“We are formed and molded by our thoughts. Those whose minds are shaped by selfless thoughts give joy when they speak or act. Joy follows them like a shadow that never leaves them.” ~Buddha
When I was in my early twenties I lived in the party capital of Australia—the Gold Coast in Queensland. It was the eighties, I was a fashion designer, and for me another night meant another party!
In those days it was all about glamour. The more glamorous you were and the more glitter you had, the better off and happier you’d be. At least that’s what everybody told me.
And while I wasn’t really into any of it—I was more down to earth than that—I was misguided into false illusions of happiness. I was led to believe that succeeding as a fashion designer would make me happy and give me the life that dreams were made of.
Nothing could have been further from the truth.
The only thing I succeeded in achieving was living a counterfeit life. On the surface, I was all smiles and shiny—everyone thought my life was perfect. But underneath it all I was miserable.
I had to do something. I had to change my life, because if there was one thing that I was sure of, it was this: No amount of partying or material success could fill the aching void I felt within.
Cutting A Very Different Cloth
After two years of searching and attending countless “spiritual” courses, I found what I was looking for on the other side of the country in Perth, Western Australia.
There I attended a retreat, read a book, and met the author, an Indian Swami. He was an incredible man. He was cool, calm, and composed, full of wisdom, wit, and humility.
They say that when the student is ready the teacher appears, and I couldn’t have been more ready. Six weeks later I was in India, studying Vedanta—India’s ancient philosophy and best-kept secret.
Today, as a result, I cut a very different cloth. I get up every morning the same time I used to stagger to bed!
I practice being true to myself and I try to live an authentic life, based on giving rather than taking.
Before going to India I was deluded, selfish, and unhappy. It was all about me. It was only when I studied the philosophy that I realized the connection between selfishness and unhappiness.
I realized that the more selfish we are, the less happy we will be. And the more selfless we are, the happier we will be.
The Bliss of Selflessness
Selflessness is disconnecting from ego and connecting with your essential self. It’s being in your element, without trying to be something other than what you are.
And the good news is you can learn how to be selfless by simply observing nature. If you can, take a few minutes and walk outside.
Notice how every flower, every plant, and every tree is an exquisite expression of itself. Each one is what it is. A rose is a rose. A tree is a tree. They aren’t trying or struggling to be anything other than what they are. And that’s what makes them beautiful.
Animals also are magnificent manifestations of themselves. They don’t fight against their true nature. They are what they are. And that’s why we love animals.
So too, we are who we are. Yet, unlike nature and animals, our ego gets in the way and prevents us from being ourselves. It wants us to believe that we are someone we are not. Just as my ego wanted me to define myself as a successful fashion designer living on the Gold Coast.
This was not who I was. It was a false version of me. But at the time I didn’t know who I was meant to be.
As a result I craved acceptance and approval from others. I wanted to fit in and be liked by everyone I met. I put on an act to impress, while trying to camouflage awkward feelings of inadequacy.
To avoid this from happening to you, you need to connect with who you really are. Below are 3 steps that will help you connect with your authentic self:
Step 1: Set the connection direction.
Before embarking on any journey, it’s crucial to know where you’re going. Otherwise, how can you expect to get there?
The journey you’re about to embark on is connection—connection with your authentic self. This is your goal, and by setting this as your highest priority in life, it will give you direction. You will know exactly where you’re going. All you need now is the determination to get there.
Step 2: Take the time to learn about yourself and discover what you love.
To help you unravel the mystery of who you are, you need to wind the clock back to when you were a child. Our childhood reveals a great deal about ourselves, and if we don’t acknowledge this stage of our lives, we miss valuable indicators as to who we are now meant to be.
So what did you love to do as a child? Ask yourself this question again and again until you’re satisfied with the answer. If you can’t remember, ask your family and relatives. They should be able to assist.
If not, then find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed and ask yourself these questions:
- What is the one thing that makes you truly happy?
- What makes you feel like you are in your element?
- What makes you feel like you wouldn’t want to be doing anything else?
- Which activities make you lose track of time?
- If you were to teach something, what would it be?
- Imagine yourself at 85; what would you regret not having done in your life?
Taking the time to answer these questions will help you to learn more about yourself and discover what you are meant to be doing with your life.
If you are still struggling, don’t worry. It may take time to gain self-knowledge, but if you reflect upon it every morning, you will start connecting with your true self.
After some time, the penny will drop. You’ll have an epiphany. You’ll realize that this—whatever this is—is what you are meant to be doing.
Step 3: Do what you love in a way that helps others.
Once you discover what you love, you need to find some way to actualize your talents, whether that’s through your work or outside of it. This can be challenging and it may not happen in an instant, but persevere with it, because you’re dealing with your life and your happiness.
What helps is to think of ways where you can do what you love and at the same time help others.
When you love what you do, it’s much easier to focus on the present activity. At that moment there is no ego functioning. At that moment you are in your element, and without you even being aware of it you are giving yourself 100 percent.
You are selflessly expressing who you are as you are. Then, as Buddha says, joy follows you like a shadow and never leaves you.
Photo by hang_in_there