You mentioned your theology degree shaped you. Could you expound on that?
More accurately, it impacted and informed me rather than distinctly shaping my personality. The rigor and depth of analyzing biblical and religious philosophies were mentally stimulating. I am grateful for the knowledge, as it lends valuable perspectives in grasping the complexities of humanity and our world historically. But in terms of subject matter, I needed to be more engrossed in abstract theory and bereft of practical application. However, illuminating the human quest for purpose and meaning helped contextualize life and human nature. So, while not directly applicable to my career, that analytical orientation was beneficial.
You said you wanted to change everything completely. Why is that? What precipitated that?
Well, most people experience periods of re-evaluating their present, past, and future. Perhaps unconsciously, I felt compelled to alter my physical surroundings to gain new perspectives. That may have been the impetus. But when I reminisce on that time, ostensibly everything seemed fine - functioning well. Yet at the same time, not entirely.
You said you wanted to study yourself. How did you accomplish that?
I completed a Vipassana meditation retreat in Jaipur, India. The initial step was surrendering to the unfamiliar and observing my reactions to the novel situations I encountered - how I conducted myself. Certain events transpire, and you pay close attention to how you respond. Plus, when you find yourself alone in the middle of nowhere, that catalyzes transformation. Because you can no longer rely on others to care for you, as you could in familiar territory amongst family, friends, and even strangers, that is very much the case in Armenia - even strangers demonstrate care. So, shifting from that protected environment to one where you alone are responsible for your well-being engenders a mental shift. Suddenly, you are situated in a place where, while not hostile, you must fend for yourself. A mindset transition transpires out of necessity.
Did you, thanks to Vipassana, learn to observe thoughts better non-judgmentally?
Well, that Vipassana retreat represented my maiden experience with the practice. As the teacher mentioned, more than ten days is required. Returning to ordinary life, I gained more insight than the retreat itself. What transpires during Vipassana is you are imparted tools. They educate you in techniques. So, in response to your question - yes and no. Yes, because I learned the techniques. However, tools are futile if not actively implemented. To yield meaningful, lasting results, you must apply them diligently. At a minimum, one hour of meditation daily. This I have struggled with upon re-entering the pace of everyday life. While meditating in India in complete silence was profoundly impactful, the only real hardship was sitting motionless for an hour. Aside from the routine of meditating from 4:30 AM to 9:00 PM, there were three hour-long sitting sessions during which you could not budge. The rest of the time, you could move, stand, walk around, and then resume meditating. But the hour-long sittings intended that you remain still, typically in lotus pose. And you truly feel your bones aching after an hour of no movement! I thought this was hellish. I'll return home and meditate comfortably for even more extended periods. Alas, none of that came to fruition. So, in summary, yes, I acquired the techniques and perceived their value. However, I have not manifested the discipline to integrate them into daily life.
As someone living away from your homeland, how do you now define home? How has Vietnam reshaped this concept for you?
As my parents reside in Armenia, my instinctive association with home is where they live. But more broadly, I'd define it as wherever you feel whole, complete, at peace inside. Home transcends a physical locale.
As fondly as I regard my native country, and as passionately as I feel about it, home is not one singular place. Just as I can call Armenia home, Vietnam has become a second home. I've always sensed that - even before moving here, I referred to it as my second homeland. Home is where you feel wholly yourself and find inner contentment.
But you said you moved to Vietnam partly because you felt unfulfilled in Armenia. How did you attain fulfillment? What was the impetus?
Excellent observation. I was attempting to articulate it in comprehensible terms. You encapsulated it well. I departed Armenia in search of something - driven by an intangible longing. And once I unlocked that mystery within...Armenia will always be home. It was a journey of self-discovery. I sought my true self and yearned for a deeper understanding of my essence.
Okay, what did you discover about yourself through this process?
Well, numerous things. Firstly, I am capable of far more than I conceive. My perceived limitations are but illusions. I discovered I could expand well beyond the frontiers I had delineated.
How did you arrive at that revelation?
By questioning my assumptions and incredibly restrictive beliefs about myself. We are conditioned by life experiences to accept certain notions as truth. But to progress, we must transcend them. Our future is in no way defined solely by our past.
How do you overcome those engrained patterns of thought?
Well, this is why I meditated. The moment you grasp that the ideas swirling in your mind, provoking certain emotions that inform actions, may not represent truths. We are boundless. I want to convey that our past does not wholly dictate our future. Moreso, do not allow your thoughts to be self-limiting or self-sabotaging. Be aware of thoughts that do not serve your highest self. You must learn to release those mental constructs.
Do you intend to remain in Vietnam long-term, or are you open to other possibilities? What are your plans?
In the short term, I foresee myself residing in Vietnam, as I have established a relatively comfortable life here amid familiarity. The only changes on the horizon pertain to halting teaching to concentrate exclusively on marketing efforts or exploring other entrepreneurial ventures and partnerships. But Vietnam remains home for now.
You expressed that various inspirations have guided you on this intercultural passage. What lessons would you impart to others considering a similar journey?
My singular counsel would be: to embrace openness to new experiences. Venturing far from the familiar requires relinquishing preconceived ideas and being receptive to novelty. Yes, even transitioning to an unforeseen profession like teaching - never envisaged, yet profoundly enriching. Entry into unfamiliar terrain, when undertaken with an open spirit, cannot help but transform you.
How have you evolved personally and professionally during these five years abroad?
I'm certain that CELA, Global CEO Academy, and Vipassana were instrumental experiences. But there were other catalysts as well. I have developed tremendously on both personal and professional levels because I am highly intentional about growth and evolution. Progress in all spheres motivates me continuously. So, whatever milestone I reach, I need more. There is always room for improvement. This mindset propels me.