I got really upset the other day when a close friend accused me of enjoying a holiday in Bali while he was struggling with an unexpected financial problem that was causing him unparalleled stress.
Holiday?! Just because people go to Bali for a holiday doesn’t mean I was on holiday there. Just because people think retreats are about taking a break from reality, doesn’t mean that the retreat I was on was about escape. Just because I was in beautiful and comfortable physical surroundings doesn’t mean that I wasn’t deeply diving into discomfort.
Our capitalist, consumer-driven society tells us that it’s terrible and must be avoided at all costs. Heck, even our bodies want us to avoid it at all costs. And we’ll work day and night today to create comfort for ourselves tomorrow.
What does comfort look like?
Lying on a yacht in the middle of our private corner of the ocean, with no humans demanding anything of us while there are just enough humans around who will fulfil our every demand, waiting on us hand and foot, ready to jump whenever we say.
No responsibilities, no discomfort, no challenge.
We have this fabricated notion etched into our brains that work and real life are all about discomfort, and holiday and breaks are all about comfort. We have this notion implanted into us that real work entails production and generating financial capital, and deep inner work is a luxury afforded to those who have earned the freedom to play after putting in their time, across a lifetime or even generations.
And this notion isn’t that old, it’s pretty artificial and incredibly new: perhaps only as recent as the industrial revolution, when all of our priorities as human beings were flipped over from being humans to acting like machines, focused on productivity and pretending that we aren’t emotional beings that experience the world aesthetically.
I’m Indian. And I attended school in the US twice. I am deeply ingrained with the commonly held values of hard work, ambition, grinding until you earn happiness in the form of a big house and a big car and any luxury you can imagine.
But what I learnt when I moved to a little part of the world called the Netherlands, that still remembers its scars from a time called WWII, when you never knew if your life would be over tomorrow, and the more money you had, the more likely you were to be persecuted sooner, was a lesson that has been cited over and over and over again in the greatest of ancient philosophies: life is happening in the here and now. Don’t postpone living it, enjoying it, facing it, being present in the present. Don’t work twelve hours a day to wait for the weekend nor your retirement. Don’t give in to greed disguised as ambition, and sacrifice the only real capital you have: time and energy. Don’t get entrapped by luxurious gratification, enjoy every possibly moment of what you have today, stretch it out and savour it, because today, right now, might be — nay, IS — all we really have. The rest is a story created by our minds, and there alone it lives.
Our bodies constantly send us strong signals to avoid discomfort, because we are wired for survival.
But let’s be honest and look around — we are under no real danger of survival, unless we are drinking and driving.
Yet we keep grinding day and night to simply collect and hoard more comfort, to avoid being uncomfortable for even one moment of our living existence. We buy into the belief that we need more and more luxury in order to finally feel satisfied that we are safe from discomfort.
This overabundance of comfort is not a luxury, but an opportunity to redirect our personal resources in a way that ancient generations have done with significantly less: the chance to dive deep into the most uncomfortable parts of our own beings, and unearth what lies in our most unseen depths.
My trip to Bali was not a holiday, because the outward pleasure and comfort was simply a container that allowed me to go deeper into the most dark, shadowy corners of myself, to discover what haunts me, what pains me, what holds me back, and what gifts I am yet to uncover, leading me into my own personal potential for greatness.
I’ve chosen to unsubscribe from “normal” a long time ago:
get a job, go to work, wait for the weekend, plan a vacation, see friends and family in the gaps, get married have kids get a house retire, enjoy life for a moment and then die. It feels like someone’s idea of a prank, a trick to trap me in my own life, running in a hamster wheel without any chance to exercise my own god-given free will.
So, against the grain and popular consent as it goes, my life looks, instead, like this: spend as much time as possible going deep within, facing myself, uncovering my darkest corners until I know myself better than anyone else, and untangle every knot that weighs me down until I am truly liberated — and take on assignments with the professional skills I’ve learnt in order to help others on their own journeys, and to sustain myself and my real work within the constructs of the physical world we currently live in. For me, work is about solving what’s inside me, and becoming the best version of myself there can be. For me, there is no holiday or vacation, there is just life. And for me, life isn’t all fun nor all work, but a constant balance of the two — because you can’t do deep inner work without having a certain amount of safety, security and comfort in your outer world. Just enough to put you at ease — too much and you either become fat and lazy, or simply too occupied with maintaining all that excess, trapped in your own gilded cage.
I create because it’s an expression of what’s within —
either in myself, or by channeling what’s in others. I create because we each have something valuable to offer the world, that must be manifested in some physical form. I don’t create for the sake of consumption. I don’t create just to convince someone to buy something they don’t need. Because that is, to me, modern day enslavement.
I don’t believe in separating work and play time, either. Because life is happening in the right here and right now. It won’t wait for us to figure it all out. It will pass us by if we don’t show up fully present to it TODAY. And today will never come back after it’s gone.
For me, living with passion is about showing up for life with all of our being in every possible moment. It’s about being present, for all the good, the bad, the pleasurable and the nasty, the ease and the disease, it’s about being fully ALIVE, each and every moment.
For me, living with passion is about tapping into that greatest of human capacities to choose — love over fear.
To choose to be excited by challenge instead of running away. To choose to be free to live the way you want today, and not wait for another day in the future.
For me, living with passion is to be able to acknowledge your deepest desires, and then decide if they are serving you for your greatest potential — to live and create the life you want, and to give the gifts you were born with to the world.
For me, the real work is in unearthing, facing and honouring ourselves, and all we are made of — so that every joyous and painful moment of this thing we call life becomes a meaningful contribution to the world and every being in it.
For me, my life’s work is my life — to be the purest, most essential version of myself, until I become as clear, light and transparent as the air itself, and you can see right through me into my deepest part of me to where my light shines, unobscured by my fears and my darkness — because when you see mine, I am certain you will start to see your own, like looking into a magical mirror.
For me, there is no greater purpose than to live with passion, from the heart — and it’s my hope that it inspires you to do the same.
Can you imagine a world full of people that all live with brightness and clarity and fulfilment in each passing moment? Perhaps we will all unite to become so bright and beautiful, that this little planet of ours will turn into a star.
Perhaps we will all unearth the star within each one of us, forever changing the universe as we know it. Will you find yours?