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, she was in no way the peaceful oracle-like being I was expecting her 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.
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 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 of meditative calmness was compromised.
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.