On our spiritual path we often find teachers in the most unexpected people.
I have sat at the feet of quite a collection of really brilliant people, who all offer humility and tell me that they are still learning, and still growing. It seems that in some ways, the more you learn about yourself and travel through life, the more you realise there is to learn.
But one of the people who has had the biggest impact on my life is not who I would have expected at all, and I would imagine he would be surprised to know this too.
So I am going to share with you my ‘David Wrench’ story.
Backtrack to 2010 and although I didn’t know it then, it was my last few years working in the corporations and a ‘mainstream job’. I thought at that time I would be in that career forever, and although I was unsettled and wondering if I was in the right place, I did feel signed up to the life I had chosen.
I was one of twenty people selected to attend a six month leadership development training programme, paid for by the company I worked for. We were on a short residential course in Cornwall, at a place called Embercombe. We slept in yurts, ate home grown food, spent some time working in the fields weeding runner beans and digging up potatoes and at night gathered around the campfire to share beers.
Of course there was the usual corporate training activities inter-dispersed in all of this, involving flip charts, role play, post-its and the like. We had a great time and I felt like it was home from home. I loved the energy at Embercombe and everything it stood for.
A few others on the course really didn’t take to the place, and found it too alternative. They were used the usual plush hotel venues with hot showers and stylish dining. These were stocky builder types. I worked for a large construction company, and the people I worked with were brilliant folk, but definitely mainstream. This was for some of them their first taste of the alternative way of life.
New to them, normal to me.
I was in my element but not everyone was.
One of the people who was not so taken with Embercombe was a chap called David Wrench. He was the health and safety manager at a major construction site for the London Olympics. Now for those of you who are not familiar with construction culture, health and safety runs through the backbone of of everything.
The health and safety mangers are often very forward, brash and bullish, and usually don’t ever hold back. They need to be like this for their job, as they are all about preventing accidents and saving lives.
As far as character types go, David and I were on opposite ends of all the psychological profile models. We knew this and often paired up in exercises to explore our differences and see where each other were coming from, and had a good working relationship. I was sad though that he and others didn’t love Embercombe like I did.
I could see that this was just the most amazing place. It was all about the land, and living from the land, and learning from the land. It was so beautiful there, and such an incredible community.
So fast track to the end of the four days together, and I was sitting on the minibus waiting to be taken to the train station. I was looking out of the window and I saw David waiting in the queue to climb on the bus.
I can see him as clear to this day as I saw him then. He was standing with his hands in his pockets, looking around, a far-gazing stare in his eyes. I watched him mutter to himself quietly, but just loud enough so I could hear, the words:
‘I am really going to miss this place.’
There it was. That life changing moment for me right there. I saw something shift in David in that moment which changed my life.
I realised that if we are to change the way we live on the Earth, and live in a sustainable way we need to do just one thing…
..we need to fall back in love with the Earth again…
…and to do this we need to get outside, and rekindle that relationship with her.
It was like a bullet into my whole being. You see for years and years, over a decade I had been searching how to help people understand that how we are living on the Earth right now will be the end of us, and that we need to change. I had made a career out of it, become a trainer, auditor, chartered environmentalists.
I could go on – I had done all sorts, and tried everything I could think of. But nothing was working at the rate it needed to. Nothing was shifting people in the way it needed to. I had been on the verge of a nervous break down about it a few years before, and was in psychotherapy as a result.
At that moment I realised that it wasn’t about procedures, policies, auditing and programmes. It wasn’t that at all.
It was about helping people fall back in love with her. Fall back in love with the Earth.
It was that realisation that caused me to change my whole way of working.
When I was made redundant six months later, it was that message that I held on to. So instead of carrying on with work as a sustainability manager in large firms, I developed a plan to move into different work, getting people outside. I was never going to help people fall in love with the Earth through PowerPoint slides and syndicate exercises, and with the on-going recession I was never going to succeed in convincing the corporations to pay to send their staff on outdoor sustainability training programmes.
This is what our work is all about at The Way of the Buzzard. Getting outside, working with nature and falling back in love with her, and ourselves. There is such richness in this work for us, our communities and the Earth herself, and such healing.
So David Wrench gave me an incredible gift.
Fortunately I was open enough to spot this message. I was already searching whether I was on the right path in life, and David gave me a brilliant signpost to divert my efforts and take a new path.
After that it took me another five years to get there, to turn my back on that career and step fully into a new one. I had to run both areas of work concurrently for that length of time whilst I retrained, and went through a huge amount of inner work myself during the process.
Each step of the way the right teachers presented themselves and I grabbed every opportunity I could. So when I look back now to that point, I almost can’t compare the life I was living then to the one I am living now.
It’s not been easy, far from it. But that is another whole series of blogs!
Finding your way
The message I want to close with is aimed at those of you who feel you want to make a change in your life. To take a new direction but can’t figure out what that new path will be.
I know how excruciating that place can be. The feeling of being stuck, treading water, the unhappiness, the lethargy at times and the confusion. The tears, the worry and the never-ending chatter going round and round in your head.
So at the start of this new year, I encourage you to set yourself a little new years resolution. That is to be open to the teachers that need to come into your life in order to set you on course to where your soul desires to be.
These teachers can come in many guises. Look out for workshops which speak to you and sign yourself up. Read that book which is calling to you from your bookshelf. Get out in nature and be open to the messages which come through in the call of the crow and the bend in the river. Hang out with people who think and feel like you. Seek support from professional people who can help hold you as you work through past trauma. Have an encounter with your own David Wrench, who will show you something profound without them even realising it.
Some of these will cost money and you will need to prioritise your spending away from little luxuries. Some will be low cost or completely free. All will lead you to the place where you need to be if you remain open and keep on asking the questions.
Let 2017 be the year that sets you firmly on your path.