Do you find yourself asking the big questions about life, but have no-one to talk about it with? Have you had to resort to having conversations with yourself in your own head? Are you sick of shallow small-talk that seems to dominate most conversations?
I was. My journey into spirituality began from a place a curiosity, and loneliness. Curiosity, because I was so intrigued by the big questions about life. I wanted to find out what happens when we die. I wanted to investigate the power of the mind. I wanted to know whether we could be reincarnated as a plant or animal. I wanted to understand whether everything really does happen for a reason (coincidences just seemed so lame – they’re for people in denial, right?) That good old chestnut, “Why are we here?” The amount of times I have tried to answer that question! I love piecing the seemingly random events of life together into the bigger picture, and making the connections as to why something had to happen in order to allow something else to happen, so that something even bigger could happen that benefits even more people.
And loneliness, because I had nobody to talk to about these things. Spirituality was just not a topic that people were generally interested in talking about. Sure, those people existed somewhere on the planet, but not in my social circles. I often found myself incredibly bored in social situations. The conversations were dominated by small talk. And not just random small talk, but the same, repetitive stuff, over and over. “So, how’s work going?” (Sigh) “Alright. It’s a job, I suppose. It pays the bills.” Yawn. If I tried initiating a conversation around something a little deeper, I’d get strange looks, and be told that I was being “too deep and meaningful”. Then they would change the subject, and go back to talking about the look on Sally’s husband’s cousins’s face when so-and-so did such-and-such, complaining about life in general and how miserable it makes them, and what a terrible outfit the person that just walked past is wearing.
I felt so disconnected. I wasn’t lonely in the sense of being physically isolated, although I did spend a lot of time on my own by choice. I had friends and people around me, but I found it difficult to connect with them on anything more than a superficial level. I cared about them and wanted to learn about them, but not through small talk. I couldn’t get into small talk, it seemed so pointless and fake. Who cares what other people are wearing? It was as though people were afraid of what thought-provoking, engaging conversation would do for them.
But what are they afraid of? Are they afraid of opening their mind? Afraid of opening their heart? Afraid to find out how much they don’t know about their world, and the universe at large? Afraid of having their lifelong beliefs that they’d been clinging to all of their life come crashing down around them, and being ‘wrong’?
Or has it simply not occurred to them that there could be more to life than chores, drudgery, and an endless quest to acquire more ‘things’? My interest in spirituality was also shaped through materialism. I reached a place where I had everything I wanted physically. I had a good job with a good income. My partner and I lived in a modern three story penthouse apartment in the city, in Sydney. The views were so incredible that on New Years Eve, we counted that we could see 16 sets of fireworks from way out in the suburbs all the way through to Sydney’s waterfront. It felt strange being asked what I’d like for Christmas and thinking that I already have everything I want. I reached a point where things no longer gave value to me, at least not the way they used to.
When you have everything you want physically, you are forced to shift your focus onto non-physical aspects of life where deep meaning can be found. The things I have collected make me happy, but at the end of the day they’re just that – things; and I can’t take them with me when I leave this world. When you start looking for a grander purpose, your problems become smaller in comparison. Once you start delving into the marvels of life, there is no going back. Enlightenment is one-way street. It is not a hobby that you switch off at a certain time of the day – it is the continuous expansion of all that you are.
So without anyone to share my curiosity, I found myself having conversations in my head. Not like a madman, but in the sense that the answers I got from my unconscious mind were often more profound and engaging than the answers I got (if any) from the people around me. And so began my love of contemplative meditation. I couldn’t wait to be alone to sit in silence and ponder. I couldn’t wait to come home and read. Most of my friends liked to spend their weekends drinking and drowing out their thoughts; I needed to engage my mind.
There’s a whole world that we haven’t even touched on beginning to understand. We are not taught about spirituality in school. It is one of those taboo topics that we are left to figure out for ourselves, like so many other unimportant facets of life that never pop up such as money, relationships, and death. Why would anyone need to know how to handle issues that frequently lead to crime and suicide, when we can be equipped for life with such valuable skills as algebra?
Throughout high school I was bullied relentlessly for expressing my individuality. This only reinforced my decision to continue doing just that, and has contributed in my mission to now encourage others to do the same. Through all of the anger directed at me, I sensed that the other kids yearned to do the same, but lacked the confidence. If there is one theme that high school represents, it is conformity. You could only wear your hair a certain few ways. Your backpack had to sit in a particular position on your back. Your socks had to be folded a certain way. Anything childlike was rejected and sameness prevailed. I had no desire to play the “same game” – and not even four years of bullying swayed me. What had happened to the happy, ambitious, energetic little kids I knew from primary school? Their childlike innocence seemed to have died inside of them during their rush to become adults. Sadly, many of them seemed to have never got it back. This happens all too often – the youthful, happy-go-lucky child becomes forgotten. As fast as the quest for maturity begins, the fear of ageing sets in. Life becomes complicated, and it doesn’t need to be.
I can consciously recall specific days in my childhood where I honestly wondered whether I was the happiest kid in the world. Now, that contemplation seems quite remarkable. Out of the billions of kids in the world, I genuinely wondered whether anyone was happier than I was. On those particular days, nothing out of the ordinary happened. We did things like go to the playground, run under the sprinkler at home, baked cookies, did some arts and crafts, and mum might have cooked my favourite meal for dinner, and okay, maybe my favourite dessert too.
But it is these simple things that give meaning to life. Things that make you smile. Focusing on what you appreciate. Giving energy to the things you love. Basking in the elements of nature. Taking risks. Being adventurous. Spontanaeity. New accomplishments. Challenging your limits. Passion for life that ignites the core of your soul. Sharing simple food with those you love. Laughing lots and taking yourself lightly. Doing work not to get paid, but getting paid as a result of doing what you love. Memories and experiences. It is things such as these where true joy can be found.
Keep things simple. Living in Sydney was a very fast-paced life and this was difficult to escape as the constant sense of rush is embedded into the energy of the city. As much as I loved it, I now reside back in my beautiful homestate of Tasmania with my partner, with the most amazing wilderness at our doorstep, and our quality of life has increased greatly. Remember to slow down. Life is not the past or the future. Life is your heart beating in this moment, right now. Give fully, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Through tribulation comes self-transformation.