A Developing World

Many aspects of American life are taken as is with little question. Speed. Productivity. Work. Time. Money. Success. There is a latent feeling that we have to be doing something, all the time. We can choose to live this way, certainly, but it’s important to realize that it is exactly that: one choice. There are others.

Oh The Places You’ll Go
Imagine wanting a ride somewhere several miles away. You find a taxi driver and ask him if he can take you. “Sure,” he says, “Give me your phone number and I’ll call you when I’m ready to go.” When you ask when he will leave he says, “Margash.” In Mongolian this means “later,” but it also means any time in the future, including tomorrow. The entire country operates on this system, so you will need to be patient. Things happen, but not in any sort of rush. Why rush anyway? What’s the point?

The point is I have places to be, people to see, and important stuff to do…right? Maybe. It’s good to have plans, to feel driven to be a good person and achieve great things, but what if you could do that now? What if your happiness didn’t rely on future events? It was a huge adjustment for me, but Mongolia culture opened my mind to the possibility that my happiness doesn’t have to be placed at sometime in the future. Whether or not I get a taxi ride, or get to any future destination, I can be happy right now.

Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There
Mindfulness Meditation is based on the awareness of reality as it exists right now. It is not interested in the past or the future. What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us, as Emerson said. When we take a moment to catch our breath, to feel our hearts beating, to be with the people around us rather than just do something with them, we find a sort of peace that can’t be found by doing. Mindfulness is about being.

Eventually you will likely get your taxi ride and arrive at your destination, but the neat thing about Mongolian life is that everything in between is just as enjoyable as getting wherever you are going. People laugh, play, kid, enjoy each other’s company and stop for drinks and snacks all along the way. This goes for a walk across town or a trip across country. They are naturally very good at being exactly where they are and appreciating their life as it moves along. Maybe this comes from thousands of years of nomadic living and the flexibility that comes with living in such an ever-changing climate, but it also serves them well in the ever-changing world culture we all find ourselves in today.

The “developing world” may be expanding their horizons technologically, but spiritually and psychologically they have quite a few things to teach the “developed world.” We don’t need the newest, greatest things to make us happy. We don’t really need any thing. I may have come from a developed country to this developing country, but I can tell you one thing: I am the one that’s developing.

"A Developing World" was recently featured in Mindful Muscle