February 19, 2011

Blinded by vision


My 2011 Intention and Visualization board

One of the main characteristics of any effective change maker is their ability to have a clear vision.  But what does this really mean?

Yesterday, in a rather confronting exchange with a top-notch New York marketing executive, I realized that perhaps the time has come for me to pause and reflect upon my vision for my own life.

As I listened to her pose some rather tough questions, it dawned on me that I needed to get some clarity around, in a nutshell, what gets me out of bed each morning.

The ability to clearly articulate one’s vision happens when our ideals and practicalities merge. Being someone who is driven to evoke change within the humanitarian world – a highly subjective and seductive one I might add – there is a tendency to get so caught up in it that ultimately without a clear map, I stand the chance of being blinded by my own vision.

You see, my whole working life has been in service to others, both at the organizational level as well as at the personal one. I might go further to say that the personal drives the professional, which has resulted in nearly two decades of UN service.  There is inter-connectedness in all things. Consciousness reveals this.

The sudden departure of a mother from the familial home forced me into becoming an adult at a very tender age. Traumatized by these circumstances it wasn’t until years later when I undertook the ever so crucial work on self that I realized its numbing extent. My mission to save my family had extended to the lofty one of trying to save the world, even if at the cost of losing myself.

A few years ago, through some very daunting life experiences, I discovered that while close, what was getting me out of bed each morning was not in clear alignment with my own personal mission. Somewhere along the way, my illusions and the UN’s had collided. It became apparent that if what I was truly called to do involve rolling up my sleeves and working alongside the lowest common denominator for change, sitting behind a desk adhering to rules of procedure wasn’t going to get me there!

This revelation led to my departure from the confines of organizational humanitarianism. But first, to [attempt] to save the world; I had to first rescue myself.

Two years later, practicalities founded on Maslow’s basic needs propelled me back to the UN world from whence I came.  Deciding to return was even harder than the choice to leave in the first place. I was forced to face emotions that I had previously refused to own – namely anger, shame and regret. I granted my woeful self about 2 months to wallow in this murky pool.

However in time, rather than reject these darker elements I chose to embrace and dissect them to see what was really going on.  As one friend of mine said to me as I pondered this decision of return “just remember you’re not returning to sameness for you are not the same person who departed the system two years prior.” His words were perhaps some of the most poignant that have been imparted to me since my hiatus.

Having taken the time to know and understand me, I’ve managed to return to the system less affected by it. I am truly living how to be in a world but not of that world. My daily mantra reminds me to do my duties fully. The surrounding ego-driven tactics at play in the environment cascade off my back like a waterfall; sometimes to the extent where I marvel at my own evolving self.

The gift of choosing to take time out from what had essentially become routine; i.e., changing country and continents every 3 or so years was the best that I could have offered myself at the time I chose to. For example, I was able to spend more than the usual stress-filled 3 week holiday at home with my family and friends – this gave us time to know each other rather than to continue to dwell in our self-induced perceptions of each other.

Also, I took the time to delve deeply into one of my greatest passions; yoga. This path led me to India where I spent close to 3 months practicing and studying yoga intensively. An evolving yogini for nearly a decade, as Ms. New Yorker said to me “the way you feel about yoga is how I feel about my dogs.” Anyone who owns dogs or leads a yogic lifestyle – or both – will fully appreciate the breadth and depth of this statement.

During this period, I became heavily involved in an exciting new field; humanitourism – whereby in visiting new places one also gets involved with a humanitarian element that gives back to the communities of the country where one has gone on vacation.  At the base of this lies the essence of reciprocity.

In Jamaica, tourism is potentially our biggest foreign exchange earner. Rather than visitors merely coming to the island to soak up our gifts bestowed upon us by Mother Nature – sun, sand, sea, amazing people and culture – through humanitourism they also have a chance to contribute to the wellness of the island such that it continues to be the sacred and magical place that it is.

The timing of my impulsive action to pick up the phone and call this woman who had been recommended to me by a dear friend and kindred spirit was uncanny; almost three months after my return to the Organization, was clearly a divine interception. To say that I felt out of sorts at the end of our exchange is an under-statement.

I managed to escape from the office as fast as I could, go home, meditate and get to bed very early. Writing, my cathartic outlet brought me out of slumber during the sacred dark hours just before dawn.

Halfway through the first quarter of this auspicious 2011, I am compelled to remove the rosy shades of a prestigious position within a respected and largely mis-understood Organization whose image is oftentimes not in sync with its realities. I hasten to add that in spite of its limitations, being a part of it has had its merits.

My global activism has been born out of opportunities that I have witnessed first-hand through my years of service there. It is through this witnessing and sharing of my first person stories that I know that the seeds of change must be planted within our own garden before they can be shared with the entire forest.

So what then is truly my vision? I envision a world where all human beings are free from suffering and the causes of suffering.  By suffering I mean an alleviation of hunger, dis-ease, poverty and discrimination of any kind. I envision a world where for those of us who are equipped to heal and help ourselves, that we are driven to also aid others in their own restoration. In this world, as we build communities – through families, friends, workplaces – democracy then becomes a realistic and attainable ideal. Otherwise, it remains a first world pipe dream; akin to dancing to a rhythm where one is not in tune with the beat.

Collaborating, communing and communicating through voice, through word, through yoga are the gifts that I have been given to use as tools to craft my mission.

I now see that while my vision opens my eyes whenever I awake, it is in fact my mission that gets me out of bed. Vision and mission are inter-related forces – their livelihood depends upon each other. One without the other is like a rebel without a cause.  Visions emanate from within and usually result from our life circumstances. Once we can clearly see, only then can we begin to carve our missions.

Having a mission is exciting at best and frightening at worse. What if your vision has been blurred to the extent that you’ve alluded yourself into a mission that is not your own? Being able to realize this is a blessing as it demonstrates some sense of awareness and work on self.

Our visions are our internal sparks and through them, we shape our missions and share our light with the world.

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