in Personal Reflections

Why You Matter The Most

Sunset over Lake Pokhara

For days after returning to Pokhara, my stomach was upset and my body refused everything I fed it. My head was on cloud nine and my body was endlessly tired. My inner energies were dissipated and my life felt out of whack.

Any attempt to reply to emails, work on writing, catch up with social media, or even explore the city, was met with solid mental and physical resistance. All I could focus on was eating healthy and resting until my health improved.

I could have struggled. I could have sucked it up and battled through it. I could have ignored the fact that my temple was in need of repair and instead focused on work. I could have ignored my own needs and told myself that I needed to sacrifice.

But what good would that have done? How would being selfish towards myself help me in my quest to help others?

The words “be the change you wish to see in the world” are easy to say, but the danger behind the simplicity of those words is that changing ourselves is not an easy task. It’s a complex and oftentimes difficult endeavor. In fact, it can be so difficult that neglecting ourselves and choosing to help others is often the easier option!

But there’s a good reason why change starts with us. Our body is our temple. If we neglect it, we won’t have anywhere to go for shelter. We won’t have a vehicle to deliver our good actions. We won’t have an instrument to spread our positive energies.

If we let our homes deteriorate, we’ll be too concerned with what’s wrong at home to spend time working on anything else. We’ll become our own distraction.

Are you interested in helping others? Then begin by helping those close to you, starting with yourself. When you’ve become a professional at helping yourself — when you’ve become a pro at being you and fully understanding how you work inside out — only then will you have the skills and resources to help others.

If there’s something close to home that doesn’t feel quite right, take care of that first. If your health isn’t in order, focus on fixing it. If your family life isn’t in order, make the changes necessary to start improving it.

Every day do one thing that improves your situation close to home. Leave your ego behind. Leave your pride and your grudges by the wayside and start making progress forward today. One step today. One action that moves you forward.

When you do this, those around you will feel the energy of the progress you’re making and be inspired to improve their own lives. You’ll become a tractor of positivity that helps uplift them.

***

It took a bit longer than I expected to get my health back, but I’m feeling much better now. It probably had something to do with how my body was still recovering from the strenuous five-day trek.

While I was recovering, I decided to cancel my one week train adventure at the beginning of September around north India. I had already booked seven trains that would take me from Darjeerling, to Varanassi, to Agra (Taj Mahal), and then to Delhi, but my heart is no longer in it.

I have absolutely zero interest in doing anything even mildly touristy. Going against that feeling is only going to make me less capable of helping others, not more capable. Since all the train tickets were refundable, and since canceling them would pay for a plane ticket from Kathmandu to Delhi, changing plans seemed like this most sensible thing to do.

Now my plan is to go to Kathmandu this weekend to watch a traditional Sherpa dance and, after spending a week in Kathmandu, I’ll hop on a plane to Delhi where I’ll stay for two weeks before returning to the United States.

I still hope to catch a few classical Indian music concerts in Delhi and I have plans to have lunch with a school teacher to talk about education, but otherwise I’ll be relaxing, exercising, and planning what comes next when I return to the States.

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37 Comments

  1. Awesome dude.

    WHen you serve your ‘I’, you create the platform to serve others effectively.
    There is not separation between the ‘I’ and ‘we’
    True change, powerful change, positive change, must begin with yourself.
    And you just showed it.

    Thx for the inspiration dude.

    Eddie

    • Thanks Edward!

      I like your point about there being no separation between ‘I’ and ‘we’ — I hadn’t thought of it that way. But, as all change begins with ourselves, even change that affects everyone, it only makes sense that the two are one!

  2. Raam – this post really jigs with me.

    My mum thinks I meditate to get away from the world and responsibility. I try to tell her that being alone with yourself with not even the visuals of the room around you for hours at a time is the most difficult thing most people will ever do. It’s funny how something so hard – so far from how I’d rather spend my time (but so beneficial) can be so misunderstood.

    Likewise our minds start to like things for different reasons. ‘Helping others’ can be an ego trap if the mind gets control and starts to crystalise your relationship with those in need. So there’s a need for humility if you’re going to be of real lasting help.

    Learning to isolate the voice of the mind and dig out it’s reasons is an art cultivated over lifetimes.

    Have you ever heard someone say that the world is upside down? ‘Helping others’ is another example. It looks like we’re glorifying ourselves, by sacrificing something precious in order to benefit someone else. In reality they’re glorifying us with the opportunity to exercise our true nature, which we otherwise wouldn’t have had a change to feel.

    When it comes it’s like a flood, it can be very emotional and it feels very dangerous, like it could turn your whole life upside down at any given moment. Because in this world, it is upside down.

    • Your point about humility cannot be stated enough. At the same time, it’s one of those things that’s hard to talk about without the risk of sounding not humble. ;)

      Meditation is one of those things that can really help us refocus on what’s important on a regular basis and I admit it’s something I don’t do enough of. I like to think that I strive for a constant state of living meditation, but a regular daily habit of meditation goes a long way to improving the day.

      Helping people should be a selfless act, but selflessness doesn’t mean neglecting oneself. Farnoosh and I have gone back and forth quite a few times over the need for selfishness. But when we’re taking care of ourselves, I don’t think we’re being selfish, we’re being selfless because taking care of ourselves really helps those around us.

      • Absolutely – taking care of yourself is your first responsibility. If for nothing else, so you be there for those near you or just hold your own.

        RE meditation – some need it, some need it less. Whatever. People are very different, I gather. It is a very quick and convenient way of taking care of ourselves on multiple levels at once though, depending on the technique.

  3. Raam, I’m so glad you shared this piece of wisdom. I couldn’t agree with you more ~ it’s vital to take good care of yourself or you will just burn out and not be able to achieve your goals of helping others. That includes caring for body and mind.

    • Hi Sandra,

      Yes, burning out happens behind the scenes and hits us when we least expect it, and sometimes in unexpected ways! Regular care and attention to our own wellbeing is of utmost importance!

  4. Hi Raam,

    Sorry to hear that you’ve felt unwell recently, but glad that you’re feeling better now. I think maybe your body was trying to tell you something – maybe to slow down and enjoy the journey more. You only have a few more weeks in your six-month journey of traveling so enjoy them and be present.

    I like the idea of just doing one thing per day to make it better. That’s all we can really expect of ourselves, no?

    Karen

    • Hi Karen,

      Thank you so much for the reminder to stay present. Recently that has been a big problem for me and you’re right, I only have a few weeks left so I should do my best to treasure them and really soak everything in. (That’s not to say I won’t be returning, but who knows when that might be!)

  5. I think you have become one of my favourite bloggers, Raam. I love how you intertwine your personal day to day experiences with wider lessons that can be applied to all of our existences. Taking care of you first. Great lesson. I have an urge to book a plane for Delhi and grab a coffee somewhere with you. The world is wider because of you.

      • Yes, I’m in Ottawa. That would be great. I’m working on an idea that involves conspiring with the world’s greatest bloggers so you can kickstart it!

    • I agree, Meg! Slower travel with purpose is so much more rewarding than rushing through a bunch of places with an only goal of “seeing the places”. Slow travel was already my style, but now that I’ve added purpose to that travel, it feels even more rewarding.

  6. Our body our temple – and taking care of ourselves first – now that is a beautiful and selfish thought :) See what I meant about selfishness being a virtue, Raam? The poor word gets such a bad rap but it’s so true – we have got to put ourselves FIRST before others so that, as you say very clearly and correctly, we can then be able to help others. Thank you for a beautiful post and a sweet writing style that flows effortlessly like a gentle wave to the shore.

    • My dear friend Farnoosh. :) While I was writing my response to Ali, before I had even read your comment, I knew you’d bring this up. :D

      I absolutely agree with you that we need to take care of ourselves and that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with think about ourselves and doing things for ourselves, however (and you can blame the grammar Nazi in me for this) I cannot agree to call it selfishness! I’d argue we should call it selflessness instead! After all, if taking care of ourselves is, in the end, helping others, how can it possibly be selfish?

      I think selfishness should be reserved for acts that disregard the welfare of others and ourselves. If we’re doing something enjoyable that’s actually harming us in the long-term, that’s being selfish. If we’re doing something that is temporarily making us happy, but it’s actually detrimental in the long run, then we’re being selfish.

      Either way, you know I’m happy to agree to disagree and in the end, we’re both on the same page with what matters anyway! :)

      Thank you, as always, for your lovely comment and support!

      • You two, together, said everything I was going to say. Bravo, you two!

        And, Raam, excellent post, my friend. Looking forward to you being in the same time zone as me – and if you’re ever in Boston, we could arrange a meet-up sometime when I’m not busy.

        • Thanks Brett! My parents live 30 mins north of Boston and I’ll be visiting friends in Boston when I get back, so let’s definitely plan on meeting at some point! :)

      • I think in this case the words selfish and selfless don’t exactly apply. It’s just natural and common sense.

        Dissing yourself is hurting everyone around you, know it or not.

        Honoring yourself is doing everyone a big invisible favor.

        But OMG are we into semantics now?

        • It’s not always commonsense… it can often seem counterintuitive to help ourselves when others need help and we feel capable of dealing with the discomfort or suffering ourselves. I think it all depends on the person. I wouldn’t say I’m a masochist, but I definitely enjoy the challenge of overcoming pain more than others. When you combine that with my strong desire to help others, I think it makes it rather easy to neglect myself!

          But yes, I think it’s a matter of semantics and not of huge importance. :)

      • I guess it comes to semantics, Raam. :)
        I know selfish means to take care of one self without caring for others and it is a state of being until you move to the next state but I do not see why it has to be harmful. I know you disagree but I think I have dictionary.com on my side. I see no “harm” anywhere. Do you?

        “1.
        devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.
        2.
        characterized by or manifesting concern or care only for oneself: selfish motives. “

  7. Raam,
    I’m so glad to read this from you…you are absolutely right on to honor your heart whispers by rearranging the last weeks of your trip..You sound enthusiastic and ready to embrace..And you are wise to notice the mind/body connection and take time to heal rather than push through..This is why your life will continue to be full of joy, wonder, peace, adventure..because you allow it to be so…I know you will thoroughly enjoy these last weeks of your trip..I’ m excited for you!
    I know that the energy I share is absorbed through what I am sharing…so I make it a point to share golden and pure. In order to share and receive fully, I allow for the time to make sure I am healthy and whole…
    Thank you for sharing..my heart is so happy to hear this from you!

    • Thank you, Joy!

      Making sure we’re relaxed, healthy, whole, and ready to receive as well as share is so important! It’s a two-way street whether we see it or not, so if the inbound path isn’t clear and ready accept energy, anything we try to share will be constrained and limited as well. Great point!

  8. Hi Raam,
    Glad you are back on your feet. I think it is very true that our physical ailments can be traced to a dis-ease in our minds. Maybe it is stress, anxiety or whatever… but we can treat these setbacks as great time to examine the contents of our thinking. More often than not I am able to trace the source of my thinking that is manifesting as a physical ailment.

    • Hey Rob,

      Great point about mental aliments often being traced back to physical ones! (And I think it works the other way, too.) Taking these events as moments for introspection and contemplation is an excellent idea!

  9. When your body says stop, it’s time to listen and stop. I believe that in order to help others in the best way you can, you need to ensure you’re in good shape yourself to give your all. And, I’ve tried to push through when my body has said stop. Eventually, your body wins so it’s actually more efficient to let it recover and then move on to work than to push it and get even more sick.

    Enjoy your last weeks in Asia.

  10. As a former social worker, this really resonated with me. It’s very common in the helping professions to work 2 and 3 jobs until you burn out. This often gets admiration from your co-workers. Therapists will often tell their clients to reduce stress, stop smoking, etc. while they are doing the opposite. Maybe that’s why so many are on antidepressants. I think it’s easier to throw yourself into helping others if it prevents you from having to look at yourself.

    I’m glad you are not falling into this trap and are taking care of yourself. Enjoy the rest of your trip!

    • Hi Jennifer!

      Yes, ignoring ourselves to help others, or doing things detrimental to our health while we’re helping others, is so hypocritical. Our health always catches up with us in the end. We only have one body, so we best take care of it!

  11. What if your first task in life is to feel good, and by that I mean your well being is taken care of? Only then can we truly contribute to others and make the kind of difference I hear we all want to make.

    It’s the oxygen maks analogy you hear from the flight attendants on the plane. Why do we resist this so strongly when it can save lives (literally and metaphorically)?

    I think the shift that needs to happen is from listening to our lizard brain (out for survival and that’s it!) to listening to our intuition, and related feelings in our bodies. The body doesn’t lie.

    • Hi Sandi – I think ur right – it’s not about this way or that way being right. Congrats to Raam for going with it. We all recover from different things in different ways, they key being intuitive, in-tune (just realised how similar those words are) and flexible.

      We bloggers, who go through every little thing with the fine-comb of language and reason, need to resist the urge to create truths out of wisdom.

    • I think the more we neglect our health, the more difficult listening to and interpreting our intuition becomes. When our body is trying to tell us that something is wrong and that we need to work on fixing it, ignoring those messages and trying to focus on doing something else will always be an uphill battle that is unnecessarily difficult.

      Thanks Sandi!