I was fortunate 2020 was a lot kinder to me than it was to some others. I did feel the occasional ambiguous loss (click here to read more about ambiguous loss) thanks to the circumstances. I felt it in small things like:
- The perpetual stress of taking COVID19 precautions — wearing a mask, washing your hands, being mindful of not touching your face, etc
- The drop in face-to-face interactions with family and friends and my suspicion of strangers who ignored following the norms
- The absence of travel from my life, which had been one of the ways to reconnect with self and nature
While I acknowledge the discomfort I felt, my privilege saved me from the struggle to make ends meet that many people faced this year and my practices allowed me to be well.
On a personal front, this year was uneventful, which was a relief compared to the previous two years. On the professional front, this year was momentous because I made a shift from working a full-time job to freelancing to eventually setting up my own initiative, The Wellbeing Movement.
What started with an abstract wish of creating a movement for wellbeing has now crystallized into an initiative focused on weaving a thriving, inter-dependent ecosystem that enables wellbeing for all, by all. The potential of the concept is evident in some action-based learning we had this year. The road ahead is exciting and long.
Like every year, I summarize the learnings, practices, and feelings that have defined my journey this year. This is a long post so feel free to skip to the section you are most curious about.
3 Key Learnings
I had many key learnings because I have dramatically shifted my ways of looking at the process of change-making. None of what I have shared is intended to demonstrate that the other prevalent approaches are wrong. These are just insights I am able to intuitively appreciate more for their power to enable change.
There are different forms of capital
We need to move beyond a world governed by money, to a world that unlocks other forms of wealth, like time, community, attention, compassion, etc. I experimented with some of these in my own life and realized it creates a different flow of goodness.
“The question we’re left with is this — what forms of capital do we want to amplify? If we broaden that lens, the possibilities are limitless. If we use our hearts to assume value everywhere, if we use our heads to wisely invest in the greatest of our capitals, if we use our hands to courageously design for the full spectrum of this wealth, we will create an entirely new solution set for a thriving humanity.” — Nipun Mehta on Unlocking Multiple Forms of Wealth
Shift the Source of your Knowing and Being
In an incredible hour I spent with Parag bhai and Meghna from Moved By Love, I heard them capture something I intuitively knew was essential in this world.
What if we are able to connect people to parts of themselves that have the right answers. What if we are able to do this by creating a regenerative social fields which triggers an inner transformation that causes ripples of change in the outer world. When imperfect people are connected deeply in such a field, it can create magic.
The problems of our world will not be solved by just knowledge and action but by a collective awakening and transformation of our own consciousness. This is amply clear to me now. (Read this post by Otto Scharmer that explains this idea in the context of world happenings)
Follow Intention, Not Goal
Goal-based approaches are useful in solving problems that have a clear technical solution. Using this approach, we can do things like design a plane, run a manufacturing unit, or prepare for a sports competition. There are challenges in this approach when the system you are working in is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) and when the change cannot be evidenced easily and deterministically.
Following intention means focusing on living the values or principles that reflect the world you wish to create every single day while keeping the larger vision (not specific goals) at the back of your mind. If we reflect on our actions and observe their effects, we may get better at defining and living the intentions. This could lead to the emergence of an evolving path to make change happen with the least resistance in a VUCA system. (Watch this simple video to understand emergence)
3 Key Practices
There are many practices I have been learning to embody in my life this year. Choosing three was difficult, but these three have been the most impactful for me. You will notice that underlying all of them has been the idea of listening.
Look Inwards while Looking Outwards
I used to typically learn cognitively by reading and conversing with others or learn by doing through a process of action-reflection.
This year led to two profound shifts. Firstly, I intentionally chose people to listen to and in most cases, these were people who could push my thinking by sharing radically different perspectives and asking difficult questions. Two, instead of soaking in what I heard with the head, I soaked in the feeling with my heart and I tried to bring a micro-practice in my life with my hand. This has been transformational in bridging the gap between knowing and doing. More importantly, it has shifted the locus of any problem from what is out there (e.g. society creates barriers for many people) to what is within me (e.g. how I am lowering barriers in my own work to make it accessible to others).
Create a holding space for yourself and your intention
I spoke about acting with an intention and not a goal. However, it is incredibly difficult in a world that constantly measures success with the outcomes you achieve. In such a world, you need to create a fertile space that can hold and nurture the seed within you. You need to make time to engage with this space with consistency.
My circles and communities have become this holding space for me. They have done wonders in offering me support and fueling my conviction (more later).
Make time to nurture your Body, Mind, Heart and Soul
I have been more consistent about my wellbeing practices this year than ever before. I do something to nurture my body, mind, heart, and soul every day, even if it is for 5 minutes. I will share a few examples of my own practices:
- Body: daily exercise, nutritious food
- Mind: doing one task mindfully, no device windows in the day
- Heart: listening deeply in at least one conversation daily, labeling and acknowledging my emotions, tracking-grounding-resourcing
- Soul: watching the sunset, listening to my favourite soulful songs
As a result, I have felt more positive emotions and energy. I have seen it enhance my ability to live my intentions.
Most importantly, I have been able to do more and better for others in my life both at work and at home. This has further disproved the myth that it is selfish to invest in your own wellbeing when others are suffering. We must wear our own oxygen mask first.
3 Overarching Feelings
The tentativeness with which I started the year has translated to feelings of conviction, support and gratitude by the end of the year.
My conviction was fuelled by the positive affirmation I received from the people I worked with and the people I worked for at the Wellbeing Movement, whether they were professionals, practitioners, seekers or volunteers. Participating in spaces like the Moved By Love Pods, the Good Society Circles and the GAIA journey further demonstrated the power of creating communities in generative fields bound by trust and shared intentions.
My support not only came from my family and friends but also the circles I joined, like the Solidarity Circle with the Presencing Institute, the Wellbeing Lab under the Wellbeing Movement, etc. It also came from the inspiration and encouragement I received from collectives that embody principles I want to bring alive in my work — the Weaving Lab, Co.Lab^x, Service Space and Building Belonging. (read my post on the power of circles here)
My gratitude this year was rooted in a deep recognition by both my head and my heart of:
- the many protections I enjoy compared to those that are marginalized and face constant discrimination in our world based on their caste, race, religion, gender, economic status, etc.
- the kindness of strangers, like my milkman and all the delivery persons, who keep my life moving
- the mercy loved ones showed to me every day — for example, when I don’t show gratitude for the meal on my table or when I don’t listen to understand
- the support and safe space offered by my circles, my team and my mentors
- the many blessings I receive as gifts from our planet, like the awe-inspiring sunsets and starry nights and the generosity of trees I have witnessed through the year
- the learning I had, in terms of deepening my understanding of wellbeing and movements
I want to close with gratitude because it has been the reason I have shifted my worldview from “I think, therefore I am” to “I am because we are.” It is both liberating and empowering to embody this feeling. I truly hope you experience in your own lives the interconnectedness, love, and positivity that I felt this year! (read my post on gratitude here)