Last summer I took part in a Sacred Passage programme with John P. Milton. Milton is perhaps best known for influencing people such as Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer and Joseph Jaworski with their work on change and leadership. Here, I share some of my amazing experience - and some interesting questions about how we sense change.
I'm intrigued by connection. I'm intrigued by how things would change if we felt more connected to each other, to our communities, and to our natural world. I believe that the modern world is in a disturbing state of disconnection; a state that is unnatural, confusing but incarcerating at the same time. But if we could rekindle a deeper sense of connection, we might find amazing new ways to balance and flourish as a whole.
These are the ideas that took me to a remote and mountainous place called Crestone, in Colorado, USA. This is where John Milton has based himself to develop a set of teachings called The Way of Nature. Through the Way of Nature he has guided many people through deep transformations and insights about change. And it was here that I undertook five special days of training - and seven unforgettable days in the wild.
My story starts with a small rock. Imagine Milton - a very modern sage; sporting meditation beads, cowboy hat, dark shades and coffee cup. Around him a new set of keen students. We are outdoors, cradled amongst glorious mountains, swaying pine trees and the gentle chirping of birds. And the conversation is all about the rock. What do we notice about it? By looking deeply, we notice how light changes the rock. The movement of trees change the rock. Our thoughts change the rock. The rock is always changing. Everything is connected and continuously changing. Everything falls and rises out of source.
Fast forward a few days, and I am in my All One time seven days alone in the wild. It is a sacred, powerful experience. No phone, no books, very little food. I spent the days with trees, ancient stones, birds, eagles, chipmunks, caterpillars, storms, and even a bear. I practiced different forms of meditation, ritual and Qi Gong. I fasted for three days, drinking only water mixed with lime juice, maple syrup and cayenne paper. And over the days, I deepened into sublime stillness.
On the fourth day, I found myself bathing in a stream and the world had slowed down to a fraction of its speed. Light seemed to dance more vividly across water. Sound seemed to engulf me more fully. And the stream water became absolutely enchanting. It was in this moment that a powerful realisation filled me. I realised first how the stream was - all at once - in touch with the top of the mountain; the roots of trees; the air all around it. Touching the water, I felt that I too was part of this web of forms around me. I sensed this not as a thought, but as a feeling a deeper way of knowing. Then, wonderfully, I noticed I could really tune my senses to experience this connection in fuller, deeper ways.
I held the attention of the sun on my neck; then the coolness of the water at my feet; then the breeze across my arms. Then I was able to hold them all at once. I felt wholly present. Wholly aware of what was around me. I could see and feel patterns and forms vividly. My heart filled with wonder and appreciation. It was a moment of tremendous understanding, clarity and bliss.
Deep Capacities for Change
Back in the city - in bustling London and writing these words - I have to ask: Do we ever explore our life and work from this place of deep awareness? Do we even know how to tune ourselves in to do this? My sense, more so now, is that much of modern life and work is too numbing for us to sense how things really move. We are too often asleep to the signals that life gives us; too cluttered in spirit, body and mind.
What if we could wake these senses up? Looking back to my journey in the wild, I bring with me a number of insights to keep exploring.
- We can let go even further - of the idea of fixed-ness
- We can awaken our senses to feel interconnection, movement and systems much more deeply
- There is magic in intention. Where we set our mind and our energy, things happen
- We can and need - to slow down; to deeply relax in order to welcome the signals and the gifts the world offers us
- By continuing to practicing the now we can find true awareness
- We can refine the senses - and different fields of experience in such a way that we notice not just how things happen around us, but how we happen with them
- Something special happens by opening of the heart it can create a change in energy around us...
- It is possible to let go of the 'small self' more by experiencing interrelation...
- By doing these things, all kinds of possibility for creativity, co-creation, wisdom and flow unfold
I'll be honest. The pointers above aren't new. Some of them form the backbone of The Way of Nature teachings. But I write them now, having experienced them more deeply. Since my return from Crestone, these ideas have helped me shape new shifts and reflections in my life and work. I bring new stillness; new understanding of systems; a letting go of some old ideas and habits to bring forth the new. In terms of my question about connection, I feel a much greater understanding of what this means, and how I might work with it for the benefit of our lives, work and planet.
The world faces vast challenges today. Perhaps there is hope that we are starting to learn more deeply as a whole. I really hope so. And to build this capacity, its a good job we have teachers like John Milton and Nature herself.
From 2014 I will be hosting programmes and gatherings in nature in association with Way of Nature. Please get in touch to find out more. I offer gratitude to all my teachers and my teachers teachers in writing this - including John Milton and my K&S colleagues. I do this in respect of ancient traditions of honouring teaching lineages (something I learnt to do more of in my Sacred Passage.) See more about John P. Milton's work and Way of Nature at www.sacredpassage.com