Research shows that there are three things in particular that we can do in order to feel a sense of peace and happiness, even if its just for minor glimpses.
A sense of peace and happiness comes when chemicals like oxytocin are released in the brain, resulting in an overall experience of peacefulness and blissfulness.
By showing gratitude, our brains release oxytocin and, suddenly we begin to feel good about our lives and for the good things about it.
Generosity, when done consciously and with the right intention can also have a similar effect. Studies suggest that when you perform acts of generosity, your brain acts in similar ways, releasing its feel good chemicals.
Biologically, chemically – no matter which way you look at it. As human beings, we are designed to show empathy and compassion to each other. Our well being improves as we improve the well being of those around us.
One of the first books about spirituality that I ever read was called “The Art of Living” – by Thich Nhat Hanh.
One of the chapters was titled something like, “Everything is impermanent”. Things are constantly changing, things are constantly in motion. I leave from my original hometown in Cambodia (Siem Reap) for 6 months and return to so many changes. People’s relationships with each other have changed, peoples personalities have slightly changed, social dynamics between groups have changed, shop fronts have changed and a certain part of the citys vibe has changed.
This is a classic example of the impermanent nature of life. Everything is constantly changing. Things are changing at every given point in time. The body in which you inhabit did not exist just 10 years ago. It has undergone a constant change of breaking down and rebuilding new cells. Your mind was not the same, either. Everything is constantly changing.
This impermanent nature of life makes life both unpredictable and interesting. Depending on your approach, you can practice a way of approaching these changes with curiosity and openness.
In a way, this truth of impermanence can feel liberating. One can experience pain and suffering and know that it will pass. Equally, you can experience your pleasure with the wisdom that this too must come to an end.
Keeping your focus in the middle of these two extremes helps maintain a balanced way of thinking. Rather than feeling as though your pain will never come to an end, you can now truly realise that nothing can last forever. Our minds tricks us into thinking that the pain in which we experience is permanent. This is sometimes why we suffer pain more than what is necessary.
Instead of indulging in your pleasures, you can realise that even the pleasures are not permanent. They too must come to an end. By not indulging in these pleasures, this can sometimes help with the fear of loss, as you know that both pleasant and unpleasant things that come will run their course as nature has intended.
If you perceive something to be either ‘good’ or ‘bad’, who is it that is passing these judgments? – Its the bias of the mind.
The mind is full of opinions and judgments based off past experience.
The danger with this is, whether you label something as good or bad, there is always a flip side that you are remaining blind to – something that may not be visible, immediately.
Have you ever suffered a situation, only to realise that it was one of the best things to ever happen to you? Initially, you judged the situation as something negative in response to the pain you felt and the opinions you formed around what you experienced at the time. But, now that we know there is always a flip side, then what damage does this bias of the mind cause?
If we experience pain or something that doesn’t meet our expectations in life, then we automatically label this as a negative event. This lack of perspective is a hindrance to our overall well being, because every time we feel pain we are going to get bitter about it and every time we feel joy we are going to hold on to it as if its a scarce resource.
A way that I have learned to counter these negative judgments is by flipping the coin on any situation that I perceive as negative. I reflect back on some of the events from my past which I perceived as negative at the time, and I think about how those events actually turned out to bring a lot of growth and joy to my experience.
This is not an attempt to adopt a mindset that only sees positivity. That is an unrealistic goal, given that our minds are meant to pass judgement on things in order to help us survive. Rather, this is a tool to counterbalance the two opposing forces within your mind. Life is after all a construct of forces that play together to make up what we experience.
Counter a negative with a positive. Flip the coin and try to imagine what “good” could come from your “bad”. The light is there for you to see, you just need to open your eyes.
I began my study of the subconscious mind earlier this year. I didn’t go too far into the research, at all. I read a book written by Dr. Joseph Murphy, a doctor in psychology with a passion for divine science.
It was in this book where I learned about the general workings of the subconscious mind. Rather than delving too deep into this topic, I remained on the surface. The book, ‘The Power of The Subconscious Mind’, written by Joseph Murphy taught me more about the subconscious mind on a philosophical and practical level. This was the perfect thing to stumble across, at the time.
I was living in a rural village for over a month when I began doing my own scientific experiments with the subconscious mind. I would take afternoon naps, where I would spend the first half an hour in a state of meditation where I would visualise visions for the future.
After some practice, I realised I wasn’t clear on what it was that I wanted, so I made sure to become clear on some of the short term things I wanted to put into place.
It was an important time for me, in terms of mindset. I was living in a rural village – life was so different, you cant even begin to imagine. You take some lessons away and you try to put them into practice once you settle.
I have done some of my own experiments with the subconscious mind since first learning about it. I wanted to change my relationship with money as I felt it caused me a lot of suffering and stress. I held a mindset of scarcity around money, which is ironic considering I come from a prosperous country, like Australia.
Once you change the way in which you see money, you start to let go of some of the anxieties you held around it. So, it was important that if I were going to adopt a new mindset, it had to be a mindset that promoted the well being of myself and those around me. Once I changed my attitudes towards money and the meaning I attributed to it, that is when I began to plant the seeds.
I did many sessions of self hypnosis, I spent hours visualising and not only visualising laying down. I would go for intense runs and visualise while my body was in a state of alertness, intensity and energy. I was told to think of a number or amount of money I wanted to obtain and after that, I was told to let the subconscious come up with the answer.
By this point, I believed in this whole process because I knew believing in it was the only way you can actually make it work. You have to have unwavering belief and desire to even stand a chance. I had to do a little bit of brainwashing to get to this point. I would listen to tapes over and over again. Tapes talking about how to use the subconscious mind to get what you want.
After planting the seed in the mind, I would cease to think about the topic with the conscious mind. This means, I never did any brainstorming or strategising or thinking about how I was going to get this amount of money. That is for the subconscious mind to do.
The crazy thing is, things have come to fruition so quickly, I wasn’t even conscious that it was happening at the time. I would come to the realisation that I had hit my targets, but it wasn’t even a surprise by that point. This is probably because I changed my beliefs around money and I began to have a high level of belief in hitting a very concise, clear and realistic objective.
This is the issue with the mind;
When something doesn’t go your way, we pass judgement on that event. “This event is negative”, “This emotion is negative”, “This thought is negative”.
What does this judgement do? – Its adds more pain to what is already there.
When you feel, your minds first reaction is to get rid of it. We have this proclivity to run away from pain and move towards pleasure. This is the nature of the human mind and body – to avoid pain and seek pleasure.
When the mind triggers and thought and creates an emotion, this emotion gets magnified throughout the body. We ‘feel’ anger, we ‘feel’ sadness, we ‘feel’ joy.
The problem is, whenever we feel pain in the body caused by an unpleasant thought pattern and emotion, our minds judge that feeling in the body as ‘negative’. It gets caught up in the feeling and then feeds the thought pattern through its vibration frequency. Once we get caught up in this sort of judgement and this loop between judging the negative feeling with a thought and then getting lost in the thought patterns that are continuously fed by the negative emotion, we have become identified with the mind. This is where we live most of our lives, trapped inside the mind.
If you ever experience a negative feeling, you can stop it in its tracks, rather than use it to feed your negative thought patterns. You do this by becoming the body. What I mean by this is, you cease to think with the conscious mind and you closely observe your body.
Do not expect the pain or the thought patterns to disappear immediately. I have had to sit for hours and hours with certain painful feelings in order to detach myself from them.
Once you observe the body, you come to realise something so profound. The feelings in your body caused by emotions are in reality no where near as painful as what the mind has you believe. The mind is a fear riddled machine with opinions and beliefs. It wants to protect you from pain, so it reacts to sensations in the body with panic.
If you bring an awareness to the body, you will realise these feelings do not need to be fed back into the mind. We can leave these feelings in the body, letting go of whatever thought pattern that triggered this emotion in the first place.
This takes practice, so don’t be disheartened if this takes you some time to understand and execute on.
To desire is to be human – desire is life.
Desire also leads to suffering. We are constantly desiring something and when we aren’t getting it, it leads to certain levels of misery.
This is a survival mechanism, in a sense. We need to desire in order to thrive.
So the question becomes not whether or not we should desire for things in life. The question should be, “are we desiring things in our lives in a compulsive manner or in a conscious manner?
To desire is part of what being human is all about. We should embrace that, right? That’s what gets us going in life. That’s what gives us the fuel to run off. That’s what gives us passion.
If we could get to a stage where managing the way in which we desire is healthy and conscious, then life could become a little more playful. I feel as though we would fear failure much less and that in itself would lead to less suffering. In a case like that, our desire would no longer be our hindrance, but rather a vessel for growth and joy.
A cross stitch sewing thing I got going on lol. I am finding it to be a form of therapy for the mind.
Lesson learned today:
I found this lesson to be quite profound.
As I put my head to rest on my pillow last night I played over some voice recordings from influential people like Napoleon Hill, author of such famous books as ‘Think and Grow Rich’. I put these tapes on and listen to the messages conveyed by Napoleon Hill before I fall to sleep, as this is said to be the most effective way to process information into the subconscious mind.
One of the topics that Napoleon Hill was talking about on the tape I was listening to was about showing up with everything you do. Showing up with your full self with everything you do ensures success in ones life. So, I decided I was going to ‘show up’ by waking up early to do a morning routine.
My morning routine consisted of;
40 minutes of yoga
20 minutes of meditation
10 minutes worth of deep breathing
5 minutes worth of gratitude
1 Cambodian style coffee
By the end of it, I felt full of life and energy. Although the feeling was blissful and I felt ecstatic, I learned that this was only a by product of showing up the way I did this particular morning.
I learned something far more valuable. Showing up like this in the morning proved to aid me in showing up in everything else I did throughout the day.
Having the discipline to show up in the morning set me off to show up for the rest of the day, even when things got tough. And that’s the thing – you never know when things might get tough. Your day can take a turn within a blink of an eye. Your day can involve challenges that push your limitations personally and professionally and it is up to you to show up.
Show up in the morning to ensure you show up for the rest of the day.
The view from the balcony of my apartment in Battambang.
I moved to Cambodia one year ago and it was like starting from ground zero. I had to make new connections, form new bonds, learn about particular fields of work, meet people from various organisations and network like crazy.
I’ve had to travel through various parts of the country by bus, spending countless hours on the bumpy, shonky version of what Cambodia calls its highways.
I feel like this view and this place I have now found myself in is far too good for me. It is a basic studio apartment with a bed, a balcony and a bathroom. Luckily, it comes with a beautiful wooden desk for my important work.
I remember being back in Sydney one night at a Christmas party and one of my relatives who hadn’t seen me in years asked me what my plans for the future were. My response was, “I want to move to another country on my own and I want to fend for myself.” “But, why would you want to do that”?, asked my relative. I responded by saying, “because, that’s where true growth occurs”.
I feel as though sometimes you become dependent upon that support and that sometimes during those rough moments, you tend to use your support networks as a distraction rather than a tool for gaining insight. I did this quite often. To mask the pain, I would distract myself through indulgence.
Although I have made many close connections since moving to Cambodia, life can still get extremely lonely. Ive lived on my own with my own private space, and I felt lonely. Ive lived with families of up to 20 people living in the same area, and you still tend to feel a sense of loneliness. Even back at home in Sydney, I remember feeling a sense of loneliness quite regularly.
This has nothing to do with my external circumstances, that is quite obvious. Rather, I believe that this is a state of mind. Will companionship on any level aid me? – only temporarily.
The real truth is, this is part of life. So, what do we do about it?
I believe that in these moments, this is where the true jewels are found. In loneliness, there are wonderful truths of wisdom that are waiting to be uncovered. It is just a matter of how far you are willing to go in order to realise some of these truths.
In my case, I spend long periods in isolation. It can be a challenge, but I just cant resist the gifts that come as a result.
Wet season in Cambodia.
I once heard a great metaphor where by the cycles of the 4 seasons were compared with the cycles of our everyday lives.
You go through a period where you plant some seeds, the beginning of a new path. Summer comes around and you begin to apply deliberate effort and focus as you begin to walk down your new path. By Autumn, you get to harvest and reap the rewards on your new path and for the effort you applied.
Then, comes winter. It is the period of death and rebirth. In the case of Cambodian weather, it is either wet or dry. Dry season has just passed us by and farmers have harvested all the rice for the next few months. Until then, it’s heavy rains pretty much everyday for months and months.
This time of the year is symbolic of where I am in my journey right now. The wet season, or winter is passing me by. I’m in recovery mode right, resting myself after what was a 4 months long journey of high intensity. I moved back and forth between rural parts of Cambodia, I helped build schools, I fundraised, I went back to Sydney and came back and I documented all of it via This is Philanthropy.
Now, I’m back in Battambang about to settle in to my new life here long term. I’m looking forward to the stability, privacy and extra comfort I will get here. I’m looking forward to when Spring returns, because I know that it’s during the Spring when I’ve settled in somewhere and I begin to set new standards for myself. I set my sites on new trajectories and I begin to deliberately carve away and work on sculpting out my larger visions for the future.
I’ve learned that our minds and body’s are just factory’s and computers and that you can make adjustments as you like whenever you want. You can engineer your experience with the right work.
I’ve also learned not to lose site of the bigger picture. There are more journeys being experienced than just one and becoming fixated on one journey over the other only leads to stress. An artistic journey, an entrepreneurial journey, a spiritual journey and a personal journey – balance is key. If you get caught up in one more than the other, you run into chaos.
We are now approaching a time when I begin to plant new seeds. Reflection and recovery is now underway and it’s quite relaxing.
The last month or so of my life has been lived in the small village of Kbal Dremei. This place is about an hours car ride away from the big capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh.
The capital of Cambodia is populated heavily and it’s general movement is one with purpose and drive. It is at the forefront of the Cambodian corporate world and it buzzes, accordingly.
We met a total of about 12 different volunteers come and go throughout this time spent living in the house. Situated in a rural part of town called Sala Lek, we lived in a quite neighbourhood of Cambodian country folk. It was nothing but dirt roads, beautiful grasslands, lakes and small clusters of forest. Usually, you had a temple sit amongst a the forest, as it provided nice areas of shade for its visitors and residence; monks of all different ages.
We became so part of the family that little sister, Chealy or younger bro Kimhua would shout, “Eat rice, eat rice, eat rice!” every night consistently to let everyone know dinner was being served. If you were late, your name would be called. “Chris, eat rice”!
“I know, I know, I’m coming”.
We would all sit underneath this wooden hut type of thing. It had a kitchen in it and Mama and Papa would also sleep in it. They slept on a hardwood platform with a mat beneath them and bed sheets that would cover the perimeter of the platform to give them extra shelter. By no means was this an act of poverty, but simply just a way of life for these old timers. They were traditional, old school rural Khmer. They wouldn’t have the conditions any other way. These guys lived through the Khmer Rogue. They know what it’s like to truly experience an intense life and it shows through them. They both carry this sense of empowerment, peace, resilience and true wisdom.
Papa was usually the leader on the construction site. He was the one who would call most of the shots. He was the visionary and we were all his workers, collaborating as a system to get the job done. I once heard that Papa was saved from being killed during the Rogue because he had extremely good practical skills. He could build things and he was also a creative artist, selling his Buddhist artwork to the local temples.
There were about 3 properties with houses on them and all 3 properties were housed with different members of the extended family. Mama raised 7 children, so there was an abundance of grandchildren running around, constantly. Plus, all these kids attended the school in the house we lived in and at the public school next door to the house we were living in.
When school was out, I would put headphones in and jog laps of the grass paddock, sometimes having to dodge cows who were also there but for a grass feeding frenzy.
When there was a ceremony on in the village, everyone will know because the music gets played so loud. Festivities in the village are important and some are very formal events.
I was there for Khmer New year which was like a 3 day bender of events held at the temple and local park. It was like Blaxland oval in Menai on Australia Day, but it went for 3 days straight where they had food, music and games.
The bonds formed, I can’t even explain. It becomes so natural, you feel as though you have known each other your whole lives. I didn’t grow up in a huge immediate family, but this is what I would imagine it to be like.
Personal space isn’t a thing and you shower yourself by tipping buckets of cold water over your body. You squat on top of a whole to do a shit and you sleep under a mosquito net on a mattress on the floor. But seriously, once you get used to all of these changes, you realise that it’s actually not as bad as what it sounds. You just start to accept the fact that this is how life is now and you just learn to embrace it.
There are chickens running around everywhere. I would observe them constantly and I would laugh at how funny of an animal they were. They are so stupid lol.
The kids run riot, but they are just so cute. You get to know them for their own unique character. They all have their own unique quirks about them and they make you laugh.
What you decide to do outside of the hours of work, eat and sleep is completely up to you. Everyone has their own unique approach to deal with this sort of free time. It’s a lot of time and it can go slow if you don’t play with it in a proactive way. Usually, I would read. That’s what I did most of the time. I would read books and I would nap a lot. I made it a mission to just take my learning to new levels, meanwhile the reality of the life I was living was teaching me in ways that I’m not even aware of yet. I will realise these lessons as time passes.
It’s the nature and process of forming social bonds like these with such random people from all over the world that perplex me. It’s one of those things in life that make me awestruck.