YOUTH IN FOCUS:  I graduated college last year, and I am wondering whether to keep looking for work in Bhutan or to go overseas. What is your advice?

Zangpo, Thimphu

Well, it really depends on your personality. If you enjoy exploring new things and are outgoing then working in a foreign country is probably for you.

However, if you prefer stability and don’t enjoy the challenge of new experiences, then perhaps you should stay at home and keep looking for a job here.

If you finally do decide to go abroad, however, it is important to not only think about making money, but to choose a place that will broaden your mind and give you exposure to new ideas and concepts.

To achieve this, it is important to enter a new environment with an open and flexible mind. We are all raised with certain values and concepts and these serve us well in our own communities, but we need to recognize that these values are time and culture based. That is to say, they may not be as appropriate in another culture or at a different time. In Buddhism, we call them a conventional truth.  Therefore, we should not rigidly cling to our ideas and our specific ways of doing things, but instead to be open to new and different ideas. As they say in Taiwan, our minds should be like bamboo. Its roots are deep, but it is flexible and adapts well to changing situations.

Also, whatever job you do, it is important to do it with a good attitude. Whether we are cooking in the kitchen of a famous hotel or sweeping the floor in an unknown office block, we should aim to do it to the best of our ability.

Each day, the light is different. The mood of the people around us is different. The sounds are different. In this way, we should not think that every day is the same and boring but instead see each day as fresh, new and exciting.

In order to get yourself in the right frame of mind, perhaps you could start each day by reading this verse by HH Dalai Lama: ‘Every day, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive. I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others.’

With this attitude, we will do whatever job we are given beautifully and with dignity. When we do a job quickly and sloppily, we might get a little extra free time each day, but we will never get a sense of satisfaction nor do we learn how to find the magic in everyday things.

Think about it, if we are only happy when we are hanging out with friends or playing video games, then we are only happy a small part of each day. Now, if we find the magic in cooking a meal, sweeping the floor, making a bed or whatever, then we will be happy most of the time. It makes sense, right? And the way to find the magic in these activities is to do them mindfully and with a smile.

With your free time, you should also explore the city where you work. Buy a map, and find some interesting street markets. Observe the dignity of the people who cook food there. Do not judge, but watch carefully (and, of course, don’t forget to try the food…HAHA). It is in streets that we feel the pulse of a city and connect to its people.

Anyway, back to your question. If you like stability etc, then it might be best if you to stay with friends and family. However, if you enjoy a challenge and are willing to be open minded, then definitely look for work overseas. While you are still young, you should explore your planet and let it teach you about life.   

Shenphen Zangpo was born in Swansea, UK, but spent more than 28 years practicing and studying Buddhism in Taiwan and Japan. Currently, he works with the youth and substance abusers in Bhutan, teaching meditation and organising drug outreach programmes.

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