Category: Druidry Written by Nimue Brown
I talk a lot about the idea of living a deliberate life and the way in which this calls for self awareness. Can we go too far with that? At what point might it become an issue?
Navel gazing can be defined as ‘self-indulgent or excessive contemplation of oneself or a single issue, at the expense of a wider view.’
If you feel that you’re doing this, then that’s something you are entitled to judge and are free to change. However, if the judgement is from someone else, it’s not so clear cut. If you’re looking inwards rather than dealing with issues or handling duties, then it might be fair to have other people call you out on it. If other people simply don’t like how much time you’re spending on looking inwards, that’s their issue, not yours.
Spirituality and philosophy require time spent looking inwards. Creative processes call for introspection. Building self awareness takes time, and the less you’ve done of that, the more you might need to do just to get things started. Investing time in knowing yourself and understanding yourself is time well spent. If you’re so involved that you fail to meet other needs of your own, and/or those of people depending on you, that’s a sign to scale back. You can go too far with this, and I’m aware of people who have damaged their mental health by spending too much time going inwards.
How much is too much? All day, every day certainly is. An hour or two every day devoted to inner work certainly won’t do you any harm. Occasional deep dives – as with retreats, day long workshops and the like – are also fine. Trying to live inside yourself all the time doesn’t work. Who we are is very much about how we interact with the world. Retreating from the world to examine that is a good thing, retreating from the world as an ongoing choice robs you of too much of who you are.
I think the ideal is to get into a rhythm where you spend time being active in the world, and then spend some time reflecting on those experiences. Our bodies need time to rest, and taking time for reflection also supports physical health. We learn better when we take time to consolidate knowledge and experience. Our brains are calmer if we give ourselves time to process what’s happening to us.
It is well worth being alert to the kinds of spiritual approaches that push us inwards and encourage us to reject life. We are beings with bodies, and showing up as our bodily selves is really important. As a Pagan, I do not see the flesh as something to overcome. This body is who I am in the world, and I want to honour that. Introspection helps me think about how to show up as a whole person. I think about how I want to be in the world and how I want to engage as an embodied being. I listen to my body to try and work out what I need, and what’s good for me.
One of the questions I make a point of asking myself is where I am going with my thoughts. I’ve struggled a lot with anxiety, and I know how easy it can be to get locked into very inward processes fuelled by fear. I try to avoid relentlessly chewing on things I can’t change or even predict. I make a point of focusing my thoughts on things where that thinking might take me somewhere. Depression can make it all too easy to turn inwards in order to beat myself up, but I try to avoid that by deliberately thinking about what I can do to change things.
Introspection of itself can help us or harm us. As is often the way of it, the key thing is to be deliberate in how we use this as a tool.
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