I have been writing in a typed journal almost every single day since the start of this year. I have hundreds of thousands of words, compiled away. I use this typed journal for many reasons. Maybe, one day I can make a book out of it. However, it never began with that in mind. I began writing in a handwritten journal during my first proper trip to South East Asia in 2016 where I lived in a rural Thai village for one months, helping to look after elephants in a village. It was there where my interest in humanitarian work in third world countries grew. I started a hand written journal to document the events of that trip. After two months being away and documenting, I was back in Sydney and began to document my day to day life in hand writing. A time of depression and anxiety lead me to using the journal as a form of therapy. When I was in pain, I could sit on my couch or at a table for hours with the pen in my hand and the journal with me. Below is an entry I wrote earlier this year.
Journal Entry – 07/02/2019
Up at 7:30 am, I had to get my bicycle to the nearest hangout spot so my friend could pick it up. It was one of the many possessions I handed over to the friends who I was leaving behind in Siem Reap. I made my way to my favourite cafe where I said my goodbyes to the friends I had made there. A farewell coffee and the exchange of small gifts gave me a warm sense of comfort. Then, it was to the bus depot. My morning was structured and well planned. I guess, I had planned my exit from Siem Reap well because I knew if I hadn’t, I would put myself in a deeper state of emotional overwhelm.
About 4 hours later, we arrive in the town of Battambang and that is when the nerves began to really kick in. Having gone from a busy, tourist town like Siem Reap to a small country town like Battambang really threw me off. It wasn’t only the shock caused by the change of environment, but also the fact that I knew I was leaving behind a life that I have worked hard at building for the last 8 months. It was a life that took time, care and responsibility, as I had to fend for myself for the very first time in my life – survival wise.
I slept after a decent sized cambodian dish – beef curry. I thought, “maybe the pain will subside after a short nap”. It only intensified when I woke up. I spent 30 minutes on my bed, crying with a pillow over my face. I then took myself to the bathroom where I cried for another 20 minutes and then the deck chair by the pool where I just sat, lost looking at the reflection of the water – tears rolling down my eyes, profusely.
Why was I so emotional? What was it that I was feeling? I realised, it wasn’t fear, at all. It was grief. I was in a state of grief for the life in Siem Reap that I was leaving behind. So many memories were created there, so many deep connections and so much comfort was built and developed over time. Siem reap became my life. That shift in environment and lifestyle always throws you off. It’s the grief you experience for the old life you once clinged to. Everything becomes familiar and comforting.
It was around 9pm when I decided that I had released as much emotion as what was required, and it was time to move on with things. This journey will go on, and when things need to be left to the past, as hard as it is to let go, it is a must. With the help of a few whiskey and cokes, I felt relieved.
I promised myself I wouldn’t drink until I had surpassed the eye of the emotional storm in my sober state of mind. I didn’t want to numb my pain because that would truly defeat the purpose of all of this. I never embarked on this journey for the sake of experiencing pleasure, and only pleasure. I came here to embrace everything for what is.
Last night was the first night I returned back into the commune after spending almost a month back home in Sydney. I went from sleeping in my one and only bed back home to a yoga mat on the floor under a mosquito net.
How does one transition from one extreme to another in such a short space of time? I don’t really know, to be honest. You just do it. The way I look at it is, there are parts of everyone’s job that they don’t particularly enjoy. If you work in an office, you might dread that time of the day when you have to do those tedious tasks, or if you are working on a construction site and you dread those scorching hot days in the sun where you get the life sucked out from you while you put your body through labour intensive activity. There are parts of everyone’s journey or path that they don’t like, but they do despite the dread, because the bigger picture, the purpose and the motive outshines all of those trivial details.
For me, sleeping on a yoga mat on the floor under a mosquito net in a hot Cambodian village isn’t ideal. I don’t necessarily enjoy that part of the job. However, I have come to learn new ways of looking at these minor, trivial details. Instead of focusing on how much I dread waking up with my back sore and my body in sweat, I tend to focus more on how much this will build my character.
I already had a small taste for the change in character that I have experienced when I went back to Sydney for that one month. I stayed in my middle class home, driving around in middle class cars, eating at middle class restaurants, yet it all felt like a 7 star vacation, only one that the rich can afford. This shift in perspective has filled me with gratitude and happiness, and it has changed the way in which I perceive my reality, for better of worse.
They say, “Money is the root of all evil” – How can it be? Wealth is capable of bringing happiness and health to one’s life, if used correctly. If money cannot buy happiness, then a lack of surely cannot either. These poor living conditions in the village is enough to make one unhappy.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to your perspective.
Author of such books as ‘So Good They Can’t Ignore You’, & ‘Deep Work’, Cal Newport talks about a concept he refers to as isolation deprivation.
It’s interesting because lately I have been trying to weigh up the costs and benefits of living a life that involves a little more isolation than usual. I have gone from one extreme to another. Only a month ago I was living in a house with no less than 10 people constantly around. Social interaction was almost inescapable at all times of the day and night.
Now days, I am back to living on my own. Purposefully, I have come to take a break away from the load of such an abundant level of social interaction to take some time out to do some deep work of my own where my thinking is less likely to be influenced by outside forces.
I believe that periods of isolation are necessary, especially when in the pursuit of artistic, entrepreneurial and philosophical endeavors. However, I had to question myself as to whether or not I am really in isolation or not.
This goes back to the concept that Cal Newport speaks about. Since the introduction of personal computers and social media, a large number of humanity have found a way to dodge those moments of isolation by distracting themselves with technology. So, I asked myself, “Although I live alone, how much alone time am I actually getting”?
I tried to answer as honestly as possible, and my answer was quite simple – I am not getting alone time that much at all. In fact, I have found myself using technology even more since being alone. This is a mechanism to fight off my fear of boredom and loneliness.
The danger with this is, I am giving very little chance to release all that mental energy that is stored because I am constantly distracting it. Like a dog who needs exercise, it must be released from the confines of the small backyard it inhabits so it can run free every now and again, just as nature intended. So, by the time my body is wanting to go to sleep, my mind is wanting to just leap with energy.
So, earlier today I tried something. I put my phone away for an hour and a half, laid on my bed with my eyes closed and I just let my mind go. I found that there was so much mental energy wanting to be released that I had been suppressing. I felt this sense of calm begin to spread through my head and the rest of my body as I just laid there and watched my thoughts as if I were watching a movie at the cinemas.
By doing this, I was able to let it do what nature designed it to do. Although I am a huge advocate for technology, ensuring that one uses it in a healthy manner is so critical for health. Could this constant distraction be the cause for mental health issues among younger generations of today? I can definitely feel it in my mind and body, by taking that small break away from tech I feel a little more at ease, simply because I have released some tension from the mind.
It is not tech that is the issue, but rather our compulsive behaviors that lead us down such unhealthy, unnatural ways of living.
To live life as a volunteer is to live willingly, accepting responsibility for your entire human experience.
To live life willingly and consciously is to recognise the fact that we are capable of responding to anything in life the way in which we wish to respond, not shifting any of the blame or responsibility on any external forces.
External forces are constant and they are far too volatile that you do not want to place responsibility on it for the way in which you experience life because you would be enslaved by these forces.
Freeing yourself from these forces would mean to take full responsibility for all that you are. After all, responding in negative ways creates poison in the body. What you know as anger or frustration is a chemical reaction in the body. You are only harming yourself by giving up your ability to respond to life the way you wish.
Understanding this requires a shift in perception. If perception makes up the parts of the external signal that passes through the control centre and then meets with an underlying belief, then it is evident that changing our beliefs around who is responsible for what in our lives is a good place to begin.
Focusing on changing the belief will in turn change the way in which we perceive things in life. Changing the way in which we perceive things in life changes the way we act and behave – it changes our whole experience of life, itself.
Whether you are aware of it or not, you are responding to your environment. You are in constant internal response to what you experience before you, physically, mentally and emotionally.
I feel like the whole notion of ‘being responsible’ in life has been slightly misused over the course of time.
You read the journal entries of those Stoic Philosophers from back in the ancient Roman and Greek era, and those greats speak the same message – take full responsibility for your life.
I’ve never known how to frame it properly, in a way which made me take conscious steps towards making this an everyday reality for myself. Imagine if I could take full responsibility for my life. What would that mean? I would no longer be dependable on outside circumstances to make me feel joyful on the inside? That is one great aspect. However, the one I had to get to first was, not allowing the obstacles and the challenging encounters with people or things impact the way you feel on the inside. Imagine if you could be totally resistant free, in that sense. I can’t even begin to imagine how liberating that would be for ones experience through life.
There is another way that we can frame this word, ‘responsibility’. To be responsible is to be ‘response – able’, meaning you are fully able to respond to anything you experience in life. You have unlimited power in this sense. No, you cannot take action on everything, but you can always choose the way in which you respond in your life. You always have the choice and no one can ever take that unlimited power away from you.
Being response able doesn’t mean everything is your fault. It means, you have the ability to respond to everything you experience – physically, mentally and emotionally.
The issue is, we get stuck in compulsive patterns of behaviour. That is us responding to our experience, and the more compulsive these patterns are, the more detrimental they become to your life.
Right now, everything that’s around you is responding to you. You breathe in oxygen and the trees breathe in carbon dioxide. You breathe out carbon dioxide and the trees breathe out oxygen. You are just another one of those pieces to this huge puzzle of limitless possibility.
What are you going to do? Are you going to respond to your experience compulsively, like a slave to your mind and body? Or are you going to take charge of your instruments and respond consciously.
How liberating would it be…
My passion is not philanthropy. Philanthropy is a philosophy that is part of me, but it ends there with all the other philosophies that I carry around with me as an individual.
The real passion is myself. I’ve had to come to realise that true underlying passion before entering the world of humanitarianism, as it is a very important, integral lesson to learn.
The reason for that is simply this – how can you make change in this world if you can’t even look after yourself?
I remember listening to a talk by a Harvard psychologist named Dr Jordan B Peterson. Right after deciding to embark on a mission to help people, he made a statement that struck me so deep, it was enough for me to have an epiphany that I still remember clearly almost a year later.
Peterson says, “Before you go out and try and fix the world, fix yourself first”.
It was fatherly advice just as much as it was philosophical, pragmatic and truthful. How is one meant to go out and make positive change in this world when they are unable to make that positive change within themselves first?
If philanthropy is just a philosophical endeavor for me, what does that mean for the way I live my life? It means, I always put myself first. It does not mean I put my needs selfishly before everyone else, however I tend to be completely self absorbed in the sense that my life is based around how I can improve myself emotionally, physically, mentally and experientially – This is my true passion.
Choosing to be philanthropic in my life has proven to be a great strategy so far. It does good for the world and it gifts me back with a sense of fulfilment and joy. It’s like a beautiful trade off where all parties walk away feeling like they won.
But the true passion and purpose starts here, with myself. And the beauty with that is, everything else around me improves when I improve. It’s this never ending cycle of giving and taking.
In reality, I am part of this bigger picture. I am just another piece of this huge thing that is called life. My sense of self should extend further than just my intellect.
If I am everywhere then I should approach life as if I am everywhere – Being one with all that exists.
“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you’re running and you think, ‘Man, this hurts, I can’t take it anymore. The ‘hurt’ part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand anymore is up to the runner himself.” – Haruki Murakami
I feel as though part of what suffering is all about is the relationship an individual has with pain. If an individual can re-frame the way in which they view pain, then the amount they need to suffer as a result can be determined by how well they can relate to that particular pain that they are experiencing.
Pain is just an experience, at the end of the day. However, our intellect has a way of experiencing pain and then multiplying it in our heads, a thousand fold. This is called ‘suffering’. A survival mechanism? – Potentially. But this tendency of ours proves to cause more pain than necessary.
This has become less a matter of our will to survive and more about our untamed intellect that now runs riot and controls the way we deal with pain.
So, how do we fix this? – By training the mind. Your intellect is yours to use, so avoid letting it use you.
I once heard the quote – “Goals are for losers. Systems are for winners”.
As soon as I heard this quote, I quickly got to work to find out more about what was actually meant by this. I had been attempting to set goals for so long by this time. In fact, I sat an online course just dedicated solely to learning how to set goals. I learned a method after hours of practice and then I stumble across a quote like this, so you can just imagine the struggle after hearing such a thing.
About a year has passed since that moment in time and the journey to learn more about what that quote actually means is still a working progress. However, I have come to learn many valuable things thus far.
Our minds do tend to work better when we take a goal orientated approach towards life. Ticking items off a checklist can be satisfying, not to mention the satisfaction one receives once they have crossed off big items that take long periods of time to accomplish. So, is it such a bad thing that we set goals?
Here is what I’ve learned so far;
A human beings mind works well when adopting a goal orientated approach towards life. The issue is however, nothing is ever enough. A person can chase what is on the horizon so enthusiastically, only to realise that there is nothing on the horizon. A lot of people come to realise that they spend half their lifetimes chasing after what is on the horizon, realising later on that there was never anything on the horizon to begin with. This is the case because we have a tendency to set our eyes on something, thinking that it will satisfy our needs and desires. What we will come to realise is, nothing will ever be enough. Chasing what is on the horizon can only lead to a never ending race to satisfy ones desires – because there is nothing there.
Setting goals and being specific about them can help when trying to aim and hit a target, however when your eyes are focused on one objective, you miss the many other opportunities that come your way. You become so fixated on one picture and you miss out on thousands of other possibilities. Hence why adopting daily systems are more important, as they make you ready for any opportunity that paves it’s way before you.
With all that being said, I don’t believe setting goals is an issue, providing you aim for the important things. Becoming fixated on a target to achieve happiness, health and wisdom are all intangible in nature and seem to be more practical targets to strive for.
Striving for emotions and positive states of being should be the goal, as these goals can be achieved, irrespective of the external circumstances that surround you.
You might not always be in the position to buy that car or build that house or take that luxury trip. But you are always in a position to achieve happiness, health and wisdom.
I feel like these are foundational to achieving everything else. And the thing is, they can be achieved at any time, given any circumstance. They are fundamental states of being. As a human being, you have the right to access them at all times.
I had these guys do a session of meditation before class this morning. These are the conditions of being a student of mine, regardless of age.
When I first arrived in Cambodia, I was surprised with the number of people who didn’t do meditation. The method of meditation I use is traditional to Buddhist culture, which is why I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t lost in their society, especially with the younger generations.
Science now shows the benefits of meditation to the brain and body, so it isn’t a wonder why a teacher would choose to calm his or her students before a session of learning.
With changes to the structure of the brain and an increased sense of awareness, it’s no wonder why this technique of mindfulness is becoming so popular in the West.
Irrespective of age and the capacity to focus, meditation or sameathi is a great way to kick off the day.
These young guys still have a lot of work to do, but despite their overwhelming levels of energy and their underdeveloped attention spans, they still managed to do a good job, lasting just under 3 minutes 😆👍
The truth is, we don’t know a single atom in its entirety. 99.99% of an atom is made of empty space and we can’t be sure what that empty space is.
Just like our cosmos, it is full of empty space. This leaves us constantly guessing, because that is all we can do.
If each individual atom is comprised of empty space that we have yet to truly explore, then how can any of us be so sure about anything in this life. Our intellect gets in the way and it is so quick to pass judgements, make assumptions and form beliefs. But if you take a second to reflect upon how little we actually know about this life then you will realise those beliefs, assumptions and judgements are nothing but small specks of neurological matter which simply come and go through time and space.
Imagine if we could live each and every moment with a beginners mind, ridding ourselves of all the beliefs, judgement and assumptions about things that we have formed. We would be liberated from the control that the intellect holds over us and we could embrace each moment as if it were our first and last.