Nothing Out There

by Jennifer Paros

December 2013

The only journey is the one within.

~ Rainier Maria Rilke


When I was in labor with my first child, after many hours I felt a sense of panic. I sat in my room on the edge of the bed, my husband and sister in and out to check on me. Every sound was too loud, every motion abrasive. A pizza had been ordered (for the others) and I could not bear to smell it; it seemed to be asking the impossible of me.

I was about to split apart into a thousand pieces; I was a volcano soon to erupt. I was consumed with the task at hand and felt without the wherewithal to smell anything. I didn't have time to be distracted by sound or smell or sight. I needed complete concentration in order to do this thing. And anything that seemed to ask for my attention was offensive, if not sickening.

I was breathing purposefully, but I was grasping at the air. It was as though I were submerged, desperately reaching to get through the surface of the water for another breath.

Finally, I had to admit my method wasn't working. The panic I was trying to escape was my own and no one else's, which meant I was in charge of it. I knew I had to settle back into myself. I was in anxiety because I was reaching for something out there to change my experience. This new life was coming through me. It had nothing to do with anything external. There was nothing that was going to change my central role. This was my project, my body, and most importantly, my being. This was my experience and no one else's, and until I owned that, I was going to suffer reaching outward for what could only come from within. I had to accept the experience was coming from me, through me, and to me, and if I was really honest, for me.

I stopped taking breaths as though they were my last. I ended the tale of desperation and took charge, directing my attention to stay put in me, in my own power, instead of looking elsewhere. And I found an easier way forward.

Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.

~ Mahatma Gandhi

We're each engaged in birthing our own experiences all the time. The creative process does not stop. The more we look to ourselves, the more we use what's within, the stronger we feel and the more we create purposefully. And life stops taking on this "I can't believe this is happening to me" feeling. We're no longer victims of time, people, or circumstance. Now it's about owning everything - every feeling, every thought, every experience - so we can return to our power and create what we want.

Amongst writers it's not uncommon to think we have to find our way by asking the experts, by researching the "right" way, by finding the six (or seven or ten) easy steps to achieving success. But beyond basic practical ideas, we're the only ones who can bring forth what wants to come through us; we're the only ones who can know the path specifically designed to accommodate what we wish to share. Our peace of mind, calm, and sense of wellbeing depends on us turning to where our creative drive originates: from within.

As a child, I trailed after my mom, talking. I don't remember what I said, just that I talked a lot. I was hoping if I told her enough, she might help flatten my fear. I wanted her to know when I felt like I was underwater, when my next breath seemed hard. I was hoping she would help me breathe easy; I was convinced breathing easier depended on someone else or on circumstances. So I struggled to find ease in a place it did not exist, not knowing that breathing easy ultimately comes only from the person herself.

When we reach outside ourselves for stability and peace in our experience, the very act of reaching and not finding leaves us fearful. But we feel afraid only because we are reaching in the wrong direction. In the direction of who we really are and where authentic power resides, there is fearlessness. There is nothing out there, but there is everything in here - every bit of capability, intelligence, and love - to bring forth whatever we want.

Jennifer Paros is a writer, illustrator, and author of Violet Bing and the Grand House (Viking, 2007). She lives in Seattle. Please visit her website at

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