Photo: Ken Wylie

Photo: Ken Wylie

The Pathless Path



Joseph Campbell, the brilliant researcher of the human journey through mythology uncovered an important story about a life's path, which he shares as part of a knights’ tale:

“They (knights) thought that it would be a disgrace to go forth as a group. Each entered the forest at a point that he himself had chosen, where it was darkest and there was no path. If there is a path it is someone else's path and you are not on the adventure.”

Joseph Campbell

This is true. Any time you read, or listen to any doer of great deeds you can find this piece of the puzzle. They had to walk in untrodden places which required that they mustered up their courage.

As an adventurer myself, I know this to be true, yet I struggle with my courage. I feel that I have lived through enough lessons and lately, the struggle has been a deep one as I forge a new path with my work. I am trying to bring Adventure Education to a new place in Canada, a place that has high adventure and deep meaningful human development working in concert. Few are doing this kind of work. Most often, adventure and human development are in separate camps and they do not need to be.

While forging ahead, I find myself immersed in fear a great deal, which results in me taking work that pays the bills rather than work that feeds my soul and is good for the world (GFTW). When scared, I ask myself how do I know that my tentative steps are the ones meant for me? Recently, I received a message from the universe that has helped me know that I am doing the right things with my work.

In 2014, I published Buried. It is a powerful reflection on some aspects of my life. In it, I modeled the process of turning life events into experience or wisdom. To depict this process I portrayed two jars, an events jar filled with marbles, where each glass ball represented something that happened, and an experience or wisdom jar that could only have marbles placed in it if an important lesson was gleaned from an event. This is the process of reflection, which comes with time alone in silence, listening to one's own wisdom.

I have come to know that I kept repeating mistakes in my life because I have failed to listen to what is being taught through my life events. Sequoyah Trueblood, a wise elder from the Choctaw nation once said "In school we have a lesson and then have a test. In life, we have a test and it is up to us to understand the lesson". Throughout Buried, I found marbles that had been cast off by me as I rushed from one event to the next in my life. Marbles in my event jar dwindled while my experience or wisdom jar remained empty. Remedially, I reflected on events throughout my life and gathered back wisdom, finding marbles on my reflective journey, often rediscovering them in places on the landscape where I had had profound adventures, that were left unprocessed.

Recently I was working with a group of young men and women from the Haskane School of Business, instructing a leadership course that uses backpacking through the mountains as a dojo or classroom for students to learn key leadership lessons through experience and reflection. On the morning of the last day we facilitated reflective time next to the Picklejar Lakes. (the jar)

After solo was over, Logan, a student from another group, whom I did not know very well at all, came straight up to me randomly and said, "When was the last time you saw one of these?" handing me the marble pictured above.  “Is this for me I asked?” and he responded, "Yes." I smiled and said, "You have no idea how important this is."

Most discoveries happen when people are lost. Examples of this can be found in art, literature, science, and throughout all exploration. However, there are signposts that come into view, if we are paying attention. This was one of them.

I am scared right now. I am 51 and have embarked on building an institute for Adventure Education because I believe I can offer something that is needed. Facilitated reflection, along with high-end adventures.  In my heart of hearts I know my work with students in the mountains is needed; I see it in their eyes. I am entering into the forest where it is dark, scary and (in building the school) where no one else has traveled. But there are still signposts to see, like the marble that was delivered to me by Logan. So I will keep going, even though the bank balance is nearing zero again, and I am not sure what next steps to take. Do I need help? You bet!