Meetings No 01
Editorial
Mindset
This is no ordinary meeting magazine.
Cover Story
Johan Johansson
encourages us to challenge our thought patterns.
Psychological Meetings
Meeting People
Gordon slowly opens the door just a little bit.
Radar
Ecological Breakfast
A great success.
Richard Gatarski
Gatarski Questions the Myth of Total Presence
Please turn on your mobile phones!
Shari Swan
Swan on New Ways of Working
and an ever present focus on the street.
Intermission
Take a Break with Cottam
Excerpts from Mothers Pearls: 27 short autobiographical chapters of aha moments of realization.
Radar
Business Meetings Management
A five part masters programme.
Jonas Bodin
Meeting With Meaning
CSR in practice
Jan Rollof
On Creativity
and its impact on meetings.
Mind Check
The Significance of Colours
Tomas Dalström picks the brain of Karl Rydberg.
Business Intelligence
Four Years Before the London Olympics
What's on, Barbara Jamison, at visit London?
Per Hörberg
Hidden Agendas
Affecting meetings everywhere.
Review
Meeting Architecture
Dr Elling Hamso an the most significant book ever.
Spread the Message
Nature's Ten Best Tips
To suddenly become green in your meeting concept is not as easy as it sounds.
Radar
Meetings Industry Research
Lund University conducts research into the meetings industry.
Radar
Lighting
A way of communicating.
Roger Kellerman
A Buyers' and Meetings Planners' Magazine
Why Meetings International goes international.
classifieds
news
New knowledge
Brain research
shows added value live events.
Covid-19
BTM World 2020
transitions to virtual.
post-pandemic momentum
Dubai Tourism forms Business Events Stakeholders committee,
host first meeting as industry resumes activity.
hotel news
Scandic expects
occupancy of 30-35 percent for September.
Covid developer
Scandic Hotels
launches the largest network of coworking spaces in the Nordic countries.
planned for 16-17 Sep
Update on GIAF
- New dates set for 5-6 November 2020.
sustainability
Sands Expo and Convention Centre
is now a carbon neutral venue.
positive impact
The Hague webinar
celebrates partnerships and first anniversary of Ottawa MOU.
expanding network
ICCA Partners up
with Geneva International Associations Forum (GIAF).
Sponsored Content
Taiwan Ready to Reopen to the World
Over 80 events taking place in Taipei now.
Links
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Take a Break with Cottam

I recall, long ago, saying to myself:
I want to find my soul
My spirit.

1st Pearl: Curiosity

Oyster: Grampian Mountains, Australia

 

When i was nineteen years old, I travelled to Australia, “Oz,” to teach figure skating. Australia and figure skating may seem an unlikely match, and while it was not a great place for the sport, it was the beginning of a long journey called life. There, I experienced a “call to action,” what American scholar Joseph Campbell would consider part of the mythical hero’s journey. I didn’t realize it at the time, but over the years I have come to know the importance of that moment.

For some time before that call, I had been itching to leave my home in Canada and travel. There was a discomfort, a restlessness inside me. A yearning voice kept gently speaking to me. I wanted quit my training as a competitive skater to explore the world, as so many kids my age did. At that time, it was common to graduate from high school, grab a backpack, and take off. That was my call as well.

My journey began down under in Oz. It was the first time I had been so far away from my family and I only knew two Canadian skating coaches there. I experienced a roller coaster of emotions—I was happy at first with this new experience, but there were still lonely and disenchanted times.

In Oz, found a place to stay in a charming rooming house by the sea on Ackland Street in St Kilda, just outside of the city of Melbourne. There were several nurses staying there from different parts of the world. One of them astutely felt it her duty to speak to me about culture shock, another taught me Buddhist ways and traditions, another about Christianity, and one even gave me cooking lessons. I was intrigued by the stories of these well-travelled women whose purpose in life was humanity with a capital “H.”

I wondered if I would experience the stages of culture shock that they described. The first stage is when all is new and you love the place. The second stage is when a ferocious loneliness settles in and reality hits you to the very core with a voice inside saying, I miss home, family, friends, and familiarity. You begin to find fault in everything and everyone. It is a time to bolt. Then, during the third stage everything is beginning to be okay as your surroundings become more familiar. The final stage is when you become well adjusted and all is cool with the place and culture. This is when the staying power settles into the soul. Attaining this final stage takes a minimum of a year or even more, depending on your personality and support systems.

What were my support systems during these early stages? My father always said that if I got into trouble or felt lonely or lost I could always go to the church. My mother disagreed with this way of being because she felt that I should only rely on myself for support.

A short distance from the rooming house was a lovely Anglican church. I met the rector, Reverend Phil, who was a delight. I immediately took a liking to him and his family and they took me under their wings. He suggested I become confirmed in the Anglican Church. I had not been confirmed as a child, and through our discussions, I felt compelled to finish this part of my life’s journey.

Reverend Phil guided me through my studies and soon I was confirmed and received my gift, a confirmation cross. I was very happy. Looking back on this experience, I sense now that this was the beginning of me being a born-again Christian. It seems unbelievable to me today, but at that time I was going through stage two of culture shock, so it was probably the best thing that could have happened. My mother had great concerns with me as I wrote home about God, Jesus, and the doctrine. My father, on the other hand, was supportive. They held two very different perspectives of the world.

One day, Reverend Phil suggested I get involved with a youth group. I did so and made some absolutely great friends and had a lot of fun participating with the singing groups, picnics, and spiritual sessions. It was a superb time that helped me through this very lonely stage of my life.

In the summer, I went with the church group to a camp in the Grampian Mountains in western Victoria for ten days. The Australian wilderness was magnificent. I felt like I was engaging directly with the land and the spirits.

At the camp, I met many new and cheery soulful people from all over the state of Victoria. The location was stunning, and I continued to learn about the countryside, the vegetation, nature, and the great outback. Our days were filled with hiking, playing games, swimming, singing, cooking, and lots of laughter. The evenings were spent in spiritual discussion. We even went on a three-day bush walk over the New Year’s holiday. We dodged poisonous snakes, woke up to the yelling of the kookaburras, and saw a few kangaroos, all with the majestic eucalyptus trees towering over us.

Life is without Meaning. You bring the meaning to it. The meaning of life is whatever you ascribe it to be. Being alive is the meaning.” – Joseph Campbell

Two nights before we were to leave the camp, I had heard from others that the last spiritual session would be the “big one.” But no one would tell me what it would be about. My curiosity was piqued, what was the big secret?

The leader of our tent took us in his VW bus and drove into the pitch-black and starry night. There must have been about six to eight of us crowded into the van. He began with the talk. It was about sex. Yes, sex, and how incorrect and sinful it was before marriage. Casual sex was just not right, even with your loved one. He also spoke about the correctness of heterosexuality and the opposition to homosexuality. I recall being taken aback at the forcefulness of this discussion. It just seemed so contrary to all other teachings on kindness, giving from the heart, and seeing all as a reflection of oneself.

I remember he began the talk by asking us about our thoughts on premarital sex and if we had made love already. A couple were too shy to say anything and I sensed they had already had premarital sex, but denied it. Others had not had sexual intercourse and said so. When it came to me, I just told the truth.

Yes, I said, I had made love to a number of women and thought there was nothing wrong with it. I felt it to be a natural extension of our nature, our being, and our evolution. Being married was not a licence for me to then partake of the fruit that life was already presenting to me. I felt when I had made love it was coming from my heart and not from my lustful desires of a youthful teenager.

Well, apparently I was wrong in their eyes and I could feel the tension change from everyone in the van. I could sense the heat rising. It was ready to take off. I felt at the time I was made to feel like a true sinner.

I was appalled at what I instantly perceived as hypocrisy. I was doing no harm to anyone, I was telling the truth, I was honest, and that, obviously, was just as punishable. I was told there was scripture that identified my actions as sinful and improper. I remember my stubbornness, but I eventually succumbed to their suggestions and said I would consider the scripture, even though I was doubtful I would change my ways.

It was strange how I felt about their reaction. I suddenly felt something just didn’t fit inside of my being. I felt isolated and alone for the rest of the trip. I felt a little like I had reverted back into stage two of culture shock. I was in a state of confusion, unhappiness, and, yet again, loneliness.

The next day, I was sitting on the lakeside beach and my leader came to me with scripture to show me where it spoke about acts of the flesh and marriage. I realized he was trying to convince me that my beliefs, which I sensed from my heart, were wrong, fundamentally wrong, although I was not judging him or the others for their beliefs.

Something triggered inside of me. It was not just this discussion, but I realized that there seemed to be so much doctrine that just didn’t make sense for me. Perhaps I was beginning to see a bigger picture of the world. Was I getting an actual taste of what growing up and culture shock were truly about? I then felt as if I had gone into a time warp; everything went into slow motion. I looked around and saw such wonderful people and I was curious about what were they were really thinking. Were they really honest with their beliefs, values, and actions? And, in fact, was I?

I sensed I needed to follow all of them or none of them. I sensed a deeper calling that said this has been wonderful experience, but now I need to discover on my own. This was the kick-start of something greater. It was my “call to action.” I wanted to know the diverse possibilities of life. I wanted to really learn and discover how the lives of other people ticked in the world.

The time in the Grampians was still fruitful for me. My bush walk through valleys and up the mountains also gave me time to ponder and expand my ideas. I reflected that the loneliness of stage-two culture shock is actually the valley of learning. We need to rest and savour this valley of learning, and use this opportunity to be curious. From there, we can emerge as stronger people who are able to proceed back up the mountain, to stages three and four.

After all these years, I see that this period in my life in Oz was more than just culture shock of moving to a place, but a shock to my inner journey as well. Those nurses were catalysts to change that I would not be aware of for many years to come. These situations redirected my conceptualization of the world and people. It was a tremendous learning experience. My father and mother were both correct in their advice to me during this time in Australia; they simply held different points of view. I am thankful for this experience that taught me about the bigger picture of culture shock and where it was leading me. It shocked me into full action.

I never made it to stage four in Oz. Unfortunately, my experience down under ended a year before its time when my father suddenly died of a heart attack. When it happened, my mother said, “Don’t come home yet, but continue to travel and experience life for a little longer.” I did just that. This was the beginning of another part of my journey. In fact, in the traditional sense of the hero’s journey, this was also part of my call to action, and the rest that followed has all been learning.

This is when growth began.

This is when the seeds began to open.

This is when the river really began to flow.

This is where choice comes in.

Get curious.

After saying my thanks and goodbyes to my friends and Christian brothers and sisters in Oz, I heard this voice inside saying,

 

I want to find my soul,

My true soul,

My spirit.

That is my quest in life.

The mountain is high,

The valley is low

Shaped to support you

Like a cradle.

Learning takes place there

And you take a step, two steps, three

Out of the valley

And gleefully rising

Up the mountain with

Power, strength

And a chest full of air

That sends you into flight.

The call to action has been heard and

Accepted with fullness of the heart.


I want to find my soul,

My true soul,

My spirit.

Discovery

When was your “call to action”? Are you curious about life? How important is it for you to be curious in life? What would this curiosity do or give to you? Take a moment to contemplate your curiosities in your life and how you manifest this in your daily activities. Maybe it is time to shock yourself with your wisdom and take action on this shimmering pearl.