This article is not just about a digital detox, travelling or volunteering. It is my attempt to communicate those “aha” moments or epiphanies experienced in Nepal. As I told my friends and family when I returned, “It’s hard to condense 3 months of experience into a single sentence.” So let’s go on a journey, if you wish to come aboard, this is me writing to myself – so take from it what you will.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a simple step, with every step bringing us closer to harmony within ourselves and with the world.
I recently volunteered as part of a WASH program in Nepal with Raleigh International for 3 months. Raleigh inspires communities and young people around the world to create lasting change. All that was required of me was a commitment to become an active global citizen, to be aged 18-25 and to fundraise £800. If you are interested in volunteering or being a team leader and are aged 18-40 check it out here.
Let’s explore what was learnt in the 3 months I spent in a remote village called Nibuwatar-9 in the Makawanpur district with no computer, phone, alcohol or drugs. It was just me, my books and a wonderful team of 8 UK and 7 Nepali volunteers. The group was known as “MC Dank.”
Wherever you go, there you are. (Please take a second to explore what this means to you before continuing.)
These 6 words played an active role in bringing back the focus of awareness to here and now. For example as my mind wandered off whilst we were in the midst of a group discussion – life continued and I wasn’t there. I’d either be mulling over the past or creating extravagant plans for the future – often imagining a place where things were better, happier or the way I wanted them to be. However, each time I was swept away by waves of thoughts this phrase helped me surf back to reality.
I came to realize that whatever we do, whatever we think, whatever happens or has happened, here we are now – alive. This is where our work lies, whatever walls we have built up to protect us from the uncertainties and chaotic nature of life – we can come to understand these walls better by observing them. This process makes us more aware, loving, kind and compassionate beings. People may help us, give us guidance and advice but it’s up to us – as it is our lives that are unfolding. If we are to fulfill our potential, we must openly explore our direct experience and I believe this will help us to find our path and walk it.
The purpose is in the process. (Please take a second to explore what this means to you before continuing.)
Our aim was to work on community, youth and personal development through health, sanitation and hygiene issues within the community. We conducted awareness raising events, resource mapping, baseline surveys and much more in order to understand the needs of the community and attempt to find solutions to these. We connected as a group and with the community through something all humans have in common, laughter and play. This way the things we achieved were just an addition to the joy we experienced during the process of integrating into the community, collaborating, planning and trying our best to have a long-term sustainable impact. This taught me to not get so lost in the end goal that we loose sight of the bliss to be found in the process.
Commit to know yourself. (Please take a second to explore what this means to you before continuing.)
The sumptuous smell of chia (tea) was in the air as I sat discussing what this whole life thing is all about with my fellow compadres. A friend asked “What do you think about commitment?” Although I can’t quite recall my exact response, it was along the lines of this. ‘We should commit to being honest with ourselves – to plunge into every moment openly, vulnerably to whatever it may bring and be willing to “Live to the point of tears” as Albert Camus once said. We are completely malleable organisms with the ability to adapt to whatever situations arise, have faith in yourself.’
There have been times in my life that rivers of tears have streamed from my eyes as I sat shaking uncontrollably. Completely consumed by the emptiness I felt as the bittersweet nature of life struck me. But in hindsight, it is these situations that have forced me to connect to the deep inner strength we all have that is untouchable and immovable. Your circumstances are not responsible for your happiness. Commit to know yourself and you will come to understand the immeasurable, inexpressible and inconceivable potential you have.
How you live with life, life lives with you. (Please take a second to explore what this means to you before continuing.)
This sprung to my mind as I sat one day feeling conflicted, living in thoughts not amongst trees that swayed with the wind back and forth in front of me. My feathers had been ruffled by that age-old conundrum of relationships and I wanted a way out of this feeling, a fix, a remedy. That day I realised that it was me interpreting the situation through my own filters, which generated conflict. All I needed to do was to communicate honestly how I was feeling about it which would have avoided any emotional pull away from the moment.
“The outside thing that you see and the inside thing that you are – are poles of the same magnet” – Alan Watts. If we live in conflict with it, it will live in conflict with us – the same goes for anger, love, stress, harmony and all the places we choose to stand from. If you are truly engaged now with a spirit of curiosity, honesty and exploration – life will present to you all that you need to learn. The classic saying goes “You get out what you put in,” so we must be willing to plunge into the depths of life and give it everything we have. To be here now for every step of the journey, to commit to know ourselves and to live, learn and evolve so that all beings may be happy, peaceful and liberated.
Here’s some potential questions to put into practice:
What happens when we hold our awareness in each situation that arises – as we continue to learn and walk our path?
What happens when we question everything – breaking down our beliefs of what someone else told us is right or wrong?
What happens when we become alive – by examining our perceptions of the world and our place in it?
What can I be certain of?
Who Am I?
These are all questions that played an important role in the practical knowledge I understood whilst volunteering in Nepal and I leave with you to explore and experiment with here and now.