purpose

Or a smile from someone who’s life I touched
Added: Sunday, 1 November 2009

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The other day my little boy was busy on one of his important missions: pulling himself up on the book-shelf and meticulously throwing down all the books he could. These are his first milestones and I try to enjoy them attentively, because I know how fast he will grow up and leave the house and live his own life. And I wonder what will his life look like when he does. Will he be happy?

I was engrossed in just this thought when down came a few more books and a piece of paper landed on the floor. It fell out of the pages of a prayer book and had my husband’s handwriting on it. As I began deciphering it, I realized it was a list of goals and aspirations. Among the many ambitious career goals, one of the most memorable objectives was “to be an awesome dad and spend at least 5 hours of quality time a day with my family”. It was beautiful to read a piece of my husband’s heart. He still doesn’t know why I hugged and kissed him as he came out of the kitchen that morning. He thought it was his cologne. In our day to day life, we often don’t leave any time for a piece of our heart and we get so engrossed in fault-finding and demanding, that we forget how tender and noble the human soul is anyway. Reading my husband’s note was a reminder of the loftiness we all seek.

We set out to do grand things. None of us thinks: hey, let me life a mediocre life and be a mediocre person. Let me be a fly on the wall or let me just kind of veg out. And yet many of us seemingly end up with “mediocre” lives. Or so we think, because the standard we measure our achievements by is often unattained. But maybe the standard is our problem, and no matter whether we become the star-surgeon, the famous actress or the renowned writer or not, we can in fact be great. It is just that we measure greatness by all the wrong standards.

This week’s video on Doubletake is about a manicurist from Washington DC who’s done more with her life than I can say I have. Outwardly I have a “better” education, a sexier job title and a swimming-pool in my back yard. Outwardly she lives from pay-check to pay-check and gave up her house. Outwardly, if we made a list of worldly aspirations, I would outdo her. And yet, she puts me to shame with what she has really achieved. If we were both to die tomorrow, my guess is that she’d leave with more satisfaction that I would….watch the video!!!

My point is that we can have all sorts of goals and aspirations, and some of them we will reach and others we won’t. But at the end of the day, it’s better for us to attach our sense of achievement to “serving others” rather than titles, wealth or recognition. Because although we can try and reach those things, we just don’t know if we will and we just don’t know if the sacrifices we make for them are worth it. “Service”, on the other hand; serving others in whatever capacity and by whatever means we have available at any given moment; is something that every single individual can achieve. Right here, right now.

And then when we look back to a long life and remember the first steps we took and the life we dreamed up for ourselves, we’ll feel like “Hey! Not bad at all”…

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8 February 2009

More Than Money - The good life parable

What are you going to do with your lucky lottery ticket? That's a question every MBA faces. A lot of time and money has been invested in you, and once you graduate you're supposed to cash that ticket in for as much money and status as you can. Your parents and peers expect it. And you may feel that there's really no other choice. You can't risk wasting that expensive education. It's the safe thing to do. Isn't it? Mark Albion doesn't think so. In "The Good Life", a movie by FreeRange Graphics, Mark takes you to a chance meeting between an MBA and a fisherman on a small island. As the MBA tries to teach the fisherman about business, the fisherman teaches him about life.



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Do we cry for ourselves?
Added: Tuesday, 9 December 2008

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I walk home from the grocery store and find an ATM slip that someone has dropped. The balance is 4 Rand (USD 0.4).

I'm driving on the highway and pass a dog that has probably been abandoned and paces back and forth as he ponders how to cross the terrifying lanes ahead of him.

I turn on the news and see the face of a child that has been locked into a basement and hasn't seen the light of day for the last three years.

I watch a loved one struggling to get through the next day of chemo while juggling life's daunting responsibilities.

No matter what's happening to whom a part of me always stays behind on the street, on the highway, on the other side of the TV screen or telephone and absorbs the pain of the other. Some call it compassion or empathy, but there are times when I wonder if I'm not actually a little crazy for hurting so much?

So I listened intently when, the other day, a TV psychologist was analysing a similar trait in a fellow human being. The lady on the phone was crying and explaining how the smallest things make her cry and how she can't turn off what she feels is extreme compassion for other people and their suffering. I was dying to hear the response. I was hoping he would say we could take a pill.

He said people who focus so intently on the suffering of others are actually scared that those things could happen to them. That they themselves could end up bankrupt, lost, abused or sick. His underlying philosophy was that anything we do, see, dream or think comes back down to us and ourselves – our own fear of being abandoned, rejected or whatever else.

Sounded very psychologisty and plausible. But the more I thought about it, the more I began to doubt if that is necessarily true, because deep down when I feel compassion, a part of me wishes that I could take that pain away from the other person. A part of me mentally barters with God – asking him to burden me rather than the other person.

And even if that were an illusion, even if were fooling myself and just imagining that my feelings are selfless, then what about, say, mothers? Don't mothers sincerely put their children first? When their kids don't come home from school and their heart almost stops because they can't find the little hand they were holding at the mall, when they run through the streets searching for their loved one – are they doing it for selfish reasons? Because deep down they're scared that they themselves might be lost? Naw!

So then human beings are not essentially and necessarily selfish and egotistical. Not everything comes back down to them and their fears and their needs and their wants. The fact that you can put yourself in the other person's shoes and actually feel a part of their potential pain doesn't necessarily mean that you're scared it might happen to you, does it?

Now I don't really think that my personal feelings are healthy or productive. But whatever the case, I do believe that human beings have the ability to think and act selflessly and that we need to, in fact, refine those abilities in order to create more balance in the world. The key might be, of course, the extent to which we can translate our feelings into actions. Perhaps my pain comes from all the times I haven't done anything or haven't been able to do something about the stranger's bank account, or the dog on the highway or the child in the basement or the tumor in my friend's head.

But one thing is for sure. Our aim should be to refine our awareness for others and maybe, just maybe, some of us who feel sick with compassion are actually the sane ones. And those who can sleep at night while their neighbor is sighing, are actually the crazy ones.

I prefer the latter!
Added: Friday, 14 March 2008

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It is perhaps a paradox to say I prefer 'discomfort', because by definition discomfort is something you don't like. The dictionary talks of unease, anxiety and pain. But the notion of doing something that might cause you those things at first, while giving you joy on a deeper level, is not new. We all know that studying real hard for something can be rewarding; or working on a business, a career, a child's education, on something that we really really want; a toned body! But there are people who champion this concept on a whole other level.

For example, there's my friend Renett, who is paraplegic. She suffers from spinal muscular atrophy and hasn't been able to get out of bed for the past 10 or more years. But she earns a living from her bed, where she is connected to the internet and the phone. And despite barely being able to move without help and great pain, her online and tele-businesses pay for 9 (!) employees.

It was her 50th birthday the other day. She's one of the oldest living people in the world with her condition. In her birthday speech, which she gave from her bed, she didn't speak about the many times she's been at death's door, or her recent breast cancer attack. She spoke about her blessings and God's grace. And the one thing she said, that hit me like dynamite after all the physical 'hell' I've seen her go through, was: "if I had a choice between the life I've had and another life, I'd chose this life again." And then, "Nothing good ever comes easy".

I've learned a little bit about leaving your comfort zone in order to grow. But this really inspired me. So the other day I invited the parents of the children who come to my children's class to a themed dinner-party. The theme was "the fast" and our group was really diverse. We had the parents of the children, who are all domestic workers and gardeners, we had a soap opera actress, a radio DJ, a PHD student, a beautician, a former Robben Island prison-inmate and two engineers. We were black, white, Christian, Moslem, Baha'i. It was nuts. I was nervous inviting this crowd. It's not "easy". It's "easier" to invite my closest friends, the ones who look and think like me. The ones who have my level of education, similar life experiences and similar bank statements. The ones I can kick back with. But it's not as "easy" to invite a crowd that's different. At first...

Baha'u'llah says that our very diversity is what makes unity so special. It's the fact that we all look and think differently, that makes us rich when we come together and share and consult. The more diverse we are, the more complete we are. And that kept guiding me as I made my food, lit the candles and played my Putamayo collection for good atmosphere. Cover image

And mind you it wasn't easy for them either. Take the domestic workers, for example. They were so flabbergasted to have me serve them food, to see Ryan, a man (!) of the house, serve them and wash dishes! To sit with a soap opera star, to eat strange food, to have no beer, to listen to crazy nut-heads like myself talking about unity and then hear people sharing their views on the significance of fasting from a Baha'i/Moslem/Christian/political perspective...And yet they came. And their initial discomfort turned into joy as did mine. Last night they came over again and we're starting a study circle together now.

Inspired by these recent happenings, I decided to pester my neighbor again, the lady who lives next door and has some reservations about the new South Africa. She's agreed to shoot for coffee on Friday. After I break the ice, I might invite her to one of my colorful parties and ask her to dance!

Or get your money back - serious!
Added: Friday, 22 February 2008

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There's a book you can buy in German, which promises you the secrets of becoming rich. It costs about 700 Euro and offers you a timeless money-back guarantee if you don't, indeed, get rich after giving it 3 months to do its magic. Okay, so it sounds like one of those many formulaic books that have come out on the market. And each of them contains some amazing advice, but I have to say that this book is the culmination of 20 years of research on the part of a man who has compiled not only the aggregate wisdom contained in most other books, but also personal stories from people like Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates.

You're not sold yet? I heard the author talk and it was his interview that convinced me he knows what he's talking about. The first common denominator he used for persons who amass great amounts of wealth was service. He said if you think of Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey, they have been serving large masses of people. Although you might think service is an objective outcome, it's the intention he was talking about. He also said it was important to do something you love and enjoy, not something that is tedious and strenuous. This does not mean that hard work is not an intricate part of building wealth, but that you must enjoy that hard work. You must find the thing you love to stay up for ; if you're ever going to reach superlatives.

The next related common denominator was believing in the product your selling. This could be a vitamin pill, a house, a religion, a cough remedy ; whatever it is, people who are convinced of their product will convince you. He said you don't need money yourself when you can get 100 people to buy into your (genuine) enthusiasm and commit to paying you in advance for a product you can then go out and get made with your customer's advance cash. If you don't believe in the product and it sucks, this method will only cause mistrust and ultimately lead to failure, maybe even debt. So a genuine belief that your product can 'serve' is paramount.

His next point was keeping the goal always in mind. When you have the goal in mind, you can fail, stumble and fall, but eventually you'll get there, because you don't lose sight of your destination. But most importantly, he said, this goal must be externally oriented. In other words it must be you trying to achieve something positive for others: Be it making the best computers for people, providing hope and advice as a talk show guru, building the best shoes in the world, or whatever making them laugh.

Likewise he advises aspiring magnates not to dwell on the past. When you're a runner on a race track you don't look back when you're running forward. Although some of your past experiences might be great lessons, most of the negative ones tend to hold you back and wear you down, so stay focused on the future.

Now I didn't buy the book. My goal is not to be super rich as such and I didn't feel like spending 700 Euro. But what I heard from the author, who came across as a very intelligent man, was very valuable to me in itself. And I have an inkling that the book would probably teach you to rethink making 'wealth' per se your goal anyway. Wealth or fame in themselves are not a goal, but means to serve more. Likewise, what I gathered from the gentleman's interview was that money is a by-product, a culmination and fruition of an effort or passion to serve and excel. Ideally it's not the money that's driving you but the thing that you love doing so much. That's what gets you the wealth.

Wealth can mean many things, including spiritual abundance. But material abundance can be a manifestation of it. As long as you don't let your possessions possess you, wealth can be a blessing:

O YE THAT PRIDE YOURSELVES ON MORTAL RICHES! Know ye in truth that wealth is a mighty barrier between the seeker and his desire, the lover and his beloved. The rich, but for a few, shall in no wise attain the court of His presence nor enter the city of content and resignation. Well is it then with him, who, being rich, is not hindered by his riches from the eternal kingdom, nor deprived by them of imperishable dominion. By the Most Great Name! The splendor of such a wealthy man shall illuminate the dwellers of heaven even as the sun enlightens the people of the earth!

SON OF SPIRIT! I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside Me? Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting.

SON OF MAN! Thou dost wish for gold and I desire thy freedom from it. Thou thinkest thyself rich in its possession, and I recognize thy wealth in thy sanctity therefrom. By My life! This is My knowledge, and that is thy fancy; how can My way accord with thine?

CHILDREN OF DUST! Tell the rich of the midnight sighing of the poor, lest heedlessness lead them into the path of destruction, and deprive them of the Tree of Wealth. To give and to be generous are attributes of Mine; well is it with him that adorneth himself with My virtues.

YE RICH ONES ON EARTH! The poor in your midst are My trust; guard ye My trust, and be not intent only on your own ease.

I have a secret!
Added: Saturday, 26 January 2008

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Cover image Have you heard about the book and subsequent movie "The Secret"? Thousands flocked to read, watch and apply the one principle behind this hyped media phenomenon: "the reality of man is his thoughts". Well I have a secret. Abdu'l-Baha said this at the beginning of the last century. Sure, it's an eternal truth and Abdu'l-Baha didn't package it in a spectacular way. In fact, He didn't make a secret out of it at all!

Two months ago I watched as two of my friends were arguing over The Secret. One had religiously read and re-read the book, believing in its mantra and working hard to convert his thoughts and desires of "success and fame" into reality. The other friend made fun of him and planted the seed of doubt in his mind, writing The Secret off as another one of those 'self help' type of works that attract weak people who don't want to take responsibility for their life and the consequences of their actions. He demystified The Secret and this caused my other friend to practically throw a tantrum; scared of losing his grip on the accumulated positive energy he felt he'd attracted thus far.

I watched the two and thought to myself, here are two types of people. One firmly believes that the world is what it is and his actions have a definite, though probably limited, impact on his life. The other believes in some mystical force that he can tap into to make his life better; even perfect. One is perhaps a little defeatist and the other positive and hopeful, but in a frighteningly vulnerable way. Whatever their attitude, however, both of them were ironically creating their reality and affirming it with their beliefs in those very moments. As I watched them, the question in my mind was not whether our thoughts are our reality or not, the question is 'what are our thoughts' and what reality are we creating? If we, like my one friend, believe that humans are really like animals with a little more intelligence but ultimately prone to weaknesses, temptation and urges over which we have little control; then our reality will reflect that. If, like my other friend, we believe that the universe is conspiring to bless us as individuals, it will.

That's why we're in such a mess at the moment. Most people in the world think that their race, nationality or (especially) religion are better than those of others. This is our reality and this is reflected, nay perpetuated in our social and political structures. If we believe that as humans we are by nature sinful, it is reflected in our societies and institutions; our justice system, our education system, our religious practices etc. If we believe that as humans we are by nature noble (as Baha'u'llah says), then this will be reflected in our societal structures. Our current and deep-seated beliefs in the superiority of our faith, color, nationality or political convictions is causing our world to reflect and perpetuate the fragmentation we experience in our thoughts. If we change our thoughts to believe that we are truly one organism with beautiful, individual and unique cells, our reality will reflect that. It's that simple.

I experienced this first had. A few days ago I invited my neighbor whom I had deemed prejudiced and guarded. This was quite hard for me. While we were talking over the fence, the less I focused on what I perceived to be her prejudices, the more beautiful she became. It was almost as if my focusing on her strengths brought out those gems in her. This blew my mind. I simply tried to apply what Abdu'l-Baha says:

"When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love."

"To be silent concerning the faults of others, to pray for them, through kindness, to correct their faults. To look always at the good and not at the bad. If a man has ten good qualities and one bad one, to look at the ten and forget the one and if a man has ten bad qualities and one good, to look at the one and forget the ten."

My neighbor has accepted my invitation in principle. I will give her time to feel comfortable coming over, perhaps after my impending trip.

The Secret is not a secret. It's a truth and a tool that can be used to create and perpetuate fragmentation, disunity, misery, self-indulgence, egotism and ignorance or it can be used to create unity, equality, diversity, love and selflessness. As my husband would say: "It's all in your head!"

I'm cracking on the inside
Added: Sunday, 13 January 2008

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I was at a Persian 'mehmooni' (dinner-party) the other night and one young man, who had just stepped off the boat from Iran said, "How refreshing: a dinner party with food and conversation. I'm so excited!" I asked him what he meant, as I've never known any other kind of dinner-party. He laughed and said, "honey, in Tehran, a 'mehmooni' is a crack fest – you can chose between crack, cocaine or heroine."

He described the grim underground social scene and a generation of young people paralyzed by drugs. But then I thought of my own world here in South Africa, Europe or America and I thought – things are not really that different here either. You've got a lot of people hiding from the pressures and demands of the world by getting wasted regularly on Friday nights, taking drugs or obsessing over other, insignificant things in life: You get the compulsive shoe shoppers, the fame and fashion obsessed divas, the body obsessed gym goers, the medication gobblers and all other forms of indulgence and pain avoidance. I'm no exception. My favorite form of escapism is watching the Style Channel! Finola Hughs and Neicy Nash soothe my frustrations. We do anything to forget the insurmountable challenges presented to us by an ailing world and our responsibilities vis-a-vis these challenges, as unique human beings with a unique set of talents, skills and insights.

That's why often, when I invite people to my home to discuss some of the world's challenges, I feel that many people shy away. Because they realize that life and faith are not about sitting in church on Sundays or improving your personal 'om' whenever you feel its convenient, but about seriously reconsidering your choices and doing the work required to create more understanding and love in the world. It's hard work! Much easier to sit back and get numb or focus on fun stuff. But the consequences are sooner or later to be felt. If you put your love in ephemeral things, such as recognition, success, money, 'fun' or boos, then your love will reflect those things and be ephemeral. If you put your love in eternal and truly beautiful things, it will be just that.

Here's an amazing passage you just have to read from HB Danesh's work, UNITY, the Creative Foundation of PEACE. Danesh is an MD, a psychiatrist and behaviorist whose insights are poignant and disturbingly sobering:

"Pleasure-orientation, an important characteristic of the indulgent person and society, usually develops in circumstances where material prosperity precedes emotional maturity, allowing for a lifestyle of self-centeredness and self-indulgence. Examples of this type of societal orientation are to be found in the Roman Empire before its fall and in the twentieth century Western civilization. One of the main reasons for the development of a pleasure-oriented lifestyle is the absence of a well-formulated purpose and the hedonistic approach to life, it discards its reason for being. As a result, the individuals and institutions in that society soon give up hope for growth and development. In his book, The Culture of Narcissism, Christopher Lasch describes this process:

Having no hope of improving their lives in any of the ways that matter, people have convinced themselves that what matters is psychic self-improvement: getting in touch with their feelings, eating health foods, taking lessons in ballet or belly-dancing, immersing themselves in the wisdom of the East, jogging, learning to 'relate', overcoming the 'fear of pleasure'

Such an approach to life is, in essence, chaotic. All endeavors are aimed at the avoidance of pain, and more importantly, at achieving gratification and pleasure. Any other objective would require discipline, hard work, postponement of gratification, willingness to suffer and experience pain, the ability to work in harmony and cooperation with others and to be of service to one's fellow man. Such qualities are needed for the creation of a healthy relationship but are almost nonexistent in the life of an indulgent person.

In addition to the promotion of pleasure-orientation and a chaotic lifestyle, the indulgent mode of human communication creates anarchy and disorder both in the individual and in society. The only source of authority and power that the indulgent person acknowledges is gratification. He seeks freedom similar to that which animals possess: the freedom to gratify biological and instinctual needs and desires, without according due consideration to the other realities of complex human relationships. These individuals rationalize all of their self-centered activities in the name of individual freedom, the freedom to do whatever one pleases as long as it does not interfere with the rights of others. In reality, however, at one level, all people are interrelated. There is a universal ecology of life, which, at the level of human relationships, creates a universal interdependence similar to the organs and parts of a body. Thus, for example, the health or illness of one individual ultimately affects others as well. Consequently the actions of the indulgent individual do interfere with the rights and lives of others. The indulgent individual ignores this fact and, subsequently, introduces anarchy into interpersonal relationships.

Finally, the intellectual and emotional characteristics of an indulgent individual have serious consequences for both the individual and society at large. The continuous pursuit of pleasure often results in a lifestyle characterized by the quest for instant gratification, which, in turn, requires a willingness to sacrifice fundamental principles of quality, integrity, and beauty. In the indulgent lifestyle, emotions are an end in themselves. The individual seeks joy and happiness but refuses to submit to the self-discipline and control required for creativity and growth, prerequisites for true joy and happiness. The indulgent person avoids the pain and discomfort of growth and thus hampers the progress of this maturity and development. "

Africanize globalization
Added: Friday, 13 July 2007

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When you look at the world, it's very easy to get depressed. You see chaos and disintegration everywhere and it appears as though this planet has become the home of extremes: whether it's the extremes of fundamentalism versus the absence of morality, or the extremes of wealth and poverty, it is difficult not to get disheartened. A paradigm that seems to emerge from this chaos is 'the individual at the center of the universe' – everyone seems to believe that at the end of the day, they are the most important force in their own life and it is up to them to compete, survive and attain a state of wealth and comfort.

I've been living in Africa for over 4 years now and in my faith I'm told that Africa has an important contribution to make to world civilization! It is "like unto the pupil of the eye, which is dark in color, yet it is the revealer of the contingent world" (Abdu'l Baha).

If I look at Africa through the paradigm of the individual at the center of the universe, I see a place of misery, poverty and corruption. A place that has many minerals which it can't safeguard from the clutches of selfish forces from all over the world. Africa is a needy place, because my measuring-stick only measures material prosperity and individual freedom and comfort.

Now if I change my yard-stick and my paradigm, immediately things change. If what I'm measuring and valuing is not the individual at the center of the universe but rather the collective wellbeing of any people and ultimately of the world as a family, then Africa is a place of great wealth. I learn that Africa is rich in spiritual values that the world needs in order to heal its downward spiral of exploitation. In Africa we learn that survival is a collective endeavor. We learn that "I am because you are", we learn that if you're doomed, I'm doomed. In other words, the collective is the center of the universe. This collective is no segment of humanity; this collective is the human race.

When we look at the world through those eyes, we understand what valuable contribution Africa needs to make to business, industry, media and all strata of the modern, rapidly globalizing world. When we look at the world through those eyes, we see in the chaos around us, sheer order! Because the chaos is like a construction site. It's full of rubble and dust and dirt. Old buildings are being shattered and crumble down – much as the paradigm of the individual is crumbling down. And we see in this construction site the beginnings of a new building and we can visualize and we can be part of building this new edifice with the materials we have; the belief in our collective wellbeing. No country, race, religion, gender or other man-made denomination can be left out if any of us are to see a brighter future. We will be, because we will be together.

"The wellbeing of mankind, its peace and security is unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established." (Baha'u'llah)

Continuing after defeat
Added: Sunday, 3 June 2007

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Have you ever worked really hard on something and it gets destroyed or obsolete? Like the other day I was so happy. I worked really hard on a segment for television and put a lot of effort into it, I was really happy when they told me they would show the piece. But on the day they were going to air it, the producers had technical problems and the whole thing was canceled. Now, I guess I can turn around and try and use it again for another station or incorporate it into a documentary that I'm busy creating. I can somehow salvage the effort that went into it. But there are times when this doesn't work.

For example a friend of mine is getting her PHD and receives guidance from her professor from time to time. However, lately her professor takes as long as 8 months to give her feedback. In the time that she's been waiting someone else has emerged and published the same thesis she was trying to prove. Now she's going to have to redo four years of research and hard work. Not only that, she turns around and comforts me by saying that it doesn't matter! She's proud that someone else has come to the same conclusion as her and that this will contribute to the progress of her specific field. How mature is that reaction? I can't imagine showing such grandeur myself.

Another person told me that they had finished a huge, time-consuming piece of art work, only to come to the studio one day and find it had all burned down. It happens to all of us, it's called crisis and it normally happens right after some sort of victory, big or small. But what to do? We must continue. When I look at those who are successful in life, I see that they have conquered defeat and press on, despite all odds. It seems that we have no choice but to brush of the dust and continue.

There was a story when I was a kid. I don't remember weather it was about Chengiz Khan or Tamur the great, but one of these emperors was faced with a big defeat and sought refuge in a cave. As he was sitting there, he watched an ant climb up the wall, trying to cross over the other side. Just as the ant got to the top of the wall it fell down to the ground. But immediately it began to climb again, taking many minutes to reach close to the top. Again the ant fell. This happened a good 100 times before finally the ant succeeded and crossed over. This gave the emperor great strength and he got up and continued with his battle. And that's all it is, continuing with the battle, accepting that victory is followed by crisis and resting assured that crisis is followed by victory.

To find ourselves we need to lose ourselves
Added: Thursday, 31 May 2007

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Recently everyone I talk to seems to be on a quest to 'finding him or herself'. For example, I had lunch with a friend yesterday who just quit her job, because she wants to find herself. In fact I have several friends who are on a similar quest, looking for identity. They try new jobs, new hobbies, new countries, new partners, always searching for themselves, trying to understand who they are. And sometimes they find answers, but these answers don't seem to satisfy them for long.

I don't blame anyone for looking for the answers within themselves. Our society tells us to do that. Successful people often say, 'you need to have faith in yourself, believe in yourself'. The people we look up to and emulate are people who have created wealth, success and comfort for themselves. They teach us that we're here on this planet to find personal happiness.

My limited experience on this planet has taught me otherwise. I think that if we are really looking for answers, we need to take ourselves out of the equation entirely. I truly think we are our own biggest stumbling block. We keep bumping into ourselves while trying to find ourselves. We're in our own way. The miracles I have witnessed, the greatness I have seen in people has come out when they take themselves out of the equation. When they rid themselves of them 'selves' and become a pure, clean channel for divine assistance, for miracles to happen. It's when they leave behind what they want and think they need that they become heroes. The greatest achievements come from people who are humbled by the greatness that is this creation and all that is therein and see themselves as channels for this greatness to flow through. People who become part of the greatness leave their own selfish desires behind. Those people live life every moment to its fullest. They aren't lost in the basement of self, looking for themselves. They have found their higher purpose.

I think that the less of 'me' there is, the more divine light will shine through in this world. And I believe that the reason why religion and politics have a bad reputation all over the world is because religious and political leaders are full of themselves and promote their own interests and those of a select few. This is fundamentally flawed as creation is one and good can only come from unity. Our purpose should not be to create personal happiness. It doesn't last anyway. There is no bottom to self and desire, that cup can never be filled. If we make this life about service to others however, then will we begin to feel the light of true joy.Our only enemy in this world, the only real devil, is 'self.'

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Leyla Haidarian: Beyond King of the Mountain TED talk
Leyla Haidarian: Beyond King of the Mountain TED talk


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