No more about myself

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It was about 10 years ago when I was part of a small volunteer social organization. We used to go and conduct small activities in orphanages. During one such event, I remember it being the 15th of August, that we were at an Orphanage conducting many activities for the kids for Independence Day. Many hours passed in laughter and joy and it was effortless being with the kids. When I left, I felt deep grief at leaving them. As I drove back, I also reflected upon how fulfilled and happy I was when I was with the kids and to see them smile and play and laugh with you. As I think back, I haven’t felt that kind of complete unselfish joy for a long time. Not until I started volunteering very recently again, though with a different organization.

What I realized then, was that, during those few hours, I was completely with them and had forgotten about who I was. I didn’t care what I would get from being with them, how it would give me some ‘experience’, or how it would enhance me or what extra line it would add to my resume or any of that nonsense. ‘What about me?’ was all forgotten. In essence, it was a shedding of the ego unconsciously. The Ego demands massage and validation. For every single task that we undertake, our Ego automatically asks, “What am I going to get by doing this?”. Only if it has a sufficient benefit that advances your cause, will you undertake it. We do it so many times and so unconsciously that it has become a part of our nature. There is no just doing for the sake of doing. There is doing only for the sake of getting something out of it. Whether to enhance your experience, wealth, or happiness or whatever it might be.

And whenever I have done so, it has led only to some form of misery. When we do something only if it involves some benefit for us, we develop enormous expectations from it. And naturally, the results are very varied from the expectations; we are disappointed due to underachievement or if it exceeds our expectations; it leaves us with a feeling of guilt. Either way, it leaves me feeling a bit dirty, having done that much which served my purpose and my purpose alone. Such a living, I find, to be isolated and bereft of the completeness that we seek.

In not seeking the benefit, in doing something just for the sake of doing, being lost in the process of life completely absorbed in the moment of it, in being of some service and value to others in the world; that has given me fulfilment more than any personal goal and its achievement has ever given. Maybe the realization has come 10 years late, but it is never too late to understand the power of ‘Volunteering’ in its real sense.

Volunteering means to really forsake your identity and benefit, and to offer yourself to another cause, person, or process. Even if it means something as simple as giving your time to someone else. And in today’s world, time is the most valued commodity. In this process of not thinking about yourself, there, you don’t seek ‘What is in it for me?’ ‘What will I get for my time invested?’

There is really nothing for you. But in it, you can find everything.

If we observe, this one calculation “What about me?” is in everything that we do. If we can drop that, then we find that we can do much more than what we had imagined possible. “What about me?” usually restricts our vision about what we can do.

This point had hit me those many years back, in that orphanage, but I let life wrap me back to its old mold of survival. To beat or be beaten. In this old battle, there has been nothing but wounds and a sense of emptiness. In survival of the fittest, you may survive, but not really live. Most philosophies today talk about life being a war and you have to fight for your place in it. It is far from that. In Life, life is itself the most precious gift. It is already given to you. If you keep fighting for it instead of just living the process, then the whole point is missed, isn’t it?

By just living for ourselves, we have torn the planet into 7 billion pieces. There is an earthly sense in doing what is needed right now for the people around us, and not just single-pointedly living our entire lives for what we want for ourselves. It is time to rebuild the planet and our souls. To stitch together our lives is to merge with the thread that binds us all. If we just put this into our lives, that my life is not just about me, then we’ll live and do things in a much more inclusive and harmonious way and we may end up doing things that are much beyond our individual capabilities.

About the writer - Vishal S Rao

An MBA from IIM Bangalore and a rank holder Chartered Accountant, Vishal is a deep thinker. A man of few words, Vishal more than makes up for it through his writings. His words are measured with intricate meaning hidden in them.

Vishal has worked for KPMG and was in a leadership role at Aditya Birla. Currently, he is trying his hands at the restaurant business.

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author.

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