Like any heart-centred article I write, I found that writing this article took months after the events took place, before I was ready to share. Well, the time has come to share my thoughts around my working on CSR and social projects.
There is a certain longing to help others, that goes beyond your perceived comfort zone limits. It’s a time where you come to the end of ‘self’ and start to look beyond. Your questions of, “How can I survive?” “Where should I live?” “What job do I take?” start to change into more fruitful questions such as “How can I serve?” “Where can I share my gifts,” “Who will I collaborate with?” “What can I do to help you?”
My fascination with CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activities started around seven years ago when I was the Regional Marketing and Communications manager at an international environment engineering firm. The activities that were planned together with schools revolved very much around the topic of environmental sustainability (another pet topic that continues to fascinate me). Here was a genuine way to give back what we have – our gifts, talents and skills were designed to be used for the well being of the community that we live in. This was one of the reasons I enjoyed the CSR aspect of my work at the time.
Over the years, after I set up my own communications consulting business, I tried to find places and projects that were steeped in CSR and environmental sustainability. I had already done work with children (Persons with autism) through the StartWorld.org Project in 2012, but I wanted to do more. Thankfully, this year has seen a whole new dimension come together in the area of arts and social change. It all started with 20/20/20 project organized by ZeeArts Community.
More CSR projects followed with ZeeArts Community, the most recent being with the abused children at the Dubai Foundation for Women & Children. More recently, the live painting event with Zee Arts and TieCon on the topic of Dubai being the hub of Innovation (this got me creating a piece of artwork around environmental sustainability – more in another blog story). It is possible that I may have come full circle, to do what I truly love – being in service to the community? Which is why CSR, social entrepreneurial activities, using arts for health and wellness, and my love for nature, wildlife and astronomy grow deeper everyday. I’ve rounded up five things I’ve learnt while working on social initiatives and I want to share them with you.
1. In giving, you receive
Just by saying ‘yes’ for a few hours to paint with Nazer for the 20/20/20 project at Dubai Centre of Special Needs, I found that I myself received so much more that I expected. I couldn’t stop talking about this experience for weeks on end. I went home feeling my heart bursting with gratitude for my life, for all I had and also for all I longed for. So often we forget the First Law of Thermodynamics that we studied in Physics: Matter/Energy cannot be created or destroyed, but is converted into one form or another. It is inevitable that the giving energy transmutes into receiving energy.
2. What you focus on expands
I’ve always dreamed of doodling on walls and painting murals – in short, paint BIG. In reality, I love creating multi-layer resin art on small canvasses (check out some of the work here). So when the chance to paint on 1mx1m came about at the 20/20/20 event at Dubai Centre for Special Needs, it was a huge opportunity of expansion for me.
Just saying YES to a new opportunity, can provide expansion of your life in many ways. Sometimes, the need to expand comes when working with others and as a way for introverts such as myself to step out of the cave and share in the invigorating experience on canvas. Suddenly, I have new insights about my work, sharing insights with other fellow artists who feel the same about environmental sustainability and CSR. This is called community.
3. Co-creation is necessary for building a strong community
I tend to work on my own. It goes with being an introvert. It goes with writing, painting all of which are solo activities. But with the possibility of co-creating, bigger things are on the verge of happening. It takes more than one person to achieve a dream. My dream to paint on a huge canvas has come true. But I achieved so much more than my personal dream. I was brought face to face with co-creating mega magic with other artists and with students. This has, no doubt, changed the way I see the process of creative and spontaneous expression.
Paired with Nazer for the 20/20/20 project at the Dubai Special Needs Centre, we co-created a painting dripping in red which was Nazer’s favorite colour (by the way, red used to be my favourite colour as a child). Read more about this experience here.
4. There are no mistakes when you are in creative flow
When it comes to spontaneous expression, I am darn good at it. It was not always this way, because the ‘judge’ in me would kick in to criticize spontaneous creativity. Over the years, the ‘judge’ voice has decreased. It does kick in, however, when I’m working on a creative project with others. “What if it doesn’t turn out well?” “What if I’m making a fool of myself?” You probably know the bullets of ‘what ifs’ that assail you when you are in flow.
Working together with others taught me to go with flow and see what happens, while being detached to the outcome. Working with Nazer, while we worked in the raw red colour, I felt the urge to add in white and yellow to the mix. And we ended up having fun blending the colours into pinks and peach hues. After a short break, I wanted to try something different. We added blue to create fireworks, a shift from solid blends to staccato fireworks enriched the painting and enriched my experience.
There are no mistakes when we are in creative flow.
5. Staying centered helps bring out the best in you
Connected to the previous lesson, when we are in flow, we tend to focus on the goodness of that particular moment made available to us. It’s another way to stay grounded in gratitude. Following on from that is staying centered in who we are and what we bring to the table, instead of comparing ourselves with others. Even if the photographer and videographer are taking pictures while we are painting away, giving your attention to the student who we are painting with, allowing them and allowing ourselves to ‘blunder’ through the art, gives us the permission to be just who we are. Staying centered in the experience is another way of enjoying the NOW.
If you have been involved in social change and community initiatives, what is the one lesson you have learnt that you would like to share? Leave in the comments below.
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