On Softening and Surrendering – Experiences from The Journey

By Ian Wilkinson

Ian Wilkinson shares his recent experience of the gift of softening and surrender on Embercombe’s flagship personal development programme The Journey in March 2023.

In recent years I have wandered lost in the wilderness trying to find my purpose and meaning. An old friend has told me time and time again – if you know who you are, you will know what to do.

I never really got it, but I did eventually focus instead on trying to understand who I am. That river finally washed me to the beach that is Embercombe and to The Journey. I arrived having vowed to surrender myself totally to your process and your care. Voices spoke to my soul on so many occasions, it was impossible to tell which messages were the most important. Which were love? Which were rough diamonds?

Right from our first email exchange before the course I had been utterly stuck on the opening question “what is it that you most deeply and profoundly love?” Eventually Mac showed me to a corridor full of doors when he restated the question like this: “what would you never run out of fuel to support as long as you had breath in your body?”.

But still I couldn’t see the door, my door. I fumbled around, guided by my sweet spot, and I came up with the words of my pledge. I’ll confess, I wasn’t entirely certain – surely I needed to pledge to some part of nature? That is where I feel the most pain for Earth. Can this be right? I wasn’t sure, but I trusted the process, I leaped into the river and I made my pledge.

“I pledge to stand up in my own authority, to walk the twin trail, and, in my work, to kindle the fire of compassion in the hearts of men for all lives on Earth”. I said what I would do. Then, I left, utterly spent. On my first night at home, wreathed in comfort, I slept like an angel. I woke this morning gently, of my own accord. Then, as I dressed, there’s was a flash in the dark shadows of my mind, a diamond… Now. Now. Now… finally: I know who I am! I am a compassionate man. That I care so much, feel so deeply – for all peoples of the Earth, human and other than human, for all species for all time – my whole experience at Embercombe showed me this feeling is not a thing of shame, of weakness, of mental illness, an emasculated state to hide from others, to reveal only on retreats, a life of failure to rise into manhood. It is a power, a gift that can soften and open the hearts of men. A gift to be shared.

And, at the moment certainly, I feel it is the hearts of the MEN that need to change more than anything else. This is how I can show up, and what I can do, in service to Earth, for all species for all time. If I have expressed myself well, you will realise words are inadequate to express how I feel about your invitation. But, anyway, thank you. I have work to do. This morning I have already showed my open heart to others many times – and I have stumbled twice- but  I am still standing in my authority, without shame.

With much love to you, the team, fellow Journeyers, nature, my sweet spot, Embercombe and The Journey… for that is the name my ancestors gave me, and, now I know who I am and what I must do, it serves me well.


Photography by Alice Peperell