Life on the road…. (again)
I remember the very first time I heard the words ‘Road Warrior.’ I was sat in a smoky, high-ceilinged room in a beautiful old country house called Highnam Court near Gloucester. My teacher, Batty Thunder Bear was speaking, a jog Jakarta cigarette between his fingers, the faint crackle of the tobacco burning and the smell of cloves perfuming the space. He was telling us a little about his life as a road warrior and I was fascinated:
‘I travel the world, doing what I love to. I get well paid for my trouble and my life is a joy. Good dream no?’
I remember the excitement that his words conjured up in me. I can still feel that almost breathless response in my body as my train pulls out of Exeter station again. 35 years have passed since then and for nearly all of them, I’ve been on the road, doing what I love to do, traveling the world and being well paid (in so many ways) for what I do. My life is ridiculously blessed. I am aware of that and gratitude is an attitude I practice.
Of course, the dream and the reality are not the same. Having to say goodbye to my beloved, that feeling as I open up my suitcase again to pack for the next trip, the sadness in my dog, Moxi’s eyes as she sees my suitcase out again. I don’t like leaving home. I don’t like the feeling of saying goodbye and knowing the reality of mortality, having to embrace the possibility that this may be our last goodbye. There are risks in loving a woman as much as I love my wife. After 37 years, that love has grown deeper the more courage I’ve found to face the inevitable tearing of our hearts that death promises. But I’m an all in. The harvest of facing the inevitable shadows that come with the territory of long-term relationships of any kind, is a deeper shade of gold than I had imagined to be possible.
The wealth of trust earned and given might just be the greatest success of my life. Seeing our son and his wife happy is right up there. And then there’s the satisfaction of being so deeply involved in the work I love, an ever-evolving story with no end, the grace of mystery at its core.
I’ve been home from the Amazon and Toronto for 12 nights. And now I’m headed to Poland to teach a week-long residential called Encounter. The Amazon is our second home. We have family there and our commitment to family is total. There are always many adventures in the forest. I could tell you about the tarantula landing on my hand as our second ceremony began. I could tell you about the experience that has had a similar impact to being hit by lightning in my 20’s. But with International Women’s Day on the horizon, what I want to share with you is this.
On this journey, for the first time, we had an Achuar guide, Ramiro or Chumpi, with us. This is significant for many reasons, not least that it meant that the normal translations from English to Spanish to Achuar and back again were replaced by a much simpler English to Achuar and back again as Chumpi was sent by his community to learn English at the age of 19. He lived with Lynne and Bill Twist in San Francisco and since then, has supported his community as a guide. He has always wanted to travel with a Pachamama Alliance group and we were the lucky ones to be his inaugural journey.
We met his wife and two of his children at the tiny airport of Shell as we prepared to fly into the Amazon to begin our journey. At the community of Sharamentsa, our group took some time to meet as women and men. The women met with the women of the community and that is their story to tell. We met as a small group of men. And though we had plans to do some exciting trust exercises, we found that there were stories to tell. We were joined by Augustin Tentets (see Susannah’s wonderful Amazon Blog for more about him), Chumpi, Entsakwa (a dear old friend and the local Shaman), and two young boys of 11 and 13. We were telling stories about our fathers and Chumpi decided to tell us about a very powerful intervention he had made with his own father.
He told us (and I have his permission to share his story) that one day he had found his mother very distressed and was horrified to learn that his father had been violent with her. He decided to confront his father. His father’s response was to put him down for the way he allowed his own wife to speak to him. Chumpi was having none of it and told his father that unless he agreed to stop any form of violence with his mother, he would have to fight him. Somehow or other, he managed to get through to his father, who he told us, had always treated him fairly. His father promised to mend his ways and from that moment on, lived true to his promise. Chumpi’s courage in confronting his father’s bad behaviour drew cheers and heartfelt applause from all of us. . I was particularly aware of the two young Achuar warriors listneing intently to Chumpi’s story. One of the differences I noticed on this journey, our first since 2020, was how many young people were involved in the community projects. I am told that this is partly due to the respect those young people see being given to their parents, community leaders and shamans by us, their allies and visitors. I hope Chumpi’s example is an inspiration to all of us who identify as being men. And I wish to add my voice hear to say that violence towards women is unacceptable. Always has been. Always will be. And, much as it remains true that we have a very long way to go, we have also come far and I want to celebrate the progress that is being made as we, as a species, turn our massive creativity more and more towards solving the injustices in our world.
And so here I am. Still on the road. Making the contribution that makes most sense to me. Movement is the best medicine I have found for learning how to dance as creatively as possible with whatever life brings. And the simple truth is, we all have a dancer in us, and no matter our past, we all have the potential to stand up, grow up and play our role in this life. These words, stand up, grow up and play your role are the essence of what Movement Medicine invites. And as long as my heart beats, I’ll be doing my upmost to get this message embodied in as many of my fellow humans as possible.
Finally, before I turn my attention to the week ahead of me, we’ve extended the early booking deadline for this year’s Long Dance to March 31st as we had forgotten to mention it previously. The Long Dance is the quintessential heartbeat of our Movement Medicine practice and community. We learned a huge amount last year and we have put much of that learning into practice for this year’s event. Please receive this as our personal invitation to you to join us for this year’s event July 1st to 7th, on Dartmoor.
Wishing you and your loved ones all the love, resource, support and belief to be able to dance with life and make the very most of the miracle of being here. See you online or on the road.
Ya’Acov DK. March 2023.