The Short-ish Story…
I live in Northumberland – a land of castles, coastline, moorland and Neolithic rock art. With its feet planted on 300million-year-old geology known locally as the Great Whin Sill, it stands firm yet silent and in complete contrast to a modern world that is both noisy and unsure of itself.
It’s no coincidence that I find myself here, in a World where everyone wants to BE seen, BE heard, BE validated, BE successful, I’m here to remind you that your first priority is to simply BE.
And if you’ve ever been told that you just need to FIND yourself, CREATE yourself or LOSE yourself… I’m (still) here to point out that YOU ARE ALREADY HERE, so better to just start the enjoying. 🦋 #JustBe
My mission is to teach people the lost art of ‘care-free wandering’ – to have a mind and body which depends on ‘no-thing’ other than our true nature. A mind that feels emotionally stable, in a body that moves freely both inside and out!
When we truly connect to ourselves, our families, friends and communities at large reap the rewards.
The Loooooong Story… (pull up a sandbag)
Mothers have a mysterious way of seeing us before we ever see ourselves, and this curious expression of having ‘a want’ was how my mother used to describe me whenever I was up to anything peculiar…and I was always up to something peculiar!
There’s a want in you lad! — My Mum
Like the time I would ask for plain water over pure bran for breakfast when all the other kids were enjoying turning their milk chocolatey brown! Or, as I got into my teenage years, running with bricks in a rucksack and lead divers weights strapped to my ankles!!
There clearly was ‘a want’ in me but I had yet to find a direction to channel all that chaotic energy.
Finding True North
On the one hand, with a strong sense of duty and physical confidence, mixed with a love of the wilderness it was easy to see how I ended up in the military…on the other, with an instinct for gentleness, kindness, and openheartedness, I was clearly a most unlikely Commando.
Sangin is a beautiful district in the east of Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. It’s also considered the bloodiest battleground of Afghanistan by both US and British forces alike. Of the 456 UK military deaths in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2015, almost a quarter were in and around Sangin and it was here that I found myself in 2007-2008. I’ll save you the traumas but suffice to say there wasn’t 24hrs that went by, where someone’s world wasn’t irrecoverably changed by an explosion of some sort. I was forever changed by my time there… and my nervous system has yet to fully return to its baseline, but I must say I met some of the most remarkable and beautiful people in that place.
Fast forwards to me leaving the military and finding myself at odds with life in the UK, I sought out a quieter life in the mountains of the Canadian Rockies. It was probably a good move looking back. As you can imagine, life as a ski instructor was stress-free, and I was channelling my upregulated fight-or-flight response into skiing hard and climbing ice waterfalls.
Call to Adventure – Per Mare Per Terram (By Sea By Land)
Stupidly I got drawn back into the world of guns and armed conflict in the form of private maritime security. We all have patterns of behaviour that repeat if the lessons aren’t adequately learnt (see the video for more on this concept), and I still had a lot to learn about false models of masculinity (toughness, aggression, competition).
My ‘call to adventure’ took the form of flying to Kenya, and boarding a tug-boat with a rag-tag bunch of ex-marines and special-forces types and sailing to war-torn Somalia where we were to rescue 25 Bangladeshi sailors who had been captured by pirates. Now it sounds very exciting…and it had its moments…but we weren’t fighting our way in or anything. A US$4 million ransom had been dropped by aircraft and all we had to do – in between swimming with dolphins (who were pleased to see us) and a turtle (that wasn’t!) – was make sure the vessel wasn’t re-taken by a rival pirate gang or gangs as we made our way to the relative safety of Oman.
Back with a Thump
This adventurous sea-life was plain-sailing (pun intended) compared to the intricacies of navigating married life, however…
My marriage had irreconcilably broken down and in the excitement of trying to stay alive, I had barely noticed, it was news to me! Again with hindsight, my psyche was plainly acting out the lessons I needed.
Each night, troubled with insomnia, I’d go out into the dark to lift a huge boulder through the woods. It would take me hours to move it only a few hundred yards and I’d eventually return to my bed physically exhausted.
Eventually, even I clocked on that the boulder was a metaphor for the burdens of responsibility I felt I could no longer carry and I simply placed the boulder down one night and sat on it. My meditation practice was born.
It was a good job too because this was only the start of my woes!
In the space of 6months, I think I ticked off half of the Holmes and Rahe scale top 10 most stressful life events.
- Marital separation
- Death of a close family member ( my brother died at the tender age of 39yrs)
- Death of a close family member (my mother is unexpectedly taken ill and within weeks is no longer with us)
- I lose my job (i needed a note from my Doctor to say I was psychology sound to operate a firearm, and well…)
I don’t know where finding a new home for my black labradors, selling my own home, and starting a business from scratch lie on the life’s stressful events scale but they were added to the mix for good measure.
Tao – The Way
Yoga is the only thing that makes sense to me right now Jambo
These were my words to my yoga teacher when he asked me what I needed. And so the simplifying and rebuilding began.
The first stage or serious of stages were like rebirths or like a snake shedding its skin – I had to let go of the old if I was to welcome in the new.
I was able to work alongside Jambo as he taught, but more importantly I watched his everyday moments…how he poured coffee for people, how he greeted his cleaner and his wealthy (and not so wealthy) clients the same, how he practised in his own time. The lessons were sometimes simple, often unsettling, but always beautiful and compassionate.
When my son was just six months old, I took a trip to the Amazon to work with a Peruvian Shaman and spent time in Tuscany with a senior Shamon uncovering the archetypes that govern my actions and thought and unpicking the ‘hooks’ I’d buried within my being over the years.
Somewhat less exotic, but no less meaningful, I came across a movement practice known as Stretch Therapy and it’s very centred and congruent creator Kit Laughlin.
This phase saw me acknowledging and reintegrating some of my old self – a welcoming in of the dark parts rather than the suppressing of my shadow self.
Both Forrest Yoga and Stretch Therapy have been powerful tools in my journey – it is only when we start to see ourselves with clarity can we begin to address the things that are holding us back.
I’m happy to say I now live a tranquil and delightful life with my loving and mystical partner and our free-spirited young son in a 100yr old house, close to the sea and the wilds of Northumberland. I teach Forrest Yoga and Stretch Therapy. I sit with people who perhaps can’t yet sit with themselves…I share the rawness and confusion that sometimes still visits my world but also the tools and tricks I use to stay connected to the light and surrender to this gift we call life.