It’s been a month of rest and renewal, introspection and healing, inspiration and contemplation – the first time that I’ve taken a full month away from my work of coaching, writing, and teaching. It won’t be the last. I spent two weeks at my beloved Lake Chautauqua in Western New York State and eight days on a small-ship cruise exploring the Inside Passage of Southeast Alaska. Both offered great gifts, yet the most profound insights and awareness came from the wilderness in Alaska.
My work, at its essence, is about presence—how we show up to life. We might think that our greatest models for personal presence are people that we admire and respect. However, in Alaska, I discovered a commanding and majestic presence in nature that I hadn’t experienced before. I’ve traveled to many beautiful places in the world and experienced the powerful presence of nature and wildlife many times, yet for me, something was different in Alaska. Mountain peaks soar to more than 12,000 feet (3,700 meters), and a few to 15,000 and even 18,000 feet (4,600 – 5,500 meters). It’s not uncommon for whales to suddenly appear and swim alongside the ship, and the rocky coast is dotted with sea lions and otters. If you pay attention, you soon realize that bald eagles are everywhere. I did not see bears, yet others in our group did.
Of the wildlife, the whales and the eagles had the most powerful impact on me. They have no pretense or “agenda” other than to simply be what they are. They are without inhibition, self-consciousness, and doubt. They just follow their instincts. Because of their size and enormous presence, both physical and energetic, you can’t help but be captivated by them. They fully inhabit their environment. Their presence gives deeper meaning to the concept of “being.”
It was the same with the mountains. I stood for hours on the back deck of the ship, mesmerized by the presence of the mountain peaks, cliffs, and cascading waterfalls. Breathtaking is much too small a word to describe the energy and experience. I simply could not go inside the ship. I had to be outside in the wind, and often the rain, to take it all in. Yes, it was beautiful, yet it was so much more than that. I was both witnessing and experiencing a quiet yet majestic presence of being that I have rarely felt anyplace else.
Much of the Alaskan Inside Passage is a temperate rain forest, so rain, mist, clouds, and fog are the norm. This adds to the magical and, at times, mystical, presence of the mountains and fjords. For me, the rain forest became a profound metaphor for the rapid change and unpredictable nature of today’s world. Out of the mist, high mountain peaks, deep valleys, glaciers, and cliffs appear and disappear within seconds. The view changes constantly, just as conditions and circumstances are constantly changing in our world. You have a sense that something is there, yet it may or may not become fully visible. Or you may see something clearly, yet a moment later, it has vanished and you wonder if you imagined it. I learned to observe and absorb everything as fully and as quickly as possible because in just a moment, it might very well disappear. Seen or unseen, however, the presence of the mountains, sheer cliffs, glaciers, and thousand-foot waterfalls remained incredibly powerful. I was reminded once again that presence is an energy, and that presence can be incredibly palpable even if not visible.
During those days and ever since, I continue to think about the wisdom we as leaders, coaches, and people committed to making a difference in the world, can glean from the Alaska wilderness. The eagles, whales, and mountains remind us that the power of our presence is rooted in our deep sense of “being.” It’s rooted in the essence of who we are. Nature doesn’t think about its purpose. It just is. In fact, nature doesn’t get stuck “thinking” about or analyzing anything the way we do. It simply responds to “what is” without drama or fuss. It’s as if nature’s purpose is embedded in its DNA. And ours is, too. Who we are – our essence and why we are here – is deeply embedded within us. We can’t separate ourselves from it, yet too often, we lose touch with it. When we come back to our essence and ground in the profound simplicity of our being, we can’t help but know who we are and why we are here. Soul mission then becomes our guide. We do what we do, make choices and decisions, and take actions because we sense our next steps from the heart of our being.
I’m grateful to have had a month away. I’m grateful for the splendor, majesty, and wisdom that we can experience in the wilderness and such spectacular nature. And I’m looking forward to stepping back in to my work again.P.S. To learn more about paying attention to the messages all around us, the exercises of Chapter 8 of my latest book, Create A World That Works, can be a great place to start. The book is also available in digital format.
P.S. To learn more about paying attention to the messages all around us, the exercises of Chapter 8 of my latest book, Create A World That Works, can be a great place to start. The book is also available in digital format.
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