I am honoring myself; therefore, I do more of what gives me joy.
~ Kenneth Soares
(Insight Timer meditation)
Seven years ago, I was shaken by the feeling that I was living in someone else’s life. It was a good life no doubt. In fact, it was one that I’d crafted by my very own hands.
It was a life that had led me into the benevolent arms of the Qatar Foundation, where I worked for three and a half years with ROTA.
It was a life replete with a great salary, alongside some pretty impressive benefits that included paid for housing, a car allowance, funds toward an annual flight home (or anywhere else for that manner), and a happy birthday email sent to me by HR every year.
It was a life filled with doing good deeds, for the disadvantaged within the Gulf and Asia, while working with some multinational—and pretty fabulous—colleagues. We were only 40 people, yet we had about 18 different nationalities (from all over the world) between us.
It was a life working in an extremely multicultural environment, from which we provided others on the Asian continent with access to quality education. We also nurtured youth in Qatar to be more empowered, unified and socially minded, while also providing the more affluent in Doha with opportunities to volunteer their time for less fortunate others—both at home, in Qatar, and abroad.
My work life, at that time, was full. It also included a lot of international travel—with some lifechanging travel allowances, and the pleasure of vicariously hobnobbing with celebrities and royalty at our fundraising gala dinners. These events were so high-end, that using the term VVIP for its guests would be quite an understatement.
Yep, my work existence back then, was a time spent living in the safety and extreme comfort of Doha, where the price of gas was less than that of a bottle of water. It was such a cushty life: an expat’s dream khaleeji existence. And I loved it!
And yet this oh-so-refined existence was also not really mine, or so I felt.
And maybe this was because I was suffering certain delusions of mediocrity; thus, feeling like a life free from financial troubles should not really be mine, especially when there were so many other people suffering poverty—and being taken advantage of because of it—right under our worry-free noses.
Whatever the reason, I just knew that something was amiss.
I was thoroughly engaged in what was meaningful work, and yet I felt somehow empty. I had this persistent and heavy sense that I was missing the fulfillment of some unknown promise to myself.
To do what exactly, was the unanswered question.
So, in a bid to shake off my dissatisfaction, I thought at length about some of my childhood dreams. I thought of how I had really wanted to be a cartoonist, a dance choreographer, and a nun—all at the same time.
And this reminded me of the fact that I had always had a deep interest in artistic and spiritual matters—without a clear sense of this fact in most of my adulthood, till then.
In that period, I also read a lot. I went through all sorts of books on personal and/or spiritual development, including
John-Paul Flintoff’s How to Change the World,
Roman Krznaric’s How to Find Fulfilling Work,
Thich Naht Hanh’s Work,
Rhonda Byrne’s The Magic,
Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching,
Jan Chozen Bays’s How to Train a Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness,
Richard Branson’s Screw It, Let’s Do It,
Rick Norris’s Think Yourself Happy,
Richard Templar’s The Rules of Work,
John Williams’s Screw Work, Let’s Play,
Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad,
and much, much more.
I even registered and took a rather expensive six-month Rich Dad Coaching course, on how to become a real estate investor. Because in my mind, whatever I did to transform my work life for the better, also needed to include a bid for financial freedom.
Now, taking that course didn’t lead to me buying or selling a single property, but what it did do is help me define a new strategy for living; one which was not only guided by all those books I had been reading, but was also relevant to what I was passionate about.
I called it my Freedom2BE Strategy © 2013
Basically, I put together a seven-year strategy, which was to be accomplished by 2020. The strategy was comprised of four quadrants that I was to focus on in order to achieve my large goal of “exponentially expanding my freedom to BE”—in order to transform myself, and perhaps also the world, with critical consciousness and much Love.
Somehow, I’d unknowingly devised what Vishen Lakhiani, today, refers to as “lofty goals”. But I did so with no real idea of how to fulfill it. I only had the small inkling that whatever I did (to initiate my strategy), had to include increasing my capacity to: 1) Read & Write, 2) Teach & Serve, 3) Gift & Invest, and 4) keep my Mind-Body-Soul Fit.
In my usual pedantic manner, I tried to outline the essence of the above four quadrants and so came up with something like this:
Read—I must always critically read the word and the world (both text and context) in order to better understand it. Basically, I had to try to develop a critical literacy of place, media, society, ecology, and many other taken-for-granted aspects of life.
For certain, I had to investigate my wider environment, but also my own existence through reflection, artistic experimentation and scientific research.
Write—I must also re-write the word and world; thus, through this process start to re-write the silenced Self back to life, by “talking back” and “speaking with and to” others, so that we also “speak together” about aspects of life that have been sidelined, forgotten, ignored, and/or eradicated by mainstream narratives.
This writing was to be in many forms, be that text, image, sound and/or the movement of the body in space.
Teach—I must practice “education as a practice of freedom”, by engaging in praxes such as critical pedagogy, anarchist geography, decolonial becoming, and/or womanist loving. And through this learn to unlearn much of how I was living my life unconsciously; thus, enable what I think of as “the art of (un)thinking”—a precursor to the many critical literacies to be gained through reading and writing.
My very behavior too was to be an example of pedagogy, as it is not enough to say what I think is best to do – if I myself wasn’t an embodiment of trying to live right.
Serve—I must find a way to contribute to other people’s existence by giving of my time freely; however, within reason.
Basically, I had to find ways to be of use to someone other than myself; that is, especially to anyone who felt that I had something to contribute to the expansion of his or her life.
Gift—I need to engage in existing gift economies and even set up economies of my own, by giving freely of my time whenever possible, again within reason so there is no sense of being abused.
I had to find ways to engage in philanthropic actions that were financial, but mostly about giving unconditional love and expressing loving kindness to family, friends, acquaintances and even total strangers.
Invest—I must invest in my future through material assets, commodities and ideas that can produce passive income – so that I can develop my gifts without pause.
But more than that, I must invest in people through mentoring, sponsoring and teaching at will. And this also included investing in my own personal growth, without fail.
Mind-Body-Soul FIT—I must get my mind right and body fit, while also activating my soul consciousness through yoga, mindfulness and other spiritual practices that dissolve my Ego and remind me that I am an integral and interdependent (epigenetic) part of a vibrant living-world of infinite intelligence and possibility.
Fundamentally, I had to meditate—keeping alive a cycle of always question, inquire, probe and doubt.
Now six years later, sitting miles away from Doha in Accra, I am starting to initiate this long overdue strategy with some serious determination. I do so mostly in the Read & Write quadrant—as I’ve been writing and sketching myself into some unknown becoming of late.
And in doing so, I realize that my angst back then, was all about my failure to nurture my life as a creative. My sense now is that—even with all the great things that I did then—my working life, generally lacked any kind of flow-state.
I worked hard. I worked well. But I rarely experienced those moments in which the whole world falls away, as you sink into a timeless making of something that comes from a place you do not know—with a fluidity and ease you just cannot replicate in any other wide-eyed state.
For so long, my life had been mostly about growing materially; so much so that I’d forgotten how to lose myself in the meandering magic of some unseen muse channeling genius into existence through me.
Because then, I was way too full of myself: my education, my job, my pay, my status, my belongings, and my anxieties about making it in this rather ‘expensive’ material world. So very full was I, that I’d emptied myself of a freedom of truer existence—a Freedom2BE.
But no more! Or at least this is my intention, as I nowadays boldly (and sometimes barely) enact my living strategy daily—even if it is belated, beginning a year before it was all supposed to have been achieved.
Better late than never, I’d say.