Recently, someone asked me about my leadership principles. Words like vision, integrity, responsibility, and discipline rolled off my lips. Showing up with authenticity and presence, with a strong sense of inner knowing and mutual respect. Acting in a right manner, consistent in thoughts, words, and behaviors.
Of course, the archetype of leadership is the warrior. And last week, I spent 4 days hiking in the White Mountains along the 20-mile Presidential Traverse with 3 other warriors. (We started with 4 other warriors, but one was brave enough to say that the trip wasn’t for him. He became our base support.) Including our base support warrior, three were combat veterans; one was an amputee (and Paralympic alpine skier). I was the organizer and perceived leader.
Only one hiker other than me had mountain hiking experience. One was from the US Virgin Islands; not accustomed to sub-70 weather… They all knew me; only a couple knew each other before this week.
On our second day, after an initial first-day 4-mile steep climb towards the ridge line, four of us set out into the rain and clouds, temperatures around 50 degrees-F, and sustained winds of over 30 mph. Soon, at the ridge, we endured gusts over 55 mph. The way was rocky and wet. 7 miles.
It soon became very apparent that we were all leaders. We took turns in front. We took turns caring for each other. We easily became a close-knit group. There were no issues with where we were going. There were no issues as we adapted to options we faced. The tenants of leadership organically materialized, strengthened, and flowed naturally from us, individually and as a unit.
We’d later roll into the AMC Lake-of-the-Clouds Hut and people asked us who we were. We seemed so comfortable with one another, like brothers. People noticed; they felt our presence.
Upon reflection, we knew that we were not just warriors, enduring the hardships of our experience with determination and fortitude; we were also healers – we were relating to each other from our hearts, indeed as brothers. We discussed the relationship – the balancing act – between our warrior and healer instincts. We discussed the special relationship we shared with each other and with our natural surroundings. We became immersed in the bond of friendship and our connection with the natural world around us. It seemed like the power of our group was well beyond the power of four individuals.
In yoga, we become aware that, as individuals,we are on a self-realization journey discovering our own true nature. We utilize teachings from the Patanjali-Sutra that help guide us in our interactions: learning to live lives of non-violence (ahimsa), making ourselves more sensitive to the ways we often do subtle violence with our minds and our bodies to ourselves and to others; and learning to be authentic and truthful (satya), ennobling our own true nature through right action, allowing those around us to not feel deceived. We learn to be compassionate, with an open heart and an open mind. We feel safe being our authentic selves. We exude trust and faith in each other.
On our hike, these practices became our way of being. It was so nice to be in a place of sharing, of mutual support, of safety – even while immersed in a world of adventure and challenge.
Through heartfelt leadership, all of us as warriors and healers, balanced and flowing, we became one powerful unit, feeling successes well beyond the sum of each of our individual contributions.
In yoga, we look towards the ideal of pure awareness (isvara), surrendering to the unknown, letting go of perceived boundaries and past conditioning, having faith, and embracing the wisdom of uncertainty… together as one.
On this trip, I believe we scratched the surface of these feelings, towards this ideal, leading ourselves forward like we were one common soul – with heart. And in peace.
On these rocks, we became Brothers.
Of course, our next challenge will be bringing these teachings into our daily lives and to the world around us. Maybe as brothers, we can.