When it comes to life it is important to recognize that there are at least two components to living a good life. The first of these is how we relate to the outer world. It includes our intimate and family relationships, while also encompassing work, friends and society at large.
At a simple level if we are working to much or too little our quality of life tends to disintegrate. If we delve a little deeper and find ourselves doing work that we are not meant to be doing, then we often find that frustration, grumpiness and a generalized dissatisfaction with life can quickly settle in. A good inquiry to follow then is to determine if you are doing the work you are meant to be doing. Recognize that sometimes it takes many steps to discover the type of work your meant to be doing.
Additionally, the work does not necessarily have to be full time, sometimes it can be part time. For example, I try and write which for now seems to be what I am meant to be doing. But it is not my source of income. I do something else which enables me to keep writing. I also find that if I do not write for a few days, then I start feeling a little out of sorts. My body signals to me to get back and write something, anything even if the quality is poor. I see this same sort of reaction in many people where they are not doing what they love to be doing. Doing something you love equates to a deeper satisfaction with life. One final thing, what may be our calling today may not be the same calling tomorrow. It can change over a lifespan and that is normal.
Friends are also an interesting area to investigate. Rather than find one best friend that is meant to include all areas of life, it is generally more beneficial to have 3-6 good friends who cover different aspects of life. For example, I have friends who I game with. Friends who I philosophize with. There are people I like to kick back and watch the sunset with and laze the day away with. I am sure you get the idea.
For there to be a deep satisfaction with life we need to get our outer world in order. It needs to feed us love, attention (not the narcissistic type) compassion and kindness. All while bearing in mind the day to day practicalities of living a comfortable life.
Our inner realm also need our attention in a similar way. As it implies the inner realm is about how we relate to ourselves. Are we compassionate and kind to ourselves? How much time do we devote to figuring out how we tick? Are we comfortable with ourselves and in particular being alone?
While we can look to the outer to feed compassion and kindness, it is imperative to also feed ourselves these same qualities. Often when I hear people berate themselves and be overly critical with themselves, I ask them to stop. What I am asking them to do is interrupt the train of thought which frequently runs away with itself. The interrupt also includes a gentler way of speaking to ourselves. If we are gentle, compassionate and kind with ourselves then we tend to expect no less from others. Rather than becoming meeker, the reaction is to have clearer and firmer boundaries about what is acceptable to us. Additionally, there should considerable empathy towards others when they don’t act in ways we expect of them. Empathy is like a muscle in that it requires constant work and attention.
Our inner world also comprises our emotions. Generally, it is a great idea to not make a decision in anger or frustration. Even feeling a little out of sorts can heavily influence the direction of our decisions. Finding a quiet relaxed space within ourselves is essential to good decision making. Which is not to say, we should deny our emotions. On the contrary, we should feel them fully and then let them go. The Buddhist principle of non-attachment is something well worth researching more fully if there is no or little familiarity with the concept.
Another extremely important facet of the inner is how much time do we really devote to knowing ourselves. In my experience, people are often out of balance in this regard. They either become to analytical and intellectual and therefore miss important elements of life, or more frequently they give little or no attention to knowing themselves. The inherent danger of both approaches is primarily one of repeating the same mistakes over and over again. I would encourage people to get to know how they operate and in particular how the unconscious operates. More on that in future articles.
In summary, I wanted to introduce the concepts of inner and outer as a rough guide to use for one’s life. I find it useful to determine whether an area for improvement lays in the inner or outer realm. Once we determine that, we can ask ourselves how are we out of balance, or how can we achieve a good balance.
I will attempt to delve deeper into these concepts and also include a few more for discussion in time.