A sacred clown birthday at Casa Saraswati

I am reflecting now on what has probably been the most beautiful birthday of my life.

For a start, I am in a beautiful place. Casa Saraswati is the retreat of Didier Danthois’ Sacred School of Clowning. This is a place of love, beauty, magic and poetry. A place for meditation, yoga, creative dance and clowning. It sits on the north side of El Teide, the great volcano of Tenerife, with a spectacular 180 degree view of the ocean. We sit 800m up the mountain, on a finca that was previously owned by healers. I feel a powerful healing energy at work here. The climate here is tropical and the farm is full of ripe fruit, organic salads, hundreds of flowers and butterflies the size of your hand. We often see eagles soaring above us.

However, my morning did not start beautifully.

When I awoke, I was sad. This is the first birthday in years I have spent without a partner. I wanted someone to wake up to, to say happy birthday to me and no-one did. In bed I felt a long way away from my friends. During my yoga practice, I found it unusually hard to balance. A deep sadness came up.

I allowed this sadness some space, and continued my practice. My attention was drawn to the blue sky outside, a vivid, pure blue with traces of cloud spread across. My sadness lifted. “This will pass,” I told myself, “Just like those clouds.”

And it did.

Michael from Bavaria came into the rehearsal room and wished me a happy birthday. I lit up. He remembered! And gave me a lovely hug and hoped all my wishes for love, life and luck to come true this year.

Very soon, many people were in the room and wishing me a happy birthday. I cheered up. Now I started to feel like it was my birthday.

Our morning movement session worked much on the hips and chest. This is an area I have to take care of. My chest has a tendency to grow tight and this blocks my expressive energy somewhat. The hip work was lovely; a figure-of-eight shape gently with weight transferring side-to-side on loose knees. The movement developed into a wave, the hips moving from side to side like a little boat on the ocean, with the head following this movement. Amazingly, the head and hips are connected in reflexology; if one is tight, so is the other.

We did a few exercises on being spacious. I imagined myself full of space, going upwards into the sky. Didier asked us to think spacious and down, not up. I did so, by adjusting my stance with bended knees and feet placed right under my hips, and immediately felt my energy change. It felt good to be grounded but spreading outwards, like the roots of a giant oak. It felt like I had left my mind, and entered my body. Didier commented that this was a good exercise for me and how powerful my energy was when centred in my hips. I felt powerful.

The session developed into solo improvisation with music on the theme of opening and closing the body. So wonderful to dance to Jacqueline du Pre’s beautiful cello; you cannot help but be graceful and flow. We were asked to continue the movement but create a dialogue with another, so we continued to move alone we felt until the right moment to join another. I danced with Jacqualene, my roommate and friend in yoga (and chocolate). Jacqualene is a wonderful dancer with warm, strong movement. Our movement was very intimate; leaning on one another, taking each other’s full weight, exploring the spaces between us. The physical contact was pleasurable… and scary. Fear crept in, and then sadness came again. Fear of getting it wrong, fear of not supporting my partner. It feels like a long time since I felt the intimate touch of another woman. I guess this is the source of the sadness. My body was remembering what a loving touch was and how good it felt. Although I enjoyed it very much, I felt how much I had missed another’s warmth, of two creating one beautiful physicality, and the feeling of being able to completely surrender my body to another.

I was sad and scared but also liberated. It is wonderful to experience this degree of intimacy without desire.

We shared our feelings afterwards and we were all frank. It turned out that many people had had a similar experience, of wanting to dance with another but feeling a little rushed int he process. Didier’s advice was to respect our true feelings within movement; if we felt fear, to dance the dance with fear. That we could retreat from a movement dialogue any time we wished.

Jacqualene and I talked afterwards and I shared my feelings about being single, and loss and intimacy, and how wonderful it was to work with someone so warm and strong.

Every day here I feel more connected and more clear about my feelings. The people here are loving souls, with great respect for personal processes of transformation. It is lovely to be able to feel vulnerable and express that.

During lunchtime, Didier drove me to the supermarket. He had to buy a few things and I wanted to get ice cream to go with the rich French chocolate cake I had made for us all to share. We spoke about the lovely small buddha statue he had in his van. I have one exactly the same that I carry everywhere with me. My buddha rattles; it seems to have something inside it and a seal on the bottom with Tibetan writing on it. I asked Didier what this was, and he said that buddha statues are filled with relics. So my little buddha has been blessed and filled with something holy.

In the afternoon, we spent a long time warming up the facial muscles. Amazing to see how loose your neck muscles become after this.

Then we worked on being zombies, on giving in to gravity, on being heavy and feeling the floor. We worked on the floor for forty-five minutes, being heavy, rolling around, stretching and making sounds. Red noses were handed out and in our own time we found our clowns and continued to work on heavy, floor-based movements. I found great delight in puppeteering my feet with my hands; if my hand conducted the foot to point, it would point. I put a whoosh sound to this. I had fun making my feet do as they were told and trying to walk this way too.

Then I found a bench and played with it like a child. It became my TV screen, my drum, my swimming pool, my cage, an axe, a baby, a front door…

Music came and partner work. I found Michael, and we had a lovely time working together. We were both shy at first, and played peek-a-boo round my bench. We spent a lot of time holding hands, resting our heads on one another’s shoulders. Then we noticed Jacqualene and Morten slowly advancing towards us behind their benches. We played peek-a-boo with them, and Jacqualene’s bench became a front door; we knocked and she let us in. Morten drove his bench like a car, and we provided the sound effects. Then he got a ticket from Jacqualene. We changed the scenario, carried the benches around as a group and stacked them up for Jacqualene to climb on them.

The music changed; our pairs separated and Michael and I began a graceful partner dance. I have never danced so beautifully with a man. It was lovely to spin each other around and curl our bodies like swans’ necks upon each other.

Our movement session needed no debrief. We had all been deeply connected to ourselves and each other.

To truly come home to your body, to your presence, is such a gift. I felt open and alive.

A blind duck lives at Casa Saraswati. Every evening he comes down the hill from his pond to be fed. He eats corn, mixed with water, from a bucket. We watched Sara feed the blind duck out of the window. She calls to him, and he answers. It is so lovely to see. The duck had a hard time finding his way back up the hill, so Sara gently herded him back to the pond.

Now it was time for our dinner, a Chinese soup with seaweed and couscous with tofu and peppers. Elisa, the cook here, is so beautiful. Today she put out irises on the dinner table, and prepared a green salad she said was to relax, and was inspired by the energy of our movement. I thanked her for the beautiful food and she looked upwards with a prayer thanked the heavens for the energy.

Everything she cooks is delicious, nutritious and light and filled with a loving energy. She practises karma yoga faithfully, and transfers this loving energy into her cooking. Not only that, but the ingredients are organic and grown here in the healing soil of the Casa Saraswati garden.

I have never tasted such good food.

After dinner we ate the cake that I had made. Actually, Michael and Jacqualene helped make it too. Michael whisked all the egg whites, and Jacqualene was chief chocolate melter (and taster). A girl after my own heart!

Didier lit 34 tealights and brought them in on a tray. Everyone sang happy birthday and I blew out all of my candles and made a wish. I can’t remember the last time I blew out the number of candles for my age… I was maybe twelve or thirteen or so? This was such a lovely treat and really tickled me.

And yes, I did blow them all out at once.

My wishes for 2011 are:

  • a life of love, beauty, poetry and magic
  • to connect creativity with divinity
  • to be grateful for the lovely friends, family and teachers that I have
  • to make my vulnerability public
  • to express my deepest nature clearly
  • to listen and respond to the deepest natures of others

Didier and Sara gave me a beautiful card that I shall keep and read again and again. The words are so inspiring and loving. It feels like they really understand my true heart and what it needs.

Didier gave me a gift of a crystal shaped like a star, to go underneath my buddha he said, and also because I was going to Bethlehem.

This really moved me. This gift was very personal. Didier had really put some thought into a gift dedicated to me and my journey. I feel very emotional about this.

Later that evening, I put my crystal under my buddha. It fits beautifully, and refracts candle light all around, up onto the buddha and out into the room.

When I turned my phone on, I had a lovely surprise – eleven voicemails and messages from friends! I wasn’t expecting that. What a treat. All of the people I care about had texted to wish me well, or say hi on my birthday. When I returned to web-connected society I found that many more people had wished me happy birthday on Facebook. I am so lucky to have so many loving, thoughtful people in my life.

I have had the most beautiful birthday ever, rich with openness, love and meaning.

I started the day feeling a long way away from my friends and family.

I end it feeling very differently.

My friends and family are here with me : )

The love experiment

Over the last week I have been running a Love Experiment. The experiment was inspired by this quote, from my good friend Verity Pabla.

When all the people in the world love one another, then the strong will not overpower the weak, the many will not oppress the few, the rich will not mock the poor, the honored will not disdain the humble, and the cunning will not deceive the simple. And it is all due to universal love that calamities, strife, complaints, and hatred are prevented from arising.

(Mo Tzu, Chinese Philosopher)

Verity texted me this quote while I was asleep, after a Skype conversation about love and making a difference in the world. I woke up and read the quote she had sent and was immediately inspired. I wondered, is it possible to love everyone? Could I love everything that I did?

So I set out to run an experiment. My research questions were:

  • Is it possible to put love in every single waking moment and action?
  • What would be the effect of cultivating inner compassion and placing that compassion into everything I do?

Recently I had observed that when I felt carefree and at ease, the way I combed my hair changed dramatically. When I put love into brushing my hair, it softened my actions and my hair felt and looked nicer. I wondered if there had been an energy transaction here. Had brushing my hair in a kind and loving way given my hair some positive energy? Had this energy allowed it naturally to fall in the way I preferred? Could an energy begot from love yield a happier life?

And so over the last week, I have cultivated feelings of love and tried to be with them in all of my interactions. I have not tried to force feelings of love, but have noted when it became more difficult or more easy.

Sometimes I feel like my life becomes a to-do list, as activities are ticked off or ‘achieved’. I wanted through this experiment to pay greater attention to the means rather than the end.

And so, one week on, how did it go?

Well, I have found feelings of love easier to maintain when alone, with plenty of time. To wash up and really put my heart and soul into that one bowl I am washing is beautiful. It is like a meditation.

I have enjoyed the softness I have experienced when typing tenderly, loving each key rather than making it my slave, and bashing it to death. I have found a femininity in loving every action, and this feels new and vulnerable and rich.

I have appreciated the people I work with even more; been even kinder to children and been even more grateful for every mouthful of food I have eaten. All this has come from living with love.

I have felt happier and more at ease; more relaxed. Being more loving has given me a better quality of life. I have found it easier to get along with people and easier to forgive.

Creatively, I have felt more drawn to poetry. I found myself listening to lots of Rumi this week, particularly Podiobook’s free audio downloads of The Masnavi, read by Jawid Mojaddedi. I was inspired by The Masnavi so much that I composed my own verses in my van. I would like to dedicate a future blog entry to this.

I have found the Love Experiment more challenging the more people I have to deal with, when deadlines loom, when I feel rushed or stressed or have a lot to accomplish in a short space of time. Sometimes during a faster-paced period, that loving feeling has become more urgent, and felt more passionate. Sometimes, in the words of the Righteous Brothers, I lost that loving feeling.

However, the experiment in itself has enhanced my awareness. It has brought greater awareness into how I act in life. Many times I noticed when I lost that feeling of love, and was sometimes able to shift into feeling loving again.

I also became acutely aware of when love arose naturally. When with good friends, during yoga and meditation or singing in my van it seemed to spring forth! When working with children, love is very present.

This experiment has helped indicate when I am in great natural flow, and might be a good indicator of my true role in life.

Eckhardt Tolle discovered a similar ease, although rather than run a love experiment, he awoke unexpectedly with such a feeling and it lasted for over two years. In that time he felt deep bliss and inner peace. His mind was uncontrived and undisturbed. He was able to be in the moment at every single moment, and writes about it at length in The Power Of Now. This book is particularly useful as a toolkit of exercises for keeping you calm and aware and present.

I have experienced a time in my life when I felt something similar.

It was in Tenerife. Over the summer, I had spent three weeks on a working retreat at Casa Saraswati, the retreat centre of sacred clown and spiritual teacher Didier Danthois. Our schedule there was morning meditation, followed by an organic breakfast; work, then an organic lunch and rest time; then more work, yoga practise, organic dinner, relaxation time and finally bed. This schedule suited my body, my emotions, my soul perfectly. Didier helps people find their own sacred clown; a fool, full of childlike awareness, who has no concept of time and space and savours every new experience. His workshop method transferred to the running of his farm on working retreat, which was similarly easy-going and all about quality of experience. The banner photo on this blog is a picture of sunset at Casa Saraswati, by the way.

Without even forming a concept or conducting an experiment, I was living in the moment, and putting love naturally into my actions. A retreat space is perfect for this as there are fewer responsibilities and deadlines than in daily working life.

Sogyal Rinpoche is an esteemed Buddhist teacher and the author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. He talks about an old Tibetan phrase:

Water, when not stirred, will become clear;
The mind, when unaltered, will find peace.

In my experiment, the times I felt love were also very peaceful for me. Peaceful and simple. I only had to do one thing: love. Love everything.

I feel that modern life is hectic. I feel that the education system places higher emphasis on passing exams than how to life our lives as successful people. I feel that love is not something that comes from outside you, but from inside you. I would love to see greater teachings on love in the school system, in the workplace, in the home. We spend a long time chasing a love outside ourselves, when we can find it in an instant in our hearts.

I believe that it is possible for me to try and live with even greater love in my heart, and give love more freely, more openly, with less limitations.

Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.

(The Buddha)

This does not mean we have to say yes to everything. It means that we can choose to find love, and give love. It means we can notice when we feel love naturally, or when it becomes a struggle. We can spend our time on the things we love. We can improve the quality of our lives and those around us by putting love into the tiniest action.

Have you ever eaten a homemade meal, cooked with love? You would choose to eat such a meal over a microwave dinner any day, right?

I guess that’s my point : )

Reflecting on 2010

It’s December, it’s winter and the year is ending. A good time to reflect on 2010, what’s happened and what I hope for 2011.

I’m being aided by Reverb10, a worldwide network of people currently reflecting on 2010. The website is live for December only, and provides prompts for you to reflect upon. So thanks Reverb10, you’re inspired.

The word for 2010 for me was Change. Everything changed. My relationship, my home, my wishes for the future. I started to think more about community and how I could contribute to others, and not just what I could get for myself.

I have found myself within new communities, making new artistic friends and new spiritual friends. Both of these have enriched my life greatly, and nourished my soul. I am deeply grateful for all the people I have met or grown closer to in 2010. They have played a huge part in influencing my evolution. I even have to thank the online Twitter community… it is so wonderful to follow the word journeys of my heroes, or laugh at retweeted pithy comments, or see the world through my friends’ eyes.

Some of the changes in my life this year have been gradual. Some of the changes have been instant! The book Power Versus Force by Dr. David Hawkins caused my consciousness to lift itself overnight! Since reading his book, I am much more aware of vibrations in consciousness and able to make choices that appeal to my higher nature. An amazing book, and timely for me.

In 2010, I have gained more clarity on what I can commit to. I have given a lot of thought to the principles in my life: what I stand for, what I won’t compromise on, who I want to spend time around, what I want my influences to be… and these have helped me live a happier, more positive, more vibrant life. What would I like the word to be in 2011? Hmm… good question… can I come back to that after reflecting?

The moments I felt most alive in 2010 were by the sea. The first was getting flattened by the Atlantic ocean in Tenerife. Those waves will pound you to the ground like you ain’t nothing! Okay, so that day the red flag was flying, but I’m a fish and a rebel, okay? I screamed like a girl, standing waist deep in the salty waves, while three-metre-high waves crashed down on my head. If I was lucky, I would dive through the waves and end up unscathed ready for the next onslaught. If I timed it wrongly, the waves would pick me up, throw me down, drag me under, fill my mouth and ears with saltwater, swirl me around, hold me under for three or four seconds before releasing me. Wow, that was a thrill! I enjoyed the release of letting go, letting the sea do as it wished. My pulse was racing and my adrenaline pumped. I felt high!

The sea in Ibiza was more soothing for me, the Mediterranean being a lot more calm and forgiving than the Atlantic. I enjoyed swimming out about thirty metres and just relaxing on the waves, lying full-stretched on my back, gazing at the sky and allowing the sea to rock me. The control freak in me didn’t always enjoy it. I could hear her nagging, “But what if you get dragged onto the rocks?” . I allowed her voice to continue, but she got quieter and quieter until I looked forward to the sea just holding me, supporting me, comforting me. Letting go is bliss.

I have been asked what makes me beautifully different? What do I do that lights people up? Well, I guess I laugh a lot. People always compliment me on my laugh. It’s a great big giggle and rather childish. I’m told it’s infectious. And I laugh easily. Don’t ever test the quality of your jokes on me; I laugh anyway! I love to laugh; I love to be silly in order that I might laugh. It’s probably why I love to work with children. They’re hilarious!

I’m also blessed with an open heart. I love people and thanks to all the love and care I’ve received in my life, I find it easy to love others. Love is the most beautiful transaction, and like His Holiness the Dalai Lama said:

Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.

Where there is darkness, let me bring light.

The wisest choices I made this year were about getting rid of the unnecessary. Getting rid of relationships that weren’t working, getting rid of stuff, and getting rid of the fear and attachment that went with each of those.

The more I have gotten rid of, the more clearly I can see what I do have. And these treasured gifts are not really possessions, they are the gifts of conscientiousness, love, friendship, spirit and generosity. In these I am rich beyond my wildest dreams, and in these I invest my future. One action I would like to take in 2010 is to start a charity. This charity will be called The Magic If Foundation because asking ‘What if..?” can be the single most important and life-changing question we ever ask. What we can imagine, we can create. I want to help others imagine more, dream more wildly, give expression to their thoughts and feelings, and make ideas come to life.

One way I could do this practically is in running free improvisation and story-telling workshops with children. I have to thank the children I tutor for bringing my great love of the imagination and the idea of a charity to the surface.

I watched an amazing documentary on Palestine recently called “Arna’s Children”. Two Israeli volunteers help children put on performances and plays. You see a young child acting their heart out in a play, and then the film-crew return five years later to find many of the young male actors have become ‘martyrs’, and killed themselves on suicide missions against Israel. This saddened and inspired me. I am so grateful I had a happy childhood, and that I didn’t hear bombs at night, or suffer constant nightmares, or see my family’s home destroyed, or consider throwing stones at people my favourite game.

I believe we can help children like this imagine a future different from blowing themselves up.

The lesson that has been the most valuable to me this year is that compassionate thoughts and kind actions can change your reality. My mum suffers with mental illness and in the past, I have not always been kind to her when she is suffering. This time, thanks to learning the practises of compassion meditation, and mindful awareness of my thoughts, I have been able to help my mother much more usefully, and with much more generosity of spirit than ever before. I will be eternally grateful to Didier Danthois and Sogyal Rinpoche for these techniques.

This process was not only good for my mum, it was good for me. I have found it extremely healing. I’m not so angry as I used to be. It feels good to let some of that anger go.

What did I avoid this year? Ooh, that’s a tough question. That requires me to be totally honest. Well, I have avoided marketing my book Free Degrees. I think it’s laziness. I have letters ready to print and send to schools, but didn’t make the time to do that. I hope in 2011 that creating The Magic If Foundation will inspire me on my journey to promote using the imagination as a life-changing force. I want to let more students know, especially now that the government have put tuition fees up, that they can raise £25,000 for university and not get into debt. I just need to take action.

I have also managed to avoid letting strong feelings run my thoughts, actions (and my mouth!) this year. Giving up drink has helped. I was horrified to realise this year that every one of my major relationships had started on nights when I had been drinking. Now I want to build a relationship on a solid foundation, to take my time getting to know someone, and not give my heart and body away so easily. Next time it has to be a soul thing.

My advice to myself for 2011 is to not look back, to dream as big as possible, to slow down and love each moment, to relish the abundance of life, to take time out to achieve clarity and to consult the heart and soul when making decisions.

People I would like to thank:

  • My mum, for her love and generosity, and for helping me heal through compassion
  • Didier Danthois, for being a loving, inspirational and life-changing spiritual teacher
  • Verity Pabla, for bringing purity, dreams and music back into my life, for being a great friend and for introducing me to ICE and so many cool people
  • Caroline, for her lessons in care, love and attention to the needs of others
  • Janice, for her inspiring and romantic wedding day, and for being as generous and fun a friend as anyone could wish for
  • Fay, my yoga teacher, for flexibility and for being a great person
  • The author Geshe Michael Roach, for the inspiration and wisdom of The Diamond Cutter
  • Sogyal Rinpoche and Rigpa for spiritual growth and nourishment
  • The children I work with, for being a vibrant source of energy and joy
  • And all my friends, family and colleagues for their love, dedication and fun times!

So I guess I should return to that question: what is of my word for 2011?

It’s Heart.

In 2011, let me above all else, follow my longing, and follow my heart, and let love flow in and freely between my heart and the hearts of the others in my world.

Wishing you all love, laughter, abundance and peace this Christmas and New Year.

Can compassion be learned?

Is compassion something you are born with, or can you learn to become more compassionate?

New research suggests that compassion can be both taught, and learned. Richard Davidson and associate scientist Antoine Lutz studied the brain scans of 16 monks and 16 control subjects. All were asked to practise a special compassion meditation whilst undergoing an fMRI scan. The scientists found that areas of the brain used for empathy were stimulated during the meditation practice.

Davidson and Lutz believe that this research could be useful in treating people with depression. The theory is that if people suffering with depression could be taught a compassionate meditation practice, they could relate to the suffering of others more easily. “Thinking about other people’s suffering and not just your own helps to put everything in perspective,” Lutz says.

This is a subject that science is taking very seriously. The Dalai Lama is speaking at the CCARE Conference on Scientific Explorations of Compassion and Altruism on Friday, October 15, 2010 at Stanford University. You can watch a live webcast of the conference here.

From personal experience, I can say that compassionate practise has helped me deal with family problems more usefully. Over the summer, I learned a compassionate meditation practise during my three weeks on working retreat at Casa Saraswati. This is based on the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, and involves visualising a being or situation that gave you love, feeling the love grow in your heart, and then transferring this same love to others. Often we would sing the Avalokiteswara mantra after meditating, which also encourages compassion. I practised for three weeks, and noticeably became a much kinder, more generous and giving person in my daily life.

When I returned from my retreat, I found that my mother had become mentally ill again. Up until now, I have been notoriously unkind to her during her bouts of illness. As a child and younger adult I felt angry at my mother for not taking her medication, and bringing such suffering to everyone around her, not just herself.

This time, things were different. I was much more understanding of my mum. I felt more tolerance towards her. It wasn’t always easy: sometimes the old anger would arise while I was sitting with my mother, so I would sing the Avalokiteswara mantra over and over in my head until I softened. This would always work, and allow me much greater empathy for my mum. As a result, I was much more able to help and support her through this difficult time, and she managed to come out of hospital much sooner and with much less stress than in the past.

I am extremely grateful to the Buddhist tradition and my teacher Didier Danthois for this incredible gift. I also had the support of a very loving and compassionate partner, Caroline, who is a care-worker. She has already achieved a very high level of compassion towards others, without any mediation.

Imagine if we could teach compassion practices like these to children who were bullies, or to prisoners?

Imagine how greater compassion could better your relationships with your family and work colleagues?

Imagine how we could all care for the environment and put an end to war if we all learned to develop greater emotional understanding of all living beings around us?

It’s not what you get, it’s what you give

As a student, did you ever ask, like me, “Why am I learning this?” or “What good will this do me in my life?” And let me guess… you were asking about algebra or trigonometry, right?

It seems like a feature of modern life. In our Western world, much it seems is about what ‘I am getting out of this’.

This is an egotistical perception of our relationship to the world. In this perception, the world must give to us, to fulfil our selfish desires and needs. Never do we ask what the world needs.

Before I went on a working retreat this year, I had a lot of questions to ask about my relationship. I felt like at times, I wasn’t getting what I wanted out of it.

Casa Saraswati is the new home for Didier Danthois’ School of Sacred Clowning. Having worked with Didier previously, I had offered to come on a working holiday this summer to help paint, clean and prepare his new retreat centre for courses.

Mornings at Casa Saraswati begin with a ninety minute meditation practice, broken down into twenty minute sitting meditations, walking meditation and compassion practice, in the Buddhist tradition.

I had a fantastic time, and over the three weeks I could feel myself developing greater honesty, compassion and empathy. I enjoyed the spiritual practices, but also the hard work of preparing Casa Saraswati. It felt good to work communally on a goal, aimed at helping others.

After a few days, the questions I had had about my relationship became meaningless.

I had stopped thinking in terms of me, and what I get out of it. My thoughts and actions were now directed at what I could give.

This was a breakthrough for me. Suddenly, I unlocked a whole new perception on my life, and my relationship. What about if I could always think in terms of what I could give, not get?

Can I give this person love? Can I give this person a meaningful, passionate relationship?

This perception is a whole new way of looking for me. It makes me look outwards, not inwards. It makes my egotistical wishes shrivel in the face of a greater good. And it feels right.

When I reach the end of my life I am going to ask myself what I did to make the world a better place. What did I do to improve the quality of others lives?

I believe that by asking what I can give I can help others better.

And what a different place schools would be if we felt we were not just learning to get a good job and a fat paycheck, but if we were learning so that all of society could benefit from what we could give.