Ask Deepak: How to Explore Inner Peace and Happiness
By Deepak Chopra
March 03, 2010
Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: Is inner peace happiness? I cannot say I am happy, but I'm no longer sure that is the appropriate question. When I ask myself, "Am I unhappy?" I cannot say that I am because there is a peace that appears to be persistent. Is happiness or unhappiness just a reaction to outer circumstances? For example: I need to earn more money to pay my bills or I need to wear a hat because it is so cold? I wonder would that peace disappear if I found myself homeless or frozen with cold 24/7, or would that peace disappear if I won the lottery? I could only know the answer in those circumstances. Could it be that I may simply need to find new ways to stay connected with this peace in extreme circumstances, either good or bad? Thank you in advance.
— Joe E., Dublin, Ireland
You aren't experiencing peace. You are caught in stasis, and what most would call the blahs, you call peace. Sad to say, millions of people are grateful to be blah, because it's a lot better than being homeless or ill. However, even though hiding in a hole is certainly safe, it's nobody's notion of sheer bliss.
Happiness has become a hot topic of research in psychology, and I suspect that you have encountered some of that. One branch of so-called "positive psychology" echoes your belief that happiness is temporary and fleeting. Outside conditions contribute to whether we feel happy or sad. So does an "emotional set point," which for some people is preset on the sunny side and for others on the gloomy side.
Yet whatever makes a person happy or sad, research suggests that personal choice is the biggest factor. Which means that your peace is the result of making choices in the past. We have all been conditioned to mistake ingrained beliefs as reality and stubborn habits as the inevitable.
I wanted to expand on the current happiness research and wrote a book, The Ultimate Happiness Prescription, to describe the kinds of choices that bring a new level of happiness, known as bliss or ecstasy. This sort of happiness is permanent, deep and part of your true self. It's the only happiness that no one can take away from you. Once you have explored the choices open to you, you can decide if you want to settle for your current state of peace.