One of the many drawbacks to western culture is the lack of involvement and devotion on a deeply personal level to anything or anyone.
When I was in Cambodia I spent a few days with a group from Singapore who was there as a charity project bringing cloths and supplies to the poor.
There is a great love and companionship in these people, and even though they welcomed me with great love and openness, I still felt out of place to a degree.
This gave me material to contemplate which I would like to share with you. Being born in Canada, although from parents of Eastern cultures, I still have the lack of total commitment to a group or faith.
This is the key, the western culture focuses on independence in a bad way. The good concept of being independent has brought its negative side, which is isolation. We have also learnt to distrust most everyone and protect ourselves. Although there is some wisdom in this, it has created a wall of separation in the process of attempting to build individuality. The sad irony is that the end result is an isolated person who has little to no individuality because they spend their entire life trying to fit in.
We must all find a way to fit in. The first step is finding a group of people who are devoted to something you also believe in. If you cannot find such a group, then start one yourself.
There are so many charity foundations in Cambodia that it appears the country could not do anything on its own. Many of these charities were started by individuals who saw a need and just started to do something about it themselves. They soon found many other people asking to join them.
Many people feel alone in the crowd, and I think I have found a reason for this. We do not fit into to the group, we feel like an outsider. In many cases members of a group do this intentionally, to keep new people out, but when the members are very welcoming and warm, why would we still feel separate? This was the key I recently found and can put it in one word: Sincerity.
The reason we do not feel comfortable in a group of people who are totally devoted to whatever it is they do, is because we are not as committed as they are. This comes from a couple of reasons, one of which is your motivation for being in the group. Is it to do the work that they do, or to meet people for your own companionship.
Even if you are there to participate without self interest, if you are not as devoted to the focus point as they all are, but you profess to be and talk your head off about it, then you know you are a fraud. Every moment there, and away from the group, you are thinking about what a fraud, fake and liar you are. You may not take it that far, but you will have some reluctancy because you know you are simply not sincere. What makes that terribly painful is that they all are sincere.
They give their time and money or whatever they have to give, but they do it with their whole heart, and you are just looking for something interesting to do or to fit in to the conversation.
This guilt eats away at your confidence and comfort so that you do not fit in because you know you do not deserve to be accepted as they are willing to accept. If you are not aware of this process, then you will just find yourself feeling out of place and self ostracized.
Find a way to fit in to something, get fully devoted to something or someone, and then when you are participating you can feel guilt free and then you will find a sense of purpose and ease in all your interactions.
The exercise to help you with this is to find the reason you cannot be fully committed. This is intellectual emotions. Examine your heart, you may find it to be closed. The way it closes is through intellectualizing about other people and activities seeing them as foolish, or below you. When you see something or someone in any way as negative or bad, meaning your heart has negative emotions, then your heart is closed.
Cleanse your heart of all negative emotions, all criticism of others and you will find your heart opening up. As that happens, you will find the same love and devotion that those people you admire and wish you could be like have. We can do this by observing every negative thought we have and then intellectually justifying it. You will quickly find out that the justifications are not valid but simply childish opinions. The reality is that everyone has their own pleasures and if you negate other people’s pleasures as foolish, then you close your heart to being able to feel pleasure. It is logical that this will happen as you are saying that love and joy and total abandon is foolish. Yet, it is only in these things that our heart will open and we can fall ‘in love’.
If you can join a group or church, some charity work in a group environment, or anything that puts the focus on others, your heart will be freed. This of course is the danger that has allowed too many false teachers to take advantage of the sincere seeker by providing a large group professing open love. The problem is that we still have the thoughts of; ‘what about me.’
There are still the natural desires for companionship, comforts, freedom, relaxation etc. which keep part of our heart and mind focused on our self and that hook is the anchor which binds us.
Only when we are so in love with others that we do not think about our self can we have that pure heart. This is the pure heart of the lover in Sufi poetry. No thought of your self.
This of course is a difficult one to comprehend. How can a person have no thought for themselves? What about my needs? is the usual question, and here lies the interesting twist, that in finding someone or group to be so devoted to, your needs are fulfilled.
I met a man, Marc, a Canadian in his early 50’s, wealthy, single with no kids. Marc found a little village in Cambodia and fell in love with a little girl there. He said when he saw her he instantly thought, ‘kid, you just won the lottery!’ Marc adopted this village and goes every year with a few thousand dollars to buy them what they need to learn and grow. He has found someone to love, in fact a whole village.
It does not have to be an organized group, it could be anything that you find on your own, something to belong to. Needless to say, Marc will get nothing other than love and appreciation from these people in return, but what more do any of us need or really want.
The longer you hold on to your heart only looking out for yourself first, the longer you will starve it to death.