Monday, February 22, 2010

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate the phrase "inner work"? It's a term one hears a lot around the Bay Area, usually in a thinly-masked judgmental way, such as "he or she is or isn't doing their inner work." As if the person pronouncing this diagnosis could know what was going on inside another human being!

Or, "If you are doing your inner work, you'll be okay when the big earthquake hits/you receive a terrible diagnosis/your pet/parent/lover dies/leaves." (This, by the way, is bullshit. No matter how much you meditate or eat tofu or visualize little green people, or whatever it is you do, dying is still scary, losing things is still painful, and people leaving you still sucks. Even for the Dalai Lama, who, I think we can all agree, is someone who has Done His Work--for many lifetimes. You don't get out of being human. Not if you were born in a body.)

I hate, hate, hate this expressions, which is almost a byword on the lips of most of my dear sweet super-conscious friends. When I hear someone talk about "inner work" I want to reach for the Ding Dongs and beer--and I don't even like beer! I want to watch World Wrestling Federation on TV. I want to go disrupt a seance.

Fuck "inner work." Just live your life and be as kind as you can. Reflection? Sure. Seeing where you are the author of your own problems? Bring it on. Apologizing when you've fucked up and hurt somebody? Absolutely. People have been doing this stuff all along. It's nothing fancy. It used to not be called "inner work." It used to be called "being a mensch", or, more negatively, "trying not to be too big of an asshole."

This is the philosophy I subscribe to. Try not to be too big of an asshole. If you make a mistake, apologize as quickly as possible, and make amends wherever you can. Repeat as often as necessary. That's it. The rest is commentary.

Calling your life "inner work" implies some kind of special spiritual heavy lifting that only the initiated few are special enough to participate in. There's something self-serving in it, as the implication is always that the person talking about "inner work" is of course doing it. It's like giving yourself a gold star. It implies that the guy who goes to work and comes home and watches a ball game and loves his family and is reasonably nice most of the time is somehow lacking. And that the New Age self-appointed prophet whose ethics and relationships are a mess has some kind of corner on integrity because they sit on a meditation cushion, or collect crystals, or get their chart done.

Personally, I'd rather hang out with the woman who picks up garbage at the side of the road than any "inner work" guru. I'd rather hang out with an eight-year-old. Or a gerbil. Or a pine tree, or a feral cat.


Anonymous said...

you go, girl!

David Shearer said...

Wow! Somebody get under your skin this weekend? I agree with you, I usually just don't give assholes the power to piss me off.

Gerry T said...

Wow! Sounds like you spent an afternoon in Marin County that didn't go very well. Yeah...forget all that new age psychobabble and go downtown and be around people who are doing REAL work...people who are actually trying to do something for the world. Know what I'm sayin?

Jessica (your cousin) said...

Snort. As a member of the possibly less-granola-y, less tree-hugger-y side of our extended family, I absolutely LOVED this post. It cracked me up. I'm also wildly proud that my lovely cousin's personal philosophy is "try not to be too big of an asshole." Love it. Love you, too. (Off to work on my own inner work. Or more likely, a load of laundry and fussing at offspring to finish his homework.)

Alison said...

Hey Jess! Love you, cuz! Guess what? I'm knitting!! Only scarves so far--I just go back and forth like a hamster with OCD. But it's fun and the scarves are warm and pretty. I made one for Christopher for Chanukah that's about eight feet long and he loves it.


Anonymous said...

I hate it, too! I've met one too many fucked up and self-involved narcissists who pride themselves on the fact that they are doing "inner work." They think this gives them license to turn up their noses at anyone who they think isn't. It makes me puke.
Thanks for saying it with such gusto!
BTW, the name of the Haiti group is the Haitian Emergency Relief Fund.