“Humility is not thinking less about yourself, it is thinking less of yourself” C S Lewis
Humility and inner peace go hand in hand. The less compelled you are to prove yourself to others, the easier it is to feel peaceful inside. However, ask yourself the question, how often are you trying to prove yourself in front of others?
Humility makes us aware of our personal limitations and the limitations of humanity more broadly. We acknowledge that there is much we do not know, that certainty is impossible and that our understandings of the world are provisional at best. Humility opens us to growth and love and to accept change where necessary by going with the ‘flow’ as a normal everyday occurrence. We most certainly do not need to be anyone else other than true self.
Proving yourself can be a dangerous trap. It takes an enormous amount of energy to be continually pointing out to others about your accomplishments, bragging or even trying to convince others of your worth as a human being. Bragging actually dilutes the positive feelings you receive from an accomplishment or something you are proud about. To make matters worse, the more you try to prove yourself, the more others will want to avoid you, talk behind your back about your insecure need to brag and at worst perhaps even resent you.
I personally got to learn about humility following my abortive attempt with a colleague to row across the Indian Ocean nearly 15 years ago. We did alright, in that we rowed unsupported for almost 2000 nautical miles from Western Australia en route to Africa, until a tropical storm damaged both me and the boat. This meant we had to stop and abandon our world record attempt. Up until that point, I will admit, I was full of it – telling the media and anyone else in my earshot how great a feat this was, and therefore how great I was! And that lack of humility lasted after we returned to the UK, and accompanied me throughout the next couple of years giving public talks and chatting to friends and strangers alike. Then one day, I realised that I was fooling myself and started to look at the deeper messages of that expedition and how they had changed my outlook on life. Lessons like tolerance, awareness of the world around me and a good dose of humility developed my inner being and ultimately my inner happiness.
Ironically, however, the less you care about seeking approval, the more approval you seem to get. People are drawn to those with a quieter, inner confidence, people who don't need to look good, be ‘right’ all the time or steal glory. Most people love a person who doesn’t need to brag, a person who shares from his or her heart and not from their ego.
The way to develop genuine humility is to practice. Practicing is good because you get immediate inner feedback in a way of calm, easy feelings – in other words you feel good about yourself. The next time you have the temptation to brag about something, resist it. Instead, listen hard to what the other person is saying and calm your inner talk.
So, when we are humble, we can laugh at our self importance and sometimes, even set it aside. We can see our own faults and the strengths of others, and we recognize how much we have been given, unearned. It is but one step in finding out more about yourself and finding an inner peace that leads to a much happier being.
I felt honoured to be able to do this period of seclusion for myself. Honoured that my family understood why I needed to do this and that nature kept me safe throughout. Honoured with the opportunity to connect to my soul and discover inner meaning. It was a peculiar journey into looking for the real ‘me’, one that had its highlights, though one which occasionally scared and depressed me. The dreams that I encountered which came to me vividly from the second week onwards, were on occasion frightening and sometimes totally incomprehensible. One, I discovered was so real in its graphical details that I actually slept walked at night across the moor – both in dreamtime and for real! I hope to be able to reflect on these more in my forthcoming eBook ‘Discovering your Soul through Seclusion’. The majestic and wild moor allowed me to fully lose myself from my personal paradigm but also allowed me to connect with those who lived and died there thousands of years ago. There is something magical about North Dartmoor, and I know I will return there again soon.
However, I would like to offer some tips to anyone who would like to do this:
Well, that's it for the time being on seclusion, soul encounter and self development. I will be bringing you a fuller account of the 21 days in the shape of an eBook, so watch this space! In the meantime I will think about going off to do 40 days and 40 nights!
“Whatever happens to the beast, also happens to the man. All things are connected”
Chief Seattle, Suwamish Tribe.
I was joined during my time on Dartmoor by many animals (mainly birds), some of which I gave names to such was their regularity of visiting me. After a while of course, I started to see and understand the symbolism of why these animals had chosen to make their presence aware to me. Because all things happen for a reason, right? I want to share these and my thoughts about what I thought they were revealing to me.
As time moved on I thought much about the herons and swans that I had seen flying during my first week when walking across the moor. Since that first encounter I had not seen either bird type flying across the moor even though I was out there every day. It occurred to me that they were showing me early on to be fully aware of the elementals present on the moor during my time - specifically that of wind, air and water – elements that herons (and swans) live with throughout their lives. The fourth element of fire could well be represented by blood being pumped around the body bearing warmth and vitality to every cell. So, I was being called to be fully aware of the essential elementals present. I had to be thankful for their presence such as water to drink, air to breathe, wind to dry and cleanse and blood for energy to just be. These were all very much key to my overall feeling (physical and mental) during my seclusion time. How often are you aware of the elementals around you?
I had clearly moved into the territory of a large red deer stag and he kept reminding me about that with periodic bellowing in my direction at night. However, it was one night that an extraordinary incident happened. Around midnight, deep in sleep I was awakened with very close and loud bellowing from the stag. I shouted from the safety of my shelter thinking that it would bolt off quickly. I was mistaken as it continued to challenge me with its bellowing. Somewhat irritably I got out of my sleeping bag, put on my shoes and grabbed my high intensity torch. Switching it on I walked to the fringes of the forest to where I thought the sound was coming from. Incredibly, I saw the stag 20 metres away across the fire-break just staring at me. Even when I had the torch shining straight into its eyes it didn't flinch. This was odder than odd, and frankly very intimidating. So the waiting game started. I felt I had to stand my ground and wait until it got frightened and bolt off. But amazingly it didn't. What seemed like an eternity, it turned majestically and slowly walked away. I have to say I was left trembling with this experience and could not get back to sleep afterwards.
Meditating on this later, I realised that we can ask the deer within ourselves to help seek out our inner treasures and find those depths within our soul to get there. In other words, this is assistance in finding our path of self development. Interestingly enough, a medieval term used for a stag is a ‘Hart’, so perhaps this was my heart talking to me and showing me the importance of listening to my heart more?
A small cock robin was a constant visitor to my shelter area, and would often perch on a tree and watch me for ages. It seemed to always be there when I was in my camp area. I found out that the robin is regarded as a symbolic visitor showing aspects of strength, silence, guardianship and protection - even when it is looking after it's own family. The robin tends not to flock with others, preferring to be solitary and to be heard when it speaks. This beautiful sounding bird is earth tied meaning that it will stay on the ground a lot, it's duties including being an escort, willing to escort the spirit to a new beginning. It is a part of the dawn chorus singing in every new day and part of spiritual awakening, a gentle reminder of what has been and what is to come. So, in my context this small bird was showing me the need to connect with spirit in order to access my soul and, ultimately my true self.
These messages from nature and my surroundings made me think much more about being thankful and grateful for what I had – not only during my time on Dartmoor but also from this time on. So, I challenge you the next time that you step outside your door, to view what’s happening around you with a little more curiosity. See and feel the energetics and make your conclusions about why these are presenting themselves to you. I would really love to hear your stories about this, so please write in to me! My own research to find out about animal symbolism included information from Druidic, North American, Celtic and other sources. These helped me make my own conclusions and you will no doubt have yours as well.
There are many other animals with messages that I saw during my time, including a nighthawk, Dartmoor ponies, adders, bulls and crows. These will all appear in my new eBook about the whole experience, which will be coming soon. Watch this space…
Week two arrived and the weather changed at last for the better with blue skies and beautiful sunshine. I was able to dry clothes and have a full ‘bath’ in the tiny stream that was so cold but so refreshing! My trips across the moor continued as I ventured now into the military ‘danger area’ which is hardly ever open for the public to walk in due to live firing that happens almost daily there. It was beautiful to experience the wilder part of the moor, as here there are almost no public footpaths to be followed and wonderfully no people! I could only do this because the red danger flags which warned people not to stray into this area were not flying (well at least I did not see them!).
As I mentioned in my last blog, I had started to walk without the use of a compass or map. It made me think how much in our working lives that we rely on others to set our compass, our direction, our journey and do we ever rationalise whether this is the right thing for us, or just the right thing for someone else? Are we listening to our hearts or our heads? Of course we have needs such as security in having a home, bread to put on the table and money in our pockets. These needs go a long way in swaying us to accept other peoples ‘direction’ on us. If you take it a step deeper, we are actually allowing a third party to run our lives. How much are we prepared for that to happen? Interesting thought…
Now approaching the end of the second week I found I could walk easily for hours as I felt so ‘light’, and with my portable water UV bottle and dried fruit and nuts in my backpack, I could go forever! A full moon arrived whilst I was on the moor and I celebrated its beauty by walking out to the Grey Wethers stone circles during darkness to bathe in the amazing moonlight. I spent a couple of hours, trance like, sitting in the centre of the ancient stone circle with the deafening sound of silence and the stark beauty of the moor lit up in silvery light all around me.
On another night, I had a dream when I was visited again by an ‘ancient one’ who asked me to clear the old pathways. In my dream I did exactly what I was told to do, even though it was nighttime and the weather was appalling with heavy rain and wind lashing into my face. I was pleased with my work though, and was thanked by the old man for doing ‘essential’ work. At dawn I awoke in my sleeping bag to find myself cold and wet with my boots below me soaking and covered in mud! Had I actually been sleep walking on the moor at night in the rain! That indeed was interesting to think that I had been on the move at night without consciously knowing it…
Another example of a strange dream that came to me – I was dressed in furs and all alone at the base of a tower that stood in a forest clearing. It was dark so I assumed it was night. A door was open and I walked through it and up a spiral stone staircase. I was met at the top by a tall white robed man who told me to “view the world”. I looked out of the tower but everything seemed to be underwater and therefore unclear to my eye.z I turned around to see a huge stone altar in the middle of the room with a large glowing purple crystal that was exuding periodic light beams. The tall man told me this was “the world as you know it”, again a confusing message. I couldn't take my eyes off the crystal but I was afraid to go near it or touch it. A deep drumming in the earth started and I turned to run down the stairs to get out. At the bottom, the door was closed and I could not shift it open. The deep drumming got louder, until it woke me up. Awake and sweating, I could actually hear drums in the forest and general howling! What on earth was that? Was this the devil and his clan coming for me! I got dressed quickly as the drumming continued. It was then that my rational brain took over and I decided that this must be a rave somewhere miles away with the sound travelling eerily through the forest. As I found out later, it was indeed an illegal rave party about 3 miles away in the forest!
As for the dreams, there are others which will appear later in a short eBook, and my view on what they meant to me and the messages that they highlighted. In my next blog I will tell you about the many animals I met and befriended during my time on Dartmoor and what they meant to me!