A few weeks ago my partner and I decided to trade in the ordinary lifestyle, escape the ‘hamster wheel’ way of existence and leave to travel the world for a few years. In a sense you could call it a transformation of sorts
For those of us who understand that changing external circumstances isn’t a consistently reliable method for becoming happier we might ask ‘but how can you truly transform your life?’ I would suggest that the true transformation can only ever come from within
Transform your life
It’s funny how we tend to live our lives in the modern world. It seems that for most of us it’s normal to follow a very similar work routine day in day out for much of our life. Throw in some holidays, major life events, retirement and that can about sum it up for many people
I for one, haven’t really subscribed to this type of lifestyle for a while now. So it seemed like a natural evolution to try something different
I’ve heard other stories of people selling their houses, buying a mobile home and then living in it. One friend told me he knew a woman who did this and would simply park the mobile-home in her car spot at work. She would then move around different neighbourhoods to base herself every few days
It can feel good to action radical change in our own life. Particularly when we look around at the world and see how difficult times are. Sure, we’ve had major world wars which aren’t currently appearing. But it almost feels like there are now greater levels of hostility and more threats closer to home than ever before
We see people in power who don’t seem to have much interest in the welfare of the people they’re meant to be protecting. We see increases in terrorism both locally and abroad. And we see ever increasing numbers of refugees seeking safe-haven from the threat of violence
It seems like our environment is declining, with natural disasters and pollution on the increase, and that greed and corruption are on the rise. Although many of us probably want to help improve things, often we aren’t sure how. It can also seem there many others who aren’t really bothered at all. Possibly believing they’re accepting an inevitable decline in society
And so what can we, as an individual, do to help address these issues if anything? Do we really have the power to influence any of it or should we just focus on transforming our own life? What can we do to help our world and the people in it, if anything?
So how can we create a new world?
When asking ourself if we can really do anything to positively influence these types of situations, many of us will conclude that we can’t really do much about them as an individual. And what can one person achieve anyway?
However when we look back in history we can see many examples of people who have changed the world. How the actions of just one person helped to inspire others and invoke radical change for the better
Even if most of us can’t be as influential and have as much impact on the world as many of the great figures in human history, what if everyone was inspired to be just a bit nicer, more considerate and accepting. How would that change the world we live in?
Often times it can feel like we lack any real ability to influence our life, let alone the world at large. An aspect of the situation some of us can feel trapped within is eloquently outlined in this rather cheeky, yet provocative quote used in the movie Trainspotting:
‘Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments.
Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning.
Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourself.
Choose your future. Choose life. But why would I want to do a thing like that?’
What do we want from life?
A little extreme? Maybe, but what does choosing life actually mean? Of course we all need to make domestic choices and function in society, something which is clearly being poked at in this monologue. But how far beyond this does our existence actually stretch?
Challenging the paradigms within which we live our lives can help us reflect on our own situation and question what we might want to be different about our own life
It’s very easy to think that if certain things were different, ie – if we had a more attractive or kinder partner, a flasher house or apartment in a nicer area, a higher paying job with a more understanding boss, a sports car, being able to afford resort holidays etc, that it would be so much better. But to what extent would getting these things truly change our life for the better?
Can changing external conditions bring true happiness?
What many people are starting to realise, is that to actualise true change, the type of change we’re actually looking for (which is essentially to be happier and more at peace), doesn’t come from changing our external conditions
Of course this might not be obvious. Why? Because when we do enjoy better conditions externally, this is often accompanied by a pleasant feeling (not always, but we could say usually). But even if we do get the pleasant feeling we were seeking, it’s only a matter of time before it fades. Then once again we’re back to the drawing board, trying to find happiness in something else
How much do external conditions help when we, or someone we love, are experiencing very challenging times? A major health complication, death of a loved one, feeling completely abandoned? How much does the promise of a nicer home or bigger pay cheque appeal at that time?
Maybe changing our world starts with taking personal responsibility. And that in itself begins by recognising that if we want to be truly happy we need to change something within ourself
After all, happiness is a feeling and all feelings come from our mind. So without changing our mind, how can we truly learn to be happier? And if we can’t even do that for ourself, what chance do we have of being able to help anyone else?
I am somebody
In truth, what all of us in our heart of hearts are searching for is a deep and stable feeling of contentment within. A consistent and lasting experience of peace and happiness. It’s these wishes deep inside that are what drives us to make the choices we do. Marketing tells us happiness comes from getting the things we’re led to believe we need, yet our own experience tells us this isn’t the ultimate solution
Amidst all this, when we look at our world we see it riddled with problems, conflict and suffering. If we watch the news, it can often lead us to feeling overwhelmed and despondent
Not only can we feel hopeless when reflecting on our inability to really be in control of our own life. But when we look at the difficult lives of people throughout the world, this can further compound this feeling of hopelessness
Positively influencing our world around us
However, despite all the world’s problems, what if we ourself were able to keep a happy mind all the time and become a source of inspiration for everyone we came into contact with? Of course that might not change everybody’s world, but it would change ours
Where previously we saw people acting out of hatred and greed, we’d see living beings desperately suffering, seeking to escape it and in the process harming others out of their confusion. We’d see how they continually struggle to move towards happiness, but fail to ever actually reach it
Where previously we saw evil-doers inflicting harm on others, we’d come to recognise that their behaviour was simply a manifestation of their own pain…. arising from having been harmed themselves
Where previously we saw inconsiderate and unkind people who think only of themselves, we’d start to realise everyone, without exception, is just trying to find happiness in their own way
When we start to break free from our own conditioning, we realise that we can live our life a different way. Free from pain and conflict. And then we can open a new door. One that is able to see the world a completely different way
I heard about the story of someone who used to complain and see problems in the world all the time. That is, until something opened their eyes and they gained a new perspective. This is what they said:
‘I used to look at the state of the world, and see so many problems in every direction. From conflict between nations to disputes between individuals. It made me wonder ‘why doesn’t somebody do something about it?’
‘Then I realised I am somebody.’
It’s not always clear what the solutions might be, from problems in our own life… right up to problems effecting the whole world. And even if learning to become a much kinder and loving person isn’t going to solve the world’s problems, how would it effect our relationships closer to home?
Making a decision to take personal responsibility for our own actions puts us back in control. And when we reflect on the greatest influencers of human history, isn’t it possible this is where it all began for them?
Becoming happy by letting go
Whilst we continue to relate to ourself as we always have, it seems inevitable our experience of our life and world will continue to remain the same. But how can we do we start to break out of our conditioning, our mould… and see ourself in a different way? And thus helping to start the process of actualising radical change from within?
Starting to question how the world and the people in it exist and function can be a good way to move in this direction. Why? Because believing we have all the answers, even about things that might appear obvious, tends to make our mind tight and closed to learning and evolving
I’ve realised from my own experience, that getting to a point where you recognise you don’t know very much feels really good. I’ve spent much of the last 8 years trying to come to grips with spiritual teachings and put them into practice, but after all that I sometimes wonder ‘what do I know really?’
Despite all my efforts I can see I don’t have much ability to control my own mind and positively influence people and the world around me. But at the same time, I know I have a strong wish to be able to do these things
So what’s the answer then, just give up? No, of course not. For me it’s been a process of starting to let go. To realise that it’s okay not to have the ability to control things much of the time. To try and start leaving things up to a greater power and putting it out to the universe to help guide me in the right direction
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still doing the same things more or less. But now with much more openness and less expectation. And it feels good
So to wrap it up I’ll put it back to you. What would you like to become different in your life and the world around you? What do you think you can do to influence it? And how would it feel to just let go of this perception of being in control? To be open to the fact that maybe you don’t know as much as you previously thought about how you yourself, the people around you or the world in which you live actually exist and function?
Being much more open to the mystery of life helps to make us feel more liberated and at peace. We’re no longer trapped within a very small perspective of existence. And through viewing the world through this much wider lens, we gain a clearer vision for how we can truly start to transform our life. And beyond that how we can positively influence our world and every living being within it