Why?

Through my journey of deep introspection, I’ve come to learn that knowing the reason why you do what you do is more important than what you actually do.

My medium is ‘This is Philanthropy’ and I document my journey as a humanitarian worker. But why do I do what I do? I’ve come quite far in answering that question for myself. I am on a mission to use my empathy and creativity in order to educate and inspire people to improve their quality of life, help them progress personally and assist them in their pursuit of happiness.

I want to show gratitude to all of you who have been supporting me and following me so far. Every response I receive adds a level of motivation and purpose to my mission more than you could possibly know.

Who Are You?

Who are you?

How would you answer such a question? I assume, most of us would start by giving our names, describing where we are from and then giving a job title.

But, is that really who we are, or is that just the experience in which our body’s and minds are witnessing before us?

Who you were 5, 10, 15 years ago is not the same as who you are today. Your body has changed and so has the mind. So then, how can we be so sure of who we are today?

We are not our body’s and minds. We are not our experiences, our traumas, our personalities, our habits, our thoughts or our feelings. We are simply just watching these things unfold before us.

Who is watching? The consciousness, the observer, the soul. The observer who sits in the very depths of our consciousness, watching these internal and external events unfold. It watches and observes objectively, without any judgement. It is our mind that makes these judgements as to whether an event in life is either good or bad.

However, the observer just sits and watches without passing any judgement.

When a thought arises in the mind or an intense feeling in the body comes to life, the observer gets distracted by these loud waves of energy. As a result, the observer gets caught up and becomes involved in the mayhem.

That is when the observer focuses its attention to the mind, watching it make judgements. The mind is full of attachment, desire, greed, rationalisations and critical thought. When the observer is too focused on the mind, it begins to see some of the catastrophic occurrences within.

Hence why it is important that the observer learns to control where it places its attention.

If we are not our minds and body’s, then we are just an observer, sitting in a seat experiencing a reality in physical, mental and emotional form.

How liberating is it to know that we can break free from the ego, the one that causes us to suffer the most.

A State of Mind

“For if a person shifts their caution to their own reasoned choices and the acts of those choices, they will at the same time gain the will to avoid, but if they shift their caution away from their own reasoned choices to things not under their control, seeking to avoid what is controlled by others, they will then be agitated, fearful and unstable”

-Epictetus

It is not our environment that determines whether or not we experience a sense of peace, tranquility and harmony in our lives. All of these things are simply a state of mind.

Regardless of where we are, whether it is in a major city or a rural village, problems will always arise; problems out of our control, problems brought on through social interactions, problems caused by our external events.

These problems occur everywhere, at any time. However, it is up to us as individuals to understand the importance of using positive judgement in order to maintain this sense of peace and harmony with others.

Therefore, peace and harmony cannot be found anywhere else except for within. Once we can achieve this internally, then we can be better equipped when dealing with unfavourable external circumstances.

It is ones perspective that determines how much of a sense of peace and harmony they carry within themselves. If we can learn how to cultivate more of a sense of peace within, the benefits for us as individuals and communities can be quite profound.

Grandmama

I awoke from my afternoon nap yesterday in a haze. The hot weather is starting to wear me down like you wouldn’t believe.

I was hungry and I was experiencing one of the most intense sugar cravings. They were so intense, I decided to walk down the road to the local markets looking for some mangos to fulfil my desires.

It was there where I spotted Grandmama. She can’t speak a lick of English, but she looked at me as if to ask, “what the hell are you doing here”?

In my half sleepy starving state, I pointed to the mangos at a stand as a gesture to say, “I desperately need sugar and so I’ve come in search of these”.

She looked at me and said, “mango?”, with her eyes now wide open. Suddenly, she piped up and began to shout out me.

I couldn’t understand what she was saying, but she kept pointing back at the house. In that moment, I assumed she was telling me off for coming to the shops to buy mango when there was an abundance of mango trees in her own backyard. It reminded me of my own grandmother every time I would reject an ethnic meal she made for me so that I could get my hands on some McDonald’s.

She sent me off just like the referees do when they are fed up with a players behaviour. I walked back home mangoless, but Grandmama compensated by cutting me a whole plate full later that afternoon.

Never fuck with a grandmother when it comes to food. This is a universal law.

“What is the fruit of these teachings?  Only the most beautiful and proper harvest of the truly educated – tranquility, fearlessness, and freedom.  We should not trust the masses who say only the free can be educated, but rather the lovers of wisdom who say that only the educated are free” EPICTETUS

It is no secret that since the Khmer Rouge in the 1970’s, the education system in Cambodia has been in a phase of re-building.  What was completely destroyed only 40-50 years ago, it has placed Cambodia behind most other parts of the world in terms of access to proper learning and training.  This has put a huge strain on Cambodian society as a whole, as education is one the largest contributing factors to the foundational aspects of any society and its ability to progress.  

Since joining FEFA college (Free Education for All), I’ve come to learn many things about not only the background stories of some of the students who attend the school, but also the educational philosophies that are implemented by the teachers of the commune.  

It wasn’t long ago when the head teacher, Friendly was being put through a transformational education program by an Indian psychologist who came to Cambodia as a humanitarian with the goal of implementing his own system of learning for those who were born and raised in poverty stricken circumstances.  One thing that I have come to observe since being in Cambodia is that many of the people lack a sense of self confidence and self esteem. This may be as a result of lack of education, causing a feeling of hopelessness and insignificance among the individuals, internally.

If you are born and raised in poverty, you tend to hold the belief that poverty is what you are destined for.  We all know the power that our beliefs hold over us. What you believe tends to manifest itself into your reality. Therefore, many people who have been raised in poverty stricken environments in Cambodia have known nothing else and so, they are thrown back into this vicious cycle of material and emotional lack.

“We should not trust the masses who say only the free can be educated, but rather the lovers of wisdom who say that only the educated are free” EPICTETUS

I sat down with the head teacher, Friendly at FEFA, and she explained to me the program that she underwent during the time this Indian psychologist came to serve the people of Cambodia.  She said she was “brainwashed”, positively, having developed a new mindset of confidence, self esteem and abundance. This gave her the right tools in order to reach out to those who are struggling to become educated, and help them escape this cycle of material and emotional poverty.

As I watch the movements of the students in the commune, its clear to me that Friendly has implemented a philosophy similar to the one in which got her out of her cycle of lack.  The students are taught many trades, including the language of English to cooking skills and handyman skills. Also, agriculture and gardening is another skill set that is encouraged within the commune.  These students come from poor backgrounds. They are high school dropouts as a result of a lack of funds. So, they come to Friendly for free education and a mother figure who disciplines them and teaches them the value of being full of skill sets, knowledge and wisdom.  

So, how does obtaining all of these skills and knowledge help with one’s self confidence and self esteem?  

“What is the fruit of these teachings?  Only the most beautiful and proper harvest of the truly educated – tranquility, fearlessness, and freedom”EPICTETUS

I was once sitting opposite a therapist in which I was visiting weekly, a few years back.  I would sit there, pouring my heart out, waiting for her to give me all the answers to my problems.  Self esteem was a huge thing that was weighing me down, at the time. She said, “You are 25 years old, you should have moved away from your parents by now”.  I looked at her confused and asked, “What does this have to do with my lack of self esteem?”. Her response has stuck with me ever since the words came from her mouth – “When you get everything done for you in life, you lose your sense of worth.  You feel incapable of looking after yourself because everything gets done for you. You don’t bother to learn new skills and obtain new wisdom, because your survival simply does not depend on it”.

So, what did I do about this? – I moved to Cambodia on my own in search of independence, wisdom, knowledge and new skill sets.  Through this, I realised a greater level of self esteem.

This philosophy is implemented at FEFA college, where by the students are taught new skills and fed new pieces of wisdom in order for them to become independent individuals of society.  Only then can they learn to break free from their past circumstances and leap forward as confident, valued members of their society.

It is education that breaks one free from whatever material or emotional lack that they luster.  Education should not be a privilege, but a right for all members of the human race. Not only does this bring more of a sense of material and emotional prosperity to each individual, but it also allows for progression, collectively.  

All About Perspective

Journal Entry – 05/04/2019

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.

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, they say. I’ve always felt a sense of doom after listening to a statement like that come from someone’s mouth. It adds this extra layer of anxiety to my life, because it’s as if I must rush to make sure I become the perfect man before reaching the age of 30. I’ve heard it many times – “once you hit the age of 30, who you are becomes set in stone”.

Although it is true that it becomes harder for an individual to change after the age of 25, we are now learning that you can in fact teach an old dog new tricks. I guess, by the age of 25, you have evolved through the various stages of adolescence and you have become an adult, with a developed brain and body. In that case, changing someone who is already fully developed would be harder than changing an individual who is still in the developmental stages of their life.

When you look at young children, they say that from birth to the age of 7, kids spend most of their time in alpha and theta brainwave cycles, which is the same state a person who is meditating or under hypnosis will experience. These children are in hyper learning states. They are open to suggestion and they are constantly being programmed by their environment.

One way a fully developed adult can experience change is through the experience of trauma. But apart from that, an established train of thought in our culture is that we are biologically fixed. I go back to the idea that the thought of being biologically fixed brings upon a sense of doom. I once held the notion that I was born an anxious person, depressive in nature, therefore I am not wired to be a happy person like some of my happy, go-lucky peers who had no idea why anyone with a university degree and a good family would ever feel upset. We tend to hold these preconceived notions that once the brain reaches maturity, its pointless to try and change it, because if we are fixed, then we just have to cop the fact that we are victims to our unlucky genetic lottery draw.

Then, modern day neuroscience came along to save the day. Thank fuck, right? Scientists are now beginning to realise that these beliefs are some of the biggest myths of modern day culture. But first, let’s go back to the 1970s when the Dalai Lama claimed that a mere thought could change the brain structure. At the time, Western scientists labeled his claim “ridiculous”. The cynical scientists of the West claimed that, while it would be nice to believe that our brains could change, it was just a myth coming from the mystical mouth of the Eastern monk and that even if the brain could change, it definitely couldn’t change from a single thought.

As a result, we spent most of the 20th century neglecting the idea that we could change the structure of our brains, up until recently when modern day neuroscience took a stand and changed the whole game. How did they find their clues? It so happens to be that researches took a trip to streets of London to collaborate with a bunch of taxi drivers.

Researches began studying the brains of these cabbies and found that their brains had significantly larger hippocampi, the brain structure devoted to spatial memory, and this was much larger than the average person.

Okay, but what does that have to do with the changing our brain structure?

Well, it is believed that because the streets of London are not based in a grid format system. Having to navigate your way through the streets of London was like navigating your way through a complex maze, and this requires the cabbies to have a vast internal spatial map. In fact, the streets of London are so difficult that the drivers are required to take knowledge tests upon application.

After this discovery, scientists began to re-evaluate what they once thought about the brain and came to the conclusion that brain change is possible depending on how you live your life.

So, what does all of this mean? In regards to our personal lives, no matter how old and “set in stone” you may like to believe you are, there is always room for change and improvement if you are willing to put in the energy and time. No longer are the days where we sit back and claim to be “genetically doomed” individuals.

If there is a will to change in a certain way, whether that may be in regards to a particular habit, personality trait or temperament, it is possible that with enough force, we are able to amend the mind to the way that is most favourable to us. With this information, it gives us hope that not only can we lead happier lives by changing the way in which we think, but we can also enhance performance and efficiency in our work lives, relationships and our spiritual lives.

Reference:

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor – pg 48-51

One of the most amazing things about the world we live in today is the connectivity and the access to information we now have at our fingertips.

No longer are the days of sending letters to people who you want to reach out to.  It’s now as simple as sending a private inbox to one of your idols through social media.  

Social media has been the biggest contributing factor to this new movement of sharing valuable information.  Some of the most influential people of the modern day are now able to share their wisdom and knowledge via a single post on Facebook or Twitter.  

There is something so special about a place where wisdom can be shared in order to improve the lives of other people.  These influential people now have a medium which allows them to share knowledge to the masses.

This has the potential to make the world a better place, opening up larger doors for new opportunity. This constant flow of free information has more impact than what you and I can possibly imagine.

For me personally, I am so grateful for the opportunity at hand. I see a movement of information giving. There is this indirect philanthropic approach to the way in which leaders are going about their business. This generous sharing of free information and wisdom is changing the lives of many people across the globe.

“Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness” – Seneca

I was first introduced to the concept and the act of generosity when I began my spiritual journey.  I decided, I wanted to start with Buddhism. I recall why it was that I began a spiritual journey, but I don’t recall why it was that I chose Buddhism.  I knew nothing about it, besides the oriental cultural influence that I associated with the faith, plus the fat statue. I thought, the figure that represented Buddhism looked joyful and coming from a place of sadness, I was drawn to this contrasting representation to a philosophy and a faith.  Was it out of fear, or just pure desperation? The emotional pain that was being experienced at the time was starting to become debilitating. After one particular night of some of the most intense emotional pain I have ever felt, I made the decision that I would need something to turn to if I were to ever encounter pain on this level in the future.  

After finishing numerous books, I began to learn more about the four noble truths of Buddhism;

  1. The truth of suffering (Dukkha)
  2. The truth of the origin of suffering (Samudaya)
  3. The truth of the cessation of suffering (Nirodha)
  4. The truth of the path to the cessation of suffering (Magga)

The first truth – life is suffering.  Suffering comes in many forms, the three most fundamental forms being; old age, sickness and death.  However, the Buddhists believe that it tends to go much deeper than that. The truth is, life is not ideal.  Life fails to live up to our expectations and as humans, we are subject to certain desires and cravings. Even when our desires are satisfied, it is only temporary.  Shortly after, we go back to our original state of desire and craving.

The second truth – the origins of our suffering.  Besides our immediate worries, such as injury or the loss of a loved one, the deeper rooted origins also come from; greed and desire, which is represented by the rooster, ignorance or delusion, which is represented by the pig and finally, hatred and destructive urges, which is represented by the snake.  

The third truth – the possibility of liberation from suffering.  The Buddha was a living example that this is possible in a human lifetime.  This is in reference to Nirvana; meaning ‘extinguishing’. Attaining Nirvana means extinguishing the three fires of greed, delusion and hatred.  

The fourth truth – the Buddha’s prescription for the end of suffering.  The set of principles are referred to as the eightfold path. Within these are a few stages that include; having the right intention with a commitment to cultivate the right attitudes, taking the right action and behaving peacefully, and cultivating positive states of mind.  

Having lived in Cambodia for an extended period of time – a predominantly Buddhist country, I began to observe the ways in which their faith may have influenced their behaviours and the way in which they operate as a society.  I recall doing some research on the benefits of showing generosity and how it can have positive impacts on your mental and emotional health, and so I set out to put this combination of new found spiritual and scientific knowledge to the test.   

I was on my way to work one morning, riding my bicycle through town when I came to a stop at a set of traffic lights.  There, I spotted a man sitting on the side of the road in a wheelchair. He was an elderly man with no legs. He sat there with a hat in his hand, signalling to those who rode passed that he was asking for donations as he was obviously incapable of working for his own money.  This man looked poor to begin with, and the fact that he was unable to work meant his life was one of struggle and misfortune.

I watched closely, as I spotted a tuk tuk driver hand him over some money and place it in his hat.  Suddenly, I woke out of my half sleepy state and I was sitting there in admiration. These tuk tuk drivers earn an average of $10 per day and most have families to feed.  For a tuk tuk driver to be handing out donations told me something extremely relevant to the mission I was on in learning more about how generosity works in Cambodian Buddhist society.  This wasn’t the only time I saw people who struggled financially, hand out money to those who were flat broke. It was a common occurrence, and I gathered that there was a certain mentality amongst the people where by, those who handed out money were less concerned with having excess amounts, even though that wasn’t an option for most middle class people.  However, they saw the importance of being generous with what they had. If they had enough to feed themselves, then whatever was left over should go to someone who is unable to feed themselves. In a sense, as much as you might think you are struggling, there is always someone else out there who is doing worse and it is your duty to make a contribution to the best of your capabilities.  

From a spiritual standpoint, if we go back to the four noble truths in Buddhism, we see that one of the causes of human suffering has to do with our desires and cravings as human beings.  Besides the immediate causes of suffering, which are illness or death, our deep rooted causes of suffering may come from our greed. If the Buddhists believe in the liberation of suffering, then it is obvious to me why generosity is such a valued act in their society.  I came to conclusion that the act of generosity is the counter weapon against greed, and therefore has the potential to reduce our suffering as human beings.

For me personally, knowing this was enough.  However, I knew that if I were to ever share this story with others, it would be best to gather some scientific evidence to support these claims.  From my own experience, it has always felt good to be generous, and research is starting to show that generosity affects our brains and health, possibly even extending our lives.

The feel good effects of giving begin in the brain.  When people show acts of generosity, there are chemicals in the brain that are triggered in the mesolimbic pathway, which recognises rewarding stimuli.  When these acts are performed, there are several happiness chemicals including dopamine and endorphins, which give people a sense of euphoria. Oxytocin is also released, the chemical associated with feelings of peace and tranquility.  

The pleasure and reward system in our brains have evolved overtime, and at its most basic level, is tied to the joy that people experience from things like eating, having sex and social interactions.  

Some experts suggest that evolution isn’t just about the survival of the fittest, but also dependent on how one can thrive in a group or a community.  As a result of the Khmer Rouge genocide in the 1970’s, Cambodian society has been torn down to its core and forced to rebuild from almost nothing. In order for survival, it is vital that one sees the value of working together as a community.  I say this for two reasons;

  1. You never know when you are going to need help.  Poverty and struggle is prevalent, and your support network becomes extremely important during times of strife.
  2. The benefits of working as a team, combining minds and spirit far outweigh the benefits of working for yourself, especially when you are trying to rebuild a nation as the Cambodians are trying to do.  

In a study published in Nature Communications, researchers at the University of Zurich conducted a study where 50 participants were promised varied sums of money that they would receive in the near future.  One group were told to spend the money on themselves, while the other group chose to spend the money on others. While this was going on, the researchers studied activity in three parts of the brain – the ventral striatum (controls happiness), the temporoparietal junction (processes generosity), and the orbitofrontal cortex (regulating decision-making processes). Surprisingly enough, the areas of the brain associated with generosity and happiness interacted intensely in those who chose to give money to others.  It was said that the neural activity intensified, just at the thought of giving. This study shows that performing acts of generosity is enough to boost personal happiness.

So, maybe the Buddhists were on to something.  If it is true what they say, that life is suffering and the forms of human suffering come from our own cravings and desires, then it is fair to say that through our liberation from suffering, we can use the act of generosity as an antidote – a medicine prescribed to reduce our pain plus make the world around us a better place in which we can live and thrive.

It is truly a no brainer for me.  

Slowly, I’m trying to get back into reality of things here in Sydney.  I woke up quite late this morning after a late night of reading and thinking.  I was glad to wake up motivated enough to continue on with my daily systems. Just because i’m not in Cambodia, it does not mean my mission stops.  When you are on a mission like this, it never shuts off.

Since coming back here, i’ve gained some more clarity as to where I would like to take things.  In Cambodia, my main focus was on humanitarian work. Developing people through education and technology was a main focus area of mine.  Having worked for eOcambo and then FEFA, I was able to educate those around me. The Cambodians are in need of education and developmental resources due to the lack of.  As a result of the Khmer Rouge and the genocide in the 1970s, it has taken its toll on their education system, resulting in one of the worst humanitarian crisis’ in Cambodian history.  Now, they are working hard to rebuild their education system which is so far behind most of the world.

Here in Australia, my main focus is on mental and emotional health.  I thought once about going down the field of mental illness, but I think we should address something before we look into mental illness.  Illness can be the result of poor health, so if we can address that, then we can work towards helping people put preventative measures in place so that mental and emotional illness doesn’t have to be such a debilitating issue.  I really believe that a lot of the emotional and mental illnesses that people suffer from here is to due a lack of emotional and mental health. It’s like the physical body. You don’t wait around for the body to be struck with disease in order to make change.  You put preventative measures in place by keeping healthy so you can avoid disease as much as possible.

Through my research, i’m slowly realising just how plastic our minds are.  Neurologically speaking, we can amend and prime our minds, making way for new and effective methods of health promotion and illness prevention.  Its crazy when you make you comparisons between life in Cambodia compared to life in Australia.

During my time in Cambodia, I was so interested to know what the young people had to say about mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.  Some of them had no clue what it was. I would explain the epidemic that is occuring in the West – mental and emotional illness. Some would ask, “why do so many people feel this way in your country?”.  I had no answer and I still don’t. I will never have a clear answer. In some ways, it’s a concept that may require some level of subjectivity. Maybe, solely focusing on science would be far too black and white for such an abstract topic like this one.  I believe this is where you will find the overlay of science and spirituality come together. With spirituality, we have more flexibility which is beneficial when we are talking about a concept that seems abstract as something like one finding a sense of ‘purpose’ in their life.   

Through my findings, I noticed a certain pattern in the Cambodian people and their way of life.  Every time I would speak to a young Cambodian, I would make an effort to go back into their past and learn more about their childhoods, as these periods of one’s life can hold many clues as to why someone is the way they are today.  A lot of them have extraordinary stories where work and hardship began at very early ages. Some of the Cambodians who I have spoken to started labour intensive work at the ages of just 10 years old. Compare that to the life of the average 10 year old in sydney and it is just incomprehensible.  Imagine our 10 years olds taking 2 kilometre walks through jungle or rice fields in the sweltering heat, just to collect something as simple as fresh drink water for their families. It’s just not a thing here in Sydney.

This goes back to the concept of purpose.  I once heard that purpose is all about one being attentive to their environment.  I was once under the impression that having purpose meant I had an end destination to run towards.  I thought that happiness came with purpose, as a complimentary gift, but I am starting to believe that happiness and passion is simply just the byproduct of pursuing a path that has no end destination.  It is full of obstacles and hardship.

In cambodia, the sense of purpose seems to be deliberate and intentional.  Being attentive to their environment means deliberately going out to hustle in order to supply enough food to feed a family and educating oneself to break the vicious cycle of poverty that seems to be so prevalent in Cambodian society.  This deep and deliberate hustle requires one to be constantly attentive to their environment. It gives the people of Cambodia a strong sense of purpose. I’ve sat down with many young Cambodians to ask what impact they would like to have on their community, and the clarity of their answers makes me wonder whether being born and raised in poverty changes ones perception in regards to what achieving success in one’s life means.  When brought up in an environment where food is scarce and death comes at a much cheaper price, life is less about attaining things and more about one’s survival.

Lets bring it back to Western civilization.  I’ve never really had the chance to sit down with people to ask them what impact they would like to make on their communities.  I dont think its something that pops up very often because there seems to be a lack of problems. Well, that’s what we may think.  However, since returning, i’ve started to observe something quite different. There are many problems and these are less to do with poverty and scarcity and more to do with finding meaning in our lives.  

So, are our lifestyles to blame?  Yes and no. In terms of resources, we have so much.  We have some of the best science and technology in the world.  Sydney is one of the most elite cities in the world, home to some of the best educational facilities, hospitals and research centres.  Yet, we struggle to find that right balance of mental and emotional health. Why is this? I can give you the cliche answer – money cannot buy happiness.  As true as the cliche happens to be, it does not help anyone.

I’ve been doing further thinking, and what I have found is that our lavish lifestyles, full of abundance and predictability may be a contributing factor.  When I go back to this notion of purpose – being attentive to your environment and doing what your environment requires of you, I wonder whether its a lack of purpose that promotes this unhealthy new rise in emotional and mental suffering.  You go to University, you get a job and you go through the motions and this can sometimes become a robotic, monotonous process. That deliberate, intentional approach that comes with being attentive to your environment tends to diminish and some tend to enter into this autopilot mode of numbness.  By this stage, we have stopped becoming attentive to our environment. We have stopped serving our environment and our focus shifts to a more self absorbed place. This sucks the meaning from our life, as we continue to go through the motions, absent minded. With less external suffering due to our orderly, luxurious and safe surroundings, the problems tend to manifest themselves from within.  This is when mental and emotional health tend to deteriorate. Life slowly loses its meaning, as we are not required to serve our external reality.

So, maybe finding purpose and meaning in life is less about you and more about what is required of you at any given moment or period of time.  Should we ask then – what must be repaired? What tasks are waiting to be performed? When I look at the bigger picture and I remove the ego, what is it that my environment requires of me?  What is the biggest contribution I am capable of making to the lives of those around me, to my community and to humanity as a whole?