So, where do we go from here?
So where do we go from here?
Two weeks after the launch of unum, I have been left with a sense of love, of warmth, of making a difference, and yes, even a sense of validation. While I try to not to focus too much on external validation, I can’t deny how powerful it can be to know you’ve brought people to tears, helped people reflect on their own journey, or maybe even connected someone with their own cause or purpose. I have to admit, it feels really good. And, the more I focus on the process and less on the outcome, the more the concept flourishes.
However, there have been a few who have reached out wanting to know more or who are confused as to what this thing called “unum” is all about. First off, as mentioned before, it really started as an expression of myself and what I’ve spent a lifetime doing, or at least trying to do. But it’s so much more than that. Connecting people with purpose and then exercising that sense of purpose is the true foundation for unum. unum is a movement… and while I wish it was for everyone, I understand some will not resonate with these concepts. And, that’s OK. We are all at different stages of our journey and at different capacities for reflection and change. I’m totally cool with that.
So, for those of you who do want to know more, hang in there, because this movement is just getting started.
The question I’ve been receiving a lot is how can I get involved and what can I do to be a part of this. Let me first say that you are already “doing” something just by reading these words. Paulo Freire once said “critical reflection is action.” It really starts with finding something you resonate with that stimulates some form of thought that translates into action.
A great example of this are the seven people who have joined me on this journey of sharing our light with each other and the world. You may have noticed their photos and short bio on our web site. Each of these amazing people are unique and beautiful and have come together to share their light with each of you. We simply started a dialogue several months ago as to what this concept could be, and it’s this dialogue that stimulated reflection and action. Check out the blog to connect with each of them and find out more about their story at unum1.ca/blog
One such individual is someone I’ve known for almost a decade now, Alfredo Ramos, from San Salvador, El Salvador. Freddy is one of those special individuals who, simply put, is a survivor. El Salvador is one of those magical places on the planet where the juxtaposition of beauty and violence hit you the moment you step off the plane. I always tell people, my mind is Canadian, my soul is Tico, but my heart is Salvadoran. You can truly feel the scars that have been left as a result of a bloody civil war and the subsequent years of gang violence that grip the country to this day. A country with one of the highest murder rates in the world. Yet a place that is breathtakingly beautiful made all the more special by some of the most warm and loving people you could ever encounter. Having lived through this his entire life, Freddy has certainly felt a spectrum of emotions few of us will ever imagine in our lifetimes. He’s had his personal struggles, lived through some situations that would leave you and I destitute and without hope, and yet he still manages to find some light in the world around him. He’s been up and he’s been down. But he’s never been out… He truly exemplifies what the unum society is all about. Finding your light and letting it shine.
So, if you want an example of what you can do to be part of our movement, I’ll share with you a message I received from Freddy the other day…
I am struggling in my own life these days with the fact that I want to be transformational, creative and intentional as I show my love to people around me. Yesterday I ended up with some PB & J and some jam & cheese sandwiches, a few apples and some cookies somewhere in the city, I went and gave them to the security guards that stand around with their shotguns all day long… What really impressed me was to see the surprise and amazement in their eyes man! A lot of people in our society really live their lives NOT expecting anything good to happen to them, because their hearts are hardened by indifference and selfishness.
As individuals, we can really impact our world one person at the time with small acts of kindness. I thought to myself… “Wow, what if I intentionally and randomly start giving sandwiches away around to people in need, like those guards, would I make the difference? Would I make someone’s day? Would that show love and care to some one in need of love and care? Definitely YES! So, why not do something simple and kind for someone today. Making someone smile and feel love can be a powerful thing.
If Freddy can shine some light on his community, his world, I think we can all find our own unique way to do the same. Moving forward, we will be launching several initiatives that can help you find your way and give you an outlet to join our movement. Maybe you have an idea to share or a cause you’d like to promote. That’s what the unum society is about. It’s open, it’s fluid, it’s free flowing… but it’s all about creating positive change. Change that comes from within. Sharing ideas and supporting each other in our quest to live of life of meaning and purpose while contributing to the health and well being of a person, a cause, or a community. unum… one cause. one community.
When I first began to develop the idea for unum, it was after some serious reflection and soul searching and literally months of journaling. As the concept evolved, I kept coming back to the same place I began. I kept coming back to the simplicity of a clearly articulated sense of self and of my purpose. While the ideas flowed and the concept grew, the core stayed the same. This development of the concept in it’s truest form was merely an exercise in making a commitment to myself. And, that is what unum initially grew from… an expression of my true self, my identity, my light, and my purpose. Launching unum was a declaration of not just who I am, but of equal importance, who I am NOT.
However, I have to say that during the weeks leading up to launch day, I became increasing anxious. The big “F” word was beginning to take over. FEAR! Now, I had journaled about fear before. On one of my many cathartic journeys of placing my thoughts on paper to ease the voices in my head, I expressed my own fears related to my life and some challenging decisions I had to make. And, as I reflected on my thoughts related to fear, I went back to my notes. Back to the therapy the pages provided during some pretty dark times. Reading about my own journey, of how I dealt with my own fears, eased the anxiety and renewed my focus and sense of purpose.
When I think about fear, it usually comes back to the same things. Fear of the unknown. Fear of rejection. And, fear of failure. And when we begin to feel the fear, we usually have those dark thoughts run through our head and we ask ourselves those “what if” questions. What if they don’t like my blog? What if it’s a big failure? What if people think I’m crazy? What if no one reads it and follows it and I don’t see those little red notification dots and my friends think I’m weird and my kids think I’m weirder and I start losing my hair due to the stress and…. Exactly. Those “what if” questions we typically ask ourselves are usually negative and undermine our energy and intention, and shake our confidence. They cloud our ability to see clearly and trust ourselves. So, as an exercise, I began to ask myself the exact opposite questions. What if people love the concept? What if people do follow the blog? What if it does make a difference? If you’ve ever been fearful of a situation, try this and you’ll be amazed at how it makes you feel. More importantly, amazed at how it can change your perspective and boost your confidence.
Launching this blog was as much about overcoming my fears as it was a declaration of who I am and what my purpose is. So, I ask you, what are your fears? Do you ask yourself those negative “what if” questions that drive you into a cycle of self-doubt? And, do those questions cripple your ability to be yourself and act with clarity and confidence? So, the next time your fearful of something, walk through these fours steps.
- Identity the core element of what your fear is based on. It’s usually not as scary as you think.
- Ask yourself those “what if” questions? Both the good and the bad.
- Be honest with yourself and the situation. Focus on the process and break it down.
- Make a personal declaration, trust yourself, but most importantly take action!
I’m sure my fears and anxieties will resurface, as will yours. And, when they do, I’m going to go back to my journals, back to my core, and walk through the steps that got me here. And, if that doesn’t work, I’ll just go back to the sage advice of my mother… “what’s the worst that can happen!”
In a world that is seemingly more complex, chaotic, and cynical by the day, those beams of light that struggle for their place are getting harder and harder to shine through. Images on our social media channels and through the main stream media can be confusing, disturbing, ridiculous, but at times inspirational and even humorous. With this sensory overload bombarding us on a consistent basis, it’s sometimes hard to sift through the chaos and find that beam of light we all need and are searching for. This light can come in so many forms and fashions, but if we aren’t totally aware and awake, we can miss it. It can come in the form of a smile, a gesture, a hug or simply a kind word. These beams of light also fight for your attention as they compete with the chaos and the negative elements aimed at influencing you and confusing you and leaving you feeling like there is little or no hope. Living life consciously can have its challenges. Being awake and aware can sometimes seem like a curse. But it also leads to moments of great clarity and hope and faith and peace and wonder… But where does this clarity come from and how do we find it. I truly believe clarity starts from within, as we seek to define ourselves with a clearly articulated sense of self and purpose. Things we are consistently searching for and struggle to find. But, when we step back, take a deep breath and honestly reflect on our life, we need to ask ourselves some very simple questions. What defines me? Who defines? What motivates me? What are my passions? What is my purpose? Questions many of us have been asking ourselves for a very long time. A great quote I like to go back to when I am struggling is… “be worthy of your gifts.” Simply put, don’t dump on yourself and compromise who you are and stifle your true self for the sake of others. Find your light… whatever and wherever it might be, keep seeking and keep searching, because its right there. In front of you… inside of you. The things we are seeking, the external influences and our experiences, are merely facilitators or stimuli that help us uncover what already exists within all of us.
So, when you think of finding the light amongst the chaos and the darkness, maybe YOU are the light. We all possess some form of “light” that we can share. And, the more we share this light, the brighter our day, our community, our world just might become. Focusing on the light doesn’t mean we are oblivious to the suffering, the wrong-doings, the chaos of our world. Quite the opposite in fact. Focusing on the light gives us the strength, the energy, and the wherewithal to deal with the challenges of the day. The light gives us some clarity and helps us navigate our way, maintaining that sense of self, sense of purpose, and sense of direction. It keeps us grounded and focused. Yes, it’s a daily challenge. It’s hard at times. But if we have that one thing we can go back to, the real challenge is no longer finding it. The real challenge is holding on to it and nurturing it, and ensuring it’s always along for the ride.
So, step back and ask yourself those simple yet tough questions… seek out your truth… seek out your light, your gifts, your passions, your “thing,” your purpose, or whatever it that you resonate with. Find it, grab on to it, nurture it, but most importantly, share it with others. The journey we are all on doesn’t end when we begin to identify our sense of self, our purpose, or our light. It’s an evolution that continues down a path that becomes much more fulfilling and enriching through the sharing of our gifts with others.
When I was in El Salvador years ago on an experiential learning trip, I met an older gentleman named Don Seferino Mendez, or “Pops” as we called him. He was a very wise old guy who had seen a great deal during his time on this planet. He had survived a bloody civil war, witnessed extreme poverty, and lived through some catastrophic natural disasters. His stories were captivating. In a discussion one night around the campfire we were sharing stories and discussing our own personal journeys. We talked about the idea of sharing this experience alongside our new friends and how this made our time in their community even more important and impactful. Essentially, the essence of our trip and our experience was really about sharing our love with this community and these people. The project we were working on together was merely a vehicle. A vehicle for us to express our love for humanity. At this point, there was a pause in the conversation as we stared into the flames, each of us reflecting on the depth of our talk when Pops hit us with this… “love is a gift from God and we have a responsibility to share it with others.”
If that doesn’t shake you up, I’m not sure what will. We have a RESPONSIBILITY to share our light, our love, our purpose with others. It doesn’t matter whether you believe in God or not. Just think about this in terms of our responsibility as Human Beings to make this world a better place. Our responsibility to not only find our light, but more importantly, to share it with others. And, right here right now, during this period of time in our history, what could be more important?