Absent Without Leave.

Dear Self,

Up until 4 days ago I had written something every day for 236 days.

Then I just broke that streak. I went AWOL on you.

How did this happen? Where did I go? Is everything ok?

Yes, everything is ok.

What actually happened? Well…that’s a little more complicated.

I went to a very special place.

Before I tell you about it I want you to know that spending this time with you every day has become a part of who I am. So losing you for a few days has been difficult for me. So difficult that I almost couldn’t find you again. I felt frightened that I had broken something that I could never go back to. I am hoping that through this letter we can reconnect, move beyond this, become stronger.

We’ll see.

I’ve spent the last week in a small country town called Flowerdale. Flowerdale is lovely but that is not the special place I went to. I was in Flowerdale with a group of 50 people who are hell bent on making the world a better place. Each of them is a participant in the Centre for Sustainable Leadership’s 2016 Fellowship program. It is an 8 month fellowship course that creates our future leaders. It rocks.

They let me help out every year. I teach a couple of workshops early in the year and then, mid year, we go to Flowerdale for their media and communication retreat.

This year, for the first time, I stayed for the whole retreat.

And I lost myself, well partly, actually it’s weird, I found myself but lost myself and I don’t understand how all that worked. Maybe I had to let go of a lot of the everyday bits of myself so I could uncover some of the bits of myself that had been hiding or shy or a little uncertain. Anyway, something was happening and I went for it.

If it’s ok, I’d like to tell you a bit about what I found.

I found some people. I found some peers who are on the outrageous journey of understanding themselves so that they can fix shit up and make things better.

I found some fellow teachers who are compassionately and with great sophistication creating a space for this kind of transformation to happen.

I found some artists who understand how to use the power of our creative souls to connect, heal, inspire, nurture and fan the flame of hope and potential in our collective psyche.

I found some friends. People who I would walk the plank for because I watched them stand beneath each other with open arms and hold each other on the way down which helped me realise there is a soft landing if I only have the courage to leap.

So I leapt.

And I found passion. Passion for using the knowledge I have on how we move, how we communicate, how we create art, how we sing and dance and tell stories, how we be ourselves amongst all of this to make things better. Better in our own world and better in the larger world.

I found conviction. Conviction that we should think carefully about what we do. That we should take responsibility for the impact we have on the system that supports us.

I found a conviction that we should treat each other, and ourselves, with compassion. That we can do that by examining the deeply hidden beliefs we have that encourage us to treat each other as anything less than equal. I found the conviction to know that these hidden beliefs exist, pull them to the surface, stare in their ugly mirror face and slay them like the unhelpful dragons they are.

I found truth, the truth that it is kindness that we should call upon when one (or more) of our dragons is raging in a group. That compassion is the sword that slays the worst of our fears, our hurt, our anger, our insecurity, our vulnerability.

I found that, when someone else’s dragon is raging nearby I may not feel like reaching for the kindness and love that they are needing. I am likely to reach for my shield, to weapon up, to protect myself — which is all ok — but if I truly want to live in a way that reflects what I believe in then I found that I can teach myself to reach for kindness, empathy, listening and, dare I say, love.

And I found that if I do this I will be given a glimpse behind the curtain and I will see honesty, vulnerability, imperfection, contradiction, inspiration, despair, disquiet, self-loathing, a desire to belong…a desire to be loved.

I found that if I can have the courage to do this for others they might just have the courage to do the same for me. I found that when we do this we are transformed into a community of people who can get things done.

All of this has changed me for the better.

So I ask for your forgiveness, Self, on having dipped out on you.

Taking care of you, staying in regular contact, is one of the things I know keeps me on steady ground. This year I lost myself amongst the intense life affirming conversations, the early morning teaching, the bush walks up the mountain and the late nights sitting around the fire singing with friends.

I don’t regret a moment of it.

Next year I promise to bring you along for the whole ride.

You’re going to love it.

Luke