Oct. 13, 2020

Living from the Inside Out (Part 1/2)


Do you ever feel like you are pulled in a million different directions, often running like hamsters on a wheel just trying to keep going without falling? Do you often find yourself feeling stressed and tired and emotionally drained? Or do you experience your life as an integrated, harmonious whole? In this episode and the next, I share with you a fundamental principle of growing in authenticity and wholeness - and that is living from the inside-out, or living from a strong and integrated core. 

In this episode I explain the importance of living from our core, identify what our "core" is, and help you understand the importance of engaging, strengthening, and living from that core.

Share this episode via this episode page.

(00:00:02:10) - The Pilates Analogy
(00:00:06:52) - "CORE" Engagement
(00:00:09:32) - The Avocado Analogy
(00:00:14:27) - Personal Story Illustration
(00:00:21:27) - PRAXIS: Listen. Ponder. Act.
Available here.

Available here.

- As you were listening to this episode, was there any part that resonated with you?
- How did you feel as you were listening? 
- Can you identify one word or phrase that would describe your feelings as you listened?

Take note of the word or phrase you chose to name your experience as you listened to this episode.
- Why do you think you feel this way?
- Is there any memory or experience in your own life that comes to mind as you sit with this for a while?

If you haven’t already been able to do so, I invite you take a few minutes to try and identify the 3 layers of living in the story I shared in this episode.
- Don’t worry about whether or not you get it correct. The exercise will help you begin to exercise the muscles you need to do this for yourself in your own life.


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Do you know the feeling of being pulled in a million different directions, or do you experience your life as integrated and harmoniously pulling towards a greater purpose?

Welcome to Becoming Me, your podcast companion and coach in your journey to a more integrated and authentic self. I am your host Ann Yeong, and I'm here to help you grow in self discovery and wholeness. If you long to live a more authentic and integrated life and would like to hear honest insights about the rewards and challenges of this journey, then take a deep breath, relax and listen on

Hello again, dear listeners. Welcome to the fourth episode of the becoming the podcast. Do you ever feel like you're pulled in a million different directions, often running like hamsters on a wheel, just trying to keep going without [00:01:00] falling? Do you find that you're often constantly stressed and tired and emotionally drained, or do you experience your life as an integrated harmonious hole?

In these next two episodes, I'm going to share with you a fundamental principle of growing in authenticity and wholeness, and that is living from the inside out or living from a strong and integrated to help me bring this point across. I'm going to be using a sports metaphor. I mentioned in the previous episode that I really hate running and that I didn't like most sports.

Well, that's really true because I get injured easily. I always have, I don't even have to be running. I can trip or twist my ankle sometimes just by walking. Those who know me will tell you that I am not exaggerating just a few days ago. I tripped at home walking on flat ground. My husband looked at me incredulously and I have jokingly insisted that perhaps that was a slight an even as in the floor that we can't see. But, you know, I'm so sensitive that I picked it up.

I confess though, I am not the most physically coordinated of people. And more than half the time, my thoughts are disconnected from what my body is doing, which is why, when it comes to exercise, I enjoy swimming and Pilates because A. I need to be particularly intentional about coordinating my breath and movement and B these exercises force me to be fully present to how my body is feeling and they come my mind at the same time.

My favorite Pilates teacher back in my university days used to be a triathlete. She was strong and fast and really fit, but some of the muscles had grown so tight that she had begun to have problems walking naturally. It led to her having all kinds of injuries and back problems. That is until she discovered Pilates and started practicing it.

She shared with us that Pilates did just help her with flexibility. It taught her as she was teaching us, that we must always initiate our movements from our core, because when we make sure that our core is properly engaged and our body is aligned before we do any of the exercises, we would be able to minimize the risk of injury.

And also we would become so habituated to engaging our core that even when we are sitting and standing and walking during our normal daily life activities, our postures would improve and we would suffer less from aches and pains. Whenever we attempt to exercise without engaging our core, we find that we can get injured easily and also not reap the full benefits of the exercise.

Miriam, that's my Pilates teacher, she also had a great way of teaching us beginner students, how to make sure that our cores were engaged because , otherwise most of the time we'd be thinking, okay, how, how do I do that? How do I engage my core? So she would ask us to inhale and imagine that we were trying to get our belly button to stick to the back of our spine.

This was the instruction that always helped me to check if my core was engaged and there was a world of difference when it was then when it wasn't. My husband and I were dating in those days. And I'd managed to persuade him somehow to join me for an early Saturday morning Pilates class.

I remember I think it started at 7:00 AM. Henry that's my husband's name. He is a naturally sporty person, right. He runs frequently. And during university days he played a lot of football with his friends, at least once a week. But I remember that during one of our Pilates classes, when Miriam had come over to do some, you know, seemingly really minor adjustments to my husband's alignment and taught him how to properly engage his core.

Henry told me he had discovered muscles in his body he never knew he had simply because he never engaged them before. And he had thought prior to that day, that Pilates looked really easy, until he learned the proper alignment and core engagement. And then he realized he had not actually been exercising the correct muscles before.

I was actually glad to find out that he who was so much more sporty than I was, had as much aching muscles as I did after that class. How is related to living your authentic life? The answer rests in the word core in place. It is. I had learned the necessity of a strengthening, my core, be engaging my core first, before I begin any movement and see letting my core be the anchor and the originating place of my movements.

When my core is properly strengthened and engaged, I can exercise with greater efficiency, effectiveness, and very importantly, less risk of injury. Right. And this principle applies in most or maybe even every kind of sport just yesterday. A good friend of mine who plays Ultimate Frisbee shared with me that when she first started playing her throws had very little power.

 She couldn't throw the Frisbee really far because she was just using her arm. It was when a teammate showed her how she needed to engage a call and to use her whole body's momentum to throw the Frisbee that she saw, how much further she could actually throw it. It wasn't just about strength. It was about having the proper technique.

The same principles apply to living an authentic and integrated life. When we learn to strengthen our core, engage our core in our daily living and letting our core be the anchor and source of our actions, words, and our decisions. We live our lives with greater harmony, integrity, grace and impact as well as less unnecessary injury.

And I, I want to stress the word unnecessary because as in any endeavor worth undertaking, there will always be the real risk of getting hurt. But if we learn some best practices, we can drastically cut down the kind of injury that just comes from lack of self knowledge, lack of awareness, lack of knowing how it's meant to be done.

We can also learn how to tend to ourselves when we do get injured so that we can heal and grow stronger and wiser even from our falls. The reason we often find ourselves pulled in like a million different directions is because we allow ourselves to be, we find ourselves stressed and tired and drained, and we may even find that this may be the case, even when things in our lives seem to be going relatively well.

Right we can't pinpoint maybe anything specific that is going badly. And yet we are still stressed and tired and drained. We may have nothing big to complain about and may even have many things to be grateful about, but we feel empty and directionless and over time, maybe we find that we have less and less energy.

 Sometimes we keep going like that until we hit a wall, maybe something big, like losing a job or burning out or getting a health scare, or maybe even losing someone we love. Then we wonder what is the point of all our strikes for more security, more power, more popularity or whatever it is that drives us.

What is the meaning of all of this? The problem with this way of living is a lack of integration with the core of our being. Just like in sports when we are not connected to our core, the harder we try, the more likely we will be injured and the worse our injury could be. So it is little wonder then that we end up feeling frequently frustrated and losing motivation.

To make this interior journey into authentic and integrated living, we need to be able to identify our core and learn how to engage it, strengthen it and live from it. What do I mean by core, imagine an avocado fruit. If you cut it one in half and look at the cross section, you will see that it consists of three layers on the outermost layer. You have the skin right there, wrinkly green or brown skin of the avocado.

Then the second layer is the delicious, soft flesh of the avocado. And the inner most layer is the pit or the seed. That is, it's core. The English word 'core', refers to what is most central and at the heart. In Latin, C-O-R "cor" is the word for heart actually. We speak of the center of a planet, such as earth as its core, the center of a fruit as its core, and in classes or in the universities, usually the foundational modules of a course is called it's "core modules" and so on. Now think of your life and let's try and apply these three layers of the avocado to your experience of living. 

The outermost layer of the avocado is its skin. It is what interacts with anything that is not itself. I propose that the outermost layer of your life and mine is what we experience and interact with outside of ourselves. This would cover circumstances and situations that happen to us.The relationships that we have with other people, what somebody else says to us, does to us. So, for example, the COVID-19 global pandemic this year and all the ways that it has impacted our way of life.

All that happens on this outermost layer. Here in Singapore, we had the general elections in July, and as I'm recording this right now, the United States of America is gearing up for their elections. Think of all the stimuli that accompany an election, the campaigns, the news coverage, the commentator, all the conversations on social media, the heated exchanges over the dinner table.

All that happens at the outermost layer of our external experience. A quarrel with a family member, being praised or criticized by your boss , maybe a car breaking down, an unexpected kind act we receive from a stranger. Whether positive or negative, all of these examples are things in our lives that take place at this external superficial layer. Superficial, as in on the surface, on the skin.

 The middle layer of the avocado is its flesh. I propose that in our lives, the middle layer that lies beneath our external experiences consists of our interior experiences, such as our thoughts, our emotions, our bodily senses. This level of interior experiences are often stimulated by our exterior experiences. 

For example, we are criticized by someone and we feel hurt and angry, or we come across a great article on the internet and it stimulates our own thoughts. And we feel strongly maybe about some point that it's trying to make. Or we have been sitting for too many hours at the computer and we experience aches and pai n, sensations from inside our body.

Finally, at the deepest part of the avocado, is its seed. What would that be [00:13:00] for us I propose that at the deepest part of us, our core is our soul. I'm referring to the seat of our being, the core of our being, our very center. The core is what pulls everything else together, and which organizes them to give them meaning and purpose.

The core of a fruit is what determines what kind of tree it would grow into, what kind of fruit that tree would bear. The core of ourselves contains in a way, the unique code of our selfhood. It is where our deepest values and convictions reside as well as where our most significant questions come forth.

Questions such as who am I? What is the purpose of my life? Whom or what cause is my life meant to be in service to. These are not purely intellectual or, sentimental questions. They are existential questions that come from the very core of ourselves. These questions will continue to haunt us until we pay heed to them.

It is also our soul that contains our conscience and where our inner wisdom abides. Our core is where our deepest sense of ourself, the "I" when we say" I am" abide. It is at this level, our soul, that we will be able to become whole and integrated as persons and to live authentic lives. So I know all this thus far has been rather conceptual.

So let me offer you a concrete example of my own experience that ties all these three layers together. For the most part of my life, I have disliked being in silence and being alone. I prefer having company and being around other people. I'm okay being on my own if I am occupied with some tasks. So if I am engrossed in a book or watching a movie or doing some other tasks that absorbs me, I'm okay being on my own, but I really did not like the silence of an empty home.

When I lived abroad for nine years, I used to play the music out loud or leave the TV on if my roommates were out. A lot of the time, I wasn't actually watching anything or listening and enjoying the music. The reason it's on it's so that I don't have to be in that silence of an empty house that reminds me that I am alone.

I prefer to remain most of the time at the outermost layer of my existenc, okay, that layer of external experiences. I am by nature reflective, but oftentimes the strength and force of my own emotions felt too intense for me. And then when I exercised my intellect to reflect on what I was feeling, I often just ended up analyzing and criticizing myself and making myself feel even worse.

So my comfort zone was at the level of doing of, achieving, of serving, of, you know, relating with other people. I want it to stay at that surface layer because it was where it was most comfortable where I didn't have to go deeper to confront those uncomfortable emotions, or uncomfortable thoughts that I have about myself.

Then about ten years ago, my spiritual journey ushered me into a season where I began to feel drawn to silence and solitude. I had begun to learn how to listen to my own interior experiences in a way that was life-giving to me. And as that happened, I began to experience a greater desire and a greater need for silence in order to process what was happening inside me.

But I was still a novice at listening to what my inner self was saying to me. I often wasn't paying attention and sometimes I missed the message completely. So one Friday evening at the end of a very long and busy work week, I was finding myself rather irritable and snappy. But I didn't pause to check in with myself about why it was that I was feeling so irritable.

It just wasn't a practice that I was used to yet at that time, you know, checking in with myself. And my husband and I had plans that evening to have our date night at home. And we had rented a Hollywood action movie, something I have always enjoyed in the past. That was something that we both enjoyed doing, watching movies and in particular action or adventure movies.

That evening however, I wasn't particularly looking forward to watching a movie, but I didn't say anything because we had already made plans. I felt like I already made a commitment and I had to see it through. And I didn't want to disappoint my husband because he had mentioned he was looking forward to seeing the movie.

So we went ahead and be watched the movie. Half way into the movie or maybe even less than h a lf, there was an incident. I can't remember what it was now, but it proved to be the last straw for my frayed nerves. I snapped at my husband and we got into an argument. I was upset that he had not been more sensitive to me that he had not noticed that I was in need of maybe more kindness, more comfort, more gentleness and love that evening and suddenly anger and sadness just overwhelmed me and I started crying. 

Henry looked at me in genuine shock actually, when I burst into tears and he was concerned and he asked me what was wrong. And at that moment, all I could say was, I don't know. All I knew was I needed some alone time immediately a nd I told him that was what I needed. And he was like, Okay, go ahead. And I went into a different room, I closed the door, I took out my journal and I just let myself cry out my frustration and helplessness. And then I started journaling and praying. 

 Journaling is for me, my favorite spiritual practice. It's my way of praying. The words as I write them down in a journal reveal to me, what's inside me. And oftentimes I feel God speaking back to me through the words that come out as I write as well. So as I've continued to free write, whatever it was that I felt pieces started to fall into place.

And I had a Eureka moment as to what had led to my meltdown .That week had been very eventful and very full at the level of external experience for me. But I had been so busy that I had not heeded the growing irritation and annoyance which were actually signals that my inner self needed some attention, some time. It needed to be tended to.

Subconsciously, I had ended up expecting my husband to pick up on this inner cry for help. And I'd hoped that he would offer me the love and comfort that I needed. But really what I needed most was to have been able to realize that I needed a quiet Friday evening that day, and that I needed some time to process all these jumbled feelings and thoughts that had accumulated through the week.

But I had not fully realized this. And I had not been able to bring myself to tell my husband that I would like to have a change of plans, even when I had kind of the inkling that a movie is not the best idea for me. So the anger and sadness that had suddenly overwhelmed me was really directed at myself.

I was upset with myself for not speaking up. And when I realized all this, I went to look for Henry and I apologized to him for the meltdown that I had. And I also shared with him what I had realized. We ended up having a great conversation about the need to listen to ourselves better so that we can communicate what we need to the other person. And in the end the evening did end rather wonderfully. 

Now I'm not going to spell it for you where each of the three layers of self appeared in the story I just shared. Because I think it would probably help you to try and listen to it again yourself when you have some time, and to try and identify these three layers.

Remember the outermost layer deals with anything that is outside of ourself, such as circumstances, situations, and relationships with others. The second layer is the interior experience of thoughts and emotions and interior physical sensations and the innermost layer, our core, is our soul, our inner self.

That's today's episode on Becoming Me. Here's the praxis prompt for you to be nourished more deeply by what you have heard. One: Listen – as you were listening to this episode, was there any part that resonated with you? How did you feel as you were listening? Can you identify one word or phrase that would describe your feelings?

Two: Ponder – take note of the word or phrase that you chose to name your experience as you listened to this episode, why do you think you feel this way? Is there any memory or experience in your own life that comes to mind as you sit with this for a while? Three: Act – if you haven't already been able to do so as you listen to this episode the first time I, I invite you to take a few minutes to try and identify the three layers of living in the story I had shared in this episode. 

Don't worry about whether or not you get it correct. That's not the point of the exercise. The exercise will itself begin to help you exercise the muscles you need to do this for yourself in your own life. And this episode is just to introduce you to the three layers of living. In the next episode, I will share with you more stories and examples of how these three layers are interconnected. And I will begin to guide you on how to start identifying and living from your own core. 

So that brings us to the end of this episode of Becoming Me. Today's episode may feel a little weightier, but it is such an important topic for me to cover with you so that moving forward, you can better understand how to make this journey into authenticity.

In the next episode, I'm going to share with you how understanding what I talked about today can help you live a more integrated life from the inside out.

[00:23:25] CONCLUSION
Remember the most important thing about making this journey is to keep taking steps in the right direction. No matter how small those steps might be, and no matter where you might be in your life right now, it is always possible to begin.

The world would be a poorer place without you becoming more fully alive. Don't forget to visit my website at becomingme.sg and to subscribe to my newsletter as well as to this podcast until the next episode, Happy Becoming!