Our birth is an act of faith. To be born we have to have great faith. Every cry of an infant is an act of faith that her cry matters. Every step that we walk is an act of faith. Our entire life is an act of faith. Yet, faith is not automatic. It is a learnt behavior, just like walking.
Our school and university education do not teach us that the greatest problem we will ever face in life is dealing with ourselves. Our schools skim over the problem of existence–of being a human being. Most of us were taught things that computers can now do better. The only thing that distinguishes us from computers is non-linear thinking. Imagination, intuition, emotion are still not in the realm of computer technology. What the world most needs is to unthink. To feel. To reflect. To observe. To determine what truly makes us happy. This is an inner journey. We need to teach the world how to find out what is truly important to them and then how to make that the centre of their existence. We need to teach the world how to live as if their life mattered.
Yet, what our world teaches children is to compare themselves to others. We are graded, instead of encouraged. Critiqued instead of taught how to think. We live in a certification oriented education system, where the value of education is about which brand puts a stamp on a piece of paper with our name. We are taught our value comes from who accepts us. Yet, we all feel the dissatisfaction–a feeling as if we are squandering our life, barely meeting our own standards. We suppress that little voice and carry on, believing that more validation and approval will automatically fill the void inside.
The feeling of emptiness that I describe is global. I have heard the same from a fruit seller in Pakistan earning Rs 1000. I have heard the same from executives in the Middle east, earning 1000 dirhams every week. I heard the same from executives in UK, Canada or USA. Regardless of our status and wealth, we all feel dissatisfaction.
The only place I didnt hear the story of dissatisfaction and complaint was in a spiritual centre. Somehow people in these places found something that is missing in most professional’s lives. Faith. There was a sense of genuine, real happiness among people who had been there for a while. I couldnt say the same for the visitors, who usually look lost without their phones and very exhausted. For sure, happiness may be the scarcest feeling on the planet.
Global wealth in terms of GDP is the highest in human history. There are many amazing facts about less poverty, more education, more technology, more efficiency and perhaps more peace globally. Yet. Our sense of satisfaction from life is lower as we get richer. We are never thin enough, young enough, rich enough, loved enough or smart enough. Never enough. This is a mental health problem that we all share.
In the developed world, there is protection for human rights, animal rights, gender rights and sexual rights. People follow the law to a large extent..Yet, our minds are not protected. We are bombarded by information that is mentally and emotionally disturbing all the time. This issue is a major concern of our times, with depression and anxiety being one the most often cited reasons for a health consultation.
Most organizations on the other hand, do not have a mental wellness plan. Most companies do not even speak about wellness beyond the cursory gym membership or the occasional yoga class.
We are expected to work in teams, yet we have little or no training on how to work effectively in teams. We have anti discrimination laws, yet we are rarely taught how to get along with people from different cultures or the value of diversity. Most people do not fully comprehend what diversity means.
If we follow TED, there are an amazing number of talks about the health issues of our times…talks range from emotions, loneliness, belonging and social issues such as vulnerability, but if anyone displays such human qualities, we judge them. People respect independence, not neediness. We shudder at the idea that we could ever be vulnerable. We talk about the environment, but yearn for more space. Our hypocrisy is astounding, but we are not entirely at fault for our epic ignorance, because nobody taught us how to self-reflect and how to reach across the divide of our mental bubbles.
When a well known preacher talks about having faith and then sex texts a dozen people, he is only doing what we all do, acting holier than thou. When a President commits to work for our country but spends his time making lewd and gross remarks about women, he is only mirroring our lack of faith. When a woman stays silent about harassment in order to avoid confrontation, she is doing what we all do, taking the path of least resistance. We are ourselves what we hate most in the world. What we need most is a dose of faith.
Speaking of what it means to have faith–the point isn’t whether angels are real or not, whether god exists or not, or whether someone is psychic or not or if meditation changes our energy field or if chakras are real or if Buddha truly attained enlightenment.
The point is, do we have the faith we need to fulfill our dreams?
These days everybody has a degree or a certificate stating they know something. People buy online courses about everything under the sun with non completion rates of 90%. But if certificates and degrees could do the job for us, we would not need the inner work. The most scare resource is not knowledge….in fact knowledge and information is abundant. What is most scarce today is emotional intelligence, resilience, energy and self control. To learn this, we need to empty our minds, turn the phones off, and submit humbly to the moment. This simple thing, may be the hardest thing we will ever do, but its rewards are profound because the greatest need of our time is mental wellness education at our workplaces, schools and communities.
by Saima Shah