- The World Around Us.
- The World Between Us.
- The World Within Us.
How we relate to each of these is different for each one of us. Some of us may give priority to one world and neglect the other two. Some may even attempt to undermine or dismiss one of the worlds, contending that it is either irrelevant or non-existent. Whatever the relationship we have with these worlds, our wellbeing, the wellbeing of others, and the wellbeing of the entire planet, are dependent upon our being able to balance each of these worlds in a harmonious and compassionate manner.
If we suffer from anxiety, depression, or trauma, we may decide to seek professional help via a psychologist or other helping profession. Yet, more often than not, this help will seek to adjust the “sufferer” to the norm of society. This turns out to be only a partial, and insufficient, treatment. This is so because only one of our worlds is being considered.
Jiddu Krishnamurti (20th century Indian philosopher, writer, teacher, and speaker) is attributed with this quote:
‘It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profanely sick society.’
Although there is no reference in any of his writings or speeches to this exact quote, the sentiment contained in it was a theme that Krishnamurti often referred to.1 Essentially, he was alerting us to the limitations of seeking health and healing through only one of our three worlds.
The Hungarian-Canadian psychologist, Gabor Maté, takes up this theme in his latest book – The Myth of Normal.2 Maté has spent decades working with trauma sufferers and has written extensively about his work and research. He is convinced that ‘behind the epidemic of chronic afflictions, mental and physical, that beset our current moment, something is amiss in our culture itself.’
We cannot heal one of our worlds if we do not also heal the other two. Or, looking at this from a slightly different perspective; we cannot remain healthy in one (or two) of our worlds if the other world(s) are unhealthy.
When we honestly consider each of our three worlds, we notice that each of them contains elements that are healthy, yet also elements that are unhealthy.
The World Around Us contains much beauty, serenity, and diversity. Just look at the butterflies, the waterfalls, the distant vista of a mountain range, or the majestic sand-waves of a desert.
Yet, the World Around Us is in an unhealthy state, and becoming steadily worse. Look at the pollution of rivers, lakes, and the ocean, or the massive deforestation of rainforests, and the extremely high rate of species extinction (between 100 – 1,000 times the ‘normal’ background extinction rate.)
The World Between Us has many examples of love, compassion, kindness, and empathy, in our personal lives and at a social level. The plethora of voluntary organisations and charitable trusts gives proof to this.
Sadly though, our human relationships are also plagued with racism, misogyny, bigotry, violence, and exploitation of many forms. War still seems to be the default go-to solution to international disputes
The World Within Us has the capacity for fulfillment, contentment, happiness, and inner peace. Many of us manage to discover meaning and identity in our existence.
Unfortunately, many do not. Rates of depression, anxiety, self-harm (including suicide,) isolation, and addiction in many parts of the world are staggeringly high.
If we wish to heal one of our three worlds that is presently unhealthy we must do so recognising that the health of the other two is vital in that healing. Jiddu Krishnamurti and Gabor Maté, both mentioned above, make the connection between our World Within and our World Between.
The (healthy) connection between the World Around Us and our World Within Us is strikingly evidenced by the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing.) Forest bathing is a slow, deliberative, mindful way of interacting with nature (especially in a forest or bush.) Each of our senses are focused and paid close attention to.
Japanese (and other) research over the past 30 years has shown the benefits of shinrin-yoku.3 The benefits vary from individual to individual and include: lower stress, decreased blood pressure, relief from various illnesses, boosting of the immune system, and many others.
Forest bathing is a reciprocal arrangement. We (humans) can only obtain the health benefits of the forest if we in turn, are willing to enable the forest to heal.
Again, as before, we cannot heal just one World by itself. All three are connected, and all three can only heal in a mutually supportive manner.
1. For example: ‘Is society healthy, that an individual should return to it? Has not society itself helped to make the individual unhealthy? Of course, the unhealthy must be made healthy, that goes without saying; but why should the individual adjust himself to an unhealthy society? If he is healthy, he will not be a part of it. Without first questioning the health of society, what is the good of helping misfits to conform to society?’ Commentaries on Living: Series III, published in 1960, and written in the early 1950s.
2. Gabor Maté with Daniel Maté, The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness & Healing in a Toxic Culture, Vermillion, London, 2022.
3. See especially: Miyazaki, Yoshifumi, The Japanese Art of Shinrin-Yoku, Timber Press, Portland, Oregon, 2018.