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My Milky Way ah-ha moment

Updated: May 28, 2019

Mind = Blown

Values = Moved

Heart = Broken

Amygdala = Hijacked

Fears = Confronted

Life = Changed

Blimey, it’s been a quite a trip!

I took off ready for sunshine, meeting old friends and exploring some business development opportunities. But unexpectedly, a fired-up new me has returned from two weeks away … and I’m headed in a whole new direction, personally and professionally.

I have walked new ground on this trip to South Africa and, genuinely, it’s been transformative. My head is buzzing with ideas and my compassionate mind has been fuelled. Call it an epiphany? Yes, maybe. It’s definitely a springboard for change and something I just have to share.

Travelling solo, pushing myself to physical limits, and living in a game reserve eco camp with no family contact (not to mention lions, buffalo, elephant and rhino roaming free outside my tent) I have felt exposed, vulnerable and tested on many different levels.

I’ve cried many tears too: moved by the beauty, cruelty and vulnerability of nature in the raw; the majesty of the Milky Way; the injustice and inhumanity of apartheid; and the anger and horror of corruption undermining conservation efforts.

Scared, unnerved ... and impelled to make a difference

Stepping outside my comfort zone was scary but stretching personal boundaries initially made me tune into a different, more primitive frequency. Instead of looking down at my smartphone, I looked up and focused on the here and now. I felt a real belonging with the vast space and 'big' nature. With no distractions, and just my basic needs met, I experienced the full, unfiltered, highs and lows of me and the nature around me.

But when you start digging, it’s unnerving what you find. You question what makes you tick and the “essence” of you. What matters? It gets you thinking about your career, your personal life, just the whole balance of the system you are in and the part you are playing. The choices I made in the moments when my ‘primitive’ brain was cluttered with threats – real and perceived! – challenged my rational decision-making brain again and again.

Those repeated challenges triggered a courage in me that I hadn't tapped into before and that ultimately released a compassionate and honest perspective of me to myself. It gave me the raw and unfiltered gift of what the essence of me really looks like. The best me. And now I know and have felt it: I'm powerful, released from the never-ending self-doubt and self-criticism and worrying if I'm good enough. I'm OK!

We must bring humans and nature together

Reflecting on this trip, I have learned some big messages about myself. By being small and in awe of my environment, it's ironically unveiled just what I am capable of even as one human in the huge system of nature.

As someone who’s committed to developing my own EQ and Compassionate Mind, I know compassion is best described as a motive in life; a motive to simply help more than harm. In practice, this requires us to hear and listen to our self-critic and pursue our motive of compassion in how we treat ourselves first and foremost.

When we choose, wisdom, mindfulness, kindness and most of all courage to learn from our mistakes, forgive ourselves and speak up with passion about what matters to us, without the fear of reprisal or shame, that's when we start taking true responsibility for living as our best self.

But, for me, knowing and learning is not enough: I discovered in Gondwana that I needed to feel it too. The awe of Gondwana game reserve and the work they do there was the environment I needed to trigger my experience. Now I feel I need to do something to help humans, business and nature understand they are one. We are, after all, occupying one system.

When humans decide to be courageous enough to maintain an intention to be compassionate to ourselves, others and our environment – conservation can really happen. Conservation and compassion are, for me, inextricably linked. They are two doors to the same room.

So having taken this new stance and created the momentum to do something positive, for good …. what exactly am I going to do?

So far – and I’ve only been home a few weeks – I have four big projects in mind.

  • Propose the design and running of some Conservation and Compassion retreats at Gondwana Game Reserve the only free ranging Big 5 private wildlife reserve in the Southern Cape. Home to endangered and speciality species, Gondwana is successfully and ethically balancing eco-tourism with wildlife and habitat conservation. It has already reintroduced the first endangered black rhino to the Western Cape.

  • Finding ways to support and work with The Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative. which is training and mentoring young, unemployed South Africans and giving them IT and employability skills.

  • Speaking publicly about my experiences and challenges and how I found the courage to be compassionate to myself first; to create the most powerful version of me … the essence of me is out of the bottle and it’s not going back in!

  • Building a new dimension to my exec and team coaching work that will promote Compassionate Leadership – supported by the great work of Professor Paul Gilbert (see next blog!).

It’s still early days but I am determined to make my vision happen. If I do, I know it will be the best thing I could ever do in my whole career.

Keep you posted!

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