Audrey: I'm really excited for today's call with Liam. I haven't met him in person, but what I have learned has blown me away. At the age of 17, when people traditionally are thinking about college, he was pretty clear that he didn't want to go to college. He was on track to study medicine. Then he started reading the writings of people like Gandhi and Lao Tzu and Thoreau and Fukuoka, who talks about "Do nothing farming," and all these other philosophies and then ended up -- instead of going to university -- creating his own self-directed university experience, where he read 200 plus non-fiction books. He built a tiny house. He learned Spanish in 3 months. He meditated for 100 hours in 10 days and spent the summer talking to strangers in public, gardening on rooftops in the city and engaged in so many personal, experiential experiments.
What strikes me about Liam is that when he engages in all these things it's not out of a sense of wanting to have fun or a sense of even rebelling against the system. There's a groundedness and a depth to his way of approaching all of these topics. I think when you talk to him, you really feel that sense of it's a search for a deeper sense of truth and those bigger questions of life and purpose and meaning. At 22 or 23, it's really refreshing to encounter someone like that. Liam, thank you so much for joining our call today. We're really looking forward to hearing from you.
Liam: Wow. It's so weird to get all of that reflected back to me, to hear it. I feel really humbled actually and really grateful for all the invisible hands behind today's call. It was Nipun's email that seeded this -- it seems like everything seems to happen by email with Nipun. I just get a random email saying, "Surprise," and here I am. It's really amazing actually. I feel like I'm being laddered a lot. We just did the 6-week Laddership, wanting to become a ladder and not a leader. I feel like both Audrey and Nipun, and also Trishna and Annie and Josera, all these people have just been laddering me. I feel just really grateful and also a bit nervous right now.
Audrey: Thank you. We're excited to hear from you. Thank you so much for saying yes to share your story. I think we'll get into the Laddership topic in a little bit, but I wanted to start with maybe a bit about your childhood. I wonder if you could share just what was your upbringing life like? What kind of influences did you have? Did your parents or family or friends model that alternative thinking for you? What was it like when you were growing up?
Liam: I spent most of my childhood in Singapore. I think growing up. The more I get to know my dad now, the more I'm seeing his influences on what was happening. I don't remember a lot of conversations or any direct teachings from my dad, but the more I get to know him today, the more I'm realizing, "Wow, his thinking has been really similar to the way I think." I feel like that has played a big part as I was growing up. I also have 3 brothers. Both my parents were very lenient in terms of how they raised us. I remember never really having to say where I was going or when I was going to be back home even, when I was like 11 or 12. I always had this freedom to explore. There wasn't any fear of punishment. I think it was just this openness that really planted some seeds for me. Otherwise, growing up in Singapore, I was generally quite an academic person.
Audrey: You studied really hard in school?
Liam: Yeah, I studied a lot. I guess I did well in school. It wasn't a struggle to play the game if you like of passing exams and doing homework and understanding whatever was being taught. That was the general childhood. It felt very normal especially growing up in Singapore. Most of my friends were pretty much exactly like myself.
Audrey: Then you moved to London.
Liam: When I was around 11, we moved to London. The first memory I have of that is arriving into London in the middle of winter, and I was wearing a singlet (just like a tank top, a sleeveless T-shirt) and just being like, "Oh my God, it's really cold here." In Singapore, it's always 30 Celsius all year.
That change of different cultures seems quite crazy, since I had never seen a white person or a black person before. Not that I hadn't seen them, but I didn't have a friend who was white or who was black. It was all new. Everything was really new at that time.
Audrey: How did that influence you at such a young age?
Liam: I think this idea of fitting in started to come up. I spoke English. We learn English in Singapore, but coming into London and going to school, there's a different accent. There's all these different slang words. It almost felt like I had to play catch-up. I remember 11, 12, 13, feeling like I was always trying to catch up, like I wanted to be in the in-group, but then I would never catch up enough to be able to be like, "Now I get it. Now I understand the lingo or the culture." I always felt a few steps behind. I think that maybe planted a seed, "Does it make sense to want to try and fit in all the time?"
Audrey: When did the conviction at such a young age to define your own path start to kick in? How did this happen?
Liam: Between 11 to 16, I'd say I was pretty much a zombie -- if I'm being completely honest. I would go to school and then I would come back and I'd play video games -- for 8 to 12 hours a day! It was becoming a big problem, actually. I think there were a few moments where my friends would highlight, "Liam, maybe you have a problem. You can't seem to not play video games." I remember feeling quite angry, as I reacted to the questions from my friends. I think those reactions started that self reflection process. I remember going online and searching for personal development blogs about, "How can I stop playing video games?" That sparked off a little bit.
Also before my 16th birthday, I had an eye test. I went in with my mum. At this point, I'd been wearing glasses since I was 8 years old, and each year my eyesight would get worse. Playing video games for 10 hours a day definitely didn't help. :) At the end of the eye test, the optician said, "You have a high prescription again." At the end, my mum asked the optician if there was any way I could prevent my eyes from getting worse or whether there was even a way to reverse the effects. The optician basically said, "No." He said flat out no.
At the time, I was a bit naïve and a bit stubborn. But I just didn't like the way the optician replied to that. It just seemed really dis-empowering. I felt like it didn't make sense that it was such a clear answer, a clear definite no. That evening, I went home and Googled, "How can I improve my eyesight?" That immersed me into into a part of the internet that would ultimately widened my perspective.
Audrey: How so? What happened when you Googled how to improve your eyesight?
Liam: That journey is still ongoing, but I found some fascinating research. Eskimos, for example. They were trying to get these Eskimo tribes to assimilate into modern society. Before they would get assimilated, these Eskimos had perfect vision and they needed perfect vision because they would be out hunting or foraging, but then when they got assimilated into society, and the children, within a few years, would all become myopic. They would all need glasses, but the parents would still be fine. It would be much harder to assimilate them completely because they still had a lot of their culture within them. Whereas the children were just being brought straight into the education system. That made me question what my optician told me -- that myopia is a genetic condition and there's nothing you can do about it. "Your parents had it, and so you have it. There's nothing you can do about it. End of story."
Then I started checking out statistics where places like universities in Singapore would have 90 to 95% of the students wearing glasses. Then you look at places like Australia where they have a much outdoorsy lifestyle and it drops to 20%. I was just looking at these studies and wondering "Actually maybe what I'm reading here, there is some sort of truth behind this." It is the internet so I really had to work to decipher what was rubbish and what was actually valuable. Internet is filled with people trying to scam you. It was a real crazy,
Audrey: How did you decipher that? Did you ever have any experiences where you believed something and then realized, "Oh I shouldn't have listened to that."
Liam: I don't know if I can remember. As I was reading about these things, I started experimenting with it. There were certain exercises they would recommend, and I would try and see if it made sense. Then I would be on forums. I would be posting on these forums and be asking for guidance and things like that. As that was going on, I was also exploring a lot of different topics at the same time. I thought, "Actually if what my optician is telling me isn't true, then maybe somewhere else in a different industry or a different area in society, the same thing is happening, whether it's in education or in the medical industry or in the way food is sold to us." I thought maybe there was a similar story being told.
If I stay with the eyesight, a year and a half into all these experiments, I started to see improvements! The first thing that happened is what's called a clear flash. This was without glasses. For about half an hour, I would get this clear flash where I could suddenly see without glasses. I think that was a big moment of epiphany for me. I was like, "Wow, this actually works." A lot of things just started coming up. Did my optician just didn't know this or was he just lying to me?
Audrey: Did you ever ask him?
Liam: No, I didn't because it's Specsavers, which means it's a different optician every time you go in. So I started questioning all these things and diving deeper into the reasons why my optician wouldn't tell me something like this. Seeing the way things were designed, for the instantaneous improvement rather than long-term wellbeing, it seemed like our solutions were aimed towards a quick, magic fix. A magic pill that just didn't require any effort on my part, where the result was externalized. I saw eyesight improvement does require effort. It is a long-term thing and I can understand why it might not be so popular, but I felt like if there was a choice, it would have been a fairer situation.
That led me to other topics. Also within health, I started reading this book by Dr. Weston Price, who wrote this book called Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. He went around indigenous cultures around the world. He would inspect their teeth. These cultures, they wouldn't have toothbrushes. They wouldn't have toothpaste. He expected they would have really bad teeth because we have this assumption that we have to clean our teeth every day otherwise they will rot. He expected that, but when he actually looked at their teeth, he found that they were really, really healthy. They had amazing teeth. They had zero cavities. Their jaw was perfectly shaped. Compared to a typical modern pair of teeth, if you like, these indigenous people had incredible teeth. He was talking about the role of diet and things like sugar and the amount of processing that goes through our food.
I was reading that. Then I was reading about the money system. And I was reading about the education system and the history of schools and how that came about and how it was designed for the industrial revolution to create factory workers essentially. Traits like obedience would be highly desirable because you would have to just listen and do what's needed during the day. Each of these becomes it's own learning journey.
Audrey: What I'm hearing is also your own disillusionment with taking answers at face value and really wanting to understand the evolution of these systems in a way. I'm curious how you chose not to go to a university and to just learn on your own? At 18 years old, most people don't have that clarity of just trying things on their own in that way.
Liam: The internet is good for creating questions, but I realized that I wanted to go deeper. In the UK, between 16 and 18, we get 6th form. I was getting educational maintenance allowance, so I would get £30 a week to spend on text books and travel for school and things like that. I started spending that money on buying books from Amazon. I wanted to dive deeper than online article.
The first set of books I bought were biographies. I guess I was thinking, "Are there role models that I could follow?" I bought books like Einstein's biography, Gandhi's biography, Martin Luther King's, Nelson Mandela's. I bought Malcolm X's biography, Benjamin Franklin's biography. I started to read all these books. And I think it was the wisdom of these people through their books that were holding me in a way. At this time, I wouldn't talk about this with anyone really -- it was just me and the books in a way. First thing was I didn't know if I could articulate what I was feeling or the thoughts that I was having. Secondly, whenever I did try, I felt that feeling of being exiled or being told that you're wrong. I didn't have ServiceSpace or Laddership circles to just just allow whatever was emerging within me to bubble up to the surface and just almost be cradled and be held by the space. There wasn't any of that.
I almost decided to not speak about what I was doing to anyone. I knew I was quite fragile, but I also knew that there was something here. There was quite a visceral feeling of, "What I'm reading and what I'm moving towards feels really wholesome. It feels really nourishing." It feels like I was getting closer to truth if you like.
Audrey: You're soaking in all of these biographies and learning from all these people, from the ancients to now. I think it takes a lot of courage also to decided that you're going to carve a different path and not do what's expected of you. How did you decide not to go to university and take the steps toward creating your own education in that way?
Liam: As I was reading these books -- initially with the biographies, then I started on different topics -- one question that was kept coming up was about school. Not about school, but about what I wanted to do afterwards. This was when I was 16, 17, 18 years old. The dominant question around that age is, "What are you going to study at uni? What do you want to do as a job after uni?" I was looking for answers to those questions in a way, through these books. I don't exactly know how, but I started stumbling on different authors that would critique the school system, people like John Taylor Gatto. He was a teacher in New York, now retired, who got several Teacher of the Year awards. When he retired, he started writing books critiquing the education system, which seemed quite interesting.
He wrote one book called Weapons of Mass Instruction, which is quite a conspiracy-esque. It was quite a daunting title, but I read that and I read a few other related articles and essays on the topic. At school, I was seeing how what he said was making sense. Things like exams and how when you go to school, your whole day is designed for the exam in mind. There is this very specific outcome that the teachers want to almost get out of their students. They're not looking at the student as a human being. They're looking at the students as a grade-producing machine because the teachers have their own grades that they have to meet.
I was wondering why I was studying particular topics in school, and what use they would be for me in the future. I didn't understand why I had to study such detailed maths if I didn't think I was going to use it or become an engineer or a math professor. John Taylor Gatto talks about how classrooms are -- how everyone is roughly the same age and there's no diversity of demographics. The people you look up to are the people within your peer group. There isn't a sense of natural mentorship or just learning from others and being around others.
I was looking at all these things and experiencing and them and just getting a bit fed up, I think, seeing that all of this was designed to help me pass an exam so that I could go to university, so that I could go and get a job, so that I could work 40 hours a week for 40 years and then retire. It just seemed like there was this very specific path that was already created for me even though I didn't explicitly say, "I agree." I was being pushed on this path and just said, "Of course you want to go to university. Look at your grades. They're great. Of course you want to go to university."
I found myself saying, "Actually, what if I don't? What if I don't want to live the 9:00 to 5:00 lifestyle?" I was asking questions like that. "What alternatives were there? Where was the opt-out option? Actually I don't like any of these options that you're giving me for my life. Can you give me some other ones?" When I was asking that question, I didn't see other options -- so I started looking for one on my own.
Audrey: And then you did it! That's great. I'm curious reading about teaching yourself Spanish to building a tiny home to gardening on rooftops. Is there any story or personal experience or moment that stands out where you feel like you learned something that stuck with you for a bit in those experiences. Is there any particular moment or interaction or learning that stands out?
Liam: That's quite hard. One of the first things that I did was I wanted space, so after I had decided I didn't want to go to university, I had a big gap. I went to Canada for almost 6 months. The learning there was about space. It was about having space to breathe or just think and do nothing really. I went to this work -- it was called a work exchange. There's this website called WorkAway and they hook up volunteers with different hosts all around the world, people who have farms or bed and breakfasts, small businesses. I went to this one family in the middle of Canada in Saskatchewan. I don't know why I went to Saskatchewan, but it was a really lovely host family. I just really enjoyed reading through their profile and Skyping with them a few times.
When I went there, I was expecting to work at least 5 hours a day in exchange for room and board, but when I went there, they were like, "You know what? We don't really have much work for you. We just like having guests around our home." I went there and I just had this spaciousness, a huge amount of time to just be with myself and without the pressure of being home or being in school. That felt like a really important moment just to have that space and not feel like I had to make a decision or come to some sort of outcome or some sort of result, to just rest in that (as Zilong says) WONK -- the wisdom of not knowing.
Audrey: You've also recently really been exploring meditation as a personal practice. On your blog on 27 Life Tips, you've listed, "Meditate, meditate, meditate. Be of service." I'm curious, how did you get introduced to meditation to have such a conviction to say "meditate, meditate, meditate". :)
Liam: Meditation has become a priority in my life right now. I think when I say meditation, I think what Satish Kumar said about how meditation is 24 hours and it's not just this half an hour or 1 hour or 2 hours sitting on a cushion. Meditation is 24 hours. I think I came to that conviction, when I went on my first 10-day meditation retreat a few years back. Before that, as I was 16, 17, 18 reading all these different books, I did come across a few meditation books like The Power of Now, and I was starting a small practice just on my own with whatever information I could get. It felt like I hit a plateau. Looking back, it wasn't really that strong anyway, but then when I heard about these 10-day retreats, I was like, "Wow, okay, great, sign me up." And they're offered as a gift. I was poor. I didn't have a lot of money so when I was reading about this, I was like, "This is absolutely perfect." I guess I just jumped on the opportunity really.
When I went on my first one, I guess I got this sense that happiness is within rather than something that I had to get from the outside of myself. During these 10 days, you're not allowed to speak. You don't have any writing material. You get served 2 meals a day. It's sensory deprivation in a way. Yet going on this retreat and experiencing ... a lot of pain, a lot of suffering, a huge amount of mental rumination and discomfort, but then continuing with it and then at the end actually seeing that there was joy and bliss to be found in just sitting and experiencing that much more directly than in the past.
We've all had these moments of awe or just deep moments of presence. We get these moments of just joy, serene joy that comes out. I had those moments, but I always thought they were just coincidental, a kind of magic that just sort of happened. But then realizing, during these 10 days of meditation, that the same joy could arise, the same sort of happiness could arise -- that really gave me that conviction that meditation was a worthwhile thing to pursue. It showed me that if you unlearn enough, if you could peel away all the layers, all the assumptions or all the conditionings, you could arrive at unconditional happiness. If I could peel away all these layers, all these conditions and assumptions that I had from my upbringing, from wherever, that what would be left would be this joy, this happiness. I think that's where the conviction is coming from.
Audrey: I know you've recently engaged in your experiments whether it's doing a flash mob of kindness or spending a summer talking to strangers or even going on a recent hitchhiking adventure. You've met a lot of strangers along the way. I'm curious, could you share a bit about any strangers that you've met that have taught you something or made you see a sense of truth or whatever, those questions that you hold?
Liam: The first person that comes to mind is Nipun. He's not a stranger any more, but I remember emailing Nipun because I saw he was speaking in Guernsey and I was like, "Maybe he's coming to London." I sent him an email just randomly because I saw a few of his TEDxTalks. I just thought, "Why not? Why not send him an email?" Thinking it would just be ignored. When I sent it, within 2 hours he replied saying, "Hey Liam, thanks for the email and all the questions you're holding. I'm going to be in London on Sunday." That was like 3 days away. He was like, "Come." I was like, "Wow, brilliant. Yes, I'll come." I emailed Trishna and Ani, who were hosting this 1-day retreat, which had Nipun and Satish Kumar there as guests. I went and then in answer to your question about strangers and acts of kindness, the moment really on Tuesday evening, I think. After that 1-day retreat, Trishna sends out an email on the Monday evening saying that they're going to have another impromptu mini Awakin Circle Gathering at her place at 9pm. I went there with my girlfriend, Izzy. At the end when we left, Nipun is walking both of us to the door. He's at the door and he looks down and he sees his shoes. In his shoes, there's a Smile Card and £100. He picks it up and then he looks at myself and Izzy and he just gives it to us.
The first feeling I get is one of sheer confusion, if I'm honest. He's like, "I've just been tagged." It happens a lot for me and he explains, "I just get given these gifts and all I pay it forward. I'm just a conduit, an instrument." The gifts go through him and he's just paying it forward to the next person he sees. It just so happens that myself and Izzy were there. I was really blown away because I had been reading stories like these where people just do really spontaneous acts of kindness -- but this was an actual experience!
I remember another story with Pancho, where some guy looks at his T-shirt and says, "I really like your T-shirt." It's this T-shirt with Batman written on it. Pancho without a moment's hesitation just takes off his T-shirt and just gives it to the guy just immediately. It's stories like that where I was really struck by. Then when Nipun paid forward that gift he received to myself and Izzy, I was just blown away. It seemed like perhaps a small gesture, but it was really powerful actually, really powerful. Really powerful.
Audrey: I'm curious how has your relationship with your family evolved if at all along this journey? Have they come with you along the journey? I remember you mentioning when you turned 23, you ended up doing a kindness flash mob for your birthday and your mother joined?
Liam: I hope my family has been changing with me, too. I remember Trishna's daughter, instead of receiving gifts on her birthday, she invited her friends to pay it forward and create blessing bags (with some food, a warm hat, gloves and things like that) to give away to homeless people. I thought, "My 23rd birthday is coming up. Maybe I could do something similar." I decided to host a random acts of kindness, where we would just go out into the streets and give out little bits of chocolates and flowers, some nice compliment cards and hugs.
My mum came along and she had this great big Quality Street box, box of assorted chocolates. She was just relentlessly giving them out. It was amazing to see her in action. In answer to your question, Audrey, I would say, yeah, little ripples are starting to happen in the family. It definitely still is a very introspective process for me and still somewhat a very individual journey, but I feel like I'm working through these things and all these conditionings or assumptions that are coming up. As I'm working through them, I'm coming back to this idea of spaciousness. It's starting to come alive again. As I'm able to rest more in this spaciousness that goes with me wherever I am, mainly through this meditation practice, as more of that happens, I'm feeling more of wanting to be of service. A lot of how that's coming about is through working with my family.
Just doing little things, little, little things that ... just even things like having a conversation where I feel fully present has been a challenge. It's been happening more often. It's like that parable of a monk who says that when he was a young man, he wanted to change the world so he started with trying to change his whole country. When that didn't work, he started to try to change his county. Then when that didn't work, he tried to change his town. Then when that didn't work, he tried to change his family. Then now reflecting as an older man, he thought, "Actually if I started to change myself, then maybe I could have changed my family and through that I could have changed my town and through that the country and through that the world."
I'm really seeing the truth in that, that the more I'm working on changing myself, the more I'm working on, as Gandhi says, "Being the change," the more I feel that there is a space opening up where I can begin to serve others and the most immediate people that I can serve would be my family. As that progresses and extends, then maybe my town and maybe the county and maybe the country. Then maybe, maybe the world.
Nipun: That reminds of your blog on 27 Tips for Life where you quoted someone saying, "If you want to check whether you are enlightened, go and live with your family." One of the questions that would immediately pop into mind is, "Wait, his parents let him do that?" Read whatever books you want, drop out and do all these things? What did your parents say? Has their response changed over time, response to your journey, not a specific vision?
Liam: I think university was quite a big decision. Deciding not to go to university was quite a big thing for them to hear. Being ethnically Chinese, I have tons of cousins and uncles and aunties who are doctors or lawyers or accountants or engineers or they have their own businesses. Really successful people in the conventional, traditional sense. There is still a strong family pressure to conform to that. It was a big reason why I didn't speak so much about my decision even to my own family. I guess I was very stubborn. Very stubborn for sure.
In terms of their response, not so well really. Not so well is the answer. Whether that's changed over the years, I would like to think so. There's a WhatsApp conversation that we have, with my mum and my 3 brothers, and over the past few months, my mum is always sharing these forwarded messages that I've been completely resonating with. Some quite deep ones about, "You're going to die soon. You should connect with the people that matter to you most and do what you want to do, rather than conform to other people's expectations." In that way, I feel like I'm playing the long-term game, if we want to call it a game. Audrey has talked about this 10,000-year vision. I figured that my family probably would disapproved in the short term. They would be disappointed. I knew if I held in there, that eventually they're come around. I think slowly they're beginning to understand. My Dad for sure.
Nipun: When you said initially it didn't go so well, how did you still do it? You just told them, "I'm going to do it," and they said, "Okay, I guess we have no choice"?
Liam: Growing up, they gave me all this freedom, and I never had a curfew being imposed on me. So this was just an extension of that. In the back of my mind, I knew if I had made a decision, then that was it -- in a way. My parents wouldn't force me to change my mind even though they might have disapproved.
Nipun: Thinking of your early days, one burning question that I had early on when you were sharing was if you're playing 8 to 12 hours a day of video games, which video game was it?
Liam: I used to play a lot of MMORPG, things like World of Warcraft and Guild Wars. I don't know if you've heard of them.
Nipun: That's great. I think I remember that, but humanity has played 3.5 billion years of World of Warcraft collectively.
Liam: Wow. I've probably added a sizeable chunk to that.
Nipun: There was this research I read this week that said that it's a coping mechanism for pain. This research spoke about how playing video games works better than taking some of these painkillers. In a way, maybe it doesn't cure that pain, but it perhaps is a way of coping with some angst that's there. Certainly video games are a very big part of our culture.
Liam: For sure. I think there was something I was trying to cope with by playing video games.
Nipun: Now you seem to play with life it seems. I remember reading your post after the Paris attacks. You went hitchhiking and in the blog post, you had written, "Trust people. They'll surprise you." Can you share a little bit about how you've been experimenting with your life?
Liam: The hitchhiking experience was quite random. I go to this café in East London quite often. That café attracts all sorts of wacky people, which is great. I met this girl there, who was traveling from Netherlands. She was in London for a few days. We had a good connection, and right we were saying goodbye, she said, "Would you like to go on a hitchhiking adventure with me?" She just offered that. I was like, "Um, I'm not sure." That was a few weeks before hearing Satish Kumar talk about his adventure. After hearing him talk, I was walking around Camden in London and I found a pair of walking boots. It was like 2 weeks or maybe a week after Satish Kumar's talk. I found these walking boots, and they were in my size. Then there was a pair of them. I was like, "This is interesting. This must be a sign or something."
I took that on, and I said, "Maybe this means I have to go on an adventure." Then 2 weeks after that, I met this girl Talissa, who asked me if I wanted to go on a hitchhiking adventure. When I put it all together -- Satish Kumar's talks, finding the boots and then this invitation -- I was like, "I sort of have to say yes now." So I said yes. It was very short, just 3 days, going to 12 people's different cars, complete strangers, putting our thumbs out with a small sign. It was incredible. To really find that the people that picked us up. They were as anxious as we were to get picked up. It was just like, "Who dares?" Actually, it was really touching to meet some of these people.
I remember there was one guy who initially he hesitated. He drove past us and then he turned around and then came back again. He stopped and we got in. About halfway through this journey, he said, "I just got out of prison about 3 weeks ago. I can only take you guys this far because I have a tag around my ankle, which stops me from leaving my hometown basically." He was like, "I would love to take you guys further, but I have to drop you off here." To have really that courage to share with hitchhikers that he just met? We were trusting our lives with him and then him coming out and saying, "I'm a prisoner and I just got out of prison." It was really powerful.
Nipun: That's really beautiful. In the context of the Paris attacks, you had also mentioned, "Let's have compassion for victims of the attacks, but please can we also extend the compassion to the perpetrators of the attacks?" I don't know if that was related to that experience with that person from prison that you had met, but it seems like you were saying that, "We're all on this journey and we all make a few mistakes here and there, but let's give each other a long rope and hold each other." Is that a central theme of your life or has that always been or is this an emerging insight that you've grown into?
Liam: I think that's emerging. Really, this question would take another 90-minute call I reckon to unpack. If we want an actual solution to the problems that we have in the world, I feel like we really have to dig as deep as we can to the root problem because there is almost this cycle that happens. Someone does a terrorist attack on us and we say, "What's justice here? Justice is to do the same back to them or to throw them in jail forever and make them rot." It's playing the same story that the terrorists were playing. If we want to transcend that story in a way, we have to act from a different story. Otherwise, that same story will continually repeat forever and ever. It's not just something that happens with terrorist attacks. It's happening everywhere really, even climate change.
Nipun: Gandhi summed it up really well when he said, "Eye for an eye and the whole world is going to be blind." I'm wondering, "How do you learn this at 23?" Does it come from an analysis or does it come from more experiments? What would you suggest to your younger self?
Liam: Trust. This idea of trusting oneself to self direct our own learning. For me, I don't know really where that came from, this idea of trusting my curiosity, trusting that the questions that I wanted to know would lead me somewhere and that I wouldn't die really. I think that that's it. I don't feel like there is a prescription like read 50 books and then go on a 3-day hitchhiking adventure coming to this insight. I don't think that that exists. I think it's more a deep trust really. I felt held by the wisdom of the people through the books. For others, it might their family or maybe even their school holds them. I think it's that trust, and it's why I resonate so much with ServiceSpace and the Laddership circles as well because there is this sense of, "We trust you. You know what's best for you. We're just going to hold space for that to emerge, and support the emergence."
Albert: I've been looking at our inherited belief systems around being a man, a male and a father. I'm deeply intrigued and challenged by the incredible amount of negative energy around these identities and the beliefs that support them. What are your thoughts as a male on your inherited identity and how it informs your path going forward?
Liam: Wow, that's a big question. Thank you so much for that question. I feel like that theme of identity is becoming very prevalent in the recent history. In the recent year or so a lot of these questions seem to be coming up. There does seem to be this very deeply conditioned or ingrained habit. For me, objectifying women as a male ... the stereotypes feel so normal growing up, even in the subtlest things. What comes to mind to me is this ecovillage called Tamera in Portugal. There is almost a battle in a way, where we live in a patriarchy has pushed aside feminine energy. There does seem like there wants to be a rebalancing of that. A rebalancing of that I feel the work that Tamera is doing is incredible where they envision this world of peace, but how do we actually get peace. Peace coming from healing this inter-personal conflict that we have within our relationships.
Bradley: Hi Liam, this is Bradley from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Thank you for this beautiful call. I had a question for you regarding trust in other people. I know that's something experimental. We've recently had a situation with my mom, for instance, where she's repeatedly taken advantage of. Do you ever feel like you're being take advantage of?
Liam: For me, it has to go back within me and what my initial motivations were. If I felt taken advantage of, then there would have an expectation of how something should have played out and if that something that played out was not what I expected, then there would be that feeling of being taken advantage of. One thing I've been experimenting with, especially with my family, is radical honesty. It's something I've been experimenting with with close friendships. Using tools like non-violent communication. Then there's one I saw on Zen Habits called intentional dialoging, just little tools that allow honesty to emerge within a relationship or within a dialog or an interaction you have with someone. I think that's a big part of it as well about being taken advantage of is that I'm not feeling like I'm being heard or my needs were not being met. I don't know if I'm qualified to be giving advice on this, but that's been my experience so far.
Trevor: Hi Liam, I'm really enjoying this call. I'm curious because you have taken this non-traditional path and journey, what is your relationship to money and earning your livelihood?
Liam: That's a question I'm holding as well, especially the money one. I've spoken about wanting to become a full-time volunteer. I think money is a neutral technology -- not inherently evil or good. But the way we've created it, it's rooted in a sense of permanence. And that doesn't reflect the actual nature of how reality is. I'm finding it really difficult to on the one hand have my meditation practice and this idea of trust, but then still almost having to live in a monetary society. With the money question, there is this question of what is true security as well? The reason why I would want money is so that I could live, so that I could feed myself and my family and then anyone else that might depend on me.
My next experiment is really diving deeper into this idea of security because money and security they definitely come hand in hand. Really having to have a direct experience that security comes from within, which isn't something that I can say that I know. When I say I know, I can't say that I've had any experience that security really comes from within. That for me is the practice, the working ground that I have.
In a more practical sense, I recently started a conversation with this guy called Richard. Richard is a piano tuner by trade. He lives in London, but 3 years ago, he decided, "I don't know why I'm paying so much for rent in Central London. I'm just going to live outside." He buys a sleeping mat and a really good quality sleeping bag and every night for the past 3 years, he's just been setting up a tent. He just wild camps in the city. He still has his piano tuning job, but his expenses have dropped hugely. To me, that seems like a viable option, but I know for probably many people that's completely out of the question.
I guess going along with that, that seems to me for now where I'm at to be a good working ground to test this question of what is true security and where does it come from? Can I trust really the people of London to not kill me when I'm sleeping out on the street or the cold or rain or all of these obstacles? Can I really hold my ground within and be okay with this? I don't know if that answers that question at all, but that is currently my relationship with money is that I'm seeing if there is a way to not need it at all.
Audrey: Thank you, Liam, for this wonderful call and profound insights into a 23-year-old journey of the spirit. One final question: how can our ecosystem support you and be of service to you?
Liam: I think you all are already doing it. You all really are. I used the word cradled earlier in the conversation. I definitely feel cradled within ServiceSpace. I don't know if there is more that I want to ask of. I just feel like I want to serve more. How do I serve you guys? I'm going to throw that question back at you. How can I serve you?
Nipun: How can we help you? No, how we can we help you? :) So beautiful, Liam. Every time I've interacted with you, whether you're learning how to be fluent in Spanish in 3 months or you tell me about the latest trends of the Millennials, you are putting a wholesome twist on it all, anchored in your own experiments -- experiments with truth, as Gandhi might say. It's really heartwarming. We're so honored that you gave us a little glimpse into your heart.
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