sunday life: in which i check in with my inside people…and Eugene Tan
This week I check in with my “inside people”
You can spend a lifetime reading books about how to get happy in 11 easy steps while not sweating small stuff. There are a lot out there, generally written by some of the most tortured souls around (in the same way neurotics often become psychiatrists and awkward nerds generally become models).
But I find the most powerful life-bettering lessons emerge from everyday people you meet in the street. Randoms, in the act of happiness.
On Monday I ran into Eugene, a surfer I’ve known from around my neighbourhood for a while, sitting in the sun having a coffee. I asked what he was doing because he wasn’t reading the paper or talking into a phone. He was just sitting. “Sez, I’m checking in with my inside people,” he said everyday-ishly, like he was posting a letter.
As Eugene explained, this entails just sitting and asking of one’s people, “Are we all happy? Comfortable? Heading in good directions?” I could’ve asked Eugene to explain who these inside people were. But there’s no need, is there. We all kind of get it. Our “inside people” is that part of our selves that exists behind our external self. It’s the self we go home to after a bewildering day, or a loud night; the self that’s always there, silent and knowing.
In Buddhist circles, they call it the small “i”. When you ask “who am I?”, who asks the question (and answers it)? That would be your small “i” self. Eastern philosophy is mostly about checking in with this small “i”, to truly see where the truth is at.
Now for context, Eugene used to have an office job. Ten years ago he started getting up at dawn to take digital pictures of people on Bondi beach – surfing, running, meditating. Or just sitting. He’d post them on this new contraption called a blog, which fellow desk slaves could access for a hit of happiness as they arrived at their cubicles. One day he tossed in the day job and turned aquabumbs.com into a fulltime gig. The site gets 30,000 hits daily and he’s paid to fly around the world to surf and capture the joy of the sun coming up over beaches in images he also sells in his gallery. Nice life if you can create it for yourself.
In all honesty, I’ve never met anyone who’s been able to marry what they love with what they do so spectacularly. What’s his secret? Well, I’ve been thinking about it all week. I reckon it’s this inside people trick. He doesn’t feel the need to spell it out as I am want of doing, but when I ask what unhappy people get wrong, he’s emphatic: they don’t give themselves time with their inside people. And he’d know. He watches people for a living through the all-seeing lens of a camera.
He adds only this: don’t overcomplicate things – just make the time to check in. Every day. His sunrise ritual of getting up to watch surfers, which he’s done every day for a decade, is his time. “I don’t think or plan in this space, I just check in,” he says. And good stuff just emerges from there “without trying” (in his case, a business revolving around watching surfers at sunrise).
It’s pretty much meditation spelled out fresh. In fact, it reminds me of the time a girl next to me at my meditation group asked what she should be doing once in mediation to “work through issues”. She was learning meditation to manifest a husband and kid (no surprise – she’d watched The Secret four times). The guide simply said, “just meditate”. She must have heeded the advice. She’s gave birth to her first baby last week. Regardless, it’s a powerful point: just create the space and sit there with your inside people. Feel where they’re at and then let stuff happen.
Since Monday I’ve been checking in with my inside peeps for ten minutes before bed, but also whenever I have a void in the day (that I normally fill returning calls). There we are just hangin’ on a little ledge, somewhere near my heart space. Nothing to say, nothing to do. Just hangin’ and seeing how we’re going.
Funny thing is, when you enquire, the response is invariably, “pretty damn good, actually”. Inside peeps are like that. When you check in on them.