We see ourselves from the outside in. Our society has promoted this as a matter of commerce in the form of extreme consumerism. Our appetite for material possessions has become bulimic while our sense of spiritual fulfillment remains quite anorexic.

Having said this I must also state that I believe spirituality too has become fraught with consumerism, to the point that most of the people of this Earth confuse spirituality with the absence of material wealth. Somehow the two, we imagine, are not mutually inclusive. Americans tend to consider spirituality something that must come from a source far removed from our own industrialized and materialized world. Anything with an Indian or Chinese name must be good, it would seem. “Guru”, “Sensei” are words that have extra value but in their own language mean only “teacher”. It becomes hard to find the real value in any spiritual path, difficult to strip away the fashion from the value, the form from the function, until finally the path of spiritual development becomes itself another possession, much like a new car, or fancy new clothes serving only to decorate our view of ourselves from – the outside in.
When I write of “outside in” I mean the very thing, the act of viewing oneself always as an outside observer, which one does naturally when adopting a particular fashion or style – it is natural to think of looking at ourselves as though we were in the audience. This too is a naturally occurring stage of adolescent development, the stage when a young person, usually in the pre-teen or teenage years, becomes overly sensitive to the idea that “everyone is watching me” and “everything I do is being watched by everyone”. If one is to grow into adulthood, a process which is not necessarily automatic, an individual must adjust this process to a workable tolerance, i.e. tweaking this sense of “everyone’s is watching me” to a level that is more in accord to the reality that everyone is not watching everyone all the time. The vast majority of people conform very politely into commonly accepted fashions and appearances in any particular society. Being noticed actually take extra effort!
For example, the USA has developed an appetite for SUV’s, (sport utility vehicle) and despite the rising fuel costs and deteriorating economy there seems to be no end to the vehicles that leave the lots in record numbers. SUV’s are tremendously expensive and define the term “overkill”. Few buyers of these behemoths ever take advantage of the attributes that are standard with the giants, such as four wheel drive, high clearance, great towing power. The extreme majority of SUV drivers use their vehicles for the same purpose as owners of sedans, compact cars and for some even bicycles – day to day transportation to and from work, home, school and errands.
Yet, we love these cars. We love how we think we look in them – powerful, omnipotent, rich. Men’s sexual organs increase in size, women become more sexually attractive, at least in our minds, as we see ourselves from the outside in.
If we are to see ourselves from the inside out, we must face the reality of the purchasing decisions we make. Most American’s have no financial savings. Most of us are a paycheck or two away from homelessness. We become slaves to employment choices we no longer choose and loose any freedom and fulfillment our money could bring us. The richer we become the more debt we incur and we have to work for our money instead of allowing our money to work for us as it would if we made better financial choices. If you can finance it, you can afford it becomes the policy for most Americans even when financial stress is the primary reason for the failure of our relationships and destruction of the family unit.
Seeing ourselves from the inside out is the simplest and most sincere form of spiritualism. In requires self-reflection and the painful path of self-discovery. It demands that we come to grips with what really makes us happy instead of trying to become happy chasing an image based on merely form, merely on fashion.
Without self-discovery – which leads to self-knowledge – we are no better than pseudo-spiritual wannabes, material possession drug addicts, running from one fix to another…
This is substance abuse in its most human form, and abuse in any form is…
fraught with peril….
Rev. Greg Dilley, Shidoshi