18 Aug Well-Being and Happiness Through Inwardness
via Psychology Today by Steve Taylor
- Patanjali, author of the ancient Yoga Sutras, spoke of a state of ‘inwardness,’ the ability to to rest inside our own mental space.
- ‘Outwardness’ means being addicted to external stimuli, unable to live without continual distractions and activity.
- Inwardness is the beginning of real happiness, bringing a fundamental sense of ease and contentment, and a relishing of inactivity and solitude.
Around 2000 years ago, a Hindu sage named Patanjali developed one of the world’s first-ever personal development paths. Nothing is known about Patanjali as a person – some scholars doubt that he even existed and suggest that a group of different scholars compiled his teachings. However, if he did exist, there is no doubt that Patanjali was an exceptional psychologist. His path is referred to as the ‘eight-limbed path of yoga and is described in the Yoga Sutras.
The first two stages of the path are ethical guidelines, while the third is bodily postures. (These have become known as the modern practice of yoga, although asanas are just one limb of the path as a whole). The fourth stage is control of the breath. The latter stages deal with mental abilities, such as ‘one-pointedness of mind, which is equivalent to what modern psychologists call ‘flow.’ Following this, there is meditation, leading to the final stage of samadhi when the person attains a state of oneness with the world. (This reflects the literal meaning of yoga, which is union).
However, in my view, the most important stage of Patanjali’s path is the fifth stage, Pratyahara, which can be translated as ‘turning the senses within,’ or simply inwardness. This is the ability to live inside ourselves, to rest inside our own mental space, without immersing our attention in external things. Inwardness means living in a state of being without needing to be constantly active. It means living in a state of connection to our own being rather than in a constant state of self-evasion.
The Yoga Sutras describe inwardness as the beginning of the spiritual life, but it is also the beginning of real happiness. It marks a major shift when we begin to seek wellbeing inside ourselves rather than outside. Certainly, it is impossible to find any lasting inner contentment without the capacity of inwardness…
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