Dunes and Thoughts


It was back in 2015 when together with my colleagues we delivered in Jordan a training course on entrepreneurship, and we decided to make it outdoors, as our rationale was that nowadays you can find tutorials, videos and free materials all over the web concerning how to make a business plan or a marketing mix, and at the same time none of those precious online tools is really able to build an entrepreneur’s attitude. 

As I was making my first steps into ecopsychology back in the day, although was not well aware of it quite yet, or at least not fully, I did recall my scouting days and the powerful effect nature has upon the mind, and its influence to reveal our deepest true calling and purpose, and what better tool and place is there to uncover one’s true entrepreneurial spirit than nature, rather than technology filled rooms and offices, if successful there will be plenty of time for that. 

We were working with a very strong mixed group of young entrepreneurs from both Middle East and Europe and we set off to our itinerant training, which firstly brought us to a camp atop the legendary Dana Valley, a place of human passage and migrations since the dawn of our species. We lived in large traditional tents, the only technology was gas or oil lamps and our training room was a larger tent covered in carpets and pillows overseeing a valley, on a distance a village dating back to five hundred years and Ottoman domination, however likely built upon much older settlements. Shepherds driving their goats on the steep slopes, orange earth baked by the sun, shadow from random trees here and there and a spring providing fresh water, as if it were a scene repeated year after year, century after century. The dark snake laying on hot pathway and gathering its sun energy, the wild dogs guarding the yellow-stoned village, and the multiple colours of varied stones, earth and sand as spring entered the valley under a baking sun and deepest blue sky absent of humidity. We were completing our two day session on values, and discovering one’s personal ethics and principles towards entrepreneurship and found myself reading a learning about Prof. C. Graves theory on the evolution of values from the start of humanity until today, while sitting on a rock overseeing one of the places where it all started, and moving my eyes from the book to valley it all started to resonate and make much more sense, that was the moment when I not only started to rationally understand the words of those wise people from times past and modern, but to actually feel them, their words and concepts creating emotions deep inside and triggering something. 

For the final part we envisaged to complete the training course in Wadi Rum’s desert, another encampment near a spring of fresh water and a small oasis amidst endless seas of sand and rock. During the day could not raise eyes to the sky and the sun burnt even the blue out of it, before turning everything red and orange during a very fast dusk and fastly light turned to dark, and heat turned to cold. Our purpose, besides completing the training with tools on self-motivation and motivating others, was to ensure people could spend some quality time with themselves and to foster an inner dialogue, and what works best than the silence of the desert. For our Jordanian colleagues this was the norm and habitat to enter  a natural space where time stops, almost literally, and everything comes to a standstill, for us, the Europeans this was a new sensation, despite we knew we could not go into the depths as we had to be there for the guidance of the learners, it was very hard and an impossible task not to let the desert enter you and have its winds echo through your soul. As the group set off alone to have their inner talk, we, the team, did not speak to one another, something called us to also be alone. In that timeless place, where the silence is so overwhelming and almost disturbing for people used to city, people and constant noises it was a very disturbing sensation at first and something I was tempted to break by humming some song or make noisier steps on the sand and hardened dry ground. It was then, after a tiring climb of a dune that sat down, not far from the camp, and just looked at the stars ever so bright. All of a sudden thoughts started to come, so loud and clear as if I was actually speaking with myself outloud, thoughts that travelled back and forth between the conscious and the unconscious at times feeling whole as my gaze never left the stars and distant dark rocks. A feeling of peace and wholeness travelled from hair to toes, although peace does not start to describe it, perhaps peace by realising how everything is interconnected. 

Did not even realise that I sat on that dune all night, and desert sunrise is astonishing, the rays of sun travel so fast on the rocks and sand that can actually see it moving and turning darkness to light and cold to heat, and yet I was not tired on the contrary, ecstatic, overwhelmed with joy, energetic and likely with a big smile on my face as I got strange and puzzled looks as I returned to the camp while locals were making breakfast. The group of learners also returned, and in their expressions I thought I could read what I was feeling myself. We sat in a circle to share the experience and nobody wanted to talk, we just looked at each other and smiled and that was the best feedback possible. A night in the desert, an inner game, a dialogue with the Self as it too rarely happens in life and a rite of passage for many of us, team and learners to feel ready for the next phase in life.

Published by Lorenzo Nava

Consultant, Trainer and Coach, on participatory learning processes, experiential learning dynamics, non formal education and NLP certified practitioner

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