small table in window looking over New York

Internal or External Focus

How Do We Direct Our Thoughts and Actions?

Urmila and I are looking for a new house or apartment in a nearby town. We are moving from the campo (countryside) where we currently live. The interesting thing that we have noticed during this process is the balance of focus that we are looking for in the new property.

Our current house Los Cuatro Vientos—which means the four winds, or everywhere—is situated on a slight hill with open fields either side of it, to the east and west. To the south-east is a view down to the Mediterranean Sea across fields of almond trees and a series of ridges. To the west is a semi-circular ridge of hills that enable us to mark the time of year by which hill the sun sets behind.

Internal Or External

We have a number of different sitting areas around the house that we use depending on the position of the sun and the temperature. As I write this the sun is streaming in through the front door, although it is too hot to sit in it.

Inside 'Los Cuatro Vientos' we have a lot of rooms that enable both of us to do our own thing. We each have a dressing/relaxing room and a study/meditation room, as well as the usual lounge, kitchen etc. This enables us both to pursue our own interests as well as getting together in the various joint spaces. I use my spaces to practice yoga and meditation as well as read, study and write.

We have the ability to focus externally, on the birds and landscape views around us as well as internally on our bodies, thoughts and internal experiences. This feels like a great balance for us. We can focus however we feel at any one point in time.

The self who is not attached to external contacts, who finds happiness within the self—
That one, whose self is absorbed in the yoga of yogas within Brahman, attains imperishable happiness.

Certainly, pleasures born of [sense] contact are only sources of suffering;
As they have a beginning and end, O Kaunteya, a wise person does not delight in them.

One who, in this very life, before giving up the body, is able to endure
Agitation arising from desire and anger—that one is absorbed in yoga; happy is that person.

One whose happiness is within, whose pleasure is within, and likewise, whose light comes only from within—
Such a yogi, being united with Brahman, attains the Nirvāna of Brahman.

The Bhagavad Gita 5:21-24 (trans Graham Schweig)

We find happiness in ourselves in what we do and what we experience. Our enjoyment of the outside—the birds and the views—is about our experience of it, not the external contacts themselves. But we do find them important to our experiences.

The New Property

We are finding it difficult to find this balance in a new property. We are keen to live in a town or city where our principal outside activities will be accessible to us by walking rather than driving. Our current location requires us to drive to do anything other that being in the house or walking the countryside. We would like to go out for a coffee, go shopping or whatever by walking rather than driving. We feel that if more people do this in their lives there might be less pollution and pressure on the planet—cars are a major problem. In addition I look to my advancing age and my desire not to become 'stuck' here, as is the case with one of our neighbours.

The problem with the new property arises because we are finding it difficult to settle on a property that has a balance of space that will allow us to continue our existing life balance. We want a place that has sufficient internal space to allow us to continue living as we do now while having a connection with the exterior though a terrace and views so we are not cut off from the outside world. So far we seem to find one or the other. The question of which is more important arises.

Personal Referencing

We have learned in our personal development work that there is a difference between externally referenced and internal referenced people.

An internally referenced person, if they need to determine whether or not they have done a good job or if they are doing the right thing, they use their own standards. An externally referenced person, they tend to go by the standards that other people set for them.

Nicole Schneider

Everyone has a referencing balance within them although most people tend to favour one direction. Urmila and I like to think we are internally referenced and so are capable of making our own decisions based on our own criteria, but I suspect we are more externally referenced than we like to think. So to what extent can we simply make up our own minds rather than make a choice that others will approve of. In a sense in writing this letter I am seeking external approval.

In the end we will make a decision based on a number of criteria and we will be happy with the result. However, the process of making the decision will say more about us than we expect. In ourselves what is more important, our internal thoughts or our external experiences? In making decisions on this what is more important our own standards or those set by others—friends, family, society and others? Will we be inspired in our choice?

Difference between motivation and inspiration—motivation is external and short lived, inspiration is internal and lifelong.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

No one is ever really taught by another; each of us has to teach himself. The external teacher offers only the suggestion, which arouses the internal teacher, who helps us to understand things.

Swami Vivekananda