It only takes a 5 minute drive anywhere in Sydney to feel the effects of your external environment on your internal one.

A car cutting you off or barraging across 3 lanes because they weren’t paying attention and realized they need to turn left instead of right, a scooter taking out your side mirror, drivers mindlessly on their mobile phones swerving into your lane – it’s a battlefield out there that can leave you feeling overwhelmed and exhausted just for ducking up the street for a few groceries.

And speaking of groceries, supermarkets can take specialist negotiation skills with a booster of patience to get through. Aisle blocking, line pushing, trolley barging. I get myself into a pickle because I JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND THESE PEOPLE. I try though by considering they aren’t like that all the time, and maybe they just lost their job or their home or a loved one.

I remember standing in a shopping centre just hours after I watched my Nan pass away. It was surreal. I was zombie like – walking through watching everyone else go about their day filling scripts at the chemist and picking up a bag of bread rolls at the bakery. In deep grief, I was thinking to myself “how can these people get on with their day? My Nan died just 3 hours ago, I watched her leave this world. There’s a human being who frequented this shopping centre every week for 40 years who no longer exists in this world and who will never come here again.” My world was in slow motion. My presence of mind for a while was non-existent.


When I’m grocery shopping or on the bus (or lets face it, anywhere out in public) I try, sometimes without success, to give people who appear to not have much awareness, a consideration that their world might also be in slow motion for their very own reason.  Humaning is hard. Really hard. The hardest I reckon. It’s bang up easy to judge others when we don’t know them. Brene Brown has spoken about this and suggests we “get in close”. It’s so true. It’s really hard to have hatred for another human when we really see them because just like us, they have a story and struggles and are doing the best they can with what they have.

It’s so much easier to take the high road, to stand up there finger pointing, making all kinds of judgments and assessments based on one very limited and disconnected interaction. It feels powerful and righteous. I’ve done plenty of it in my lifetime and I’ve learnt that it shrinks my own world and contracts me. It makes me bitter which only serves to affect me more than it does the people I’m judging.


My power lies in creating an internal environment that isn’t ruffled by the external one. When I first began meditating some 21 years ago, I could barely stand the person sniffing across the other side of the room, or the fellow student who just couldn’t sit still. I would be internally wild with anger that “they” were interrupting and making “my” meditation session impossible. HA! How much I have learnt since then. I’m far from the serene yogi sitting in deep meditation on the streets of Delhi, but I’ve made a good start.


The eastern philosophies have got the right idea about accepting this moment as it is. When we resist the moment – feeling disrupted by noise, getting wound up in traffic, expecting others to function the way we do – we create tension within us and then wesuffer. If we can allow the moment to be as it is, to stop even grasping it as “our” moment, that softening creates more space. This moment is not solely mine; it also belongs to the drivers whose cars make constant traffic noise out the front. It belongs to the dogs on three sides of me who cry when they feel lonely. The moments are ours collectively and they are happening over and over, every passing moment.

I’ve had clients with gut symptoms who have actively managed other people’s access to bathrooms as a way to reduce their own anxiety about it being unavailable. It’s their moment too.

We have the freedom and power of choice. We can be annoyed at what’s happening in the spaces around us, or we can let that go and focus on creating an internal space that promotes wellness.  When our internal environment is content, it vastly changes how we see the external one, how we relate to it and how it affects us. When I hear this quote, I feel the solid grounding “When the roots are deep, there is no reason to fear the wind”.

We need to feel safe in the world. We are biologically wired to grow, heal and thrive when we are safe. As adults, that safety is our responsibility. Many, many years ago I trained as a manager with The Body Shop. When I would feel stressed, my trainers and managers would ask me a powerful question “Is this within your circle of control?” If it wasn’t, I let it go. If it was, I was then in a position to do something about it.

Is your internal environment within your circle of control or influence? Absolutely! You can’t even begin to imagine the sense of empowerment and self-esteem you’ll experience when you begin to master your internal world. It brings with it a sense of safety like no other because there’s an implicit message from those deep roots that you can trust you.

About the author

Michelle White offers 10 years of clinical support in the psychological and behavioural aspects of gut disorders, chronic stress and anxiety and chronic illness through gut focused therapy and embodied psychotherapy.