YOUTH IN FOCUS: I am 29 years old man, I am really confused of my existence, I have struggled a lot to find a job and after two years of tiresome chase, I finally landed in a job but couldn’t be there so long because I never felt I was meant to be where I was. Than later I started a business (precisely a shop), and I was very happy and felt motivated but now it seems it was all an illusion because my business is moving very slow and I couldn’t even afford rent from it. I am really frustrated and out of mind, I don’t have any clue what I do next. Please advise me how to be positive and keep moving forward.


Hi Devastated. Well, to deal with our confusions, we need to work with our minds. As a simple example, we can think of our mind as being like fresh pure water. Now, this water can be used to make medicine, but it can also be used to make poison, but in its natural state it is pure. Our mind is the same. It makes us happy and it makes us sad. It is the cause of good action and also negative action, but in its natural state it is pure. This natural purity is sometimes referred to as basic goodness.
Therefore, rather than looking for outer sources to gain peace, we need to look inside our own mind. Even if we have a job that we love or a business that is flourishing, without connecting to this natural purity we will still be confused and frustrated.
Sitting meditation is an effective means to let the thoughts settle and allow our basic goodness to shine through. In addition, we can be aware of our thoughts, words and deeds throughout the day. Basically, through meditation and mindfulness we aim to up-root the underlying causes of suffering, not just deal with the symptoms.
On a practical level, you can consider why you left your first job. Of course, some professions just do not suit us and so it is fine to quit. But, in many cases, we leave a job because we were unable to deal with problems or because we were asked to do something that we felt was below us. If it was for these reasons, then you need to seriously and honestly face the underlying causes of your discriminations.
Basically, no honest work should be considered too low. More important than the job itself, it is how we do it. As an example, you may feel that washing dishes is low level work or perhaps you consider a job that entails writing letters all day to be boring. This means that you are lacking inspiration and so unable to find the magic in the moment. Take dish washing as an example. Rather than washing the plates and cups with a long face, aim to do it mindfully and with dignity. Basically, try to infuse your work space with energy, compassion and awareness.
Practically, you can do this by making an aspiration before you begin your work: “May everyone who uses the cups and plates be happy”. Later, as you wash the dishes you can be mindful of your environment and action. As a means to achieve this, you could perhaps be aware of the weight of the plates and cups and also observe the softness and smell of the soap. Furthermore, you can make sure that each plate and cup is sparkling clean and placed on the rack in way that it is easy for others to pick up. If you feel a sense of irritation or shyness, observe it and ask yourself why these emotions are arising. Don’t blame others, but look to your own mind for an answer.
Furthermore, as you wash the plates and cups, consider that they will soon be dirty again and then again be clean. Think that actually everything in life is like this. Whether it is a relationship, a hairstyle or even our physical bodies, they are always changing until one day, like the soap bubbles, they will disappear. Finally, after you complete your task, send out a mental wish that any good results from cleaning the dishes will contribute to cleaning away the ignorance in people’s minds and that they will be free of suffering and its causes. You can make the same kind of aspirations and adopt the same kind of attitude if you write letters or in any work you do.
Wow, if you can live each day like this, your life will be magical and cool. You’ll be so alive that you won’t care about the work itself. Instead, you will create an atmosphere that will be a source of constant inspiration for you and others.
I’ll relate a story of an old lady I once saw in Taipei collecting plastic bottles near a row of outdoor cafes. Even though the job might be considered low on a social scale, she did it with great joy and elegance and maintained perfect dignity. She was a real free-spirit, smiling at the world and not caring about other’s opinions of her. Perhaps because of her cool attitude, the youth nearby offered her empty bottles using two hands out of respect, and she received them in the same way. The wealthy old Taiwanese ladies drinking coffee outside the cafes acknowledged her by politely lowering their heads as a mark of recognition. It was so wonderful to see the old lady going about her work with so much dignity, energy and poise. Even though the job might socially be considered low, she didn’t care but instead maintained her dignity and freedom. You see, no job is naturally high or low. It is our personal discriminations and hang-ups that create such distinctions. In reality, any job can be a source of creativity and inspiration.
Anyway, dealing with the practical side of your question, it is hard to say whether you should continue your business or cut your losses and sell it. To make a wise decision, you really need to examine the market for the goods you sell and also consider the location of your shop. Ask yourself why you think people are not buying your goods, and also request your friends to offer honest feedback.
In addition, you should realize that a business usually takes time to get established. Therefore, rather than quitting, it might be better to redouble your efforts. To do this, you will need to make sure that the shop is always clean, well stocked and that the lighting and display are inviting and innovative. Also, it is really important that you open and close your business on time and keep your cell switched on. A lot of trade is lost when businesses do not keep standard opening times and the boss cannot be contacted.
These are small things that you can do to enhance the quality of your business. However, don’t do them with aim of making money, but instead introduce these initiatives out of respect for your customers. In this way, even if you only make enough money to live and to pay the rent you will enjoy your job. Remember that your business should be a means to open your heart and expand you mind, not just a mean money making machine. In this way, like the old lady in Taipei, you will feel good about your life. Money will just be a bonus.
In conclusion, try to see the journey as the goal. Like trekking in the mountains, your aim might be to reach some distant peak but you should make each step sturdy and inspiring. Like the act of washing dishes, develop your work space into a place that is alive and filled with creativity, joy and compassion. If you can do this, then whether you reach the peak or not is unimportant as you will have already achieved your goal to find contentment.
Still, you need to always bear in mind that everything changes, and so even your sense of peace will not last. Basically, keep going, and try to accept that both the good and bad times are equally part of your life. In fact, it is often the difficulties that make us mentally richer and wiser.  I hope that makes sense.

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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