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Melissa Portan LMSW, MEd

Writer & Sexologist

Melissa is a 5th generation spiritual guide who specializes in helping others find their own spiritual path. She is also a sex and relationship therapist practicing in NYC.


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What does “Look Within” mean?


“Aferrado A Una Idea” by Andres Nieto Porras

What the (insert favorite expletive here) does look within mean? Often, this phrase comes across as cheesy, superficial, and something some stoner might say. Okay, so I’m not a stoner and maybe, I’ll admit, I can come across as cheesy sometimes. And to avoid being superficial, let’s look at what this phrase means because recently I’ve been saying this a lot (either through my answers to your questions or posts).When I first started my spiritual path I had no idea of looking within. All I wanted was to be a witch! Is that too much to ask? I wanted magic potions and maybe, just maybe, a flying broom. But as I studied more I realized that I couldn’t achieve anything without taking a look inside myself. Then I realized that I didn’t want to be a witch or a Wiccan. It wasn’t for me. And how did I discover this? I looked within!

Really what this fluffed up phrase means, and I say it is fluffed up because so many just throw it around haphazardly at any problem or situation as if it is a pan-answer, is awareness. Look within means being aware. I used to read articles or blogs with this phrase, get frustrated because the language was so confusing, referring to energy forms, spirits, astral levels, and so on. It is simple. It is not easy. Keep in mind that looking within, the idea of it, is simple, but it is not easy to do. For some, looking inside themselves comes more naturally, for others it is almost impossible.

See, we all have ideas we hold onto as if our lives depend on them. We have ideas of who we are, who we want to be, and who we should be. We have ideas and beliefs of the world, of life and how it should be, of what is right and wrong. Most of the things that make us move through life as we do are unconscious. Who we are stems from deep somewhere unknown. Our beliefs are the strongest parameters or limits we have in our minds. These things give us security, they make us feel better, they makes us feel like we know.

So, when we look within, what we are doing is looking or analyzing all of the aforementioned things. We are analyzing our beliefs of the world, of ourselves, and anything else. And that is not always easy. There are bound to be things you don’t like about yourself, things you’d rather avoid, and going in and looking at them is not easy. But in doing so, in analyzing yourself, you bring awareness to yourself. You bring awareness to more of yourself. What’s that famous saying, an unexamined life is not worth living? That is a bit harsh, but in not bringing awareness to who we really are we miss out on a lot and even cause harm.

What looking within requires:

  1. self-reflection

  2. analysis, critical thinking, asking questions

  3. letting go

If you can do steps 1 and 2 you have done a lot. Letting go of whatever is harmful, useless, and when we are wrong is the hardest part. See, it is simple, but it is not easy.



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