Updated: Jan 20
As the world continues spinning out in its various permutations of chaos, I’ve noticed more and more people talking to me about this sense of being ‘disconnected’.
Our competitive and highly patriarchal society rewards efforts that lead to success, and growth, and the accumulation of more. It’s not sustainable for us, and it’s not sustainable for our planet.
It can sometimes feel that there’s no end in sight. You may have noticed that each time you get a raise - you then want more 'stuff'.
But what is it really getting us?
Can we be happy with what we have right now? Can we sit in the 'beingness' and just notice what we have right now?
I also know that there's an epidemic of loneliness sweeping our 'modern' society and that men in particular are suffering. Because when you look beyond the distraction of things, what do we have, really?
I share my own account of rediscovery of the fullness of life’s experience and adventure in the hope that just one person doesn't feel like they're alone in this.
Just as the hero is called to his journey, my calling - or rather it was a jolt - to awareness came as I stood in front of ‘The Treasury’ in Jordan in 2007...
It was October 2007, not long after dawn as I stood almost alone in front of the rose coloured edifice of The Treasury - a dream that had burned away inside since I saw Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade had finally become a reality. As Harrison Ford had raced through Bab al Siq, I created a dream of walking that very path to stand before Petra.
Small advertisements in newspapers called out to me over the years and for a long time I discounted the possibility that I could actually go to the Middle East!
The years leading up to that moment were tumultuous, and my life had become a shadow of what it was. I believe that the medication I had been prescribed at the time played a large part in this. They numbed me to the pain I was feeling and disassociated me from the reality of my experience, but they didn’t fix the problem. I lived in a shadow state - there but not there, feeling but not feeling.
If I knew then what I know now, I would've chosen to feel that pain right to its core so it could pass right through me. You see, I've learned over the years that we're more afraid of feeling something than we are of the feeling itself. It has taken a long time to accept that pain is like joy in the sense that both are simply energetic imprints of the body. Sure, one hurts, but if we push it away, it only lasts longer.
When I was prescribed medication there was still a stigma around it - and we thought we were progressive back in the early noughties... We weren't, and the feelings of abuse and betrayed in a relationship are only compounded when you then have to deal with being ostracised all over again in the search for support.
When I left Australia for Amman in October 2007 I was already late into that phase of getting my life back on track post break-up. Everyone thought I was crazy - why would I want to go to the Middle East 7 years after 2001 with so much conflict and so many issues? People literally thought I'd finally lost my mind. I was defiant and determined.
To say that Amman was not what I expected was an understatement.
I had visions of a glamorous Arabian city spread across seven hills with beautiful buildings and history all around. Even lonely planet back then made it feel mysterious and wonderful. Some of it was true - disappointingly most of it was not. The Grand Hyatt in Amman still had very strict security, the city was definitely full of history but nothing like the Arabian Nights fantasy I had concocted. Perhaps I was mad, I remember thinking as I entered the aged reception of my hotel.
My hotel was a relic of a bygone era. The walls were so scuffed I thought the room was used for storage; and the carpet was over-worn with a distinctly musty smell. My initial reaction was horror. I thought by avoiding a hostel I had made a better choice. I learned a couple of years later that the backpackers hostel was infinitely better, cheaper and more welcoming.
I would stay in worse places on this trip, and this place would be a luxury. I couldn’t help but wonder how many people had stayed in the room to create all the marks on the wall. Where had they come from and what were they doing in Jordan?
Amman at the time was a haven of relative peace in a fractured region and it definitely wasn’t a Bucket List destination, more a cross-roads or stopping point to somewhere else, anywhere else but there. Despite its age and scruffiness, it was at least clean and I quickly stopped caring after 17 hours in a steel tube.
The call to prayer in the pre-dawn light was a revelation and one of the most incredibly moving experiences of my life - the soulful tones from the King Hussein Mosque were so deep and so powerful you couldn’t help but be moved by them. I jumped from my bed and ran to the window to catch a glimpse of the sunrise. Amazingly it opened and as I sat on the side windowsill looking out through the bars, a single tear rolled down my cheek in gratitude for being so brave and coming so far - alone.
Back in front of The Treasury, I stood, I looked and I snapped a few dozen photos from every possible angle, but I felt nothing.
In spite of my noticing the precision of the architecture both outside and on the cornices inside the Treasury (you could go inside back then), I didn’t feel in any way moved by having achieved my dream to see this incredible place.
No fireworks, not a zing.
From The Treasury I took the narrow path to the high place of sacrifice and looked out over the remains of the ancient city. I remember being fascinated by the grooves in the sacrificial altar which collected the blood and funneled it down to a carving of a Lion’s Head near the base of the mountain. I read somewhere that it would be particularly auspicious if the blood from the altar would make it to the Lion’s fountain below which was fed by water channels high up the mountain - ugh!
Waiting for me at the base of these steps were 3 friendly kittens, some of the many strays that live in Petra. I played with them and allowed the child in me to imagine taking them home.
For the remainder of the day I moved through the site. Endlessly fascinated, taking in all the details but still feeling nothing of the grandeur of this place. When I stood in front of The Monastery after a gruelling ascent of more than 700 steps I was intellectually blown away at how the Nabateans had created such a wonder. It was here that I stayed a while, ate my lunch and snapped another round of photos. In my own mind, none of them seemed to capture the moment, the beauty, the majesty. None of it was good enough...
It wasn’t the photos, it was me.
Somewhere in the recesses of my mind I knew that something was wrong but I just couldn’t pin point it. I didn’t have any words to describe what I wasn’t feeling (not-feeling), I just had this deep knowing that I should have felt moved by this place, and I wasn’t, not this time.
Back in Australia I confided in a close friend, and went on to work with a psychotherapist for a couple of years. I have no shame in sharing this - I strongly advocate everyone finding someone they can talk to at least once in their life to work things through. We stigmatise therapy at our peril. What really happened is that I had embarked on my own hero’s journey - a journey that would see me travel enough miles to circle the globe 47 times as I explored 50 countries, endless cities, and some of the most sacred sites on our planet. I'll save that overstory for a book one day.
In October 2009 I would once again enter Bab al Siq on my way to The Treasury. Devin, a fellow traveller I had met on the ferry from Nuweiba to Aqaba, walked with me and as we exited to the main plaza we were both moved. I had planned this trip to deeply explore the Levant. I had learned basic Arabic from a Sudanese teacher that had kids laughing hysterically at my formal utterings, and older people politely nodding as I tripped over the words. At least I tried, they'd say... I'd also planned this trip to see what would happen when I stood once more in front of The Treasury.
Devin and I stood just at the exit to Bab al Siq and he broke down in tears as he gazed up at The Treasury. Seeing this young man full of emotion at the sight of the rose-coloured edifice gave me permission to feel the emotion that I had kept lidded until that point. In that moment, a flood of tears flowed freely down my cheeks. A cork had been popped somewhere inside, a layer sloughed away, and those pesky things called feelings began to return. It only takes a moment, a perceptual shift or reframe that allows us to 'see' something differently and allow things to come into alignment. In a rare moment of letting my guard down, I wasn't embarrassed to be seen blubbering in front of one of the greatest monuments on earth... I was just relieved that I could express outwardly what I felt inwardly... and that was new and exciting. Since that time I have had other monumental changes as far as feelings go, and it has surprised even me how shut down we humans can be without realising it. In a different post I'll share how feelings returned to the left side of my head during my 30s after decades of having very little sensation there at all.
Devin and I stayed a while in the main plaza before exploring the rest of the site. I had seen most of it before but I remembered very little, and it was as if exploring it with new eyes for the first time.
In the years since then I have been to Petra 5 times and I never tire of its majesty. It will always hold a special place in my heart because it was there that my heart cracked open just enough to allow me to feel again.
It’s no coincidence that 10 years later I’m helping others to connect more deeply to themselves and through some of the coaching I do, it's inevitable that as we look at what’s not working in life and in business, we may talk about and process those pesky little things we call feelings. No matter how hard we might try, they’re always there.
P.S. here are 3 ways that I can help you #ignitepotential:
• Leadership Coach / Personal Coach
• Deep & Authentic Retreats
• Energy Healing