Shift From Isolation to Interconnection with the Heart-Centered Power of MAPS
By Pranada McBurnie
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination… over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
– Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese”
My childhood report cards could tell you I wasn’t much of a team player. An awkward loner, I always did my own thing. But through my years of volunteering for the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary (MAPS), I’ve been drawn to work—and live—in a more heart-centered manner that has humbled and enriched me beyond measure.
The phone call came one December morning while I was at my day job. I ducked out of my cubicle and into a nearby stairwell to learn that my friend Parvati was founding an organization to protect the Arctic Ocean. The vision for a non-profit, with education campaigns, activism and advocacy, was coming through her, spontaneously and unstoppably.
Volunteering for MAPS, on tasks from web development to book editing to press outreach to marketing and event planning, has challenged and inspired me like nothing else in my life. It calls me to levels of creativity, clarity, leadership, accountability and focus far beyond any paying job I’ve ever had. But then, consider the scope and significance of MAPS. It’s not just the biggest and boldest environmental move ever taken by a non-profit to protect our collective future; it’s a catalyst for a global shift in how we see ourselves, others and Nature. The urgency of the situation in the Arctic Ocean—our world’s life support—calls for us to dig deep, innovate, and want MAPS like our life depends on it. Because it does.
The heart of MAPS is the reality that we are all interconnected. As such, none of us working on it has the luxury to imagine ourselves separate. This has been my greatest challenge—to remember that I am, and have always been, within a vast and vibrant whole. My egoic tendencies, so used to either acting smarter than everyone else and bossily telling them what to do, or feeling unworthy to be among everyone else and sheepishly hiding from them, have been thrown into sharp relief. Neither of these serves MAPS. When I engage them, the work I do loses its spark, takes forever to complete, and usually ends up being redone—or I find myself needing to make amends after my inconsiderate actions caused problems for others.
It’s painful to consider how much of my life I have spent like this. But it’s also immensely healing to know that because I have willingly stepped into MAPS’s lighthouse beams, I have the opportunity to see these tendencies and let them go. As I do so, dropping my veneer of “got it all figured out, don’t need anyone”, I sometimes feel intensely vulnerable and anxious. But beneath that, I feel an upwelling of gratitude as my world blooms into full color and I know I am part of something so much greater than my ego. I am within a team of kind, generous people dedicated to love and service. I am within the infinite strength, resourcefulness and wisdom of Nature. I am within a world that, though I may forget it in my grumpy moods, I love beyond measure. I am within a bigger picture where I have a role to play that is not directed by my limited sense of “me”, but arising from the deepest part of myself, the one who knows why I’m here and what I need to do with this life while I still can.
I’ve put in massive hours on MAPS, often equal to or greater than my day job. I’ve worked through holidays and vacations, or not taken them in the first place. I’ve been through many a sleepless night. And given the choice to go back and do it all over again, I’d say yes, except even more so. More wholeheartedness. More willingness. More compassion. More all in. No holding back.
Marianne Williamson put it so beautifully: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.”
MAPS asks each of us, individually and collectively, to stop playing small. I still get stuck in my small self all the time, and it hurts myself and others. But in each moment, I have the choice to shine and serve. Every time I embrace that choice, my world gets that much brighter. If you’re ready to go from isolation to interconnection, I’d love for you to join me in the shared work, light and love of MAPS.
Pranada McBurnie is a communications professional living in Toronto, Canada. She is the Managing Editor of Parvati Magazine, and the Editor for Parvati.org. In addition, she is the editor for Parvati’s forthcoming books “The Grace Mindset”, “The Three Supreme Secrets for Lasting Happiness”, “Yoga, The Universe and You” and the “Aonani of Avalon” nine-part young adult fiction series.