Unlike what I had expected, the journey not only helped me focus inwards, but also introduced me to my inner conflicts, fears, and vulnerabilities- scraping off layer by layer, exposing my deeper self to me. I was able to challenge a lot of preconceived notions and long-held assumptions about myself and for others, and was able to appreciate different people, perspectives, and experiences in a new light.
The first leadership journey from the series of The Jaulian Project, a brain child of Kanwar A. Saeed as part of his fellowship with the Academy for Systems Change, a non profit organization in the U.S. that focuses in fostering systemic change in order to accelerate social, ecological, and economic well-being, in collaboration with Pakistan Society of Human Resource Development PSHRM, was held in Bali in December last year.
As one of the 22 diverse change leaders from North America, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India and the UAE, it was an unforgettable and a deeply liberating experience for me. The experiential journey was designed in a way that all the activities planned over the course of five days were kept a secret until the day one was supposed to indulge in one – much like the life journey that does not unfold its mystery ahead of time. Each activity challenged either our comfort zone or compelled us to confront our fears and push our boundaries, followed by reflection and thoughts on our experience.
Some of the highlights from the many activities were: hiking up approx. 1700-meter-high Mt. Batur, the most active volcano in Bali, the whole night and reaching the top just in time to experience the sunrise; jumping into a waterfall; writing our eulogy at a temple; but the most profound effect on me was the day we spent with the locals learning Mepantigan, Balinese Martial Arts. Dancing barefoot with the tribe, learning and respecting their culture, having the unimaginable friendly mud wrestling, bathing in a gorge, getting pampered by the nature spa – in a simplistic yet most exquisite setting, re-defined my take on being close to the nature.
Leaving all the rational apprehensions that popped into the mind at the time of getting dirty in the mud, of not having extra clothes and thinking how could one survive the two-hour long journey back like that, thankfully, we all took the plunge and, ah, what a pure bliss it was! The whole experience led to a paradigm shift and I thought to myself how holding ourselves back can deprive us from some of the greatest experiences in life.
What I found most potent was the simple act of sitting together in a circle, sometimes sharing thoughts and stories while laughing and crying, and other times – just sharing silence.
Listening to the birds chirping against the backdrop of the sound of the waterfall from afar, while feeling the soft air that would make us live in the present moment, even when no words uttered, had some strange healing power. The moment that comforts that you are not alone, but all the elements of mother nature are sharing with you, your time, your space, and your very existence.
Moreover, the experience that a group of diverse individuals, without any sense of urgency, or time, fully committed to listen to whatever you had to say – or not, without any interruption, or arguments, or judgment, while building trust and compassion, and for you to be able to do the same for others, was both therapeutic and liberating.
It made me realize that basic human needs are the same regardless of how diverse the group may be. We all share the need to laugh, to cry, to be loved and supported by friends, to be acknowledged, most importantly – to be heard.
I experienced that there is a hidden child in each one of us, that feeling other people’s pain makes your heart tender, that sharing your vulnerabilities make you stronger, that therapy lies in the simple act of listening to others, that pure beauty lies in its simplest forms – the ones we tend to forget easily, yet that bring the most joy.
“The Jaulian Project emerges from a dream to bring the human spirit to life. It aims to bring together leaders to create a community that is committed to bringing positive change and creating meaningful impact to create stability in this world of chaos.” – Kanwer A. Saeed