My Journey To Find My Inner Self Didn’t Turn Out As I Was Expecting…

In 2016, I spent six months working on an outdoor education camp in Canada.

In the Spring season, the site was often rented out by various groups of people who wanted to use the camp’s natural beauty as the backdrop for their events.

As a result, in May, I found myself working on a weekend Yoga Retreat full of people who had found their chackras and could bend their bodies into a variety of complex positions.

At one point, I remember talking to a man who informed me that setting time aside time to connect with his inner self had enabled him to gain control of his mind and banish negativity from his life – or, as he put it, to ‘tell all that sadness and self-doubt crap to piss off’.

The man in question had dreadlocks and was wearing a ‘Live, Breath, Yoga’ singlet so I decided that he was probably a reliable source of wisdom.

I’ve never really been the kind of person who particularly likes spending time with myself but, like most people, I’ve had significantly more free time in 2020 and I thought that it might be useful to spend some of that time attempting to improve my connection with my inner spiritual world.

So I started meditating in April, full-on expecting to have some sort of transcendent experience where I would suddenly feel at one with myself and the universe.

However, my first few meditation sessions were quite underwhelming – as far as I was aware, nothing happened.

I felt slightly disheartened – I had actively attempted to get in touch with my inner self and it seemed I had been put on hold.

This feeling wasn’t helped by the fact that the meditation music I was listening to sounded a lot like the sort of music that often plays when you’re put on hold in what I can only imagine is a vain attempt to make you less likely to get stressed and swear down the phone.

Despite this, I decided to push onwards with meditation, reasoning to myself that nothing worthwhile is ever easy and that the transcendent joy of being at one with my inner self would be worth it in the end.

I guess I assumed that my inner self would be this wise oracle who, once found, would help me transcend above the concerns and stresses of everyday life into a state of zen-like peace.

A few weeks into lockdown, I started to become aware of a part of myself that I hadn’t noticed before.

I was initially excited and intrigued, thinking that I had finally got in contact with my inner self.

However, if I had, it was in no way the peaceful oracle-like being I was expecting it to be.

In fact, if anything my inner self more closely resembled a moody teenager who wholeheartedly resented living under my roof and, needless to say, wasn’t as sold on the concept of working towards meditative enlightenment as I was.

Although my spiritual awakening wasn’t going as smoothly as I had hoped, I kept trying to get in touch with my inner self, thinking that eventually she would open up to me.

However, the more I tried to connect with her, the more I irritated she became.

I had dragged her out of my subconscious against her will and she was NOT happy with it.

As lockdown dragged on and I spent more and more time with my inner self, our relationship started to feel quite tense and I noticed that I was reacting to setbacks in an emotionally dramatic way.

Anything, from receiving a job rejection to dropping a piece of toast butter side down, would make me irrationally upset and I felt like I starting to lose control over my inner self.

It is strange and unsettling to feel like you are being bossed around by a grumpy teenage version of yourself but I tried my best to be mindful about the whole situation.

I decided that I would try to sit quietly with my inner self and try and have a calm, logical conversation about how she was feeling.

It soon became apparent that maintaining any form of calm logical dialogue with my inner self was going to be a near impossibility.

Instead, I thought that I would try strengthening my connection with her by engaging in a variety of relaxing hobbies.

Unfortunately, she didn’t seem as committed to the activities as I was.

Dragging my inner self through a series of mindfulness activities made me feel inauthentic and, as a result, my ability to reach a state

Eventually, I decided to leave my inner self to her own devices and instead tried to focus on everyday practicalities.

I thought that if I tried to get on with my life in the way that I had before, she would eventually calm down and my mental state would return to normal

However, as soon as I tried to concentrate on anything, she seemed to experience an inexplicable urge to hang out with me, distracting me from whatever I was doing with a seemingly endless stream of irrelevant and anxiety provoking information.

All things considered, spending more time with my inner self this year hasn’t been the easiest thing in the world.

Just as spend you can only spend so much time in another person’s company before you start to get on each others nerves, spending too much time with yourself can cause things to become a bit tense.

Being a human is complex, confusing and not always comfortable, especially this year and, for me, things became a bit easier when I stopped trying so hard to force my inner self to behave and communicate with me in the zen-like way I expected her to.

Maybe being in touch with your inner self isn’t about achieving a state of eternal chackric calm; maybe it is more about accepting your inner self exactly as they turn up, no matter how annoying they may be.

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I Lived In The Canadian Wilderness For 6 Months. Well, on a Kids’ Camp With Some Heated Cabins, a Semi-Functional Wifi Connection and a Dining Hall That Provided Hot Meals at Regular Intervals But Other Than That It Was Basically Primitive…

I graduated from university in July 2015.

The whole experience was quite disorientating.

For the first time since the age of four, I found myself outside of the academic system that had always provided me with a steady stream of goals and a consistent sense of purpose.

I felt quite lost like Nemo in Finding Nemo or the people in that TV show where the plane crashes and the passengers become stranded on an island.

I often experienced difficulty answering certain questions in job interviews.

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I do not remember having identity issues as a child.

Back then, I spent a lot of time in the great outdoors and when I say the ‘great outdoors’, I am referring mainly to my parents’ back garden.

My parents’ back garden featured breath-taking geographical features such as a 2×3 metre pond, a multitude of impressive wildlife specimens in the form of worms and the occasional pigeon and some flowers.

Once I was in the wilderness, it was hard to get me out.

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Eight months after graduating, I decided to go and work on an outdoor education camp on the west coast of Canada, in what I guess was an attempt to reconnect with a simpler time when I worried less about establishing myself in the ‘real world’ and more about the important things in life, such as whether my mum would get mad if I used her electric whisk to blend together the ingredients of my mud pie.

Western Canada is a land of great natural beauty.

It looks a lot like that place that they used to film Lord of the Rings, except not exactly like that place because that place isn’t Canada; it’s New Zealand.

However, soon after arriving at camp, I discovered that finding a peaceful moment to contemplate nature is kind of difficult when you spend the majority of your time surrounded by kids.

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When you are out on a boat with a group of children it is important to concentrate, not on the complexity of human cognition, but on providing some form entertainment for the kids.

Neglecting to do this will encourage them to find ways of entertaining themselves.

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At first, I did genuinely believe that it was going to be okay.

The logical part of my brain was aware of the fact that a group of 11 year old girls didn’t possess the vocal capacity to continue singing until the end of time.

However, as the minutes passed and the singing continued, I started to lose my grip on my sanity and with it my ability to think in a rational manner.

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As a camp counsellor, you are required to provide 24 hour supervision for the kids in your care.

This means that you have to sleep in the same building as them which would be fine if it weren’t for the fact that a lot of children don’t understand how to sleep properly.

Some kids, for example, operate under the terrible misconception that the crack of dawn is an acceptable time to be awake.

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Children learn at an accelerated rate and as a result have highly imaginative minds.

This heightened curiosity that children possess is an amazing thing.

However, it is significantly less amazing when it manifests itself in a seemingly unstoppable torrent of questions at 4:35am in the morning.

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Despite its frustrations, working with children is ultimately a pretty rewarding experience, even if it does entail spending the early hours of the morning explaining how sunscreen works to a 9 year old.

However, during my time at camp, I was not working with kids 100% of the time.

In the spring season, the site was frequently rented out to adult groups for various events, weddings and retreats.

Whilst working with one of these groups, I got talking to a man who told me that stargazing on a regular basis helped him to maintain clarity of thought.

The man in question had dreadlocks and was wearing a ‘Live, Breath, Yoga’ singlet so I decided that he was probably a reliable source of wisdom.

I figured that what he was saying made sense – if you’re searching for a personal lightbulb moment, why not look to nature’s very own lightbulbs to locate it?

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I’m beginning to doubt if staring intensely at a mountain range or the night sky is an effective way to induce a moment of epic self-realisation.

Maybe a solid identity is not something that can be found in a fixed moment because we ourselves are not permanent fixtures.

Our minds are always evolving and the way in which we perceive ourselves and our surroundings is constantly changing.

Maybe the process of reaching self-enlightenment is a bit more like driving down a heavily congested road…

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