Sabbatical journeys

Life is both an outer and inner journey.

The outer journey comprises the various travels, trips and destinations we make. During my sabbatical, these were the places I visited and geographies traversed: Barcelona, Irun, Guernica, Bilbao, Lisbon, Cabo da Roca, Munich, Portland, Long Beach, Astoria, Vancouver, Montreal, Toronto, Algonquin Park, Kitchener-Waterloo, Golden Lake, Lac Philippe. The outer journey took me away from home where I engaged other people, different languages, cultures and histories, and embraced community in fresh ways. In this outer journey I made new friends, and rediscovered old ones.

The inner journey, on the other hand, involves meeting myself and the mystery of God. It meant letting go of comforting routines, familiar places and a sense of security. It meant exploring the quiet, slower spaces which allowed deeply buried longings, hurts, joys and memories to rise to the surface of my consciousness. It meant learning to hold both the good and the bad in my life. That journey meant meeting myself in a new light shining on the darkness of grief and loss. I agree with Thomas Merton who once wrote that our real journey in life is interior. And more difficult. For me, time and space away from the routines, familiarity and usual distractions could afford the launching of this inner exploration. That journey is not over. I don’t believe it ever ends.

Integrating the two journeys is what making a pilgrimage is all about.

This inner exploration is important for the development of leadership. Spiritual director and social activist Janet Hagberg writes about power: “People who aspire to be leaders need to be more concerned with internal or inner power than they are with external or outer power.” (1) When a leader is honest with themselves and to others about their biases. When a leader is honest first with themselves about their inner issues, when they know the contours of their psyche — their needs, desires, longings, pains, hurts. These leaders will not only lead with authenticity, they will inspire others to be bold, take risks and make these journeys themselves. These people will lead with compassion, forgiveness, patience and courage. These leaders will accept reality as it is, and will also challenge it from an inner place of trust and confidence.

1 – Janet O. Hagberg, “Real Power: Stages of Personal Power in Organizations” 3rd Edition, Wisconsin: Sheffield Publishing Co., 2003, p.xx