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“They work together”, is what Saskia Bosnie, Director of The Next Stage Foundation (TNSF) states is the biggest difference between the way folks of a community build their neighbourhood in Ethiopia versus the way people do it here in the Netherlands.



“They decide they need to improve their neighborhood, and then they approach their government for support to do it”, she adds.

Our conversation started around the topic of Terra’s first ever BLOG! 

I write it in capital letters, because it has been a long time coming, and I am still nervous as I type these letters, as writing it feels both overwhelmingly exhilarating and scary. Perhaps because I really want this piece to somehow add value to your lives.

“They decide they need to improve their neighbourhood, and then they approach their government for support to do it”, she adds.

Our conversation started around the topic of Terra’s first ever BLOG! I write it in capital letters because it has been a long time coming, and I am still nervous as I type these letters, as writing it feels both overwhelmingly exhilarating and scary.  Perhaps because I really want this piece to somehow add value to your lives.

(Some background info)

Saskia, Kelly, and Roel (from TNSF), along with myself, came together to do something “meaningful” with ourselves. We have all lived, and live in privileged countries with very high standards of living, where access to quality education and health care, let alone housing is never an issue. Our positions of privilege was a major impetus in trying to ‘do something worthy for humanity’ – at least that is our goal. That, and what I always used to say from my teenage years was a big reason for doing this kind of work:

“Helping others makes me feel good. So I guess it’s a selfish drive that makes me want to help out others. … Am I just a weirdo amongst the masses that gets high on helping people?” was a recurring thought that ran through my teenage mind.

It’s backed up by science! 

It turns out that I m not as weird as I had hoped I was.  Science says so.

Apparently, helping others does in fact make you a happier person.  Neuroscientist and one of my heroes, Dr. Daniel Siegel, calls this undeniable interconnectedness “Mwe”, which is denoted by the following formula:

Mwe = Me + We

He and his research team from UCLA have proven that “Helping others is essentially helping the self”, since when we help others and honor this scientifically-confirmed interconnected system that is humanity “We become happier and healthier” as a result [2].

My left brain feels inclined to take this argument into greater depths, so here is a very basic summary of what happens:

There are many ways that we can consciously condition our subconscious minds to be more “Mwe” focused, thereby creating more neural pathways in our brains that give way to more happier states of being [1].

Scientists can actually observe this type of mind or brain conditioning as it happens, during certain practices.  In practicing empathy, for instance, where we connect with and have compassion for our fellow humans, our brains start to change for the better:  they get programmed for more frequent states of happiness and further interconnectivity.

One way of actively practicing empathy is via the ‘Art of Giving’.  Giving has been shown to make people feel better about themselves.  Besides the obvious and conscious ego-based reasons why ‘giving’ makes people feel better about themselves, at a very deep neuro-physiological level, giving literally changes our brain’s structure, by not only making us more prone to happier states of being, but also deeply connecting us together as humans, and strengthening our social networks.

University of Virginia social psychologist Dr. Shigehiro Oishi, an expert on societal happiness factors has consistently found that people in developing countries, despite poverty and lack of infrastructure, on the whole, seem to be happier than those from highly industrialized countries.  A primary reason for this is that people from such countries as Sierra Leone and Ethiopia form stronger social bonds, and harbor a much greater sense of “community”, or what Dr. Siegel calls a “Mwe” state of mind than their economically wealthier counterparts [3][2].

Tying it together

Saskia explains that in villages in Ethiopia, people come together as a community, decide that they need a library, and then approach the government for support.  Unfortunately still, due to lack of infrastructure and funding, their hopes and dreams often don’t materialize into three-dimensional reality. Sometimes, they lose hope as a result and often give up on such dreams.

We (TNSF and Terra) came together to help change this problem. As a collective human family, we acknowledge that we (as humans) are never alone.  Everything we (you and I) do affects the entire human collective, and in turn, changes all of our realities as a whole.  This so-called butterfly effect is undeniable.

In taking responsibility for our own state of being and happiness, we are participating in helping the human collective.  Consciously creating authentic happy states in ourselves and in others by Mwe-focused practices, such as Mindfulness, compassion, and the Art of Giving amongst others will help make our own lives and those of others richer and happier as a collective.

Is n’t that what the goal of life is after all?  To be happy!

To wrap this up, my dear audience, I want to humbly thank you for reading this post.

Finally, if you are interested, please take a closer look at, and SHARE Terra’s collaborative project with The Next Stage Foundation, where we are raising funds to help build a library and digital resource centre for underserved youth in Ethiopia.

Thank you once again, and please spread the happiness!

 

 

 

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References:

[1]Siegel, Daniel J., 1957-. Mindsight : The New Science of Personal Transformation. New York :Bantam Books, 2010. Print.

[2]_____________.  “Dan Siegle:  Me + We = Mwe“.  Omega Institute for Holistic Studies.  Published on Feb 8, 2016 URL.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uo8Yo4UE6g0.

[3] Alter, A. (January 24, 2014). Do the Poor Have More Meaningful Lives? The New Yorker Retrieved from https://www.one.org/international/follow-the-money/) (https://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/do-the-poor-have-more-meaningful-lives).

 

Copyright 2016 by Terra Education and Development Consultants

Niki Fayaz

M.A, Initiator

Niki Fayaz is the founder of Terra Education and Development Consultants. She is a human rights activist, a social scientist, and yoga teacher, and she believes that we can create sustainable change in the world by first making positive shifts within ourselves.

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