Quiet Desperation

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”

Wise words from Henry David Thoreau.

I’ve never lived this quote as much as I have been this year. ‘Quiet desperation’ is such a poignant expression summarizing my struggle (and I’m sure the struggle of the mass of men around me as well). We go through each day trapped in a routine we know as everyday life, putting up a facade to show everyone that we’re okay. Yet as the days go by the routine feels ever more robotic, and it becomes more challenging to refuse that we are indeed not okay. I’m trapped, and I feel alone.

Quiet desperation.

People keep asking me what I want to do when I am set free from my current commitment. I still don’t quite know what the future holds, but I know it’s not a purposeless life. I don’t understand people who work for money. I don’t understand people who work for fame. My quiet desperation is a struggle against worldly expectations, be it wealth, popularity or conformity. I want to, one day, be able to earn the air I breath and the resources I use. My quiet desperation is me not doing enough for the planet. On some days, it gets to be too much.

One of the tragedies of our time is that we carry these weights around with us everywhere, but we feel like we cannot talk about them. Perhaps we have to remember that there is a mass of men around us who feel the exact same way.

Both our civilization, as well as many of us individually, are entering a transition in our sense of self and world. For simplicity, I call it a transition from the story of Separation to the story of Interbeing. As this shift gathers momentum, the old answers to questions like, “Who am I?” “What is important?” “What is normal?” “How should one live life?”  “How does the world work?” “What is a human being?” “What is real?” are becoming obsolete.

For example, on the collective level, we no longer believe so firmly in old paradigms like the conquest of nature, endless growth, or better living through chemistry. The converging crises of our time make them impossible to hold onto.As they unravel, so do the systems built atop them.

For many of us, something similar is happening, or has happened already, on a personal level. This online course is for people who want to learn about the space between stories, and work with it on any level, from the personal to the interpersonal to the political.

— Charles Eisenstein, www.spacebetweenstories.net

Every time I see quotes like this one, I am always reminded that I have a duty here on this planet. It’s not to make money; rather, it’s to help inspire others find their peace and purpose too. I am stuck in the transition from the old story to the new story, and I am desperate to get out. Once I can, you can bet I will be there to help guide others along their journeys. In the meantime, I’ll allow myself to pray for the strength to weather the storm of quiet desperation in the next four years.

This is my story. I’m sure you have yours. So let’s talk. Let’s amplify our quiet desperation.

0319 – Worlds (And My Blog) In Transition

Wow. Can’t believe it’s been more than six months since I last updated this. I’ve debated whether to continue posting here, but it seems like a bad omen to leave a post on existential depression lingering on the front page any longer.

A lot happens in six months, doesn’t it? We create, we destroy, we rejoice, we cry, we sink, we rise. We end up in a completely different place. One thing that has always remained constant is the uncertainty that is life.

One key theme that has been repeatedly the subject of my internal musings is transitions. Our worlds are in transition. Our surroundings are transforming rapidly, inflicted in no small part by the mighty hands of our kind. Yet, perhaps we are mighty, but not as mighty as Nature and God, which have brought about increasing degrees of flux across the entire planet. What is most fascinating–and fearsome–is that the instability is no longer constrained to the physical realm; political and social instability are here to stay, regardless of our readiness to face the consequences. Death and rebirth-be it physically or spiritually, seem to be common occurrences these days.

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Most importantly, underlying these transitions is the shift in the consciousness of sentient beings in this universe. Many spiritual teachers have talked of the impending Great Awakening, a time of abrupt momentous change. However, before we get there, maybe you can start to feel some restlessness and a heightened urgency for change emerging from within. I, for one, am feeling 2014 to be a very contemplative, but heavy and demanding year. (Note: And if you believe in the power of the stars and a higher life force, you may want to look into what astrologists are saying about 2014 – It’s a year for spiritual growth.)

2014 has invited me to renew my commitment to reflection and this blog. Like many other things, it is time for a symbolic death and rebirth for this blog as well. If you’ve visited before, you may remember that it used to be a dark and cryptic page, evoking (or intending to evoke) a sense of mystery and reflection. Now, it seems ripe for transformation. Two words come to mind: Clarity and purity. I’m keeping this phase simple, clean and (hopefully) concise. Mark Twain knows how I feel when it comes to brevity:

‘I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.’

In about two months, it will again be time for me to publish an annual update to my spirituality essay, so I shall leave most of the updates until then. Meanwhile, I will attempt to continue to post about my physical journeys and how they have shaped my spiritual path. As always, I’ll always share  random wondrous pieces I found on the interweb and my thoughts on contemporary issues that you may or may not want to hear.

Namaste!

0302 – Do you love your life?

So I’ve been battling gastroenteritis (a.k.a traveler’s diarrhea) the whole week. It was is pretty bad. Vomits and stuff. But you probably didn’t wanna know that. I just put this in here because my friend told me not to write about my sickness. Heh.

Now… In all seriousness, this is an issue very dear to my heart. Self-love.

Once in a while, you read about lives of fellow beings that make you think hard about your own. Once in a longer while, you actually meet a compelling life force in person who makes you stop and really introspect. That life force can be similar to yours, but often it is vastly different, and unfamiliar. So unfamiliar that you can hardly imagine what would be of you if you’d lived the same way. And I mean that in the most neutral way possible–to me there is no such thing as good life or bad life; it’s just life as it unfolded at that moment.

You get to meet a handful of life forces like these over the course of your life, and I believe every encounter has a reason behind it. This life force that I’ve just met, who’s become a good friend of mine now, he’s quite a character–a free spirit who lets life take him to places, to try new things–sometimes strange, sometimes scary, sometimes wild, sometimes plain absurd. Quite unfamiliar to my own life indeed. Anyhow, the freedom to roam has given him a wealth of experiences and memories that only add to the vibrancy of the life force. He still has dreams, and he has his down moments, but in general–and I quote–he “loves [his] life so much it’s ridiculous.”

That’s what made me pause.

Do you love your life?

It’s not often that you meet someone who’s fully experiencing the joy of life. So whenever I meet one, I rejoice. And smile. It’s a marvelous gift–to love your life. A rarity. A gem. It doesn’t come easy to me at all.

I rarely give myself enough credit. It sucks, but it’s not something I can change overnight. I am one of those who dream of changing the world. Sometimes I dream about becoming famous. Sometimes I dream about being rich. Sometimes I dream about living in my world.

Alas, I wake up. Every time.

But dreams need not be all about the future. Because dreams can sometimes be enabled in the present. One can dream of freedom. One can dream of happiness. One can dream of love. One can dream of these things and grant them to oneself. Because we all do deserve our own love and affection. Life is not always easy. We know our potential and where we can go, but we miss out on all the beauty along the journey if we only just go. In a way, I feel ironic saying this since I haven’t fully convinced myself of this yet, but I believe many of us share the same sentiment.

 

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”-Rumi

 

May we all be wise.

 

For love of the self, and love of the world.

0294 – The Sound of Impatience

People honk like crazy around here. That drives me crazy. It’s the sound of impatience that drives up my frustration. Why do people need to honk? It’s supposedly the norm here, but is that necessary? Looks like I totally skipped over the honeymoon phase in this culture shock. Anxiety is in full effect.

But to say that’s the cause of my unhappiness is to mask a fundamental underlying problem: me. It’s really been quite a battle. Even as I work with The Happiness Initiative, even as I did an independent study on happiness and sustainability, even as I learn positive psychology, even as I try and try to be mindful of what makes me happy, happiness has eluded me. I would give myself a 2 out of a 10. And that’s terrible. I would like to take this moment to shout out to those who are battling depression right now. I cannot even imagine how hard it is. You are so strong. Keep fighting. Hang in there.

I’m probably not the only person who feels like he shouldn’t be sad because he’s so fortunate to be where he is today and have what he has right now. Yet, sorrow doesn’t vanish overnight.

As I plunge deeper into despair, instead of worrying about my health, I worry about my decreased productivity. Like a true workaholic.

Instead of taking the time off, I work some more. I still lack the courage to do what is best for me.

At some point in your life, you’ll get the feeling that you’re cornered with nowhere to go. You wish a door would just appear that would just take you on a path far away from this unpleasant place.

At 21 and entering my final year of college, I’m in the prime of my quarter-life crisis. Where do I go from here?

I think about my varied interests and how I see no direction. I always say that I now trust life enough that it will take me to the right places, but sometimes, I lose that trust. I’m vulnerable.

I wonder if I’m making an impact, and I tell myself that I am not. Sometimes, I look at the rockstar social entrepreneurs, the inspirational speakers, the thought leaders of our society, and those close to me who get recognition, and I wish I am one of those. Sometimes, I want to be popular. Sometimes, I wish I would just conform with the system and rise to the top in there. I betray myself.

I’m never here. Get me back here. Now. At this moment. At this place. In me. Around me. Beyond the human understanding of time and space.

I’m lost. I’m clueless. I don’t know what to do. I just want to be happy. I never listen to myself. Then I get frustrated at my purported regression.

But all this needs to end. And I will end it. I am in control. I am in charge. I know what I can do. I know what’s right for our world. I know I live not for myself, but for humanity and the planet. Even though the balance of life is and will always be difficult to find, I will continue to try. I will tell myself that I can be different. I will tell myself that I need to slow down. I will tell myself that all is not lost; it never will.

The door towards peace has to be built. And it will be built. I will make sure of that. I will get out of here. And you will too.

One day, the sound of impatience will become reminder of how we are not alone in this world. The sight of suffering will become a reminder of what a privilege our lives have been. And the touch of tenderness will remind us of love and compassion. May love and compassion fill the void of our world.

0290 – Illegal Immigrants Stealing Your Jobs?

That must be rough:

It’s probably no surprise to most of you that I am deeply moved by this meme.  Looks like I haven’t written about this before, but I’m also very touched by Chief Seattle’s letter to the American Government in the 1800s. There is so much that I resonate with in this letter that I find it hard to choose something to quote, but here’s the highlight (do take a read though):

“The President in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of the earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people.”

“If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life that it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.

Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth.”

“We love this earth as a newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat. So, if we sell you our land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it, as we have cared for it. Hold in your mind the memory of the land as it is when you receive it. Preserve the land for all children, and love it, as God loves us.

As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you.

One thing we know – there is only one God. No man, be he Red man or White man, can be apart. We ARE all brothers after all.”

Well, I quoted more than half the letter. Oops. But in all seriousness, think about what we have done to this land, to this planet.

This is by no means an ignorance of the complexity and sensitivity of the immigration debate in the US. It is a worthwhile one to have. My intention of writing this post is to recall the past–a tainted one at best. It’s one that many would like to forget, and one that–lamentably–many has forgotten or never even heard about.

I’m not going to get too far into the debate about the rights of citizens vs non-citizens, but I would just point out that while that we once were unwelcome immigrants too–at a time when the concept of “illegal”, along with other things man-made, were of lesser importance than the respect, love and gratitude for the planet and fellow-beings.