Don’t ask me how I started thinking about goals and my aversion to our obsession with them especially around this time of year when I learned how Bill and Melinda Gates committed themselves to a quest in search of the greenest toilet to solve the number one killer of children in developing pockets around the world. While most of the world’s mortals, including [and especially] myself, invested in fancy planners, vision boards, retreats, and inspirational messages pasted across bathroom mirrors, their foundation spent more than $200 million over seven years to fund sanitation research and innovation, eventually showcasing 20 novel toilet designs that convert bodily waste into clean water and fertilizer.
I would love to get my hands on their vision board. I wonder what colour poop they chose to manifest their toilet dreams. Forgive me, I do not mean to be cynical. I think I am frustrated by what looks to me as a half [no]-hearted pace of progress around the world, particularly in places like my home. There even is a name for this: white-washing, green-washing, and health-washing etc. It must be shame and guilt I am experiencing, finding it increasingly difficult to dare to think about personal dreams when basic human rights are not even “basic” to everyone. Deepak Chopra’s recently circulated 21-Day Abundance Manifestation meditation is a case-in-point. I squirm every time he mentions money or invites me to ask for what my heart desires. Then I chide myself for not opening up to the potential for [material] abundance that could place me in Gates’ $106.8 billion shoes so I can go on to sanitize poop and clean up the planet.
There was a golden period when global development and international stories made their way into mainstream journalism and public hearts. It was one of those rare stories —currently going through an agonizing [non-poop-related] death to make space for Jeniffer Lopez’s Versace dress— on sanitation in a small neighbourhood in Bombay that Bill and Melinda Gates read one morning that put them on the path of poop and toilets.
At the very least, it is sobering to comprehend that so many children are dying as a result of something preventable and unacceptable. Sanitation remains today the most fundamental health challenge in the world, killing more people than nuclear waste. Meanwhile, Deepak Chopra is in my ears asking me to draw and create coins, bills, and credit cards.
Malcolm Gladwell argues in The Tipping Point how a small idea has the power to tip the scales —and change the world. Clearly, this seems to be the case with many of the projects of The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Polio and Malaria will soon be eradicated. Poop-related death still has a long way to go, but at least it is now in the hearts and minds of innovators racing to find a solution. Gladwell also argues that environment is key to prosperity and real, lasting growth. (Growing up with dysfunctional parents in a healthy neighbourhood trumps growing up with healthy parents in a dysfunctional neighbourhood.) His point makes me think the environment/home analogy applies to the human body: the mind is the parents. The heart is the environment.
This makes complete sense to me as I re-acquaint myself with the teachings of yoga, trying to come to terms with the modern world’s fixation on goals, KPIs, and mantra-washing.
The second limb (stage) of yoga on the path to essentially the understanding of existence and connection to the vibration of the universe is called niyamas, which translates to “observances” and they include five personal practices to cleanse and prepare the body (heart and mind included.) As I read through the practices, I came to the understanding that humanity may be consciously or unconsciously by-passing this essential but challenging stage. And this explains the disconnect we are experiencing between the mind and the heart, a state of disharmony with our true nature and the universe around us. We can try to manifest abundance all we want, and draw coins on glorious planners to our heart’s desire, but if we are not in harmonious abundance within ourselves, I am afraid nothing will change.
Here is a business idea: produce planners that list these five practices as a starting point to goal-setting.
- Saucha (Purification)
KPIs: Clean body. Clean thoughts.
- Santosha (Contentment)
KPIs: No material goal needed to fill any emptiness inside. Feeling complete and whole and accepting of ourselves. At every moment.
- Tapas (Discipline)
KPIs: Getting off the couch.
- Svadhyaya (Self-Study)
KPIs: Questions and Answers within. Actively seeking knowledge about others and the wide world around us to get to know ourselves, e.g. Bill Gates and poop.
- Ishavara Pranidhana (Surrender)
KPIs: Focus on the process and not be concerned with the results. Bingo!
It is the process. And it is not tied to a new year or a full moon. It is now. We may have been “goal-washing” it all along, stuck in the mental part of our being and so far removed from our heart centre.
[Ishvara pranidhana] means that you must dedicate the merits of your actions, of your practice to something bigger than yourself. Everything you do must in some small way benefit all life.
That’s the tipping point. When it is launched from solid grounds: healthy, pure, and in harmony.
My new planner opens with these questions:
- Am I living in harmony, with myself and the earth around me?
- What are my two core values that illuminate my life and actions?
- Am I truly content as I am in this moment?
Because we are quantum beings, our state of harmony influences our environment. Everything we do becomes bigger than ourselves. Since 90% of communication originates from the heart to the brain, when we are living our life from the heart, we can begin to absorb and transmute the noise and chaos that may be disrupting our environment. Once the signals are emitting and receiving clearly, I suspect no child will die from human carelessness.