Today, It’s YOUR TURN to Keep the Wheel Spinning

Rudder by Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One day (perhaps even today), a situation will present itself to you for which you can do something to help but which you might consider insignificant. But most importantly, there will be logical reasons not to. Am going to ask you today … forget about the reasons, logic and just do it.

When I left my small village in Cameroon almost 20 years ago to pursue post-primary education, I was exposed to a world that had hitherto been non-existent to me – I saw a beggar for the first time – someone who would come up to you and beg for money (usually). My worldview was rudely shattered! Until the age of about 17 or 16, I had never seen someone who begged (for money, for food) and I just didn’t know how to relate to it. This rude shock only increased in intensity the further I travelled from home. In the day, I usually ignored any able bodied beggar with the logic ‘they are just lazy’ or trying to take advantage. Now that am older, have seen a lot and now wiser, I know it’s not always that simple.

Fast forward to 2011 in Paris-France and for the first time in my life, I saw a grown able-bodied man sleeping on the streets in near-zero temperatures. Not 30 minutes later, I met what looked like an entire family in the same situation, and begging. As this has happened more to me in different countries and cities, I have tried to ignore the pleas for help or alms with thoughts like …”this is unsustainable, how can my little alm help this person? Even if I could give them a €100, it wont be enough to get them on off the streets and keep them fed”. I am and always have been a believer in sustainable solutions and in Systems Thinking and I know full well how aid, even personal aid can be a bad i.e. have unintended and negative contrary consequences. But I am also be very empathic and can imagine myself in other people’s shoes, so those two tendencies are always conflicting.

About the middle of this year in the hot golden sunlight of the Arabian desert, I had some clarity about this – all the reasons (yes they are shallow and egocentric) we give for not helping now, for ignoring usually serve only to assuage our guilt, because deep down our spirits, speaking through our consciences long to reach out to another human being in need at that moment. Persisting in such a mentality only makes us meaner women and men, it kills the bonds that exist between us and that apparently unfortunate person, it kills that part of our spirit that we all share as human beings. And should we let that thinking persist all of the time, we’ll miss an opportunity to SERVE something greater than our own needs at that moment and thus remain at lower levels of self actualization.

Here’s a different way to look at the situation.

  1. Despite what our ego might want us to believe, that person’s existence does not depend upon us. In the grand scheme of things, they were alive before we came around and they will be alive long after we have gone. There are rare exceptions when our interventions are matters of life and death. In those situations, our responses or actions are quite clear (I think, having never been in such a position myself).
  2. In that moment, fate is handing us a responsibility – just keep the wheel turning. Don’t worry who will turn it tomorrow (if we have the heart of a saint, we will find a way to help not just today but tomorrow too). Just recognize that the wheel is still turning today because someone turned it yesterday. So the only question is: “Will we make sure the wheel is still turning tomorrow?”
  3. This is also an opportunity, to rise above the petty needs of our egos. For those of us who are men/women of faith, this is our chance to be of service to the glory of God.

So unless we can outright sense that someone wants to take advantage, if we can, we must GIVE. Give, with gratitude in our heart and with a smile on our face. And as we give, we must be sure to look them in the eye, for that is the message that speaks far more than anything else we are doing, and says “Inspite of your circumstances, I respect you as another human being”. If we pull this off well even once in a while, we at that moment are being “Instruments of Peace” and the full power of God and all the saints stands behind us.

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My ‘ekigai’ – Why I Wake Up Every Morning!!

“To master a bit of more of myself every day, so I might give it to the service of humanity, as an instrument of peace to the glory of God“ – Mukom Akong

This was one of those things (revelations? realisations) I had in the early morning of 3rd January 2011 when I couldn’t sleep. I got there because I still am always asking myself that question “what specific thing did God create me to do on this earth?“ – an old question I have been asking for some time (still no crystal clear answers yet).

I first heard the word “ekigai” from TEDster Dan Buettner during his brilliant TED talk “How to Live to be 100+” in which he pointed out from research that one of the things common to people who live long is – “ a personal sense of purpose” and for a Japanese community he studied, their name for that personal sense of purpose is called “Ekigai “, which is an Okinawan word meaning “the reason I wake up every morning”. When I heard that, it resonated so deeply with me in the spirit of purpose not as some big grand goal or ideal in your head but one that is all pervasive and helps focus you day by day, moment by moment.

Just think of the following days in your life:

  • Your first day at school.
  • The starting day of a favourite project of yours.
  • Your wedding day (ok, not being married, I can’t relate anything original here, except what I have heard and observed)

Was that day boring? most probably not, and I will submit that the reason these days were fulfilling (not necessarily beds of roses) was that you woke up that day with a reason for waking up that day. Those days for me include days I am to start teaching a new class, the day I am to start learning a new skill. But there is something just plain magical about having that daily sense of purpose that makes you jump out of the bed, with praise in your heart, a dance in step, a twinkle in your eye and anticipation to DO something. And I am one of those who knows and believes in as much as we watch our thoughts carefully to lead better lives, better lives only actually materialise when we DO those beautiful things that we have conceived and those that are revealed to us in the spontaneity of a spiritual moment of enlightenment.

And so in the early hours of that morning, I stumbled on my ekigai

“To master a bit of more of myself every day, so I might give it to the service of humanity, as an instrument of peace to the glory of God“

As I reflect on why this ekigai resonated so deeply with my spirit, I realise that it is because it resonates with something else I have come to realise in my awareness practice – that you can’t give that which you don’t own or master. Our ego is always grabbing our resources – emotional, physical, spiritiual etc to feed itself, the only resources you can give to humanity (in terms of service, compassion, helping etc) are those that you have freed from the grasp of the ego’s needs. Why an instrument of peace? …because “instrument of peace” is a phrase from St Francis’ famous prayer that struck and continues to strike a deep cord in my spirit, (“lord make me an instrument of thy peace“) and as succeed at these acts of mastering a bit more of my self, my preferred form of service is to be an instrument of peace, wherever I find myself. And where I succeed in being an instrument of peace, I will give God the glory for I am always conscious of the fact that such success is it is not due solely to my capability alone (not even from self mastery) …but due to luck and God’s help, for I am sure there are others who will bring more human effort to it and still not succeed.

And you, what is your ekigai?