Albert Einstein is said to have observed: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Nowhere is this more apparent than in the general approach most humans take to living their lives.
Whoa. That sounds incredibly broad and big. Agreed. Let’s see if I can chew the huge hunk I just bit off…
My basic point is that most people live their lives by looking out to the world to do and get things that they think will make them feel happy inside. For example:
-Look out into the world for a boyfriend/girlfriend who will make me feel good inside.
-Drink great wine, eat great food and smoke great cigars to make me feel good inside.
-Work hard at my job so I can have money for a beautiful house and an expensive car and also have people look at me with envy and respect…all of which will make me feel good inside.
Looking outward doesn’t work
The problem is that this doesn’t work. It can for a while. You finally get that boyfriend and you’re hitting on all cylinders for a while…Then he starts putting you down or pressing some other of your inner buttons and eventually it’s, “Jeez, I felt better when I was single.”
Or you get all excited about that new car that smells great and has a bunch of cool features…Then a few weeks later you notice that you drove around town doing errands for a few hours and didn’t even think once about how cool your car is.
I’m obviously not the first person to note that living from the inside out rather than the outside in is the healthiest way to go. What I think needs emphasis, however, is the sheer pervasiveness of this insanity. Do you know anybody who doesn’t live this way, at least to some degree?
And even though it doesn’t work, people continue on this “looking out in order to feel good inside” path.
The ego is the culprit
Why is this? Why do we all lead these lives of insanity? The simple answer is that the egoic, conditioned self dominates the conscious, true self in most of the seven plus billion people currently inhabiting Earth, for reasons I’ve written about extensively. It’s our egoic selves that think money, houses, fame and yes, romantic love, will make us happy. And as long as that egoic self is in the driver’s seat of our lives, we will continue to look out rather than in for our happiness.
How do we deflate the ego and inflate the conscious self? We get our internal houses in order. How? We do therapy. We meditate regularly and practice mindfulness. We do a whole panoply of work whose overall aim is ridding ourselves of the emotional baggage we’ve all accumulated since our earliest days and into adulthood.
Our true self — junk in the trunk
Because this baggage is the ego. It’s all of our insecurities, grievances and psychic injuries that together form a thick barrier preventing our conscious selves from getting anywhere near that coveted driver’s seat of our lives. That egoic barrier is so thick in most of us that the conscious self isn’t even in the passenger’s seat. Or the back seat. It’s relegated to the dark abyss of the trunk shooting the breeze with our jumper cables.
The long and the short of this is that when we do that inner work, which is the work of a lifetime, we ultimately end up at a place where we don’t need the external world to make us happy. We don’t need the mansion, the marriage, the high-profile job…Not that we won’t get those things. We just won’t need them to be happy.
No baggage = feel great
When we clear away the baggage, the energy just flows and we feel really good for no reason other than we’re able to be in our moments enjoying, as Joseph Campbell called it, the experience of being alive. People like the great spiritual teacher and author, Michael Singer, and Eckhart Tolle say they don’t really do that much.
Singer is a multimillionaire former software executive who wears the same khaki pants and navy blue long sleeve shirt most days. Eckhart says he mostly reads and takes walks in the forest in Vancouver. And yet both exude such peace and contentment. In fact, Singer says that when anybody asks him how he’s doing he says, “Ecstatic!”
Fine, so most people look out to the world for their happiness and it doesn’t work. If I’m you I’m asking, “Great. What does that mean for me? Give me something I can take away.”
Fair enough. I have two things I would love anybody reading this to do.
First, ask yourself two questions:
Question 1: Do you mostly look to the outside world to make yourself happy inside?
Question 2: If you answered ‘yes,’ is this approach working for you or are you mostly frustrated in your pursuit of happiness?
Second, if you answered ‘yes’ to question 1 and ‘no’ to question 2, then at least consider making the paradigm shift from looking outside for your answers to looking within. How would one go about effectuating that shift? As I said earlier, there’s therapy, meditation, mindfulness and a whole host of other techniques and practices out there for diving inside and letting go of our baggage.
The bottom line on all of this? If looking out to the world for your happiness isn’t working, why not try something else? Common sense dictates giving the inside out strategy a concerted effort.
I’ll leave you with this: Imagine a life where your happiness didn’t depend on what the outside world was or wasn’t giving you.
Let that sink in…