Living Inspired

File pix: African apprentices practise kungfu at the Shaolin Temple on the Songshan Mountain in Dengfeng City, central China's Henan Province. /Xinhua

Having a relatively broad range of experiences in work and beyond, people often express amusement about how I've managed to achieve so much.

To be truthful, one of the answers is less sleep. Another is that I keep myself inspired. It seems like an easy thing to throw out there, or at least that is how it seems.

We get exposed to the word 'inspiration' quite regularly these days.

Inspiration presents itself in the form of quotes, pictures, videos and tales of courage, fictional or otherwise, worth 'Liking', 'Sharing' and 'Retweeting' a thousand times around the world.

However, I feel that our modern-day privilege of being able to access such varied sources of inspiration is its own drawback.

Amongst a constant overload of information, excessive reference to the word 'inspiring' leaves Internet users desensitised to the true meaning of it.

The Oxford dictionary describes 'inspiration' as, "The process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative."

I get the impression that it has become a lot more transient that the definition implies, with our attention getting easily diverted from one interesting subject matter to the next.

Inspiration has been re-interpreted as a way of stirring the soul, and perhaps linger in one's mind long enough to share over coffee.  

That is until its novelty wanes and joins the vast heap of sources of inspiration of days past, leading to little or no tangible outcomes or difference in people's lives.

In short, not many dwell in moments of inspiration long enough to actually be inspired. I was not born with talent; instead I find myself acquiring it in order to alleviate the itch that comes with being creatively stimulated.

I surround myself with activists, poets, photographers, filmmakers, teachers, artists, writers, musicians, travellers, free spirits, fellow performers and friends who make the act of pushing the envelope a normalcy of life.

I allow them to shake up my views of the world, and empower me to stay curious, scared and fascinated. It is near impossible to let such intense sensations just sit around inside me with nowhere to go, so I go out and do strange things like enrolling in a Shaolin kungfu school.

Out of the dozens of people who have told me how inspired they are by my pursuits or principles, few do much to back it up. So I was taken by complete surprise when one of my kungfu classmates decided to become a vegetarian for good.

Having considered it for a long time, he thanked me for the final boost by showing him that it was possible. Up until then I thought that achieving an athlete's lifestyle and physique on a vegetarian diet was going to be difficult, without realizing that I was already doing it!

It was extraordinary to meet someone who demonstrated, in its literal sense, what it was like to be inspired. What was just as extraordinary was being credited as an influence without actively striving to be one.

I suppose that inspiration is a kind of contagious energy, passed on to and between people who choose to be open to it.

I had a talk with a new classmate the other day. Into her first week, her body has not been coping well with the physical demands of kungfu.

But she is determined to overcome it. "In regular society, we've all been conditioned to avoid pain at all costs. It's always about pleasure, pleasure, pleasure," she mused. "People shy away from any sign of discomfort. That's what I find so interesting here.

It's about choosing to stick around when things get uncomfortable. Not many people we know would understand why anyone would want to put themselves through that.

That's a shame. There is a lot more opportunity to grow out there than they'll ever realize." I agreed wholeheartedly, and I'm glad that she is ready for her world to be turned upside down.

Being inspired is not just necessary to fuel my creative career, but to also make sure I live a well-lived life; to always keep on learning and experiencing, to acquaint myself with new limits.

Even in my idle moments, my imagination goes wild, thinking of ways to surprise myself with what I am capable of.

To those who have asked me, "How do you do all that you do?" I haven't found a response any more appropriate than a shrug. I don't know why or how I find it easier than others to try new things out. But I do know that I handle myself a lot better saying, "I should" as opposed to being able to say, "I did".

> The views expressed are entirely the writer's own

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