In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy to become lost in external distractions—technology, work, social media, and the endless cycle of news. Yet, ancient wisdom and modern insights both suggest that the answers to life’s most profound questions lie not outside, but within. This journey inward, often referred to as “going within,” can be a transformative experience that leads one to a deeper understanding of the self and the universe. But what does it really mean to “go within”? Let’s embark on this introspective journey together.
What Does “Going Within” Mean?
At its very essence, “going within” signifies a deep and transformative dive into the inner recesses of one’s self. It’s more than just a cursory glance at our thoughts and feelings; it’s a deliberate journey that seeks to unearth the intricate layers of our psyche, spirit, and consciousness. This voyage starts with the external world, where we are continually bombarded by an array of stimuli—sounds that resonate, sights that captivate, and tactile experiences that leave an imprint. Yet, these are merely the surface of our experiences.
As we begin to shift our focus inward, away from the external clamor, we’re initially confronted by the reactive tendencies of our mind. Here, emotions surge, desires pull, and immediate thoughts flit about, heavily influenced by the stimuli they just interacted with. But this realm of the mind, while vital, is just the antechamber to deeper introspection.
Delving further, we encounter the discerning realm of the intellect, where reason and rationality offer a counterbalance to the mind’s impulsiveness. This is where we weigh our experiences, judge them, and derive meaning based on logic and past learnings. Yet, even this logical facet of our being is not our core.
Beyond the intellect lies the formidable fortress of the ego. This is our constructed self, the identity we believe ourselves to be. Shaped by societal expectations, personal experiences, and our attachments, the ego defines our perceived place in the world, often creating a sense of separateness from everything else. Herein lies one of the most significant challenges of the inward journey: transcending this ego, our false sense of self, to realize a more profound truth.
Past the ego’s labyrinth, the vast reservoir of the subconscious awaits. It silently influences much of what we do, driven by memories, past traumas, and deep-seated beliefs. Yet, even as we navigate this deep ocean, we sense that there’s a deeper truth still to be uncovered.
Finally, at the innermost sanctum of our journey, we arrive at pure consciousness. Here, the individual self melts away, revealing an eternal, unchanging essence. This is the realm of the true Self, often described in Eastern philosophies as the Atman or Purusha. It’s a state of pure awareness, uncolored by the external world or our reactions to it.
7 Stages of Going Within: From External Stimuli to Consciousness
Understanding the different stages of “going within” is akin to possessing a map for a profound inner journey. Just as a traveler benefits from knowing the terrains and landmarks of an expedition, a seeker of inner wisdom gains clarity by recognizing the layers of the psyche. Each stage, from the immediate reactions to external stimuli to the depths of pure consciousness, offers unique insights and challenges. By comprehending these stages, one is better equipped to navigate the complexities of the mind, transcend the constraints of the ego, and ultimately tap into the boundless potential of the true Self.
The following are different stages of going within starting with the external stimuli:
- External Stimulus: Our exploration starts in the bustling external world. Here, countless stimuli—be they sights, sounds, or tactile sensations—interact with our senses. These stimuli form the primary layer of our experiences, shaping our immediate perceptions of reality.
- Sense Organs: As gateways to our inner world, the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin capture the external stimuli and channel them to the mind for interpretation. These organs provide the raw data that form the basis of our perceptions.
- Mind (Manas): Once inside, stimuli encounter the realm of the mind. It’s here that raw sensory data become emotions, desires, and immediate reactions. The mind, ever-fickle, is constantly swayed by these external stimuli, leading to a myriad of fleeting thoughts and feelings.
- Intellect (Buddhi): Beyond the reactive mind lies the discerning intellect. This realm is where reason reigns. The intellect evaluates, judges, and makes choices based on logic and past experiences. It serves as a balancing force against the impulsive tendencies of the mind.
- Ego (Ahamkara): Delving deeper, we find the ego, the fortress of our individual identity. It’s the ego that provides our sense of separateness and “I-ness.” Constructed from our beliefs, experiences, and attachments, the ego defines how we perceive ourselves in relation to the world.
- Subconscious (Chitta): Hidden beneath the ego’s surface is the vast expanse of the subconscious. This deep reservoir stores memories, latent tendencies, and past impressions. It subtly influences our actions and reactions, often unbeknownst to our conscious mind.
- Consciousness (Atman or Purusha): At the very core of our being, we discover pure consciousness. In many Eastern traditions, this consciousness is seen as the true Self, an eternal observer untouched by the external world’s fluctuations. By reaching this level, we connect with an unchanging, universal truth, experiencing a profound sense of oneness and enlightenment.
How to Go Within
The journey inward, often termed as “going within,” is a transformative path that uncovers the layers of our psyche, revealing the true essence of our being. Embarking on this voyage requires dedication, practice, and understanding. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you navigate this profound inner exploration:
- Observing Thoughts Without Judgement: Begin by taking a moment to simply observe your thoughts. Let them flow like a river, without trying to change or judge them. This practice allows you to recognize and visualize your mental body, fostering a deeper connection with your form as a mental being. Over time, you’ll notice that this non-judgmental observation slows down the pace of your thoughts. It’s akin to watching a bustling crowd from a distance, where the chaos gradually becomes a harmonious dance.
- Focused Meditation (Dharna in Raj Yoga): Once you’ve become accustomed to observing your thoughts, shift your focus to meditating on a single thought or object. The idea here isn’t to eliminate all other thoughts but to continuously bring your attention back to that one point of focus, even when the mind wanders. This stage referred to as “Dharna” in Raj Yoga, is essential for practicing a state of mind where minimal to no thoughts exist. It’s like training a muscle: the more you redirect your focus, the stronger your ability to concentrate becomes.
- Sustained Meditation on a Thing or Emptiness (Dhyaan in Raj Yoga): With a fortified ability to concentrate, move on to the next stage: meditating on nothingness. Aim for a thoughtless mind. Naturally, thoughts will arise and try to pull your attention away, but the practice lies in gently bringing your mind back to that state of emptiness. This phase, known as “Dhyaan” in Raj Yoga, is a challenging one. It’s akin to calming a turbulent sea into a serene stillness. Yet, with persistence, the waves of thoughts become less frequent and less intense.
- Experiencing Bliss: With a sustained focus on thoughtlessness, a transformation starts to occur. The mind, once restless and chaotic, begins to experience moments of profound peace and happiness. This is not the fleeting joy of external achievements but a deep, enduring bliss that emanates from within. It is at this stage that your true journey to consciousness begins. The veil of illusion starts to lift, and a clearer, more enlightened perspective emerges.
In the cacophony of our modern lives, the call to journey inward might seem counterintuitive. Yet, as our exploration reveals, the path to true understanding and enlightenment is not found in the external world but in the depths of our own consciousness. The layers we’ve uncovered, from the immediate reactions to external stimuli to the profound stillness of pure consciousness, chart a transformative journey that transcends the limitations of the ego and reconnects us with our true essence. By “going within,” we not only discover our authentic selves but also tap into a universal wisdom that binds all of existence. It’s a reminder that amidst the hustle and bustle, taking moments for introspection can be our most valuable investment. For in the heart of our being, we find the timeless truths that illuminate our path forward, offering clarity, purpose, and a profound sense of connection. So, the next time the world feels overwhelming, remember: the answers lie not outside, but within.