The New York winter was beginning and I had just made a decision that was going to change life as I knew it. After a deep and prolonged time of contemplation, I came to a realisation — I had grown as much as I was going to grow as a monk. The time had come to hang up the robes in search of the next chapter.
I was just about to turn 28. I didn’t have a bank account. No drivers licence. Thousands of miles from home. A handful of friends. A thin support system. No education.
I felt unstable, unsure and untethered. Could I start a career with my background? Where would I live? How would I pay rent? Who would take me seriously — I only had one outfit that wasn’t the saffron garb of a monk. I turned to a mentor who I respected deeply and revealed my heart. I expressed the deep inner turmoil and turbulence I was feeling.
“Never waste a good crisis,” he said with deep gravity.
He further shared that I had a few choices. I could wallow in my insecurity and feelings of hopelessness, or I could use this as an opportunity to propel my life forward.
Even then I felt the ancient truth in this wisdom, echoed through the ages through sages like Marcus Aurelius, who said “The mind adapts and converts to its own purposes the obstacle to our acting. The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
Now, I am fortunate to serve the global Pollination Project community; a devoted group full of changemakers for whom seemingly intractable obstacles became the catalysts for action.
I think of Poli Sotomayor, this week’s changemaker of the week, for whom the suffering of non-human animals tugged at her heart so strongly that it became a lifelong path, leading her to give up everything she knew to devote her life to helping others broaden their circle of concern.
I think of George Reginald Freeman, persecuted for his sexuality and driven from his home country to a foreign land, where he began work to make sure other refugees were supported in a way he was not.
I think of the nearly 400+ changemakers we were able to support last year through COVID-relief funding, for whom even a global pandemic was an opportunity to grow in community and service.
There are powerful individuals from all walks of life, in all corners of the world who are victimized but don’t allow themselves to be victims, who are overpowered, yet do not yield their power to anyone, who fight the hate they experience with love.
The world is full of waste — wasted time, wasted resources, wasted life.
Next time you face a crisis, make sure you don’t waste it.