Nancy Colier
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What if You Are What You’ve Been Searching For?

One of my favorite stories is of a wild gazelle who, early in her life, smells a scent so magnificent that she spends her entire life searching for it, driven by the longing to re-experience its beauty. Many years later, as she lies dying, with her flank torn open by a hunter’s arrow, she’s engulfed in the scent she’d spent her life pursuing and in the magnificence she’d always craved. The scent was coming from inside her; it was her perfume—her magnificence all along.

Everything about the way we live in this society is geared to pull our attention outward and away from ourselves. We rely on external sources for information, knowledge, belief systems, entertainment, physical subsistence, codes of behavior, and everything in between.

At the same time, we’re sold the idea that our happiness will also come from the outside: acquiring external validation, material possessions, achievements, and pleasurable experiences. Over time, we come to believe that everything desirable, satisfying, and fulfilling, everything we want and need, comes from outside of us. Our focus is so habituated to go outward, in fact, that we forget that we are even here and can be a source of anything. We forget—or maybe more accurately, never learn—that we can look to ourselves for what we need.

We talk a lot about self-care in this culture, but most of what we consider self-care is some form of pampering. We see self-care as something we buy or do, something, once again, that sits outside of us—in someone else or some other activity, experience, destination, or maybe, lemongrass candle. But there aren’t enough pearls in the Dead Sea or hemp in nature to make us well. Ultimately, we must recognize that we are the destination we’ve been seeking; it is our own nectar that we think we lack.

In order for self-care to take root as a way of living, not something you buy or do, a one-off, you must be willing to consider that you know infinitely more than you’ve ever been allowed or allowed yourself to know. Both in mind, body, and spirit. And furthermore, to recognize that you are the only one who knows what’s true for you, the only one living your unique experience. In fact, while it’s the last thing the self-care industry wants you to discover, you are your most reliable source of well-being, even if you can’t imagine it yet.

But remember: The conditioning that led you to abandon yourself, to hand over your authority to others and the external world, didn’t happen overnight. Similarly, reclaiming yourself as a valuable source of wisdom also doesn’t happen overnight. Before you can see a new path, you must be able to see the path you are traveling now—all the ways you’re turning away from your truth and handing off your authority. In order to create real change, you have to be willing to challenge your conditioning and practice new behaviors.

Just as you build the habit of exercising by actually moving your body or eating healthfully by actually making healthy choices, you have to build the habit of curiosity in yourself, making yourself a destination, by doing just that: getting curious about your own experience, asking yourself what’s true for you, and caring about what you find. You have to be willing to look to yourself for answers and questions, too.

With practice, the inclination to turn towards yourself for guidance becomes second nature. But again, it doesn’t start out that way. The process of learning to trust yourself happens gradually.

Over time, you’ll likely start noticing you feel more present, more located inside yourself as if you’re living from something solid that feels like you. Without trying, you’ll find you’re speaking what’s actually true and being honest rather than saying what will secure your being liked. You’ll feel the gap closing between who you are authentically and the roles you play in your life. I’ve heard the process described in so many different ways, but what all of the descriptions have in common is a sense of taking your seat at the center of your life—coming home to yourself.

Keep inquiring into your own experience; keep spending time in your own company, listening to your truth, and tuning into your own presence. Gradually, your outward-focused wiring will shift, and your attention will start naturally returning home to you, its original source. And indeed, with intention and practice, you will become that destination, that magnificence for which you’ve always been searching.

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