Life is a journey, don’t we need a map?

By Steve Fisher

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. Steve Jobs

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All photos in this post are from life and travel in Rio de Janeiro, May 2013

Imagine setting off on a long journey to the place in the world you most want to visit. I have India in mind. Please pick your own dream destination. Imagine the places you’ll visit there and the sites you’ll see. The activities you’d like to enjoy. All the interesting people you’ll meet. Local food you’d like to taste and so on. You would of course want a detailed map and itinerary for your journey right? It’s simply impossible to imagine navigating an unknown continent or country or even one particularly charming neighborhood without one. Without a map and a plan you would be lost constantly. And you wouldn’t get to see the places you want to see or do the things you want to do.

What about this big journey known as life? Isn’t it even more important than that dream trip to South America? Don’t we need a map for that as well?

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Exercise for your mind

We are what we think. All that we are arises from our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make our world. Buddha

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We all know that regular exercise is good for us. It’s good for our hearts, reduces the risk of cancer and diabetes, improves our daily moods and might even turn us into swimsuit models. Well, probably not in my case. It’s obviously really good for us and many of us already do it regularly. But what about exercise for our minds? As the source of all of our thoughts and feelings our minds are possibly the most important part of who we are. But how many of us exercise our minds? Or even think about the value of doing so? Actually though exercise for the mind is at least as important as physical exercise and is perhaps even easier to do! But what exactly is it?

If running, walking, cycling and so on are exercise for the body, meditation is exercise for the mind. Why do we need it and what can it offer us?

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Love is a bowl of Vietnamese noodles – a case for real affection

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All photos in this post are from travel in Vietnam, March-April 2014

By Steve Fisher  If intelligent beings on other worlds are listening in on our communication here on planet Earth (and I’m not convinced they care), they’ve probably noticed that we like to express our affection in prepackaged form. Emoji and stickers in messaging apps, “Likes” (and now “Loves” etc.) on Facebook, electronic or even old school paper greeting cards with that perfect message, flowers delivered to someone anywhere in the world with a few taps on your phone and fixed expressions like “I love you” or “I miss you” in our verbal communication. Love and affection may be the most important human emotions but we seem to like our options for expression conveniently packed and prepared for us. As a proud citizen of global postmodern society, I love these tools as much as anyone, especially the adorable and highly creative stickers they have in Viber, Line and the other messaging apps popular in Asia, where I’ve spent most of the last two years, first in Hua Hin on the Gulf of Thailand, then in Bangkok and now in Saigon.

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The other day though I had an unexpected and somewhat exotic encounter with real affection that really got me thinking. One of the many joys of life in Vietnam is the fabulous street food they have here. In Saigon, during most hours of the day or night, you would struggle to walk 50 m without encountering something that’s both delicious and cheap. Happily, my crazy love for Vietnamese food is matched by a hyperactive personality and a high metabolism. I struggle to put on weight even though I frequently succumb to the endless temptations.

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Happiness is a Puzzle, but not a Complicated One

By Steve Fisher  People everywhere are obsessed with happiness. How to achieve it, how they lost it, how to get it back etc. There are over 90,000 books on the topic on Amazon in English alone. A search for “blogs on happiness” on Google returns nearly 26 million results. Buddhism, a religion of nearly 500 million people, is essentially devoted to being happy and relieving suffering and helping others do the same. Whatever our culture, we all want it, perhaps more than we want anything else.

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All photos in this post are from my first trip to Vietnam, March and April 2014

Is it possible though that we are overcomplicating it? That excellent results can be achieved by adhering to a few basic principles. Most experts agree that our level of happiness is largely determined by a few basic factors.

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Muddy Cambodian rivers and other unexpected pleasures

By Steve Fisher  Earlier this year while cycling between the breathtaking temples of Angkor I came accross a site that made me forget my next destination. Below the hot, dusty road was a muddy, slow moving river. The water was full of young children playing, many without swimming suits and some completely naked. One young boy floated under the bridge on a piece of styrofoam packing material. Families picnicked beside the river on plastic sheets. The water was quite dirty and the riverbank and surroundings were far from the most beautiful spots in Angkor. Yet the children and families looked so happy and I stopped for more than an hour on the bridge reflecting on the scene below, deeply moved that people could find such joy and happiness from such a simple pleasure.

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Outside the south gate of Angkor Thom at sunset

Again and again, in my travels through the world, I’ve encountered people finding happiness in similar ways. Barefoot young Brazilian boys kicking a cheap ball or even a plastic bottle around a dusty square. A young child joyfully splashing around a tub of water on the dirty floor of a Balinese market. In a Grecian village on the Aegean Sea, teenage boys and girls flirting easily with each other in the town square every night. In a beach town in southern Cambodia, a crowd of villagers watching a local soap opera on a communal television (because they can’t afford their own) in a simple roadside restaurant, a large pig wandering lazily among the plastic chairs.

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Foosball and the Surprising Power of Imperfection

By Steve Fisher

The other night at a bar on Saigon’s Bui Vien St. my friend Angela and I were playing foosball and I was losing badly. Angela was landing shot after shot and I quickly lost the first game 10-4. While she is the same sort of infrequent, casual player I am, as I reflected on my humiliation I noticed that there was a loose detachment to her playing style – again and again, without overthinking her shots, she knocked the ball in the general direction of my goal, and – through some mix of luck, ability and the helpful looseness of someone who’s had a drink or two – some of those shots hit their target!

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This and all photos in this post are from a motorbiking trip in the mountains near Dalat, Vietnam, early April, 2016

Noting the benefits of my friend’s style, I adopted a more extreme version of this approach in our second game. Putting little thought or effort toward setting up good shots, I knocked the ball again and again in the general direction of her goal. More from the basic principles of Newtonian mechanics than skill – that ball’s gotta go somewhere! – I quickly racked up a big lead and won the second game by the same margin I had lost the first. We diplomatically stopped play there and ended the evening of great Indian food and less-than-great foosball tied 1-1.

This experience, I think, offers some interesting insights for the world away from the foosball table. In life as well, sometimes we should just take the shot! Rather than trying to create the perfect circumstances – for, say, a professional opportunity, a new personal project or a potential new relationship – maybe we should just go for it! A lot more often than we do. With new opportunities big and small, there are lots of reasons for hesitation and delay, but perhaps the biggest is fear. “Maybe that new project for my business won’t work out.” “Maybe the intriguing person on the other side of the party won’t want to talk to me.”

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