Thursday, 27 March 2008

We live in two worlds: an outer world of things and a rich inner world

We live in two worlds! Now, this may seem very strange but we do live in two distinct worlds. 

The first is a world of things, events and other people.



Then we also live in an inner world of thoughts, impressions and reactions to outer stimuli.

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These two worlds are very different. The outer world contains all that is needed to create experience for us except one thing we all desperately seek - happiness.


Is it True that Greater Happiness Can be Found in the Inner World?

The problem with satisfaction and 'happiness' in the outer sphere of activity is that it is conditional. When the conditions change, dissatisfaction enters.

Greater happiness can be found only in the inner world. Everything that we can find in the outer world can bring satisfaction, pride, joy but all these may turn stale and seem transitory. Thus we can observe two important things about life.
  • There are people who have much in the outer world yet are not happy. 
  • There are people who need very little on the outside to find happiness in the inner world. 
But it doesn't follow that if you have little possessions, you'll automatically be happier. Studying happy people would reveal the success formula to be rather a state of mind, which is a function of the inner world.

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Trying to satisfy the hunger within by getting more and more is an endless process. The thirst is never quenched.

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So, how does one achieve tranquility, gratefulness and true contentment while being truly what we are, without deadening our senses and desensitising our feelings. Yes, it is possible.

Achieving this is the art of living - so simple essentially yet so difficult. It is a matter of spirit. 

The first picture is from a shop window in Munich, Germany. I spent a lovely Easter there with friends.


PERMA = Positive Psychology Approach to Happiness

Martin Seligman, the famous American psychologist (his concept of learned helplessness is very much utilised by scientific and clinical psychologists) has suggested 5 items that seem to bring happiness more often than not:

  1. Pleasure (sensory pleasure e.g. warm baths and tasty foods)
  2. Engagement (the mysterious state called flow when we are absorbed yet challenged in doing something)
  3. Relationships (human relationships are a good indicator of life satisfaction)
  4. Meaning (belonging to something larger than self or a quest)
  5. Accomplishments (realising tangible goals)

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Here, the yardstick is not how much money you have, or the size of your car or the value of your house or how impressive the job title sounds.

The five items are very much about achieving a significant balance between inner world and outer world matters. It does not mean that the quantity the items bring more pleasure, but the individual experience of them. So, one slice of pizza can bring more happiness than six whole pizzas, in the right circumstances.

The clue is that it is not other people who dictate the criteria, but the criteria comes from within us.





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