"Sometimes it takes a great sky to find that first, bright and indescribable wedge of freedom in your own heart." - David Whyte
I first read this poem a year ago when I was lucky enough to find myself alone in the African bush for a few days. Although I had carved out the time for myself, I felt awkward, restless and beset by distractions.
Such was my agitation that I was unable to inhabit the reverie of the surrounding nature – let alone take in the wisdom of David Whyte’s book Consolations. A day later, I’d settled into myself and found what David so aptly describes as “a wedge of freedom in my heart”, which allowed me to inhabit my solitude and find in it the solace and nourishment I needed.
A journey back to self
This alchemy I speak of, brought on by spending time in nature, is critical to every journey that we create at ROAR AFRICA. Designed to harness the power of nature, our trips facilitate the discovery of peace and purpose whilst offering a deep reconnection with self.
In a recent conversation with David, our joint wonder and acknowledgement of how nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive and spiritual satisfaction, is what sowed the seed for our next retreat. I am delighted to announce that I will be co-hosting the retreat with David: “Into the Wild with David Whyte”.
Nature’s power to teach
But first a bit of background on David. Although he has written poetry since he was seven years old, he began his career as a marine zoologist. David’s path to that of poet, author, philosopher and speaker was prompted when he realized that the scientific language of his work wasn’t enough to describe the depth of his experiences in nature. As he tells it, he was drawn to the arts from a young age but had an epiphany at just 14 years of age when he was introduced to Jacques Cousteau – the French ocean explorer and inventor of the aqualung – on TV. “I was totally amazed that a job could entail studying dolphins as Cousteau did on his oceanographic research vessel and from thereon, I set my sights on following in his footsteps.”
And so it was that David began his career as a naturalist on the Galapagos Islands before leading anthropological and natural history expeditions in the Andes, the Amazon and the Himalayas. These profound experiences in nature led him to the realization that his identity was not dependent upon any inherited or manufactured beliefs, but on how much attention he paid to things other than himself. “I was spending hours in a deeply attentive state watching animals, birds and landscapes and as I started to broaden and deepen my own sense of presence, I realized the only place where things were actually real was at the frontier between what you think is you and what you think is not you.” That realization turned to astonishment as David contemplated how much time we as humans spend away from that frontier.
Open minds & hearts
His realization of just how much time we spend abstracting ourselves out of our bodies and out of a deeper, broader, and wider possible future that’s waiting for us underpins our retreat – Into the Wild with David Whyte. In the 16 years since I first began the business of ROAR AFRICA, the single most gratifying part of my job is to witness how profoundly powerful and healing nature can be if you’re open to it. And how it offers us the space to reach that frontier that David speaks of. “What makes the natural world so healing to human beings is that it’s just itself,” explains David. “The cloud is the cloud; the mountain is the mountain; the tree is the tree and the hawk is the hawk. The kingfisher doesn’t wake up one day and decide to be a crow.”
“And yet us humans are really quite extraordinary in that we can refuse to be ourselves,” says David. “We can get afraid of the way we are and temporarily put a mask over our face and pretend to be something or someone else.” I couldn’t agree more and, in fact, what’s become obvious is that the western world’s obsession with the wellness industry – and its focus on self-improvement, self-optimization and self-indulgence – side-steps that most sacred and ancient connection: the connection between all living things.
Returning to ancient wisdom
Into The Wild with David Whyte – February 22-28, 2023 (hosted by David and myself) will allow us to reclaim the ancient wisdom that is our birthright. Segera Retreat, a sacred space with jaw-dropping views of Mount Kenya (known to locals as God’s Mountain) is where we will host this retreat.
Together we will embark on a journey that incorporates the elements – earth, water, fire, air and ether – woven together with David’s poetry and amazing story telling by other Africans such as my school friend Alexandra Fuller. We will walk, breathe, listen, let go… while setting the senses alive in the wild and bringing into focus our ability to think, expand the mind, climb out of our heads and into our hearts. Mostly, we will connect at a deeper level and find things we didn’t know we were looking for.
If you would like to join David Whyte and myself, please click here