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What is our responsibility?

That is a big question isn’t it? I like to ask a lot of questions, it is how I learn. I usually ask too many questions starting with why and I am learning that asking questions with why, does not always lead to an answer.
My question today though is about responsibility: social responsibility, responsibility for sustainability, responsibility to ourselves and more importantly in the end, the responsibility to our children, whether they be ours or someone else’s. As we continue on our journey each day I am learning that we need to continually ask ourselves:

What is my responsibility?

We are not sure if we are coming out of a recession or heading into more trouble. It depends which newspaper you read, which country you live in, and how deeply you want to bury your head in the sand. If we look at what is going on in Europe, between Portugal and Greece, it does not look like we are emerging from anything. If we look at the Horn of Africa we are not only seeing economic hardship, we are seeing human hardship that is beyond comprehension. But is it our responsibility to help those people? Is it not our responsibility to at least care? But what can I do as an individual? And is it up to the individual? If it is not up to the individual we must look to governments and business. With government debt ridden and dealing with unmanageable political and fiscal policies, do we need to look to business for the solutions?

Right now it seems that business is making profit their main focus and responsibility. As a student of economics and a believer in the power of the free market I would argue that for any business, profit is the priority. I believe that Keynesian economics sound good on paper but from what we are seeing in the US for example, it does not seem to be working. Yet, as governments, businesses and individuals are being affected by world economies, our personal and social aspirations become less important than our survival. Survival of course depends clearly on where we live – if we are in Canada or the US our definition of survival is much different than if we are living in a developing country where water, food and shelter top the list.

With the economic austerity that we see pervading our communities it is a good excuse for business to shelve projects, to stop giving to charity and to use economic issues to become only profit driven, either for their own personal gain or to answer to shareholders. I would like to argue that it is those businesses that have a purpose beyond profit that will go the furthest in the end and come out the winners; for themselves and for each one of us.
As business becomes involved in their local communities they see the immediate effect on their bottom line. As companies tackle sustainability, they are seeing more and more what innovation can do to drive growth and profitability. If they are big enough corporate citizens to look beyond their own borders, they see what taking responsibility for transforming tomorrow can do.

So what is our responsibility in the end?

As business leaders, we must accept the responsibility to engage in our communities where we are present as a priority rather than a choice. This approach will ensure long term and sustainable advantages for both profitability and growth. Businesses are in a unique position to make much wider contributions in our communities than we can as individuals.
As employees we have the right and responsibility to ask about the environmental and sustainability policies where we work. What are the human rights policies if our company does work in developing countries? What is the company doing to participate in the communities where it does business? I am sure you can think of more questions related to wherever you work.
As individuals we have the choice each day when we make a decision to buy from a company that is responsible. Our dollars drive profits that these companies are looking for. If each one of use can affect change in our world, the more of us that actually do something with the power we must realize we have, will help to make real differences in our communities.

In the end, each one of us is ultimately responsible in helping to build a healthy, sustainable, and let’s hope, happy society that is socially aware.

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Silence is Golden

Every morning I get on my iPad and I read the newspapers, go through Twitter and then check Facebook – first my personal page and then the other pages that I am administrator for, one of which is The Social Effect. About a week ago, as I was scrolling through the Newsfeed for The Social Effect I came across a post about a Flash Mob Meditation in London. I happen to be a fan of Flash Mobs. I have wanted to take part in one or stage one for years. I can’t tell you how many times I have watched the Oprah Flash Mob in Chicago or the Sound of Music Flash Mob in the train station in Belgium. I am not sure exactly what it is about them, the reference to old style musicals when everyone would break into dance, the simple joy of the onlookers, or is it just that they are a lot of fun! When I saw this idea of meditation and a flash mob THAT caught my intention. Yes, meditation is part of my life. When I am consistent it is morning and night, and when I am not, it is when it is. That simple. To put the two together seemed genius to me. I checked out the site for Med Mob Inquire Within that was the parent organization to see if there was a Meditation Flash Mob in Montreal and found there was only one in Ottawa.
It was almost before I knew it that I had typed and posted an inquiry on the MedMob page to ask how I could go about setting this up in Montreal. By noon that day I had spoken to Patrick in Austin Texas and heard his story about how the first Mediation Flash Mob had started, and by noon the next day, with Patrick’s help, I had a Facebook page and a Facebook event set up. If that does not show you the power of the Internet when we are willing to take action, I don’t know what does!

Is this not the time to create the world we choose to live in?

On July 28th, over 94 cities around the world will meditate in highly visible public spaces. The intention is to expose the world to meditation and expand positivity to every walk of life.
It is an event that is open to everyone, from every path, experienced or not. This is a movement that is happening throughout the entire world so we come together as one unified force to set the momentum for the future of our planet.

Right Here Right Now

Meditation Flash Mob - Montreal

The future of our planet?
Those are big words.
Huge words.
But think about it.
What if.
All over the world.
At the same time.
Everywhere.
We just.
STOPPED.
All of us.
Just for an hour.
And we sat in meditation.
Or silence.
Or as quietly as we could.
What would happen?
What would we hear?
We will never know until we do it will we?

“I can’t meditate!”

That is what I thought. But that is why they call it the practice of meditation. It is not something we perfect; it is something that we do.  And when I do it, I am surprised at what I hear or learn about myself. Not always what I want to hear, and often I don’t learn anything. I always do come away a little quieter, with a little more space and patience and a lot more love for whom and what is around me.  I started meditation as I went down a Buddhist path a few years ago, but mediation is part of all religions, some of our western religions just hide it better than others.  Now it is part of my life and has no religious implications for me. It doesn’t need to for you either.

So why don’t you join us as we mediate on Thursday, July 28thfrom 12 to 1 in Dorchester Square in Montreal?

Dorchester Square - Montreal

You aren’t in Montreal?
Then see if your city is having a Med Mob and mediate there.
There isn’t one?
You are working and can’t make it?
Sit in silence wherever you are. That works too.
Or do what I did: START ONE. Contact Patrick at inquire@medmob.org.

Spread the Word

Now, I have a favour to ask. I would like to get more people out to our first mediation next week. I have shared the event with all of my friends and many of those attending have done the same. If you are on Facebook, would you share it with your friends? Even if they are not in Montreal. Maybe they have a friend that is, or it will pique their interest and they will find the MedMob going on in their city.

Here is how you do it.

  1. Click on this link: Meditation Flash Mob Montreal 28/07/11
  2. On the top right click: I Am Attending
  3. On the left under the photo you will see a box that says +Select Guests to Invite – click on it.
  4. A box will pop up with all of your friends. Click on their photos, add a personal message at the bottom if you like and then click submit. It’s that simple.

Right now we are at 40 Attending, 48 Maybe and 466 Awaiting Reply. It would be amazing to see 100 attending and 1000+ Awaiting Reply!

Silence is Golden

You can bring your kids or you can bring your parents, or: BRING EVERYONE! This is going to be a beautiful event that we will all remember. You are welcome to come to the entire event or for part of it. You can meditate the entire time, or you can sit and bask in the peace.
Come experience the power of collectively exuding peace and feel the impact we are having by sitting together, silently radiating happiness and grace in all directions. Simple acts can stimulate major paradigm shifts in thinking and with all we have going on in our world, I am not sure that would be a bad thing.

If you would like to join the Mediation Flash Mob Event on July 28th, click here.
If you would like to join the Montreal MedMob Facebook page, click here.
If you would like to learn more about MedMob Inquire Within, click here.

Take Action and Inspire Change

Take Action! Inspire Change is the theme this year of the 2nd annual Nelson Mandela International Day. This Day is to honour Mr. Mandela and celebrate his achievements towards a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic South Africa, his dedication to the service of humanity in the fields of conflict resolution, race relations, promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups, as well as the upliftment of poor and underdeveloped communities. In November 2009 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed July 18th as “Nelson Mandela International Day” to be celebrated each year. It is the first time that the UN has dedicated an International Day to an individual.

It is only 67 minutes out of your whole life

Now here is what we all are being asked to do to celebrate: perform 67 minutes of public service – one minute for every year of the South African leader’s own service to humanity.
They are not asking a lot, or are they? I find it interesting that we need to be asked to perform public service as if it is not something that we would think about it on our own. I am thinking I better put it in my to-do list to make sure that I don’t forget, and that I allow for the whole 67 minutes. Is this not something that I should be doing each day? That is too much time I hear some of you say? Is it?
Forget about how much time it is, what exactly does it mean, perform public service. When I read this I sat there dumbfounded. What could I do this Monday for 67 minutes to help others? I thought about my day and all that I had already planned and thought: “It is just symbolic, I don’t really have to do 67 minutes of service. I do a lot all the time.” Do I? Do I do enough?

What is enough?

I think of Mr. Mandela and wonder if he ever thought: “I have done enough.” He is human after all. If he thought that way I am wondering if he would have accomplished all he did in the fight for freedom, justice and democracy.
After I decided I was going to fit in those 67 minutes I couldn’t figure out what I would do. I sat there staring at the screen thinking, I could not come up with one thing to do,
“What can I do to perform service? I don’t have a project going on, there is no event coming up that I am involved with right now?”
Here I am, someone that truly does believe that if each of us does our part we can affect change in our world, and to me ‘our world’ is what is around us, the same way I am sure Mr. Mandela was thinking of ‘his world’ as he fought for human rights.

67 Ways to Change Our World

Thankfully these days we don’t need to look very far for answers to anything and the answer to how I could spend those 67 minutes found me in a blog post. I don’t think I could come up with a better list than these 67 suggestions from Natalie Govender in her blog on HUDDLEMIND: 67 Ways To Change Our World (posted on July 15th, 2011).

Here is what I am going to do

I am going to make Monday not about ME. I am going to do all those things that I say I am going to do for others that day, those small things, those things that I don’t think matter, that matter to those I do them for. Then I am going to move forward on two projects that I have started – one on meditation and one for the homeless.

What are you going to do to celebrate?

Is it going to be doing the dishes or taking out the garbage?
Is it calling that friend who is going through a rough time and you just don’t want to hear about it?
Is it finally calling that charity to offer to volunteer.
Is it making a donation?
Is it making a conscious decision to speak up for something you believe in?
Is it simply remembering: that giving is doing service and we are able to do that in each of our daily actions no matter how big or small those actions may be.
 Now, what I would love to hear is what YOU are going to do on Monday, July 18th to celebrate Nelson Mandela International Day. I have made the commitment, now it is your turn. There is a comment box down below. Put it in writing. Make it real. And remind yourself as I am reminding myself; we could make this commitment every single day.

For more information on Nelson Mandela International Day, click here
Or join their Facebook page, click here

In the name of love

That is really why I did it, why I signed up to be a volunteer for ONE. It had nothing to do with U2 or Bono or The Edge.
But let’s go back a few months to when I received an e-mail from ONE Campaign asking if, as a member, I would like to volunteer for the Campaign at the U2 360° Tour in Montreal in July. I didn’t hesitate and I sent off an e-mail telling them a little bit about myself and pretty much forgot about it. Then in the middle of June as the buzz about the concert started in full force here in Montreal I remembered I had volunteered and assumed that I must not have been picked. And as seems to happen more often than not, the next day, on June 16th I received an e-mail from Maura telling me that “I would be joining them on Friday, July 8th”. Simple, just like that.
I was told I would receive the info of where to go and to look for an e-mail on the 7th with details. Now I have to tell you, I was not a Bono fan, U2 fan, nor did I even know who The Edge was until I arrived at the site on Friday. You notice I said, was not, because I am now.
But I am getting ahead of myself. I cleared my day on the 8th and on the 7th I found myself checking my e-mails a little more often than usual. Earlier than expected, the e-mail from Maura came in telling me where to go and a follow up e-mail that we needed to be there at 2 pm. There was the usual info for any outdoor event about wearing sunscreen, comfortable shoes and then NOT to bring professional cameras. I guess some people volunteer for different reasons than mine.
It was all over the news about how bad the traffic would be and to take the metro and I of course was late so I hopped in a cab and had no traffic problems and arrived at the corner of the site with the police and the concert goers who were getting off the metro in droves at 1:45 PM. They were expecting 80,000 people and there were some who had been camping out since the day before.

A rock concert virgin

I have to tell you a secret: THIS WAS MY FIRST ROCK CONCERT! Yes, at 48, I had never been to a rock concert so I was not sure what I was in for. I made my way in with all of the fans in their “we love U2” t-shirts”, getting lost, something I am very good at, until I finally found the other volunteers trying unsuccessfully to find some shade under one very thin tree.
As we introduced ourselves I saw that we were certainly a mixed group in age, languages spoken and nationality. Appropriate for an organization that is all over the world with its only goal to fight extreme poverty and preventable diseases. It was not too long before Maura came, introduced herself, and moved us down to our home base near the site.

Maura - our amazing ONE team leader

We’re not asking for your money, we’re asking for your voice

We were given our ONE t-shirts and then given the instructions on why we were there: to sign up new ONE members and what we would be doing over the next few hours
For any of you that don’t know, here is what ONE is all about:

ONE’s mission is to fight extreme poverty and preventable disease in the poorest places on the planet, particularly in Africa. We hold world leaders to account for the commitments they’ve made to fight extreme poverty, and we campaign for better policies, increased and more effective aid, and trade reform. We also work closely with leaders in Africa to support greater democracy, accountability and transparency in how these resources are deployed.

Maura was amazing, not only did she know her stuff and what we would need to know, she knew how to make us feel comfortable and feel part of ONE right away. She also was able to make us see the importance of what we were going to be doing and that each of the inscriptions we got would make a difference. I was reminded again that each of us has a voice and we have to use it. With over 2.5 million members ONE has a real voice in making change in our world.
We were given our elevator speech about ONE as we only had 3 ½ hours to collect as many names, e-mails and postal codes as we could and our goal was to beat Nashville where they had collected 4,000 names. We were also told that we each needed to get at least 100 names to have our place in the Inner Circle for the show. I was laughing to myself as I did not even know that we were going to get to see the show. At least you know what my motives were in being there!  We were also told that the top five, WOULD GET TO GO ON STAGE. You should have seen our faces! What a great incentive to get us all going. It certainly worked for me – a chance to go on stage in front of 80,000 people and see what that was all about? WOW!
We were handed our iPads, yes, we each had an iPad, that had a ONE screen that explained the latest petition, which is about vaccines for pneumonia and diarrhea which are still killing children in Africa – something we cannot even fathom here in North America. The touch screen had three slots to fill in: NAME, E-MAIL, and POSTAL CODE. Easy enough I thought.

GET LOUD and USE YOUR VOICE

Armed with our iPads and a lot of enthusiasm, off went 30 passionate new ONE volunteers to tackle the U2 fans. And tackle them we did!
At 7:30 PM we all headed back, hot, sunburned and feeling like we had not done enough. Feeling like we could have signed up one more, understanding that one more signature on the next petition could make a difference.

ONE Kiosk

I was able to sign up 145 people and I can tell you, for an Anglophone from Winnipeg who must have talked to at least 175 people – no not everyone said yes believe it or not, 165 of them were Francophone. For those of you who know the French language you know how easy it is to mix up ‘G’ and ‘J’  – why couldn’t Quebec have postal codes started with ‘T’! There were some very patients fans out there I can tell you!
We came back with 3,382 new ONE Members! Shy of what our goal was, we were assured that we had helped, and that it really is what ONE is all about. It is the idea that each one of us can make a difference if we speak up, if we assume the voice and place that we have. As the wrist bands that we handed out to new ONE members said: GET LOUD and USE YOUR VOICE!

It’s a beautiful day

We handed in our iPads and gave in our numbers and all of us of course had access to the Inner Circle to watch the show, and the top five and another five drawn at random were picked to go on stage. Did I make it? You bet I did, by the skin of my teeth! David and I tied at 145 and they let us both join the group. I felt a little guilty as not being a true fan I wondered if I should give my place up. But the idea of being on stage in front of so many people intrigued me.
Next stop for us was training for what we would do on stage. Allison was our patient trainer who whipped us in to shape to be ready. Off we went to the Inner Circle to see the show with clear instruction on where to be and when to be there. We were NOT to wear our ONE t-shirts as we would be doing this with the Green Peace members and Amnesty International members who had been on site that day as well. As we really are all one, looking to accomplish similar goals, we did not need to make ourselves different from each other.

The Inner Circle

There was absolutely no better vantage point to see the show than where we were. We were right under the rocket ship and between the main stage and the outer circle stage that I would end up going out on 14 songs later. For a first time rock concertgoer, it was amazing to saw the least.

The Inner Circle under The Rocket Ship

The show started at 9 PM and I watched and listened and started to get into it like the fans around me. I kept waiting for the song that would be the signal for us to go back stage. I watched Bono as he did his thing, as he worked the crowd and as he gave it his all. I have to say I was impressed that he did so much of the show in French, not something that always happens even in Montreal.

Walk On

Finally the signal came and we all made our way over to the backstage area. Security checked and double-checked our wristbands to make sure we had access. We were given our lanterns that we would carry on stage with us. We got in our lines and we waited for our cue.
I felt like I was getting cramps in my legs and the cue came and the cramps were gone and I walked up the stairs to the stage. Then the tap on the shoulder for me to walk on came and I went to the front of the stage. We were told to keep our eyes on the person behind us to be ready for our cue to leave but how could I help but look out at the 80,000 fans with their arms in the air? How could I not feel the power of the words that I heard Bono singing behind me? How could I not then at that moment, truly understand what ONE meant?
The cue came and I placed my lantern on stage and walked off, feeling the power of the energy that was there and more importantly feeling the power of possibility.

Goosebumps and Tears

I looked up at the screens as I got to the back stage area and I saw the messages that were being projected. I looked at Bono and his band and I saw that they got it. I stood there with goose bumps and a few tears in my eyes knowing that I had been part of something bigger than I was.
It was only a concert you say? Was it? I heard that crowd as Bono sang Walk On and I heard the words he sang:

And if the darkness is to keep us apart
And if the daylight feels like it’s a long way off
And if your glass heart should crack
And for a second you turn back
Oh no, be strong

Walk on, walk on
What you got they can’t steal it
No they can’t even feel it
Walk on, walk on…
Stay safe tonight

The song was written about and dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi. It is written in the form of a supporting, uplifting anthem, praising her for her activism and fighting for freedom in Burma. She had been intermittently under house arrest since 1989 for her efforts. If those words touched one more person, if in signing up 3,382 people one of them does something to affect change, if you from reading this decide to do something, then it was certainly more than a rock concert wasn’t it?

For more information about ONE or to become a ONE member, click on the link: ONE.

The Human Network

We talk these days a lot about networks, platforms and technology, but what are we really talking about? Are we talking about Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube or are we talking about what goes on behind these networks?

Down by the river

I finally understood what these networks were all about after being on holiday in Dominica. Dominica is an island in the Caribbean where there are a reputed 365 rivers, one for each day of the year.
Let’s go back a few years when there was no running water, or washing machines and no cell phones and texting for sure. Let’s go back to when the river was the social network, when it was the meeting place for everyone. The women would go to do the washing there and meet everyday. They would talk, share stories and gossip. If you couldn’t go you would miss the news of what was going on, and risk being the centre of the gossip. The men would fish or go to meet the women there, and the children would play in the water. A complex social network developed where families and friends would meet and share. I am no anthropologist, I am giving you a very simplified story of what the rivers meant on Dominica and you could substitute a market place in Morocco or Paris or a village in Africa. Or let’s come closer to home to a front porch, a coffee shop, a church on Sunday, or the baseball diamond or hockey rink; when our extended families were not so extended and we lived in the same house, same neighborhood, or at least the same city.
When we met what did we do? We told stories. We told each other what had happened to us, what we thought was going to happen to us and what we hoped would happen to us. That started to change as we went away to school, we went away for jobs, we travelled more and we settled all over the world. The telephone helped keep us connected and then eventually the Internet and the World Wide Web.

Reach Out and Touch Someone

At first of course this thing called the World Wide Web was for transmitting data. Then those computer geeks started to talk to each other. Then they let us join in and we did. As computers and the Internet became more accessible, business started to see it as an opportunity to reach more people, make more money, market themselves. They took the same marketing materials they had always made and put it on the web; and it didn’t work. Products didn’t sell; people didn’t stay on their sites. They had to learn how to talk to us. We had to learn how to talk to each other again, and we did.

What did you say?

The social network started long before there was Facebook or any of the other networks we know today: YouTube, Twitter, Stumble, LinkedIn etc. What these social networks have done is bring us back to the river, to the market to the souk, to a family-get- together to each other. They bring us back to community. They bring us back together: period. These networks allow us to tell each other stories, to give and share and to inspire; to have conversations with each other again.
When do these networks work? When they allow us to tell stories and share conversations that are real, when there is meaning behind them and we know, see and feel that they are authentic. Everything works when there is a human network, and when that network is 10% of the solution and the people are the rest.

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