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How to be truly focused and present… lessons from the wild

- Posted: July 10th, 2016

Before opening email or responding to texts and other messages I am enjoying the internal peace that comes from having just focused for the last 10 days on whatever was the ‘next thing.’ As I woke up this morning in my comfortable bed, with my comfortable husband after many nights of less comfortable sleeping conditions, I could feel my mind starting to move back towards the list making mode that is so much of my daily life, and I marvel at the contrast of the Kokoda experience.

There have been no lists.

I have had no contact with the outside world, just the people I was walking with and the news of the track.

There were satellite phones at key villages along the way but that was for emergencies only. And let’s be clear on what constitutes emergency in that kind of environment… in a word, it needs to be life threatening.  A landslide (or slip if you want to be technically correct) took three of our guides back to their villages to deal with the loss of family members. We, luckily, walked around the landslide, as we were walking I was trying to remember this quote from Douglas Adams. It’s the way that he conveys the difference between a word and the experience of what that word truly means that brings home how much of the time we really don’t appreciate meaning until we experience it ourselves.

“As Arthur ran, darting, dashing and panting down the side of the mountain, he suddenly felt the whole bulk of the mountain move very, very slightly beneath him. There was a rumble, a roar, and a slight blurred movement, and a lick of heat in the distance behind and above him. He ran in a frenzy of fear. The land began to slide, and he suddenly felt the force of the word “landslide” in a way that had never been apparent to him before. It has always just been a word to him, but now he was suddenly and horribly aware that sliding is a strange and sickening thing for land to do. It was doing it with him on it. He felt ill with fear and trembling. The ground slid, the mountain slurred, he slipped, he fell, he stood, he slipped again and ran. The avalanche began.

“Stones, then rocks, then boulders, pranced past him like clumsy puppies, only much bigger, much, much harder and heavier, and almost infinitely more likely to kill you if they fell on you.”

From “Life, the Universe, and Everything” by Douglas Adams

Whilst there were no clumsy puppies prancing past us there was most definitely evidence of the aftermath of land having moved in a very sickening way and that in itself brings home the danger of the place and the undertaking.

There’s a certain exhilaration that comes from getting through this kind of experience.  At the time I felt no fear or any kind of emotion, it was just the focused intent of putting one foot in front of the other and concentrating on staying upright and with it and getting through what’s there.

And that’s the peace. The peace that comes from being in the moment – being truly present and focused on what’s there right in front of you.

Greg Mortimer, Australian mountaineer and adventurer, interviewed in Smith Journal, sums this up beautifully;

“It seems to me that the more virtual the world becomes, the more important wilderness becomes because it requires your attention to the here and now.”

“I have found with the passage of time a deeper and deeper satisfaction being in isolated, wild places. It’s not so much a function of isolation but of wilderness. It’s that unrelenting, unforgiving, uncompromising sense of power you get in wilderness and the sense of humility that comes from being exposed to nature.”

A sense of humility not just in the face of the wild and beautiful place that we were in but also from the incredible people that we shared the track with. The locals. Our guides, who appeared out of nowhere like guardian angels in the moment you were most likely to misstep or slip with the confidence and familiarity of knowing, that steadying hand and quiet gentle voice. “Step here… go slowly… slippy rocks.”

We marvel at their skills, of being able to take the up or down hills at a pace in thongs that we would not even attempt on the flat. Of being able to take out a fish with a machete, start a fire in less than a minute, erect a shelter when needed and bring the most beautiful energy of willingness and happiness to every interaction. I have nothing but respect and gratitude for these generous and extraordinary people who safely guided us through river crossings, swamps and jungle, over bridges made out of logs strapped together and finally, cutting a safe path for us around the moving slipping land.

So too, it can be in business.

We need the locals, the people who have done it all before to help us when we are in unfamiliar territory or doing something for the first time. At 6R, we’re expert at implementing retail systems (not at trekking, but we are improving) and we’re here to guide and lend a hand when systems implementations are planned. Feel free to reach out and connect with us, we might be the experience that you need.

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