The Meaning of Life
Michael and I recently spent a couple of weeks visiting family and friends in my native Switzerland. There we stayed at my brother’s place, where the following message adorned our room and inspired me to write this blog post:
May I go even further than the Dalai Lama, and say that making a difference for others also holds the key to our own happiness? Maybe even our physical and mental health?
I believe so. In fact, more and more studies show a definite link between contentment and health.
Which brings me to altruism’s opposite: self-absorption, or self-centredness.
Self-absorption is an obsession with personal gratification.
Externally, it can manifest as more and more stuff, food cravings and/or sexual encounters. Sensory pleasures might fill our life, but they cannot fill our inner void. Hence their addictive nature linked to on-going dissatisfaction.
Internally, self-centredness leads to focussing on one’s inner life at the expense of our relationships with others. We get so caught up in our own thoughts, feelings and emotions that we aren’t really present.
Notice that self-absorption is not to be confused with self-awareness.
The difference lies in ego involvement.
In self-awareness, we become our own observer from a higher perspective, with little ego attachment. We’re fully engaged in the moment whilst noticing what’s happening in body and mind. We don’t judge, we just learn something new about ourselves.
That’s why self-awareness – also known as mindfulness – has positive cognitive and behavioural consequences.
Whereas in self-absorption, ego runs the show through never-ending commentary and judgements. “What about me?” is the key concern. And over time such mental rumination often leads to a downward spiral of anxiety and low self-esteem. For some, depression is the end result.
So if you’re unhappy right now, do whatever it takes to shift your attention from self-absorption to self-awareness.
“Easier said than done”, you might think. And yet it can be done. I know for sure. Because at some stage I did it myself.
So here are three tools best used together:
- Make a conscious effort to follow the Dalai Lama’s words of wisdom and make a difference for others. Review every night what you’ve contributed to the world that day, and what you’re grateful for. Every time you have something to celebrate, you’ll feel a little bit happier. Guaranteed.
- Get out of your mind by becoming more physically active. Practice dynamic forms of meditation. Dance like nobody is watching. Learn martial arts. Go walk in nature and focus on your surroundings without judgements. Breathe more deeply.
- Attend retreats designed to help you shift gear in a matter of days. Yes, some personal development workshops are the fast track to inner change. If you live in Australia or New Zealand, check the In-Tuition & Freedom workshop offered by the INNER PEACE Institute for Wellbeing.
Michael and I created these INNER PEACE workshops in order to change lives. And we’ve had the privilege to help thousands of people over the past 20 years. So we know from personal experience that the Dalai Lama’s words are spot on:
“If you contribute to other people’s happiness, you will find the true goal, the true meaning of life.”
All the best for your journey. I hope you enjoy your life with ever-increasing self-awareness, clarity and joy.