About four days prior to my Adventure Weekend, I’d split up with my long-term partner of seven years, who I loved with all the love I had to give. I’d left my two children and, with a heavy heart, left my home. A deep burning anger consumed me to the point of rage.
I travelled up to Applecross, which is on the mainland of North West Scotland, East of Skye, with two of the staff men, Hugh and Marcus. They suggested I walk in alone. Hugh bought a map for me and I chose a route which took in the tallest mountain in the area (900 meters) and covered a distance of 17 kilometres.
Hugh and Marcus dropped me off at Drochaid Mhor; at this point I was thinking that 17 km over 30 hours would be pretty easy to do. I said “Goodbye, see you on the other side!” and then set off uphill.
And in that first half an hour the slow realisation of my predicament began to dawn on me. I was well and truly on my ass; my children, my family were lost to me; my love was lost. I was homeless and had no money. All I had at that moment was my cloak, my staff, the clothes I stood up in and a rucksack full of stuff – it couldn’t get any worse.
I had to walk the full 900 meters from sea level over 4.5 km. The slope got gradually steeper, and rockier, and rougher. Soon the sweat was pouring off me like a small stream and I was panting like I’d just run a marathon….. and the top was not getting any closer. I started to think this was way too hard; I didn’t want to be there.
The top was not getting any closer and the weight of the world was on my shoulders, stopping me from getting up this hill. Turning around and going back sounded like a good option, but there was nothing to go back to, there was nothing for me there.
I had nothing to lose because I had already lost it all, the only option was to walk on, carry on up this f*cking hill. And then the thought came to me, why don’t I just end my life, commit suicide?
It seemed like a completely rational thing to do. I stopped and said to myself, “If you want to be a complete lunatic then you must, above all else, be completely honest with yourself.”
Carrying on with that thought I had a full-blown argument with myself, calling myself all the names under the sun. And then I arrived at the ridge line, roaring out loud at the mountains opposite with all the anger I had inside of me.
I contemplated the idea of jumping off the edge. However, knowing my luck, I thought I would just break something on the way down, arriving at the bottom still alive to spend the next 3 days dragging my ass out – I wrote it off as a stupid idea!
At that point I made the decision that I had come this far and there was no way I was not getting to the top. With my anger and my stupidity, I marched on with sheer determination to reach the summit.
Through that determination, I saw my children, my love, my family, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins and my mum. I reached the top knowing that I had come to the edge of existence and had a lot more to live for than die for. That left only one option, to walk on; walk on into the future.
Even so it took me a long time to move on.
I sat for over an hour on the top of Beinn Bbhan taking in the view. Looking to the north along the ridge line I saw the stunning Scottish highlands in the distance. To the west I could see what I call the Giant’s Causeway (Bealach Nan Arr) and in the background the great mountains of Skye and the Culin ridge. To the south was the road that leads through the mountain pass to Applecross and Loch Kiston below. To the east stood mountains as far as the eye could see, and to the south east was the point that I started from.
Eventually I packed my bag, saying to myself “I will not look back, I will not look back”. Walking on I was struck by the sheer beauty of the place; looking to the north and the east, there was nothing but mountains as far as the eye could see: the glorious Scottish highlands in full splendour with the sun shining on the snow-capped mountains.
I was again struck by the predicament I was in. Every decision that I’d made in my life had bought me to this point, right now. Every choice that I’d made had bought me to this point, right here. I could not go back, there was nothing left for me, I made the choice to walk on in to the future – and with that in mind, I did just that!
Soon I’d had enough; my legs were aching – the next job was to find a spot to set my basher up. I settled for a spot next to a river (Allt Coire Altadale) by three small waterfalls. And as I walked towards my chosen spot, my leg fell down a hole; luckily I had my staff for support. I knew it could have been painful; I may have even broken my leg, 8 km from any civilisation, nobody knowing where I was.
That filled me with a new respect for where I was, which helped me to move on from my earlier stupidities…. I stripped off and jumped into the freezing water, yelling at the top of my voice as the cold water shrivelled my balls to the size of peanuts! I decided to sit in the sun, stark bollock naked, to dry off.
Later I put my basher up, using my staff as a centre pole and cooked dinner, if you could call it dinner – the boil-in-a-bag army rations tasted like shit, and filled a hole, but were not enough.
As I sat and watched the sun go down it started to get cold, so I got into my sleeping bag. The mountain side was in darkness, though the sky was light. And suddenly 400 metres away, a stag met my eyes with an intensity that I took to mean he was there for me, standing in his strength and dignity; bringing with him grace, pride and integrity.
He stood watch over me while I was alone and vulnerable, he stood there for a long time, until I fell asleep; I felt that I’d been blessed.
In the morning all I could bring myself to eat was biscuits. I packed up and carried on with my journey. Knowing that I could make the MKP weekend in plenty of time, I took it easy – playing in the heather, strolling, meditating, and eventually arriving at my destination over three hours too early.
So I ran 10 kilometres to the next village and back – for tobacco! Then, sweating, I jumped in to the river to wash, yelling at the freezing water, laughing at myself for the irony of running to the shop for tobacco…. undoing my running by smoking. I dried in the sun, dozed, and eventually, with staff in hand, I walked into my Adventure.
Friday night was not a very happy feeling for me, like being a prisoner in a cell, unable to speak. Even when I was asked why I was there. I didn’t know. However, I did know I could walk out at any time.
And when we were asked whether any man would like to say anything, I saw my opportunity. Anger. Rage. “I am f*cking hungry, I’ve got a cold sore ass, I’ve got cramp in my toes, you *****!” A voice inside me told me to say what I thought… and I did, leaving the men in no doubt what I thought of them…. and it felt great. However, the looks on the faces of the staff suggested they weren’t too chuffed!
Later on I found each man and apologised to him because that’s what I felt needed to happen. I knew I wasn’t speaking to them – not really. I was speaking to all the f*ckers who’d put me where I was. And that included me. I realised all the decisions I’d made in my life had brought me to that point, right there.
And yet on the Saturday I felt like all the men were there for me and I was there for them. What I heard when the other men spoke of their lives was truly wonderful; the way they opened their souls stunned me. I felt privileged to hear them, blessed to behold what I was hearing.
I cried for them, words can’t really describe how I felt for those men, I was proud to be there.
But me: I did not know what to say or do, feeling fear in my belly and thinking “I can’t do this.” Inside I was shaking with fear. Finally, my time came. I held my fear and stood in the centre.
Before I began, I looked each person in eyes and held their gaze for a moment to help calm me down a little. I spoke of my anger, my rage. My shame. I felt shame about not being able to be the dad I wanted to be, shame about letting my children down, shame about letting my partner down and screwing another relationship up. I felt shame for all the relationships that had ended badly and for my parents who showed me how to be in relationships badly – shame for their mistakes.
The men worked their magic. The processes held me. My anger was discharged. My shame was extracted. To my surprise I found Marcus working with me, and, giving him a hug I cried till I was empty.
And as I fell into that emptiness, I found support. As I fell, men held me, picked me up, filling me with love for myself and for my fellow men. For the first time in my entire life I felt TRUE LOVE.
Something that I had never, ever felt before in my whole life. Feeling free in that moment I saw the face of God in all his beauty. I felt alive and awake for the first time in 30 years. In that moment I realised why was there: To Wake Up!
I am now a man with a mission to create a world of peace and love by taking care of all people, by teaching, leading and showing the way.
I am a man amongst men who is honest and stands in integrity.
My shadow mission is to create a world of chaos and hatred by doing f**k all for me or anybody else. This is the mission that I had been living and I now choose not to follow because it no longer serves me.
I now carry my shame on my staff. There is a reminder tied to the top of it. In doing that my shame has not gone because I realise that to get rid of my shame would be to not live how I am fully. If I only lived the good bits I would only live as half of how I am. I am how I am. I am also how I am not.
Leaving Applecross, we stopped at the top of the pass to take in the view. I ran down the other side of the pass shouting at the mountains from a place of joy. On the way back, seeing the beauty in the world and feeling everything, I cried for the enormity of my circumstances.