The mystery of mastery

04/12/2014 § Leave a comment

The concept of mastery is a very appealing one, isn’t it? No longer subject to the whims of our emotions, or trapped in the rigid logic of our rational mind, we can step into a truly creative space, making choices about how we live our lives. “The master takes action by letting things take their course. She remains as calm at the end as the beginning. She has nothing, thus has nothing to lose.” Tao Te Ching.

But is it for you and me, or is this some mythical state reserved for a small handful of people in history? How can we realistically expect to transcend our limitations, all the influences which seem to tie us down to this mortal plane – our upbringing, our family, our friends, our acquired habits and the rigid social structures which surround us in our society and in our working lives? And what exactly does mastery mean at this time of planetary upheaval, when the challenge of sustainability confronts us like some huge unconquerable mountain, its distant heights obscured by clouds.

Maybe the starting point is to accept the fact that we are all these things, and trying to reject them is just as constraining as blindly accepting them. Choosing to accept who we are, to look ourselves and life squarely in the eye, is a bold and powerful thing to do. It allows us to make more conscious choices starting from where we are, rather than where we sentimentally would like to be. This is part of the mystery of mastery – that the starting point for attaining it is to let go of the need to pursue it. It starts with mindfulness not wilfulness.

Debbie Warrener and I have run a 6 month Mastery in Sustainability course for the last two years, and a new course starts on 4 February. It runs on Tuesday evenings in central London, over 10 sessions. There is a lot of mystery about the course – how it came about, why people are drawn to it and why it works. “Works” is of course a relative concept. Some people find healing “This was one of the most healing trainings I’ve ever done – and that’s saying a lot.” said one participant. Some people love the chance to do some deep work on themselves in a safe space in the company of others. “There were so many wonderful exercises and challenges that offered me an opportunity to do some deeper work on my life.” said another. Many dream of being more powerful in the world, bringing their whole being to making a difference at this time of crisis and transformation, and find the course to be a sort of practice ground – a place to celebrate failure as part of the path to becoming more fully human. “This [workshop I ran] was a huge stepping stone for me, in all kinds of ways. One that I absolutely owe to my participation in the Mastery in Sustainability course.”

Debbie and I have devised the course as a series of exercises, drawing on a variety of sources including deep dialogue, embodied work, spiritual practices, deep ecology and action learning. For us, sustainability is not something to be talked about but to be lived and experienced. Another participant described the exercises as “challenging, moving, thought-provoking, and wonderful. I would thoroughly recommend this course to anyone.”

Is it for you? Only you can know. If you are intrigued or drawn, you can find out more information on the website. Or contact me or Debbie. You can book your place on the course, for a deposit of £60, here. If you want a taste of our unique and unconventional approach, come along to a taster session in London on Tuesday 20th January. You can reserve your place on the taster here.

To conclude with the words of another participant, Mastery in Sustainability is “a fascinating voyage across some stirring seas of self-enquiry that you’ll be pleased you boarded, navigated as it is by two such passionate and caring guides.” I look forward to encountering some of you on the voyage.



Building a community of hope

21/01/2014 § 1 Comment

There’s a lot of work to be done, isn’t there, in this age into which we are born. We have to re-imagine, re-think, re-design and re-build the way we do so many things – make things, move about, provide energy for our daily activities, feed ourselves, organise ourselves, relate to each other.

We don’t always do ourselves favours. Too often we work in silos, when so much of the work can be done better when shared. We allow ourselves to get discouraged when we could be empowered through cooperating with others.

So a big part of our work is also to build communities, communities that are bound together by shared values, by a shared and inspiring purpose, and by hope. In dark times hope is sometimes all we have to hold onto. As Vaclav Havel put it: “Hope is not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.”

But how do you build such communities? How do you find the time and the courage? Where do you get a chance to practise? There are some really excellent short courses, lasting a few days, where you go to a wilderness or a foreign country and find yourself through encounters with others. Leaders Quest, Embercombe, Natural Change, vision quests,  all these can be powerful transformative experiences that draw on the power of community.   But what do you do when you get home, when you return to the daily grind? How do you foster that spirit of community when you are back in the belly of the beast?

That’s the question I set out to address last year when I set up Mastery in Sustainability with Debbie Warrener.  We wanted to create our own community of hope in the heart of London. It was an amazing experience. 15 of us came together in 10 sessions over 6 months. We supported, inspired and challenged ourselves. Through truly meeting each other, we found ways to express our whole selves, and then to take that back into our daily lives. “One of the most healing trainings I have ever done” as one participant put it.

This year we are running the course again, starting in a week’s time, and there are still spaces. If you would like to be part of this journey, if you would like to start 2014 by joining an emerging community of hope, then you can book on the course here. We even have a special offer if you sign-up today. Or go back home, or back into your workplace, and start one yourself. There is no more important work in this age.


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