The compassionate wish that lead to happiness | Nirina Nirina et Rodolphe | TEDxRéunion


Translator: Eric Chane-Po-Lime
Reviewer: Maddalena Bruno Rodolphe: Imagine. Imagine a world where your colleagues
welcome you every morning in a gentle, benevolent and kind way. Just imagine a world where random people smile at you naturally, without waiting for anything in return. Imagine a world where your own neighbors – who you didn’t know before – would now be your friends. Nirina: Imagine a world where loneliness doesn’t exist, a world where competition has disappeared, given way to cooperation and solidarity. R: I know what you guys are thinking.
These two are just dreamers. Last time I smiled
at someone in the street, she ran over to the other sidewalk, and yesterday morning,
when I arrived at the office, my colleagues pretty much looked like this or even that. (Laughter) And yet, it is possible to change the world. What if the only thing you had to do was to push a button, would you do it? Audience: Yes! P: Would you push that button? Audience: Yes! N: My mother’s Malagasy, I was born in Madagascar and I grew up in Reunion – up until now, it’s easy. My father’s Lebanese, my grand-mother
on my father’s side is Greek, my family name’s Italian, and on my passport
I have four middle names. Are you still with me? Because, as far as I’m concerned,
I’d always lose myself! But I share one common thing with Reunion Island: the cultural blend. It is a strength that I came to realize later on; when one’s young,
it’s more of a source of confusion: “Who was I?” Besides, there was inside of me
a deep feeling of melancholy, a feeling underlying a deep
misunderstanding of the meaning given to life. So I just wanted one thing – to take off,
to leave this island, Reunion. Why? Because there were no answers for me here, because sea and sky seemed
to blend into a single horizon. R: My mother woke up one morning with what she thought was just headache. The only things that I can remember now are the bruises that suddenly
appeared on her body, her losing her hair, a single visit to the hospital because kids my age weren’t allowed in those wards
at the time. I also remember a kind of funny
blue device that doctors had to put on her chest. Later, my dad explained to me that there was nowhere else on her body doctors
could do the injections so she would eventually get them directly through that small tube. Leukemia took her away when she was 33. I do not know if those things are related, but shortly after that I started to experience an acute anxiety disorder: massive panic and anxiety attacks, anxiolytics, anti-depressants, psychologists, psychiatrists, even healers. In the lapse of just one decade, I had turned
into some sort of a “fear expert”. There were nights when I would lie staring at the ceiling – I wasn’t so sure if I’d be able to carry on with this kind of life
to the very next day. But, you see, I fought hard,
held on to life, I did well, studying for years. At the age of 25, holding an MBA,
I had already a managing position, I had good wages. I owned a good car,
a motorbike, clothes, furniture. I had everything. But I had nothing. What I really needed was to find meaning,
a meaning behind my suffering, the meaning behind all suffering. So in 2006, I had no other choice
and together with Nirina, we took off left everything behind
friends, family, country, and started the most important
journey of our lives – our spiritual quest. Please do not be afraid of that word: “spiritual” simply means “the quest for meaning”, “the pursuit of the sacred”. N: So here we are, traveling around the world with the same
aspirations and with a promise; to support one another on our own paths. I left my life to find answers to questions that weren’t
very clear themselves. That didn’t matter. All I wanted was to experience life. In the span of 5 years, I traveled
New-Zealand from North to South, in an old camper van with such big holes on the bodywork that it was cooler inside than outside. I woke up one morning
in the Australian outback, surrounded by wild kangaroos. I even found myself doing
my Christmas shopping on a plane, flying over Madagascar. The baggage hold was packed
with champagne boxes. Just imagine the landing! When I think about it, it was really kind of magic, just like in the movies. And yet it was connecting with my fellow
humans that truly changed me – it was from the people
that I learnt so much. They took me into their home
just as if I was part of their family. Lost and wet under a heavy rain, a Japanese man offered me his umbrella. In Thailand, a mother shared with me her life story,
filled with dreams and fears. In Spain, after a long day of work a bus driver offered me
a heart-shaped candy, just to make me smile. All those people were all just strangers. And yet their smiles,
their kindness, generosity and compassion warmed my heart up. I felt alive! Ordinary people made my life
extra-ordinary. R: From the remotest parts
of the Himalayas to the sacred temples
of the Golden Triangle, somewhere between Burma, Lao and Thailand from the most ancient monasteries
of Oceania or Europe, I went on to meet up with “Masters” –
men and women – who, as they’re told, have freed
themselves from suffering. Free from suffering! I listened to their teachings
and studied them, and I went on look deep inside my own self to find answers. The further I walked along this path, the more I was realizing
this unbelievable truth: we are all the same. We came back to Reunion in 2011, fulfilled and rich. And yet, the hardest was yet to come. When you leave on a 15-day vacation, it is rather difficult to come back, to readjust to everyday life. Imagine leaving for 5 years, being around with 25 cultures, seeing death, and even coming face to face with the possibility
of your own death. When you come back home, it is your whole set of beliefs that implodes. N: So we decided to do it! We pushed the button! We started opening
the door of our home to strangers to share a meal – a way to carry on the journey. A way to avoid getting too caught up
in ourselves, our ideas and beliefs. Because the one who holds the truth is always someone else. R: The one who holds the truth
is always the other. I perfectly remember –
as if it was yesterday. There, in the newspaper, there was this interview of a great entrepreneur
who came up with this fantastic project, in the heart of the district Les Camélias of Saint-Denis, Reunion: a well-being
and traditional massage center. I told myself, This way I grow,
being around such great people, meeting peeple like this, I can change. So I just picked up my phone
and called him, humbly inviting him to come over
and share a meal. Well, his secretary laughed at me – and I can understand why – and the man never came. But on the other page of that newspaper, there was another interview – a podiatrist who
despite a serious disease and despite all the medical prognosis, had climbed the highest moutains
in the world. When I rang to invite him over, he immediately accepted, and we shared such a beautiful time. It’s been more than two years now that we’ve been inviting strangers to come
over and share a meal at our place. Whether they are podiatris,
entrepreneurs, artists, strangers or travelers from here or there, it is always a beautiful moment, so inspiring. To carry on cultivating
the sharing experience we started one afternoon baking biscuits, to share them in the street with everyone, in exchange for a smile. To recreate social links between people. N: To make those biscuits, you have to go the grocery store, come back home, prepare them shape them one by one, bake them, do the dishes and of course, give them out. I know it is not easy. It takes time. It takes energy. It even takes courage. But believe us – or even better: do not! Try it! Bake biscuits! Working to make others happy,
it is your own happiness that you cultivate. R: So here please just come and try this, this morning’s batch. Can someone stand up, please? (Applause) Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. (Applause) We will never – never! – forget that cashier’s face. When we brought her those small cookies. She told us that her contract
wasn’t going to be renewed – she had just lost her job. She broke down in tears. She broke down in tears. Then all of a sudden, a small cookie became a big show of humanity. N: It is possible to build a better world. It is possible to be happy. R: All of us in this room, for sure, wherever we live – Madagascar,
Mayotte, Mauritius, all 7 billion of us human beings we all desire the same thing: happiness. Who, amongst you – and I’d like the lights to be turned on,
please – who has never faced suffering in here? Raise your hands and look around you. Who has never faced suffering? We’re all the same! What I would like to do with Nirina is to change the world together. Right here, right now! We want you to push that button, shall we? Audience: Yes! R: Shall we? Audience: Yes! I want you all to stand up, all together! We are about to start a short meditation. If I my ask, please, take your neighbor’s hands. It feels weird doesn’t it, hey? (Laughter) Now, close your eyes, close your eyes. Are you able to feel the warmth of the hands that you are holding? Keep on focusing. We are fighting against
the machanisms of defense. But if we truly open our heart – are you able to feel the warmth
of the hand you are holding? Now think about this; the very person at my side, just like me, has been a child. That person, just like me, has dreams. That person, just like me, is looking for happiness. This person whose very hand I hold may have experienced
the loss of a loved person, or loneliness, or a disease. Maybe this person is suffering right here,
and right now. Changing the world starts with a simple wish,
a compassionate wish … N: May you be happy! May you be happy! R: You can now open your eyes. Starting this very moment,
the world has changed! Thank you. (Applause)

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