Hanukkah candles, Advent candles, multi-colored Christmas lights, Kwanzaa lights, Yule fires and --the Inner Flashlight. From a systemic perspective, holidays are an opportune time to add to the religious and spiritual lights by shining a light within our souls.
Shining this Inner Flashlight does not always promise immediate joy and contentment, but it can have lasting positive effects for ourselves and our loved ones.
The Inner Flashlight involves using both self-reflection and self-awareness to examine one’s own soul including observing and working to understand one’s thoughts, actions and motivations. This can happen any time of year, but connection with family and traditions at holiday time provide an abundance of personal material to promote meaningful reflection.
In today’s world with all the conflict and trauma both in this country and abroad, personal self-reflection is not a luxury, but a crucial component of healing and change. What happens within individual hearts and souls affects far more than just oneself. We form radiating circles of healing like ripples on a pond that continually expand to greater circumferences. Do this work for yourself, but also do it as a gift to family, friends, community, and to those you will never meet.
Change begins in your own heart. What does it take to begin this work? What does it take to deepen reflection and have greater impact?
Self-Acceptance: This work can be very rewarding, even life changing, but it is often difficult. We are all human. Often the personal characteristics that fuel our greatest strengths, also fuel our worst failings.
I like to believe good things about myself. It can be painful to admit my own faults and failings. When I shine the Inner Flashlight, I see the troubling things as well as the wonderful things.
Self-acceptance can be more difficult for some people than for others. Remember self-acceptance is an on-going journey. Be gentle with yourself.
If you are really struggling to see and accept your limitations, seek out a counselor or spiritual advisor as part of your Inner Flashlight work.
Awareness of Barriers: Many of us have methods we use to block out or avoid self-reflection. Become aware of the ways you are tempted to shy away from examining your soul. Some barriers people use include: busyness, continual conversation, intellectualizing, seeking other people’s approval of one’s thoughts, ideas and behaviors, and seeking constant outside stimulus from a variety of sources such as screens and music. Some people avoid difficult inner reflection with misuse of substances or addiction to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex and pornography. If any of these are issues for you, you may benefit from outside help.
Acknowledging one’s own barriers is one way of shining the Inner Flashlight. Then pay attention to the times you use or are tempted to use these barriers.
Self-Observation: Take the time to let a part of you stand aside and observe your own actions, thoughts and behaviors. Don’t assume you know everything about yourself. Be curious. Ask yourself questions and really think about the answers. Notice. Pay attention to what you do and how you do it. Notice others around you and how you react to them.
Shine the Inner Flashlight this holiday season and notice how uncovering unexamined parts of your own heart and soul leads to positive changes in self and in those around you.