After being inspired to expand their awareness and walk the path of higher consciousness, people can lose motivation. Modern society has so much stress and rush—relieved by endless distractions—that a consciousness-based lifestyle seems out of joint. Meditation retreats may show a stark contrast to all this hustle and bustle, but when you come home, the pull of everyday life can feel inescapable.
Look at yourself today. How much time and effort will you expend on the duties and demands of work and family? How tired will rushing around make you? How much will you long for a distraction to take your mind off everything? In practical terms, this is what the pull of "real life" means. The mind is filled with the noise of constant activity just to keep up with everything. By itself, a meditation session or two isn't enough to counter the pull away from inner silence and self-awareness.
In the world's wisdom traditions this obstacle was fully recognized. As long as the restless mind has existed, it really doesn't matter if someone lived in ancient India at the time of the Buddha or today in the middle of a noisy city. The traditions of sages and teachers have offered a solution, which can be called the "pull of the self." When you attune yourself to this inner magnetism, as it were, you can maintain your inspiration to grow and evolve over years, decades, and a lifetime.
The pull of the self means reorienting your attention from external situations, but that doesn't imply that you ignore the outer world or resist it, either. To ignore is a form of denial. To resist strengthens the hold of what you are trying to push away. Instead, I’m talking about a new relationship between two worlds, the one "in here" and the one "out there." Think of this relationship as a sliding scale, a line with two end points.
The Pull of the Outer World
At one end point the pull of the outer world totally dominates. Life will then have certain inevitable qualities, as follows:
- Feeling unsafe and insecure, constantly vigilant to protect yourself from the next threat from outside.
- A sense of insignificance in the face of titanic natural forces.
- Pressure to protect yourself by conforming to social norms and behavior.
- A constant need for outward pleasures, since only they can stimulate a sense of enjoyment from life.
- Fear of disease, aging, and death.
Since no one actually exists at this extreme, it sounds far removed from daily experience, and yet somewhere along the sliding scale we all feel overwhelmed by the insecurity that comes from being very small in a very big, empty universe.
The pull of the outer world induces us to put physical reality first, and life becomes a struggle to find security and happiness under the threat that everything could collapse at any moment. Besides anxiety, there are other feelings that mask our insecurity, like the rush of thrill-seeking, the hypnosis of entertainment, and the drive to succeed.
The Pull of the Inner World
At the opposite end point the pull of the self is total. Life will then have very different qualities, as follows:
- Being centered and quiet inside is a constant state that cannot be shaken by external circumstances. This leads to a sense of complete security.
- One's own awareness provides the joy and fulfillment that life is meant to bring.
- Change is no longer threatening, because you see yourself as the still point in a turning world. Experience passes through you without altering your state of being.
- You live in the eternal now, which makes aging and death irrelevant--they have dropped away as part of the illusion of change.
- By living from your source, your true self, you are always in touch with the source of creativity and renewed possibilities.
- You have no conflicts within yourself or with other people, because the wholeness of pure consciousness eradicates the play of opposites, including the play of light versus darkness, good versus evil.
This extreme may sound remote, but any experience that draws your attention in this direction has been caused by the pull of the self. If you pay attention, there are many moments when you feel safe and secure; life looks beautiful; the mind is quiet and calm; you feel free of regret and worries; the past brings no bad memories; you find it easy to accept and appreciate your life and the people in it; an inner joy bubbles up; or you feel somehow that a higher presence exists and enfolds you.
We value such experiences without being told to; they are satisfying by themselves. That's the hallmark of the pull of the self. Outer circumstances no longer matter, and it doesn't matter if this feeling persists for two days or two minutes—it is timeless for as long as it lasts. Or to be more precise, you slip out of time into another place that is simply here and now.
If you want to evolve, meditation and leading a life with positive choices are important. But evolution won't truly take hold unless you pay attention to the pull of the self. Human beings aren't robots whose wiring can be changed simply by plugging our brains into meditation, prayer, positive thinking, or the influence of wise teachers and mentors. I'm not discounting those things—they have their valued place in the world's wisdom traditions. But the context of life is always the pull of the outer world, which is noisy and fretful, happy one day and sad the next, and full of pain and pleasure in unpredictable proportion.
The pull of the self is quiet but true, oblivious to the rise and fall of everyday situations. Finding non-change in the midst of change has long been the byword in the evolution of consciousness. The pull of the self, which we can notice every day, is the secret for making non-change a living reality.