How Do I Know?

Every day, no exception, a reader, client, member of an audience, social-media friend, or critic will ask me some version of the following question:

How do you know, for sure, that the causes of our feelings are not found outside (in circumstance), and the cures for our feelings are not found outside (in coping strategies, tools, or techniques)?

Here’s my answer, and it’s not meant in a boastful way as my critics often contend: I just know. What follows is merely an attempt to put words to this knowing. So I’ll do my best, but make no promises; here goes:

Many years ago, immediately after I stopped looking outside for causes and cures (stopped listening to the experts I had turned to for help) and then rose above a painful period in my own life, I made it my mission to find out why experts would offer the opposite of the advice contained in the question above. In other words, why would trained counselors, who were clearly trying to help, have me rummage through the personal events of my past? And why would they provide a surplus of coping strategies—pretty much take shots in the dark—when clearly this outside-in approach doesn’t cause relief or happiness? If psychology was indeed the working science that those in the field claimed it to be, wouldn’t there exist nonpersonal principles that explain the experience of all human beings? Wouldn’t there be universal laws that, no matter one’s biology, intellect, or personal history, would provide definitive answers for everyone?

What I encountered on this mission was amazing, clarifying, and oh so obvious (once I saw it): Unbeknownst to these experts, at the core of every religion, psychological doctrine, spiritual framework, sermon, moving story, song, or poem was this inspirational truth: Inner ups and downs, contradictions of the soul, are normal and thus cannot be strategically fixed. And although this changeable nature of our feelings appears to be connected to the events of our lives, it’s not. Specifically, I kept stumbling upon these seven simple words:

Look Within for the Answers You Seek.

And interestingly enough, I then started stumbling upon this sagacious message everywhere. The Beatles said: There will be an answer, let it be.” And I finally got the point! My golf coach reminded me: “Play with inner purpose, never for a score or the adulation of others.” And there it was! Even my grandmother loved to preach: “Now, Garret, don’t blame your internal ups and downs on external ups and downs. They’re not connected that way.” And there it was again!

No, I didn’t wake up one day and deliberately decide to look at the human experience in such black-and-white terms. I take zero percent credit for the fact that this insight calmly found me.

It’s just that in a split second, my life turned on a dime. I realized that while the approaches of the millions of helpers in the history of mankind have been vastly different, undeniably, there was this common thread or principle hidden (sometimes deeply) within all of them: Human beings work inside to out, not outside to in. Meaning, the causes of, and cures for, how we feel inside cannot be found outside in the illusionary world of form.

As one of these helpers, Sydney Banks, once said:

Trying to find answers by looking outside to this divine illusion we call life is a never-ending quest.

Like I said, I just know. My hope is for you to recognize that what you feel and experience is solely connected to what takes place on the inside. And, deep down, you know, too.