Each invitation I receive to travel and speak abroad confronts me with questions familiar to many of those whose work includes air travel. Sometimes I refuse, but not often. I truly hope that in years to come I will know that my decision to accept the opportunity and negative impacts of air travel was, in balance, the correct one. I guess time may tell.
I was invited to speak at the annual conference of the International Academy of Collaborative Practice in Vancouver. The IACP supports lawyers and health professionals to seek the resolution of their client’s divorce disputes through dialogue and collaboration, and avoiding the win-lose outcomes inevitably associated with litigation. At last year’s annual conference the keynote speaker showed my seventeen minute ‘Children’s Fire’ talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0trkAY39M5g and this prompted them to invite me to the 2014 conference. It was truly gratifying to find that so many of the delegates use this video to persuade their clients to place their children’s welfare and happiness at the centre of the divorce settlement process.
Thanks to Hazel Tree contacting her friends on Canada’s west coast, I was then whisked off and treated with such generosity and warmth it was hard to leave. I gave a public talk in Vancouver, meeting many vibrant, open-hearted, and interesting people, a good proportion of whom were involved in one or more social and/or environmental projects from tiny to huge. We travelled up the Sunshine Coast, taking a ferry to cross the deeply indented coast, and marvelling at the wild land all around us – bears, wolves, elk, beaver………., before then heading on to some land that the group was interested in purchasing. I shared some of the experiences and learning from our journey with Embercombe, but not too much as every group and every project has it’s own unique characteristics and it felt much better to be focused on listening and learning than offering opinions.
It was my Linked In network that brought about an invitation to speak at the Harvard Business School Club of New York (HBSCNY). In terms of business speaking opportunities anything associated with one of the big United States Ivy League business schools, is good news, but I was uncertain how the themes I speak about would be received by Manhattan executives. I needn’t have worried, it went really well, even if the audience occasionally looked startled, disbelieving, and occasionally disorientated.
Rajasthan is desert country. It is a dusty, vivid, raw and achingly beautiful place. I was here once before with Unilever Asia, camped nearby a desert village, and wreathing myself in the sights, sounds, and scents of a way of life that like so many other places is fast disappearing. This time I was with Leaders’ Quest with whom I am an associate. This wonderful organisation has provided me with many opportunities to see behind the veil and receive experiences that it would be almost impossible to access without their help. I was with them as one of the LQ team, hosting a group of one hundred and five guests at the annual Pow-Wow. Our guests were all people who whether they think of themselves as such or not, are leaders. Artists, bankers, social entrepreneurs, activists, business managers, speakers, and authors – all of them are energetically working for a better world. On three occasions I ran a workshop called ‘Desert Council’ and each time we were joined by a group of village children. As we sat in council, they gathered all around us, attentive, respectful, very curious, and somehow happy to be participating. Something about the simplicity of our surroundings, our tiny circle, the children, and the broad sweep of cultivated fields around us, touched everybody very deeply. There is a magic in these moments that is subtle and delicate, yet unmistakeable.
Another day we set off in a minibus and visited a remote village where Jaipur Rugs http://www.jaipurrugs.com/founder.aspx has trained many women (and some men) as weavers. It’s an extraordinary story – from 9 village weavers to 40,000; thousands of families benefiting from NK Chaudery’s vision, and thousands of girls now receiving an education which in earlier times was not possible.
In the late summer I received an invitation from Bruce Lipton https://www.brucelipton.com to speak at the Uplift Festival in Byron Bay, Australia. Carole Catto had sent him a link to some of my talks and he passed a recommendation on to the organisers. Unusually, all of the presenters, musicians, poets, and workshop leaders were invited to gather for one whole week prior to the festival itself and explore the potential of our combined presence. Organic India http://www.organicindia.com/ was the organisation that funded both the gathering and the festival, and we really were treated with exceptional hospitality and generosity throughout our stay. Byron Bay shares some of the culture and feel of our very own Totnes, but much warmer, with miles of golden beaches, and the relaxed laissez faire culture that only a place bathed in sunshine year long can achieve. Just a short distance inland and you really feel the sub-tropical climate of this very beautiful forested country, replete with wild dogs, snakes, huge spiders, cockatoos, kangaroos, wallabies, and iguanas, to name just a handful.
The presenters included a wide range of people covering topics including new science, nutrition, spirituality, wellness, and sacred economics. Many of you won’t be surprised to hear that one topic which frequently surfaced was ‘Being and Doing’, and the related subjects of activism and personal spiritual practice. I made many new friends, invaluable connections, and learned a great deal. There were representatives from different indigenous peoples around the world, including of course, the original people of Australia. Their generosity, warmth, open-heartedness and humility, sat together with the unresolved and largely unacknowledged tragedy of terrible wrongs, racism, and ignorance. Even now in 2014 all of them continue their search for healing, dignity, and justice. Some of you will remember Bob Randall, the aboriginal elder who stayed with us at Embercombe some years ago and for whom a young Eucalyptus tree grows near the apprentices cabin. It was good to see him again, good to spend time with the oldest of the thirteen grandmothers, Agnes Baker Pilgrim, and good to join Loretta Afraid of Bear in ceremony.
When I first heard of the People of the Earth (The Kogi Indians) I felt their significance and began to try and find a way of making contact. It happened at Uplift. Two of the Kogi Mamas, together with tribal elders from a neighbouring region, are on a journey of great spiritual significance around the world. If you have not seen the two films ‘From the Heart of the World’ and ‘Aluna’, you might wish to do so. Their presence at Uplift was very powerful and everyone felt it. They came with a message