Essentially, mental and emotional health involves living from the inside out rather than the outside in. This is a cherished outcome of engaging in the process of evolving one’s consciousness. In her new book, The Age of Miracles, Marianne Williamson reminds us:

The outer kingdom is not our real home. The inner kingdom is our everything.

And until we retrieve it, our outer kingdom will be a land of suffering for everyone.

As children, most of us are taught to obey and follow the lead of our parents and teachers. If we are lucky, at some point we begin to develop a sense of our own unique identity. Over time, we begin to develop awareness of an inner truth. Increasingly, we learn to respond to the situations and events of our life from that place rather than simply by being tossed about in this world, reacting to what comes present in our lives as though we were at the effect rather than at the cause of what happens to us.

Here are five keys to recognizing whether you are living your life from the inside out rather than the outside in:

1) Your thoughts and actions are expressions of an inner sense of your identity, purpose and intentions rather than simply being reactions to outer circumstances and events. When we lose track of our inner center or fail to find it in the first place, our sense of well-being is primarily defined by external factors. Our mood may go up and down with the stock market or we may be busy trying to get the approval of other people as a way to feel good about ourselves. In contrast, when we are centered in ourselves, we don’t simply view what happens as “good” or “bad,” but rather we develop our ability to work with whatever is present in our lives. Our response is our engagement in life from a deep reference point of who we know ourselves to be.

2) You experience a fairly steady state of well-being rather than a high-drama roller coaster ride. When you are centered in yourself, bad things still happen to you, but you react differently from those who are adrift. You might even view the hard challenges of your life as opportunities to grow and to develop skills in shooting the rapids of life. You set to work in response by addressing the ways in which a situation has thrown you off balance. In time you learn to stop spinning like a hamster in a wheel — calling all your friends to tell your tale of woe and to spew all your anger and judgment about what someone did to you. Instead, you may turn to your friends for support and a new perspective on the situation, letting them know where you feel stuck. While experiencing your own vulnerability, you take ownership of your experience and take action from a place of who you know yourself to be. You respond by creating, promoting and allowing only that which brings you into greater balance and well-being. And sometimes, that may take quite a while.

3) You experience a lot of synchronicity and harmony in your life rather than a barrage of random happenings. For example, my friend Roy’s 94th birthday was the other day. He has been bedridden for over a year now and barely has the energy to keep his eyes open or to speak for much of the time. I wanted to do something meaningful for his birthday but was at a loss for ideas. Then I found the perfect card that didn’t speak in glowing terms about the future. Next, an iris that has only bloomed in May for the past five years came into full bloom, and it is mid-October! Then some tapes of harp and angelic voice music by Therese Schroeder-Sheker of the Chalice of Repose Project arrived just before I left for Roy’s house. I had wanted to share this music with him because it is designed to lovingly care for the physical and spiritual needs of the dying. It was all perfect. I held a clear intention with no idea what to do. I just trusted and waited. Before I learned to function in this way, I would have tried too hard to force things to happen, and they just wouldn’t have worked out well at all.

4) You have a basic sense of being in the driver’s seat of your own life rather than a victim of circumstances and events. It is enormously empowering to know yourself to be at the cause rather than at the effect of your life. You are less likely to feel that you are in competition with other people. Rather, you marshal your inner resources and focus on doing the best you can. You might find yourself humbled by results that fall short of your wishes, but knowing that you did your best — focusing your skills, abilities and resources to address the situation at hand can be quite satisfying in itself. I like to use one of Dr. Phil’s favorite questions: “How’s that working for you?” It helps me to take ownership of my thoughts and actions.

5) You seek to achieve inner states of consciousness rather than outer things. While you might love and have nice things, your happiness is no longer a result of that. Rather, it comes from achieving a sense of inner balance and well-being. You do not value your own worth or that of others according to monetary abundance or scarcity. You are focused inward, not outward and measure your success by your ability to maintain a sense of inner balance while doing your best to respond to the people, circumstances and events of your life with honesty, integrity and kindness.

Can you think of other keys to living from the inside out?

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