Without dedicating ourselves to discovering the voice of the soul, so many of us are lost in life. From the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep we are bombarded with a constant stimulation of the senses. This leaves us in an almost schizophrenic state where we confuse our thoughts with reality.
Some of the most common myths that we believe — not just personally, but as a collective species — include:
- Our circumstances are responsible for our pain.
- Other people are responsible for our pain.
- We are at the mercy of life, therefore, we have no choice but to suffer.
The less we question our beliefs, the more they consume our lives and misguide our actions. In other words, the more we keep ourselves mindlessly busy, the smaller the voice of the soul becomes. Thus, the more confused and misled we end up.
Inner work is the process of rediscovering that inner voice again. It provides a map to your “true north” or inner center.
One quick note: this article is not just made to read like traditional articles, it is made to soak in and to actively experience. Please revisit this article as many times as you need to and take your time experimenting with each form of inner work. To get the most out of this article, it is very important that you put it into practice. Otherwise, you might just forget these practices, which would be unfortunate because they are so powerful and could change your life.
3 Types of Inner Work That Put an End to Suffering
We all want to discover the source of our pain. Furthermore, we all want to STOP suffering. But for many of us this is an endless pursuit.
Inner work shows that you don’t have to keep endlessly searching to end your suffering. In fact, your suffering can perish in an instant. In other words, you don’t need to spend your life trying to sacrifice, strive and fight in order to cease suffering.
As both a teacher and student of inner work, I want to share with you the top three forms of inner work that can be practiced, and combined, in any moment.
Please note that while these practices can permanently stop your suffering, they do require time, effort, practice, persistence and honesty.
Self-inquiry is the process of questioning and examining your thoughts. This skill is rarely taught to us when we are young, but it is a core practice of inner work.
Like anything, self-inquiry requires practice and persistence. It also requires that you be absolutely honest with yourself, otherwise you will not find it effective at all.
Here are some steps:
- Ask “What am I feeling?”
- Ask “What is the thought that is causing that feeling?”
- Ask, “What do I feel when I believe this thought?”
- Ask, “Do I 100% know that the thought __________ is true?”
Here is an example:
- “What am I feeling?” Answer: Fear.
- “What is the thought that is causing that feeling?” Answer: The thought is that my partner is interested in another woman.
- “What do I feel when I believe this thought?” Answer: I feel abandoned, scared and resentful towards him.
- “Do I 100% know that the thought that ‘My partner is interested in another woman’ is true?” Answer: No, I don’t.
Here we can see that the fear “My partner is interested in another woman” is just a thought. The circumstance isn’t responsible for the pain, but the thoughts about it are. It isn’t reality, until it can be proven otherwise. After this realization, pain and fear naturally dissolves, leaving an experience of peace and wellbeing.
But let’s take that one step further. What would happen if your partner really did sleep with another woman? You would do self-inquiry again:
- “What am I feeling?” Answer: Sadness and pain.
- “What is the thought that is causing that feeling?” Answer: The thought is that my partner doesn’t love me anymore.
- “What do I feel when I believe this thought?” Answer: I feel worthless, unattractive and lonely.
- “Do I 100% know that the thought that ‘My partner doesn’t love me anymore’ is true?” Answer: No, I don’t.
Here we can see that the cause of suffering wasn’t your partner, but your THOUGHTS about his behavior.
If you need more clarity, I have recorded a short 3-minute example of self-inquiry below:
Self-inquiry doesn’t have to be formulaic. You are free to choose what questions to ask. Other examples include:
- “Can I find proof that this thought isn’t true?”
- “How do I feel when I have this thought?”
- “How would I feel without that thought?”
- “What are my underlying beliefs?”
- “Has the emotion been created by my thoughts, or the circumstance itself?”
For an excellent examination of thoughts, I recommend Byron Katie or Noah Elkrief’s work.
Self-observation is the practice of witnessing your thoughts, feelings and sensations objectively. It involves cultivating present moment awareness and goes hand-in-hand with the other two practices mentioned in this article (self-inquiry and Shadow Work).
Self-observation can be developed through a formal meditation practice, bodywork practice (such as yoga or qigong), consciously breathing, or the practice of daily mindfulness. The goal of it is to simply become aware of what is happening within you.
I like to think of self-observation as the adhesive that binds other inner work practices together. Without becoming self-aware, it is very hard to slow down and pay attention to what we are thinking and feeling in the first place.
3. Shadow Work
Many people have asked me about what elaborate rituals to incorporate into Shadow Work. My response is that Shadow Work doesn’t have to be a big complicated or detailed practice (if you don’t want it to be)! In fact, it can be practiced in any moment.
Shadow Work is the practice of identifying, accepting, loving and integrating the parts of you that you believe are secretly shameful, embarrassing, unacceptable, ugly or scary.
Often, this process involves the practices of shamanic journeying, soul retrieval and art therapy, but at its core, Shadow Work is about self-discovery, understanding and unconditional acceptance — whatever form that takes.
As I mentioned above, Shadow Work is practiced by using self-observation. Part of this practice of self-observation involves tuning into the bodily sensations and using them as triggers to begin Shadow Work.
Emotions always manifest themselves in our bodies, so whenever an uncomfortable sensation is felt (such as tightness in the throat), it is possible to find the emotion and belief supporting that feeling. I will show you an example of this below.
Ultimately, the purpose of Shadow Work is to bring unconscious beliefs, self-images, judgments, and impulses to light — and the goal is to understand and lovingly accept them. Repression of any kind is harmful to the body, mind and soul. This is about setting yourself free.
The main steps here involve:
- Becoming aware of what you’re physically feeling.
- Becoming aware of what emotion is attached to that physical feeling.
- Becoming aware of your surroundings and what thought triggered the feeling.
- Allowing yourself to fully experience your physical and emotional sensations without avoiding, distracting or suppressing them.
- Asking, “Why did I react that way?”
- Affirming, “I forgive myself, I accept myself, I love myself.”
- Asking, “Is that really me?” In other words, is the thought, experience, discovery, personality trait, action or decision really “you?”
Here’s an example:
- Your cheeks are flushed and your pulse begins to quicken.
- You pause.
- You take note of your surroundings and what is happening right now, asking “Why do I feel these sensations?” and “What emotion am I feeling?”
- You realize that you have seen an attractive man. As a result, you feel nervous and ashamed at the same time.
- You are drawn back to your hot face and quick heartbeat.
- You take a deep breath and you simply allow yourself to feel the way you’re feeling. You don’t reject your physical or emotional sensations, instead, you give yourself permission to feel them.
- Once you have settled down, you ask, “Why did I react that way when I saw that man?” You keep asking this question until you get an honest response.
- You realize that you feel nervous and ashamed because you don’t want to admit to yourself that you find men attractive, even though you’re a guy. In other words, you are denying your sexuality.
- You open yourself to this discovery saying, “I forgive myself, I accept myself, I love myself” or whatever feels most honest to you. You then sit with that for a while, feeling the words stimulate feelings of acceptance.
- You then ask your thought/discovery/belief, “Is that really me?”
One final note about asking the question, “Is that really me?” This question is a bombshell question. It can truly transform every idea you have ever had about yourself. I’m talking complete obliteration. It can re-program your mind to see reality. This is the best thing that could ever happen to you. But please don’t take my word for it. I want YOU to experience this.
“Is that really me?” is the Question of all questions. I personally consider it a sacred question and one imperative to inner work. You can find out more about this question in my article “6 of the Most Powerful Questions to Ask for the Awakening Soul.”
It is important that you don’t believe anything I write in this article. Instead, I want YOU to directly experience it so you know yourself.
If you are interested in this topic, let me know below. Both of us plan to write about it more in the future.
For now, I dearly hope that you make this a part of your life. In my experience, it is absolutely and utterly worth it.