To love is human – How is this so?
The strongest thing is to love – The more you love yourself and those around you, the better because you will nurture what is within you and what is around you.
To love unconditionally is to love in spite of all the peaks and valleys. There is this element of indifference which goes beyond what we can verbally explain.
So then, its safe to say that love is one of the strongest forces in life. Recently, I have found a link between some of the ideals that the Buddhists spread throughout their society in the East – showing compassion and generosity towards others.
Showing compassion and generosity is a way in which one can show love to another. When you show compassion and generosity, you are being loving and nurturing. This is when as a human, you are in some of your strongest, most vibrant states.
In Islam, one of the five pillars is Charity or alms-giving (zakat) – Each year a Muslim should give money to charity (Usually 2.5% of their savings). If a person does not have much money, they can give services to others instead. This is another way in which religious philosophy has spread messages about showing love and compassion.
There is loads of scientific evidence that shows that when you are in these strong, vibrant physiological and psychological states, you begin to flourish and thrive as a result.
Contemporary neuroscience tells us that when performing these acts, there are significant electrochemical reactions in the brain that trigger happiness of mind and feel good physical sensations throughout the body.
I remember just 2 weeks into actually moving out in to the village to live at FEFA College, I had to make an urgent trip back to Sydney.
I was confused as to what to do in terms of content creation. In my mind, the whole point of calling my platform ‘This is Philanthropy’ was because I was to document my time as a humanitarian worker, living day to day life in rural regions of Cambodia in fight for the cause for education for the younger generations. Well, that was the story I had in mind, anyway.
The best lesson I took from that was, you cant rely on circumstances on the outside to be the reason why you create. Rain, hail or shine, you create content. Things are less in control than what you like to think. I learned this lesson quite quick, and so I got to work, despite the dramatic change in context and setting.
This is an art form more than anything else, and so some of the most profound moments are had as a result of mental and emotional turmoil.
I came to the realisation however, that my page and my brand actually had nothing to do with philanthropy as I was already involved in the humanitarian industry before it began, but rather it gave me a platform to spread other messages and other ideas that I had and wanted to share.
Visiting Sydney after almost 1 year of living on my own in Cambodia was cool, not only for the fact that I got to catch up with friends and family, but also because that change in environment from rural Cambodia to Sydney sparked creativity and new ideas.
Below is a picture taken at Vapakthoir Coffee in Siem Reap. When they first opened, they were gifting new customers with an experience into traditional Khmer ceremonial fashion.
The first tattoo I got was almost a year ago now. I had the idea for it but I kept hesitating to go and get it out of fear.
I’m sitting at a cafe one Saturday afternoon and it was the biggest coincidence that the cafe owners were also tattoo artists and were tattooing people for free to celebrate the opening of their new place.
I was seated on the floor, incense in the air, floating it’s way from the big Ornament of a big wooden Buddha. There was traditional Khmer music playing – these hypnotic sounds were appropriate, as they helped to settle the nausea.
People gathered around to watch the foreigner get a tattoo in their very own script. I heard them read out and speak between each other, “kolbamnang”, they would say. In English, this translates to the word “purpose”.
If there was one thing being in Cambodia taught me, it’s that having a sense of purpose in your life is a such an important thing for everyone. I could see the sense of purpose in the eyes of some of these Cambodians who came from poor backgrounds, and this sense of purpose gave them their meaning and drive.
My experience with purpose was so profound that I had it stamped on me so this wisdom goes with me wherever I go, acting like a compass.
I would like to continue with this tattoo, maybe getting different words in all different languages – a personal set of values with me wherever I go, visually.
I find language more and more fascinating these days. Living in Asia has exposed me to a lot of different language. It’s said that each different language has its own unique place in the brain.
Brain surgeon Dr. Rahul Jandail says in his book, ‘Neurofitness’ that he was performing brain surgery on a woman in order to remove a tumour. This lady spoke both English and Spanish.
Before Dr. Jandail performed surgery, he told the woman that in order to perform this surgery, they would have to cut through a certain part of the brain, destroying part of its function.
It turned out that this woman had to end up making a choice between whether she wanted to keep English or keep Spanish. From memory, she chose to keep English as she was from the US. But regardless of the decision that woman made, it intrigued the hell out of me when I learned about this story.
One thing that interests me so much is when I think about where philanthropy will go in the future, in terms of context.
Extreme third world poverty is decreasing at high rates. More people die of obesity related problems than what they do from starvation. More people die from suicide than from terrorist attacks.
Although it’s said that the 21st century has a huge ride in store for humanity, it’s also said that there is a revolution of society and culture taking place. The term ‘enlightenment’ has shown up a number of times during my study.
Philanthropy is basically charity work or the giving of charitable donation. In any given context, you will find a string of causes devoted towards reduce human suffering in some way or promoting human progress in another.
All have to do with the fundamental acts of showing empathy, compassion and kindness towards those people around you. Bonds, connections and relationships – all of these are necessities for our own survival. This is biological, just as much as it may seem philosophical.
The question is, what new problems will arise for humanity, as we navigate through this next 3 or 4 decades. These are crucial times, that’s for sure.
I think about the abundance of opportunity to make a contribution – things like advancements in scientific research, the development of new technologies that will improve health and increase average human life spans, and also things like education reform during this transition from an industrialised society to a digitalised one.
How will we measure up during this crucial point in time for humanity.
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.