The day I stopped trying to change the world to be part of it
There was a time when I was truly committed to finding out a reason for my life.
As many of us who cannot be convinced by the idea that we are born, work hard at school, enter university, get a job, procreate and die, I felt a constant dissatisfaction coming directly from my spirit which simply said “hang on, this cannot be all”. It could not be that we were here just passing by as mere observers of some kind of invisible will. It could not be that we were here to accumulate money, status or possessions, not even if they were related to amazing travel pictures on Instagram. It could not be that we were here to accept jobs that do not fully connect with our souls, relationships that do not elevate our spirits, and experiences that last the lifetime of a Facebook post. There’s got to be more to existing on this Earth.
There’s got to be a mission, a vision, a role we and only we can play in the bigger scheme of things, that one thing that makes our living worth it and meaningful — the bigger purpose for being here at this specific point in time and at this specific circumstance.
I am talking about finding that more elevated purpose which not only gives meaning to our lives, but also directs our energy to making a contribution to the world we live in. From climate change to social justice, there are plenty of issues waiting for solutions. As many of us who cannot stand still watching the world around fall apart, I could not continue to live comfortably without taking accountability in doing my own part. I was very committed to devoting my life into the cause of changing the world.
My discomfort grew into a motivation, and my motivation grew into a resolution, and so I launched a quest for finding the path. It has been a long walk. I changed jobs, I joined projects which were more aligned with my beliefs and values, I found like minded people, I spent a considerable amount of hours going through fascinating readings and lectures, I went into travelling, I joined several retreats for personal transformation in a row. Not for a second did I feel alone. Quite the opposite, this seemed to be the pursuit of a whole generation, a whole collective intent to transform the status quo, live differently, perhaps become an entrepreneur, launch a social venture, become an activist blogger, or any of the other expressions which have been increasingly affecting how reality is shaped.
I just walked and observed, but there was something incomplete. I started to have all sorts of deep reflections, but not the whole understanding. Often I felt I was getting close to finding some answers, but not quite. Changing the world became such a passion that I was constantly very busy and taken by thoughts about when and how I would find my role in this. The more I thought, the more I felt a growing distance between the life I would like to live, and the world I witnessed. The world was around me, and I was working very hard to act on it, but something always seemed to be missing.
Then, one day, after a long and tiring pilgrimage in one of my travels I felt the need to sit down for a while. I found a small branch nearby the edges of a cliff, and rose my head to admire the valley. The trees moving with the wind had a kind of rhythm which reminded me of my own heart beat. I took a long breath. The coldish air due to high altitudes in the Himalayas entered my nose annoying my nostrils for a second, to a point I could not avoid but feeling it transforming inside of my lungs right before it could return to the world as a gentle and warm fog. I opened my mouth slightly to spot that winter smoke which makes us laugh. There was no effort. The air had changed its quality, nature and composition, both inside of my body and in the outer atmosphere involving me. Yogis and gurus often report the importance of breathing, but there is a difference in knowing something at the rational level and feeling it inside of your own cells.
I realized through my own breathing that the changing process was neither inside of me or outside of me, but in the flow between the two. Isn’t it wonderful that billions of transformations like this are happening at this very second due to the simple fact we are all breathing?
When putting too much focus on my pursuit of changing the world, I was missing the true realization that the world and self are both in constant change, and the interaction between the two is the actual transformation. It unfolds spontaneously when in constant flow. The world is not something completely outer to us waiting for our objective intervention. All we can do is to be responsive to the beauty that emerges, even if complicated, even if not as beautiful at a first sight actually, even so.
The relationship between the world and self is like the breathing cycle, it contains the wonders of transformation, but one needs to be sufficiently present in order to pay attention to their own breath. Our action in the world is one of creative participation, understanding that world and self are actually mutually affecting each other in a continuous breathing flow.
What happened next was a series of slow paced replacements. The idea of becoming a change agent was replaced by the idea of becoming a creative participant in life. The idea of changing the world was replaced by an understanding that things can at the best co-arise, when they do, if we put the right intention and respect the natural rhythm of all things. Linear cause-effect responses were replaced by a notion of unpredictable interdependence. Objectives and outcomes were replaced by intentions and invitations, as the best we can actually do is to throw a pebble in the lake and observe if waves are going to form or not. Planning was replaced by emergence and responsiveness.
Trying to find another path was replaced by the intrigue and playfulness of walking the existing path itself.
None of these replacements happened from day to night, and in fact, none of them are complete inside of me. They are ideas, inspirations that provoke me to engage in different ways with those points of reality which matter the most to me. Sometimes I fail, but it does not matter as long as the walk continues. Being part of the world might not have the same heroic sensation of trying to save it, but it is far more enriching. Instead of looking for answers, I now look for questions, in hope that if I cannot change the world I can at least leave it a little better than I found it. This is, as long as we keep breathing together near the cliff.
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