In Conversation with MadibaBy Emma Pearson
December 6, 2023
Main image by Ashim d’Silva on Unsplash
13 December 2021
Some of the more woo-woo stuff I get up to is “Journey work” (The Journey®).
I first came across Brandon Bays, and her book, “The Journey”, in Autumn 2009, and fell in love with it. Over the next few years, I attended about 30 days – possibly more – of intensive seminars, and completed close to 50 case studies, before becoming an accredited Journey Practitioner in 2015. I was all ready to start using this healing process work with clients – corporate and non-corporate – but then my younger brother Edward got ill, and I became very involved in his care for the six months or so remaining in his life. Most things – especially thoughts about expanding my fledgling business – fell by the wayside.
I have never regretted or resented being with Edward in those difficult months, hard as it was. And given what was to come, even a quick backward glance shows me how vital the people I met, and what I learned, ended up being. Even if I still wish I’d never needed to learn any of it. Many skills in life are important, even if you wish you didn’t have them.
Having become so enamoured with La Maison de Tara, the end-of-life hospice where Edward spent his final two months, I began to volunteer there some months after his death, and took part in their intensive and rich 11-month training programme. “How to Be with people who are at end of life”; and “how to Be with yourself as your own death anxiety is triggered, again and again”.
Not your everyday conversational stuff. At least, not mine at the time.
It was during that year of hospice training and first year of volunteering experience that Mike experienced his first symptoms… and La Maison de Tara went back to being not just a place I visited for five hour shifts to support strangers at the end of their life, but final home for the sweetest and most precious man in my life. A place I would spend 8 or 10 hours at a time, day after day. Again, no time or capacity for paid work, volunteering, professional skills development, or practising new skills, other than keeping plates spinning in my life.
Being an “everyday hero” – as Medjool would call it when he met me a few years later.
The last five years, since Mike first became ill in Autumn 2016, are very blurry. I sometimes re-read my writing and am always amazed that (a) I could string words, sentences, thoughts and paragraphs together, (b) function passably with the few clients I had when I had them, (c) continue spinning the odd plate, even though too many tumbled and crashed. I am glad to have a written record, patchy as it is, because it’s some sort of evidence that I continued breathing, even in deep darkness.
About four months after Mike died, I got back involved in Journey work and re-remembered its power. Not that it “heals (or dissolves) grief” (for what can, what could, what should?); but that it helps you access your inner resources, your inner wisdom, your healing power, which even at the best of times can be forgotten. Perhaps even more powerfully for me, the rich teachings of the Enneagram, a core instrument in Journey Work, repeatedly reminded me of my core gifts – and saboteurs – that can be so vital to notice when life throws too many stressors to absorb.
Fast forward to 2021, and I was informed that I was about to lose my accredited status with The Journey organisation, and that my “last few years’ upheaval” was no longer going to pass as an excuse. Let’s face it – I had barely been using the skills or practices for the last four years. I decided to recommit. I decided, “Yes – this is powerful work. I want to offer it to clients. I want to experience it myself”, and so re-connected with the organisation, helping support programmes, participating in new learning, and giving and receiving Journey processes.
This weekend I was one of the “trainers” in a powerful programme called Conscious Abundance, and had lots of opportunity to do my own work, as well as support others in theirs. Without going into too much detail, part of the process involves hearing from a wise mentor of one’s own choosing. “Someone in whose wisdom you trust”. My Journey mentors are usually my Granny May, Mother Teresa, or Nelson Mandela. Sometimes it’s Mike. Yesterday it was Nelson Mandela, who in the very deepest, darkest of places, offered wise and warm words including:
“You have the precious gift of freedom. You have the gift of choice. Use it wisely”
“Continue to love life. Continue to trust life”
“Life can be hard. Love it anyway”
I looked into his warm, kind brown eyes. His wrinkled face. Felt his love, and his strength. His capacity for forgiveness. His humanity. His resilience, humility, and his ability to rise above it all. What a man. What an extraordinary human being!
And I know enough about visualisation that that wisdom is my wisdom. I am not pretending that I am Nelson Mandela, or that his hard-earned wisdom is up for grabs. But I could imagine him looking into my eyes, speaking to me, sharing something of his life’s learnings, and figure out their relevance to my own.
Whoever provided those words – myself, my imagination, or Nelson Mandela’s spirit – is irrelevant to me. What matters is that I can access that wisdom. What matters is that I say Yes to the invitation to continue to love this life of mine.
This life where I both miss what I had, and love what I have.
It’s a daily practice, but it’s one that invariably renews my energy.
Thank you Madiba. You inspire me to live a better life.