Leading from where I stand – knowing where I’m standing
I have long craved a map and a compass. I long for the certainty that comes through being able to plan for the journey, know where I stand in a landscape and can then clearly navigate the terrain to the next waypoint. My chosen career in wilderness guiding has been a fitting metaphor to fulfill this desire. I have become fluent in the languages of True and Magnetic Norths, I have learned to read the clouds and feel wind directions to predict weather; and I have studied the tidal cycles, learning how to work with the power of the ocean. I have slowly, ever surely become a great navigator of this wild and beautiful ocean meets forest terrain. Somewhere, though, there emerged a deeper longing – a longing to know more intimately an inner wilderness.
I couldn’t have told you about this longing two years ago when I began my thesis journey at Royal Roads University. I could have told you that I was interested in the connection between Nature and Culture, but never could I have told you that my studies would take me deeper in to my own connection with Self and an inner wilderness I had only previously had a glimpse of. I could have told you I was going to embark on a Vision Quest, but I never expected how my life would unfold after the ‘questing’ was over. It is only with the gift of hindsight that I can see clearly that I wanted to explore the more psychological dimensions of wilderness adventure, to peek into the intersections and embraces of inner wilderness and outer wilderness.
As I began this journey I felt as though I was blind, stumbling around in a place that felt uncomfortable, in a fog of not knowing that was more extensive than I had ever experienced. I had no map, not even an inkling of what the territory might look like. What I truly lacked was a compass that I could use in the dark. So, I stopped searching and I started listening, using deep self-awareness as a compass for how to proceed, when to proceed, if I should proceed. I began realizing that what I was seeking was nothing more than to see myself through the eyes of loving compassion that I might see mySelf wholly in all my glorious paradox – to learn to see myself as an Innocent and a Dragon, a humble servant and a powerful leader.
The concept seems so much easier to put in a sentence than to practice as a human being.
[I use the spelling of ‘mySelf’ to imply a deep self-awareness that Carl Jung might call soul connection.]
At this point in my thesis journey, which I recognize extends far before and far beyond my time here at Royal Roads; I can see the delicious darkness that holds juicy secrets that need time still to germinate; I am able hold mySelf with a greater loving tenderness; and have an ever-increasing compassion for my fellow humans and the earth upon which we live. I am certainly not finished this journey and sincerely doubt it will ever truly be ‘finished’, but in my searching for inner health, equilibrium and knowledge, I feel as though my compassion for others has increased as I find it for mySelf.
[ This love I spoke of in the last paragraph, I don’t mean it as a gushy, ooy-gooey kind of smoochy way, I mean it as a deep acceptance of something, in this case myself. Being able to spend enough time in the shadowy realms of my human experience and being, so that I may better understand these places and perhaps be able to work with them as I work with ocean currents on the sea. This love for mySelf that I have been cultivating in the darker days of winter has strangely begun to spill out. It has begun to affect the ways I interact with and see other people, the other-than-human beings around me and has been, it appears, to be a curious by-product of inner reflection.]
My journey has been inherently impactful to me as a leader, especially in terms of the concept of ‘leading from where you stand’, if only because I am more fully aware of just where it is I am standing. I embarked upon a Vision Quest as a grounding foundation for my study. The vision quest is designed to initiate participants and invite them on a journey towards being able to more wholly embody their truest Selves, to encounter soul and learn to use Ego in service of its deepest longing. A year and a half after my Quest I have traveled through initiation, which took a lot longer than I expected – or hoped- and am now actively participating in the Return (which has also taken a lot longer than I had imagined). This process of bringing the gift, mySelf, back into the world is a heavy task. It seems as though it is requiring me to be more responsible than ever before – deeply responsible to mySelf.
To clarify how truly big this responsibility to mySelf is, feels like a daunting task. If I can try to distill it down into its simplest form: responsibility to mySelf means I am open and clear about where I am now; that I can listen enough to hear when I need sleep, to be social, or to run in the hills; that I can be compassionate enough to honour those needs in myself and in turn, others; to continue to trust that I will always have what I need (even if it doesn’t always feel like it); and that everything I can be, I already am. Ha, no big deal right!?!