How do you find your purpose? And when you find it how do you continue to follow it throughout your life?
I believe there is something much more to life than we often realize. There is a force that pulls us through – some call it the Universe, others name it God and others see it emerge through scientific phenomenons.
Many people go their entire life never attune to this “Flow” as I like to call it, and miss out on the many signs that help to guide us, particularly through the difficult and transformative moments.
For the past two years, I’ve been on a quest to follow my purpose and to live in a way that makes me feel the powerful breath of life itself. The journey started when I first began developing our nonprofit, Humanity Unified. At the time, I was co-working in Princeton, NJ and formed deep, loving friendships with two women who lived in my local community. Each day after work, we would sit on the couches of the co-working space and chat for hours about life, ancient philosophies and our personal endeavors. Both women taught me the importance of reflection, stillness and meditation. They were the first of many people to help me realize my purpose. The interesting piece is that when I chose to make service a large part of my life, the right people always showed up at exactly the right time.
Once Humanity Unified was officially a nonprofit and the project in Rwanda was underway, I knew I was on the right path. No work had ever brought me so much joy. I was willing to spend hours upon hours working on budgets, partnerships, events, social media, bringing a strong board together and developing an impactful program in collaboration with the community and our local partner. Our organization had taken on an enormous $60,000 project in its first year. Yet I believed to my core that we could do it. Too many serendipitous events had occurred in bringing it together. Our initial visits to Rwanda felt like surreal journeys being led by clues, symbols and signs that guided us to our local partner and later to the courageous community of women we’ve been working with over past year.
As time progressed, and the work began to pile up, I started to lose sight of my initial intention to serve others. I became overwhelmed and stressed to an unhealthy level. I would wake up, roll over and check my email to see if any donations had come in overnight. I struggled to build partnerships and to keep a strong dedicated Board in tact. I stopped taking time to be still, to meditate and to reflect. I became angry with myself for taking on so much. I began to lose faith in whatever had brought me to this point. Yet each time we went back to Rwanda and saw the incredible impact of the project, I felt a sense of renewal. It was a reminder to stay present and to look within myself for the initial joy that had birthed this project – now cloaked by sabotaging thoughts and fears.
I believe we are always receiving reminders to stay present and to see through all the crap and stress that we create in our heads. We just need to be aware enough to recognize them.
When I returned home I started taking time to sit in stillness (preferably in nature) to remember what is most important in life: love, compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude. I released the anger and fear and opened my heart to possibilities. I told myself that I was doing all that I could and I surrendered (truly surrendered) to whatever outcome was meant to be. I asked for guidance from loved ones who have passed on and I listened and looked for signs.
They always came.
Synchronicities in numbers; kind notes from friends that always appeared when I most needed them; and a wind chime gifted to me by a stranger who I knew was sending a message from my grandmother who passed away several years ago. “You are doing great work,” the stranger said to me after I told her about Humanity Unified. She lifted what she called an “angel chime” from around her neck and handed it to me. “You should have this,” she said to me before moving on. Later that evening I ran into some cousins and my grandmother’s 87-year-old sister who is a spitting image of my grandmother. I spent the evening with my great aunt, holding her hand as we listened to music from a nearby concert on the beach. I felt the strong presence of my grandmother that evening and heard her message loud and clear: Keep going, you are doing great work.
The year was filled with points of remembering and forgetting that there is in fact a Flow to all of this – this thing we call life. When we’re in the Flow we are present, loving, compassionate, open-hearted, and above all, grateful. Gratitude is the key to seeing abundance in any situation no matter how bleak.
Many of the women we work with live in and have experienced the most horrific situations imaginable. They are survivors of a genocide. Many have been raped, lost children and spouses, and dwell in squalor. Each time we visited Rwanda, I noticed a deepening sense of gratitude in all the women. They were finding hope in a life they believed ended with the death of a loved one or the violation of their body. This gratitude for new beginnings in their life made them happy.
Even in the bleakest of circumstances we can find Flow.
I am writing this as our team prepares for the end of the project in Rwanda. We hit every single goal we set out for and then some. It has been the greatest learning experience of my life. Even if circumstances were different and we did fall short, I know that everything would still be OK. The women found Flow and so did I. We are at peace.
We are all empowered with the ability to keep a place of stillness within. Through reflection and gratitude, we remain on an ever-evolving, ever expanding path that is in alignment with our purpose.
I encourage you to keep an open heart and to go quietly within, for it will be in this stillness that you’ll hear the whisper of your heart, always guiding, always reminding.
Photo by Anthony Russo