Lifestyle Awareness: Outer vs. Inner
When you look up the Lifestyle section in a newspaper, it usually contains feature articles about entertainment, travel, fashion, cooking and other useful household hints. When you look for a Lifestyle magazine, you end up with magazines dealing with health and fitness, tourism, leisure, fashion, decorating, or culture. The term “lifestyle” typically refers to what I would like to label as an “outer lifestyle.” Given this popular belief, most of us focus on the outer aspects of our life to define our lifestyle. Unfortunately, I believe that this limits the scope of our ability to live a happy and fulfilled life. To live in a state of joy requires that we also pay close attention to our inner lives—our innerLifestyle™.
We are reasonably familiar with what constitutes our outer lifestyle—fashion, travel, entertainment, home and fitness. What this typically fails to encompass is the quality of our inner lives. In fact, in a post that I had written a few months ago about career choices and our obsession with achievement and pleasure vs. joy and fulfillment, I attempted to address the distinction between “standard of living” and “quality of life.” Upon further inquiry, I noticed that many don’t include emotional well-being into the definition of the quality of one’s life.
In my opinion, I feel that one’s emotional and social well-being has a tremendous impact on the amount of joy and fulfillment in their life. Our over-emphasis on the outer lifestyle needs to be re-evaluated and adjusted to address the needs of our inner world. Given that our inner world is abstract and tougher to get our arms around, we tend to ignore it and spend more of our time on the outer world. This gets compounded when our ego wants to win the comparison war with our neighbors, friends and relatives. I am reminded of a joke that was shared at one of the meditation retreats that I attended a few years ago. It was a three-day retreat and on the first night, the teacher reminded us in a matter of fact manner, “Today, you will be comparing the kinds of cars that each of you drove here in. On Sunday, you will be comparing who meditates better, that’s all.”
So activities and practices such as centering prayer and meditation, do not by themselves make you more aware of what’s driving you to do the things you do. Such contemplative exercises tend to create some space in your mind and provides some clarity. How you engage that opening is up to you. Being clear about who you are and what’s driving you are the most vital discoveries in your life.
Most of us think that we are what we do. That’s the reason why we tend to get devastated when we lose a job or something similar, since our identity is completely attached to the role we play in our outer life. That’s absolutely not who we are. On the other hand, in our busy world, they is very little time to help children learn about themselves, who they truly are and what their real potential is. This not only takes time from parents, guides and teachers, but also demands that they are aware and comfortable in discussing these abstract and intangible topics in a simple and understanding manner.
As part of my work with the Mindful Nation Foundation, I have had the opportunity to come across a number of people and organizations trying to bring this wisdom into our world. I am excited that more and more regular people are exploring these frontiers and embarking on an inner odyssey—one of reflection and retrospection to learn about what really matters and how they can easily change the quality of their life experience to a large extent.
Peace and be well,