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Lions Roar : May 2011
SHAMBHALA SUN MAy 2011 77 In late May, Stookey is presenting a workshop called “The captain’s rules: Leadership Lessons from the Sea,” spon- sored by the Nova Scotia-based ALIA (Authentic Leadership in Action) Insti- tute, where he has been a faculty member for several of the institute’s programs. Another ALIA faculty member, Jim Marsden, also uses the “real world” as a teacher in training work. Marsden, found- er of Lean In, based in Boulder, colorado, worked at hewlett-packard for nineteen years. he left two years ago to start his own leadership-training business. his years of creating and developing busi- nesses for hp led him to investigate in- novative ways of dealing with change and risk. Marsden has embraced a variety of methods, but has found particular power in leading “quests” for the Animas valley Institute in colorado and other wilder- ness adventures. “Out in the wilderness,” he says, “you reconnect with those early and potent experiences of the natural world we all had as children.” The main point of a quest, Marsden says, is to “help people and organizations come through major transitions or cri- ses.” At such turning points, something usually needs to die, such as an old way of doing business or a habitual way of lead- ing one’s life that is no longer workable. The quest—like the “hero’s journey” in numerous mythologies or the rites of pas- sage for youths in many societies—allows people to let go enough to create the space for new possibilities to emerge. A group quest is usually held in a re- mote area, often in the mountains, and generally lasts twelve days or so, with about a dozen participants and two lead- ers. It has three phases, and the overall Jim Marsden, based in Boulder, Colorado, leads group “quests” in the wilderness to help people find their way through crises by reconnecting to the “potent experiences of the natural world” they had as children. phOTOcOUrTeSyOfJIMMArSdeN journey can be viewed in the shape of a U. In the first phase, participants are to- gether with the guides at the left top of the U. The point of this phase, Marsden says, “is severance, or letting go.” The unique- ness of the environment does some of the job of letting go, and the guides provide encouragement. This first phase, he says, involves “saying goodbye to parts of your life that may have served you well but are no longer working or available.” In this phase, participants need to put a lot of effort into taking care of themselves and each other in the wild, but they also are making preparations for the next seg- ment—fasting for four days, three of which are spent alone. The solo time is the bottom of the U. It’s a time, says Marsden, “of being in be- tween. We call it the threshold. you’ve said goodbye to a number of things, but you’re not yet clear what is emerging. It is a lim- bo, a bit of an opening for something to emerge.” In this time of solitude, partici- pants also become grounded in their sur- roundings, and the natural world speaks to them. Just as in the Sea School experi- ence, the elements become a teacher. The final phase, ascending the other side of the U, is called reincorporation. “emerging from such an experience of deep time alone and sensing new be- ginnings, one could have wobbly legs,” Marsden says. Most participants have experiences of insight during the re- treat into solitude, but questions emerge about how to bring those insights back into their daily lives. Before participants leave, the guides talk with each one about their intentions and what actions they’re ready to commit to. The quest can en- able someone to discover one of the hardest things to discover in life: where to go next when all the old rules seem to be changing. It helps people find the space to actually make a discovery rather than just forging ahead with the same old pattern. for the discoveries made on the mountain to work when they return home, Marsden says, participants need to learn “ways to embody what they’ve discovered for themselves in the depth of the quest.” ♦