrible times as Vera Brittain, Etty Hillesum and Viktor E. Frankl did. Yet you recognise that life involves struggle, disappointments and sometimes a losing of your way.
You have a life that is uniquely meaningful to you. With so much uncertainty in the world, you might feel that it is time to nurture your inner self. This is a means of self-growth and lets you make better sense of everything. It takes only an intention.
And so, with the Mindfulness and Meditation Classes I run, I remind you of inner strengths and qualities that you have, but may not have drawn on before. You feed, clothe and bathe your body, yet it might be time to attend to your spirit and heart. To learn small ways to meditate simply and spend time with your inner self.
Join me in my upcoming classes here in Petersfield, or search for some Classes nearer to you.
Have you read a book about someone who has dug deep and connected with their inner self to survive? I’d love to hear!
Vera Brittain, ‘Testament of Youth’
Etty Hillesum, ‘An Interrupted Life: The Diaries & Letters of Etty Hillesum 1941-43
Viktor E. Frankl, ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’
Find your inner Place of Serenity