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What were you put on this planet to do?

Quote illustrated by

Quote illustrated by

Many people come to this question at some point in their lives, beginning a quest for the search of truth, of passion. We talked about the pursuit of happiness and how prevalent it is in our cultures today. So it's probably fair to say that most Westerners - me included - still hang on to the belief that we need a reason to be here.  

Otherwise, what's the point, right?

The Bhagavad Gita offers an interesting perspective. Also known as the Gita, it is part of the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata and was written probably about 3000 years ago (yes, pre-dating the Bible). It describes Arjuna (a soldier’s) conversation with Krishna (God) and has influenced people across the world, including Gandhi, Huxley, Thoreau, Emerson, Einstein, and Jung.

I’ve recently started reading Jack Hawley’s translation, “The Bhagavad Gita – A Walkthrough for Westerners”. It’s an easy read so far, like a cool story with an interesting plot: Arjuna is a renowned warrior who is overcome by doubt right before an important battle. What is our hero supposed to do - fight, or go home? 

In the second chapter, Krishna teaches him that

One's personal duty in life (one's sva-dharma) should be viewed as one's responsibility to his or her highest Self, the Atma.

Apparently, our “self” is not the same as our body or our mind – those perish. Reality in a spiritual sense is everlasting. Your Atma does not perish, it doesn’t die because it was never born – it has always been. That's why your Atma is the only Real thing. The Gita describes it as “immutable, unmanifested, and unknowable” (it doesn’t change, it can’t be touched, and the human mind can’t conceive it). 

Are you freaked out yet? I know, me too.

Where does this soul of ours sit and how do we get in touch with it?

Deepak Chopra had a lecture in Dallas not too long ago, and he made us do a nifty exercise. Let’s see if we can recreate it here. As you pay attention to your screen right now, reading these words, turn that attention around to the person who is paying attention.

Do you feel a presence? When you observe the observer, yourself, do you note that split-second of “Huh? Hang on! There’s someone in here!”-weirdness? I noticed it at the time and was left quite impressed (and wondering if I was going mad).

While the Atma is immutable, unmanifested, and unknowable, we live in a world that is changing at an ever faster pace, our sciences explain all sorts of visible and invisible processes, and we strive to understand and grasp everything else, too. To become still and feel into our Atma, then, is wholly counter-intuitive. Yet taking that time may be an effective way for you to connect with your own inner wisdom of what your path would be.

Krishna told Arjuna that since he is a warrior, not fighting would “violate your sva-dharma”, his personal duty in life, that which he was on the planet for.

Leave a comment and let us know what your Atma told you?


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Step 12 - Behaving Congruently

Picture credit: sheba_also Here we are, at the last of the 12 steps again. Have you been following the whole series, taking notes, thinking about how you would approach each step?

Come to think of it, they remind me a lot of the 10 Guideposts for Wholehearted living! :-)

Congruent living brings together the practice of all other steps, knowing what your values are, who you are, and what you want to stand for in the world.

How do you know when you're living congruently?

You'll know you're in alignment with your values and your passions when you're sleeping well, feeling rested and content, enjoying frequent full-belly laughs, and greet each day like a new friend with a smile on your face. When you have time to play and do meaningful work. We might even throw the word "purpose" around - when you know why it is that you're doing what you're doing.

Is it hard work? Hell yeah.

Is it worth it? I think so.

The hardest part for me is cognitively and emotionally knowing that congruent living isn't a destination, it's a journey. Accepting that I'll have to have the same action items on my to-do list every day.

The good news is, we can start with just one little step right now:

  1. Try to reflect on yourself, a little more every day.
  2. Try to stand in your own power, a little more every day.
  3. Try to make peace with yourself, a little more every day.
  4. Try to make better choices, a little more every day.
  5. Try to see the big picture, a little more every day.
  6. Try to be kind, a little more every day.
  7. Try to be a little more in everyday moments, every day.
  8. Try to nurture your whole self better, a little more every day.
  9. Try to learn something new, a little more every day.
  10. Try to be more aware, a little more every day.
  11. Try to look forward to better things, a little more every day.
  12. Keep trying for just a little more and a little better, every day.

Which one are you going to start with today? Let me know how it goes?

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Step 5 - Finding your place in the greater scheme of things

Picture Credit: oatsy 40 Do you believe in God?

The Devil?

What do you call him? Or her? Or them?

Do you believe in life after death?



Why are you here?

"Finding Your Passion" is a great trend right now and many coaches build their practice on helping clients with this quest.

It may be hard to entertain this notion, but "the pursuit of happiness" might just be a primarily Western, if not uniquely US approach to life. More than that, it's an expectation here, isn't it? Someone asked me today if Germans always strive to be happy, and I guess we do, in a way, but most of all we get on with the business of living. Sometimes, things don't work out, and that's ok, too.

Have you found your passion, your purpose? The thing you can't not do? And does it always (have to) make you happy?



Self-Actualization Needs


Self-Actualization Needs

“What a man can be, he must be.” - Maslow The same applies to a woman.

Let's take a moment and address the potential bias in Maslow’s framework. Having conceived it through the lens of his own cultural background, Maslow’s hierarchy cannot be applied equally to every person on the planet. For example, the need for belonging might be more important in communitarian cultures. The need for self-fulfillment takes different definitions in cultures driven by achievement or ascription, whether there’s a belief in destiny or personal influence. Still, I hope you found the pyramid useful as a reminder to consider priorities and potential pitfalls in international relocation.

What international assignments help us realize is that we usually function on the higher levels of what is important to us. At home, we have the basic needs covered and take them for granted. Finding yourself in a new country means you get a blank slate. A do-over. Go back to square one. And this can be quite disconcerting. Be patient with yourself, and with your family members, as they may progress through the stages at a different pace.

This fifth level brings together the main lessons for expats from the other levels of needs in a nutshell, as moving abroad forces you to confront critical questions:

1. What can you eat, how can you cover yourself, and where will you sleep?

Thanks wikimedia commons
Thanks wikimedia commons

2. Is it safe, do you have to look over your shoulder, and will your family grow up healthy?

3. Whom can you trust, who will support you, will you have a mate?

4. How do you feel about yourself, what is your contribution, is there respect?

5. What is your purpose?

An international relocation will change how you see yourself, because it gives you new directions. If you’re a spouse who has to give up working, it can interrupt your quest for achievement in your current career. But it can also open your eyes to new possibilities you never even dreamed of, put you in touch with your passion, and strengthen your relationship through shared experiences.

Most of all, it helps you practice patience, planning, and persistence. You’ll learn to choose your response to tough situations. You’ll be responsible for what you make of your time abroad.

There’s a sense of empowerment as you flex your resilience muscles, and all these are life skills that will easily translate into other areas of leadership and personal growth as well.

At no point are you asked to give up your unique identity or cultural background. In fact, bring your diversity to the table and enjoy the synergies that arise! Being mindful of your own biases will help you differentiate between what’s personal and what’s cultural.

Congratulations, you are an expat!

Image by Emilia Garassimo, Flickr, Creative Commons License.