Some people cringe a little when I make a reference to “doing the inner work.” I can tell they feel it doesn’t really mean anything, just psycho-babble at its finest. However, for me it means facing the limiting beliefs that have held you back, deconstructing and rewriting a story you’ve carried about yourself and the world. It means consciously trying to heal old wounds rather than bury them. I think most people could benefit from doing some inner work. I know I have.
Ryan and I have a ritual of each taking a long, solo walk on weekend mornings. Our beagle is getting older and rather than subject him to the tiring ordeal, one of us goes, then the other when the first returns. This past Saturday, Ryan went first, and when he came home, he told me that he’d seen the bloody carcass of a wild turkey in the ditch on a remote stretch of the path we follow.
As I was setting out on my own walk, I was debating about whether to deviate from my normal route. As I’ve discussed, I’m a highly sensitive person, and I don’t needlessly subject myself to things that are upsetting, like blood, guts, or images of death. I was thinking about taking an alternate, shorter walk when I remembered that I am stronger than I used to be, and I don’t let fear inhibit me from doing what I want to do anymore. I told myself that while I certainly didn’t have to examine the dead turkey, I could handle seeing it when the time came.
The inner work is like this. We don’t want to look at the yucky stuff that’s been crammed way down for a long time. The fear is that the inner work will be too ugly, too scary to handle. It’s easier – and much more comfortable – to wind a different route that lets us avoid it. It’s even a self-protective thing to do. There were times in my life when I avoided the inner work, the inner yuck, because I didn’t have the resources at the time. As I’ve admitted, I did a whole lot of eating to deal with my feelings instead of facing them.
As I got closer to the stretch of road in question, I started to tense up a little, my eyes scanning ahead of me, anticipating the gruesome image he’d described. But I just didn’t see it. I kept walking, and saw no sign of it.
Eventually, I started to convince myself I’d somehow missed it. I relaxed back into the nearly trance-like meditative state I walk in, enjoying the day, probably starting to compose this blog post in my mind.
And suddenly, there it was! I gasped in horror, frozen in my tracks. The dead turkey was in the ditch just ahead of me, missing its head, horribly twisted, feathers strewn, flesh and bone exposed by whatever had eaten part of it. Adrenaline coursed through me. Tears of shock stung my eyes – it was almost worse than if I hadn’t expected it at all. I’d let my guard down, and here was the horrible thing I hadn’t wanted to see.
So I stood there. I breathed deeply, then more slowly. I let the waves of revulsion pass over me and away. I reminded myself that yuckiness can’t hurt me, a dead turkey can’t hurt me, and none of the scary or upsetting things from my past can hurt me.
Then I started to walk again. The day was still beautiful, and every step put more distance between me and that gross scene. Just like the “inner yuck” I’ve processed through the work I’ve done, I left that turkey in the ditch and moved forward, carrying only the lesson.