Darcy Belanger, MAPS Director of Strategic Initiatives, Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary, benefits of volunteering

How MAPS Changed This Director’s Life

The Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS) has taken me on a journey. As part of my responsibilities to secure signatures from world leaders on the MAPS Treaty, I have traveled to United Nations conferences in Europe and Africa, presented MAPS at Earth Day in Texas, went to Fiji to speak with heads of governments, and have met with everyone from students to CEOs. I have created friendships and memories along the way that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Working on MAPS has exposed me to people who, through their convictions to a healthy world, woke me up from the delusion that our current lifestyles are sustainable. They understand our interconnection with the planet and each other. These people have helped me to reclaim the sense of reverence and stewardship for nature I used to have when I was a child. For this I am profoundly grateful. But this reconnection and reconciliation with my values was only the first stop on my MAPS journey.

The Transformative Gifts of Volunteering

Being involved in a project as extraordinary as MAPS brings with it some very unique opportunities for self-discovery. The first question I had to ask of myself when I first committed to MAPS was, “How much of my time am I willing to give to realize MAPS?” Five hours per week? Ten hours per week? Since we are an all-volunteer organization, everyone who devotes time to MAPS does so above and beyond their day-to-day commitments. What would be reasonable based on the commitments I have to my family, career, health, and personal pursuits? It was difficult to come up with an answer to this question at first. I struggled for a while to find the right balance between “my time” and “MAPS time”. Relief came when I realized that the question itself was off the mark—it assumed a division, a separateness, between me and everything else. No wonder the answers I was coming up with weren’t satisfying! My entire perception and approach to MAPS was being colored by a belief that I was separate from this work—that somehow my very life didn’t depend on the water and air I was trying to protect.

When I realized that I was approaching MAPS from this perspective, I paused. What if the belief system that I was separate from MAPS and the rest of the world was inaccurate? I challenged myself to find a perspective that would produce the greatest amount of ease and flow. What would need to shift to find this peaceful state?

I soon realized that when I felt the most connected, joyful, and at ease in volunteering my time to MAPS was when I reminded myself that MAPS would have positive benefits for all life on this planet. When I reframed MAPS as a vehicle through which I can contribute to the health and wellbeing of people, animals, and plants everywhere, my resistance immediately evaporated and I was left in a deep sense of interconnection and gratitude for the opportunity to be part of this work.

On an even deeper level, MAPS has shown me the misperceptions and old stories to which I’ve been attached, that have gotten in the way of my success. With awareness comes the opportunity to choose my response to each moment. My entire experience of life has shifted as a result. I’ve learned to use uncomfortable feelings as signposts to point me to an even deeper part of myself. Inevitably I discover something I no longer need, but am afraid to let go. Clinging to it is impeding my ability to move MAPS forward. Once that thing, whatever it might be, becomes clear to me, I can often integrate it, heal it, or release it. I am receptive to each moment as it unfolds because I no longer feel that anything is happening to me. Rather, I’ve become part of a grand dance and I’m enjoying the appearance of every person who steps onto the dance floor with me.

MAPS has taught me how to live life from a place of playful curiosity. From this place there is no “my time” that I’m trying to parcel out to serve an illusion of separation. There is only a peaceful flow state when I choose to see the world and my place in it from this perspective. This experience is profoundly liberating—and it is mine to claim in each moment. This has been the true gift that MAPS has given me.

Darcy Belanger, MAPS Director of Strategic Initiatives, Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary

Darcy is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at Parvati.org. He is responsible for strategic partnerships, coordination with world governments, and grassroots campaigns. In his professional career, Darcy oversees the learning and development of employees across the United States for one of North America’s top general contractors.