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Elan Vitae


  • Ann Wilkie Arens


I found the key to enter the gateway of the two worlds where I live.

It begins with a compassionate hush and a rooted breath.

Awareness, forward movement, and insight igniting.

Deeply known yet still undiscovered.

Providing stillness and valuable wisdom.

How do you navigate the two worlds where you live? This is the question I asked myself at the beginning of this year. The worlds I am talking about are our external and internal worlds and all of us move between them frequently within a day. Many of us don’t even notice the transitions between the two but they are influential to our energy and wellbeing. This is why I wanted to take a curious look at how the shifts from external to internal showed up in my life and how I moved from one world to the other.

Our external world is the outward connections of family, friends, work, events, and social media that can be fulfilling, attention-grabbing, loud, and alluring. What I was noticing was that the outside world had much more power over me than I first thought. From juggling my life to becoming more addicted than I wanted to admit to my phone, a large percentage of my day was spent focusing on the exterior. This was becoming exhausting, and I knew I needed to begin to settle into my internal world to find some balance.

Our internal world is paying attention to what is going on inside our bodies. It is called interoception and it is the noticing of cues and innuendos that our body is telling us. It is also one of our senses just like taste and sight. It is noticing our pangs of hunger and heart beating. Observing these can be just a whisper at times, but it is very important to our wellbeing. In fact, research has noted that when we can begin to sense these signals from within accurately, like your heart beating faster when you are feeling stress, this can increase the ability to sense our own emotions.(1) Another recent study took this one step further and noted interoception not only increases our internal emotional sensing but it helps us perceive emotions in others. (2) Both of these abilities are powerful and very healthy. It is a big reason why I wanted to increase my focus to these internal signals and away from the flashing lights of the external world. But how did I create a way to do this?

A bucket list trip this summer gave me some hope in genuinely taking time to unplug from my outer life and figure out how to plug into my interoception. A week-long group yoga and hiking trip located high in the Spanish Asturian mountains was a perfect place to let go and quietly go inward.

Much of what I have learned and utilized about moving attention inward is that silence and stillness are essential. This is how much of breath work and meditation are taught by being in a quiet space and working to keep your body still. But what I was about to learn is that this is not always the case.

The second day of our trip brought us on a hike in the Xanas canyon. It is a beautiful gorge formed by the Viescas River. The hike was amazing for about a mile and then I turned and noticed the entire right side of the path was a steep drop-off about 100-200 feet straight down. Our narrow, stone covered trail also didn’t have a guard rail. I do not do well with heights and feelings of vertigo erupted within me. The peaceful and quiet surroundings should have been restful but internally my knees were weak, I was feeling dizzy, and my upper lip was quivering so quickly my face was moving. I tried to work my soothing magic by diaphragmatically breathing and saying positive safety affirmations as I stopped and became motionless. Sadly, this did not work. I had thought that being still was the key to bringing peace to my body and mind but in this situation that was not the case.

What worked to silence my mind and my body was to keep walking and moving. I would touch the cool limestone of the mountain with my left hand, move forward one foot in front of the other, and kept my eyes lowered on the path in front of me. Another area that I felt calmed me was the support from friends who chatted with me and continued to stay with me even at my slow pace. Nature also provided a sense of serenity as I noticed the beautiful forest and the details of the mountain which brought grounding.

This experience brought an insight to my journey in moving between my two worlds. There are days when sitting in a quiet space and meditating is what I need to do to go inward and decompress. There are other days when I need movement to bring stillness and silence to my mind. If I sit still and can’t find silence, then I turn to walking, biking, or yoga to help me clear my internal static. Nature is another release that can calm my mind. Snorkeling and watching the ocean floor, cross-country skiing in a snow-covered forest, or walking on a path at a local park partners nature with movement to sooth the body and mind. The connection that caring family and friends can bring is also a way to transition from internal chaos to the feeling of comfort.

How will you create a way to bring silence and serenity into your life so you can move between your two worlds? The key is it comes in a variety of ways at different times of life. Finding your way to stillness will usher in the internal clearing to find balance, wellness, and insight in your life.

Photo credit: Photo by Milan Popovic on Unsplash


1 Giorgia Zamariola, Nollaig Frost, Alice Van Oost, Olivier Corneille, Olivier Luminet,

Relationship between interoception and emotion regulation: New evidence from mixed methods,

Journal of Affective Disorders, Volume 246, 2019, Pages 480-485

2 Feldman MJ, MacCormack JK, Bonar AS, Lindquist KA. Interoceptive ability moderates the effect of physiological reactivity on social judgment. Emotion. 2023 Mar 23:10.1037/emo0001210. doi: 10.1037/emo0001210. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 36951718; PMCID: PMC10517073.


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