On his way to Dubai, where he relocated from his home country Canada, Alexander Thomas made a stop in London for a retreat where he experienced a spiritual enlightenment. The visions about divinity and cosmic love were so vivid, he wrote them down the next day.
“One of the things that’s hard to communicate with people is how precise these things are; it’s not like a dream,” he tells The National. “I think for most people who haven’t experienced that level of insight and haven’t had that directness and that profoundness, it sounds crazy. And it was scary, because it suggested a change in my life, and I don’t like change. But it shaped my decision to write about the love and beauty that I witness.”
That extraordinary event forms the cornerstone of Man in Motion, part-memoir, part-love story and part-self-help book, published last month by The Dreamwork Collective.
A Canadian tech entrepreneur and co-founder of global aviation start-up Searidge Technologies, Thomas has been in constant motion over the past two decades shaping his business. Yet, he says, he's been feeling an increasing pull towards spirituality.
Man in Motion takes readers through the past and present personal experiences leading up to Thomas’s move to the UAE. As he gains greater understanding of his role in the universe, he reflects on how to apply principles of love and compassion to his encounters and relationships.
“Spiritual awakening is only the halfway point; integrating the divine wisdom and intelligence into everyday experience takes a little longer,” he writes.
Thomas's tone is honest and engaging, and the experiences he shares are relatable – from his tendency to chew the inside of his cheek during uncomfortable moments, to his ritual singing of You are my sunshine to his children. He also writes about not being entirely “present” with his children: those “moments of inattention lost to time forever”, which will resonate with any parent who realises that they’re glued to their phone far too frequently.
Fatherhood heavily influences the author’s desire for a more rewarding and spiritually in-tune life, and he is motivated to break out of the rut of society’s constant, income-focused cycle.
“For me, being a positive role model is having a certain amount of clarity in my own life, and I didn’t believe in that idea of just cycling through the monopoly of making money. So then I was like, ‘What are my beliefs?’ And that just kind of kickstarted my writing,” he says.
The UAE features frequently throughout Man in Motion, from Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque to the Dubai Opera. Thomas also mentions major world events, and his own family and friends’ responses to them, such as the 2016 US elections that resulted in Donald Trump’s win, as well as the day that George Floyd was murdered, sparking global #BlackLivesMatter protests.
Covid-19 had a clear impact on Thomas's life and his writing. He describes his pre-pandemic life as being on “autopilot”, and likens the pandemic to the world being in a “time out”. Then, six months into the pandemic, he decided to take a step back from his company and resign.
“I wanted to revaluate and reassess, and bring my own actions in line with the text in the book,” he recalls.
Not only does he define time throughout the book with reference to Covid-19, such as “seven years before the global pandemic”, he also penned the bulk of the text during the thick of it.
“It was [initially] three times the size, and there was a lot of anger and confusion,” he says. “I spent the next 18 months with various editors and loved that process – any hint of anger and confusion, I would pass an iron over it and eventually get to this loving thought about a situation.”
Man in Motion is a deep-dive into the churning wheels of an enlightened mind. It will resonate with readers of various faiths, and even those with no religious affiliation at all. “I have this aspiration to be like a wise old man, just be a good human being who can be helpful."
Many of his thoughts about conquering one's ego, the veils of reality and absolute love echo the work of 13th-century Muslim philosopher Ibn Arabi, who he refers to as "my hero".
Thomas reveals a deep reverence for the Islamic faith and writes that he feels a stirring within himself when he hears the azaan, or call to prayer.
“When I’m driving down a highway in Dubai, the most powerful scene is a man pulled over to the side praying – I tear up every time,” he says. He believes the desire to worship is “innate”.
Thomas is currently working on starting a new business, still in the global aviation sector, but focused on environmental sustainability. He also hints at another book in the future – one perhaps inspired by Lebanese poet Khalil Gibran’s definition of love.
“I want to keep writing, I just love writing, but I want the writing to be grounded in the muck of everyday experiences,” he says.
Man in Motion contains countless lessons for self-betterment and spiritual awareness, but at the same time, Thomas's work is proof that one must take the initiative to embark on their own journey to discover the depths of their existence.