Jackie shares her recent experiences with us in our latest blog as she journeys to The Journey, Embercombe’s 5-day personal development and self-leadership programme.
It felt as if two of me climbed out of the car and stepped onto the land at Embercombe for the first time.
She was a shadowy presence that walked alongside me. If I looked in her direction, she was not there; this part of me was only to be glimpsed, acknowledged, begrudgingly obeyed as she bossed me, blamed me and shamed me.
I had been aware of her for a long time; years even. I had brought her to this place of light so I could look into her eyes and know her. However, in the days running up to our journey to The Journey, she had made her opinion very clear: this course wasn’t for me, wasn’t for us. I wasn’t up to it.
I’m too old (a lie; I’m only 51. And a half)
I’m not educated enough (another lie)
I’m the wrong class; too Northern (seriously?)
I’m not fit enough (an exaggeration)
I’m not ‘woke’ enough (whatever that means)
I’d make a fool of myself (nothing new)
My friends, family and colleagues will think I’m weird (again, nothing new)
It might encourage me to take wild risks and I could lose everything I’ve worked for (drama wrapped around a tidbit of truth – I knew things were going to change and wanted them to)
I’m so naive – has she taught me nothing? The place is a cult (a mean-spirited suggestion)
I wouldn’t fit in and am unable to make new friends (again, mean)
It’s too far to drive, I’ll get lost or the car will break down – I might even crash… (who am I – my mother?)
And on and on. Finally, the excitement of a week’s break – after 18 months of lockdown – drowned her out. I packed; I made a motorway playlist; I programmed the satnav. The drive down from Lancashire was safe, stress-free and picturesque, even when I got lost in the last mile.
Thus disarmed, I thought I’d left her behind, but in the last mile she made a last-ditch attempt to get me to turn back. This time, because all the lanes in Devon look the same; because they didn’t care enough to have proper road signs; because… Yet, there she was too, clambering out of the car with me, taking our first steps onto this land together. It seemed she might be game, after all. We took the luggage down to the yurt and went to meet our fellow journeyers.
That evening, I began to discover what this Shadowy Me carried in her shadowy suitcase. She had brought her objections. And she unpacked a new piece of evidence – a memory, a learned behaviour, an old myth – every day; sometimes every hour.
Her presence came into focus each time I was challenged to be open, honest, authentic – I could almost see her stepping close; as if she wanted to protect my boundaries, though she was in fact obscuring the view and blocking the way. The thing about change is that it’s inevitable. Welcoming change is one thing; inviting it is another. Of course Shadowy Me was going to protest!
Yet, held within the supportive space created by the course leaders and volunteers, I was able to rummage to the bottom of the suitcase and find evidence to reassure her it was all going to be fine.
And it is.
All. Absolutely. Fine.
The first rule of The Journey is that we don’t talk about what happens on The Journey. It would spoil it for future journeyers. And it’s true (as one of the leaders said on our last day) that describing what we’d done simply wouldn’t make sense to anyone who hadn’t lived it. And the truth is, also, that we all arrive for different reasons and with different expectations and our experience of the course is unique.
What I can say is that it was a curious, inspiring adventure and it has changed me profoundly; yes, that word.
Shadowy Me – that part who wants to keep me small, for all the right and all the wrong reasons – is in the light. I am seeing her more clearly than I have ever seen her before. I know her, love her; I don’t blame her or shame her, I show compassion.
Exposed, her ability to stand between me and what I most profoundly love is diminished; nor will she be able to stop me from perceiving my gifts; nor seeing my responsibilities. I know if I hadn’t found the courage to defy my fears, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to face them. This is The Journey for me; the most exceptional gift I could have given my future self.