Today is my birthday. I'm 47, or as the French say, I have 47 years now. Sounds old to me. Although Graeme's Grandad is 102 next month so by that reckoning I'm not even halfway.
Yesterday I spoke to someone about bringing some people here to run a retreat. She asked me how we got here and came to be doing what we are doing. I gave her the short answer, but it got me thinking about my life and what has brought me here.
I feel a bit like I've lived a number of lives. I was quite clueless as a child. I can't really remember any childhood dreams I had about adulthood, except for knowing that I'd never get married. Maybe I wanted to be a cowboy, I know Tarzan was a consideration at one stage, but I didn't really have a firm idea. So I kind of fell into things.
I got through school, survived University and applied for a Masters because I didn't know what else to do. Then I applied for and accidentally got a job, working with the Army. I researched and designed training programmes. In the course of this I spent a week in a war zone and quite a lot of time putting lovely men (drinking buddies) in tank simulators and watching them get blown up by simulated Russians. That was hard.
Then I moved into corporate and discovered a different kind of war zone. Business war. Competition, with other firms, with each other, with everyone. Horrible.
I remember very clearly one lunchtime walking along the main road of the Industrial Estate where I worked to the local service station to get a sandwich for lunch. I remember having this very clear thought "I have no beliefs. I have no purpose. If I ceased to be the world would be no different."
My answer to that, at that point, was to work harder. But I still let life happen to me. It took me another 10 years to realise that it didn't matter how hard I worked, it wasn't going to get better. If I wanted something different I had to change.
So I did change. I took a risk and walked out of my safe and secure yet painful and traumatic life and followed someone who would show me a better way. And that's really when my journey started. A journey of self-discovery, growing awareness, putting down the chains, breaking out of the walls of containment, moving from 'should' and 'must' to 'want' and 'can', and finding freedom.
That's what I've been doing ever since then. And that's what's brought me here. To a place of peace and quiet, a refuge for me and for others, tired people who have had enough and are ready for something else. And that's what I'm going to keep on doing, helping who I can how I can when I can, with love and compassion.
So when I look at what happened to me during my 46th year, I am grateful. I am thankful that at last I have had the opportunity to put down the baggage, look deep inside and pull out all those traumatic memories that have weighed me down for so long, have held me back, have made me feel that I'm not good enough. I have emptied my heart of sadness and pain so that its ready to receive love.
Today is my birthday. I'm 47. And I feel like I'm coming alive.