Finding Help from Fellow Travelers

April 11, 2019

The Inherent Importance of Seeking Help

Back when I was a first-time CEO, I heard the expression, “It’s lonely at the top.” While I don’t know the actual origin of this expression, I do know that Randy Newman released the song “Lonely at the Top” in 1972. Thankfully, I was fortunate to have a wise chairman who suggested I spend time with other CEO’s and learn about their experience, because I might not have come to that conclusion on my own. Because in my experience, it seems a decent percent of leaders tend to keep to ourselves under certain circumstances when we should reach out for support.

My spiritual journey started with an event so profound and life-altering that many people didn't know what to say. I’d go as far as declare that they weren’t sure if they should say anything to me at all. The problem is that I really wanted some of them to reach out to me with something. Any communication – verbal, physical, spiritual, psychological, or a combination of methods – would have been preferable to a good percentage of the silence I experienced.

To be clear, death creates a lot of silence by its nature. I also believe silence has its place at times in healing, but it’s not healthy in the long-term. You need to communicate with someone, but it’s essential that you do so with someone (or multiple someone's) you trust.

For example: at a different point in my life, I was married to someone who had multiple addictions. Addicts want everything to be a secret. Their #1 rule Is "Don't talk to anyone about it, don't tell anyone about it, and don't trust anyone." It's their way of keeping the addiction alive, even though addiction destroys nearly everything in its path, including marriages and families. And much of the blame for that destruction can be attributed to purposefully poor communication.

Start Looking for Fellow Travelers 

For those of us who want to awaken to a new life, complete with a new journey to new self-awareness, that approach is the absolute worst thing you can do. Instead, you need to seek out fellow travelers – people with whom you can talk, chat, decompress, debrief, commiserate, and otherwise bond. You might be on different stages of your respective journeys, but since you share similar goals, you can help each other out on the way.


But finding fellow travelers is not easy. They will rarely appear out of thin air. Many times, progress on your journey gets delayed because you’re afraid to first acknowledge and then speak your truth. Not only are you not sure who to trust, but you don’t want to look like a fraud, fake, or failure. Instead, you must be ready and willing to seek out help at every opportunity. You are not alone!


Acknowledging the “Open Secret”

I introduced the work of Elizabeth Lesser in my essay entitled, “How to Recognize the Lessons Life Sends You.” In her New York Times bestseller, Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, she states that a good place to start is with what Rumi calls the “Open Secret.”

Jelalluddin Rumi wrote poems so alive and clear that even today—eight centuries later—their wisdom and humor are timeless. In several of his poems and commentaries, Rumi speaks of the Open Secret. He says that each one of us is trying to hide a secret—not a big bad secret, but a more subtle and pervasive one. It’s the kind of secret that people in the streets ofIstanbul kept from each other in the thirteenth century, when Rumi was writing his poetry.
And it’s the same kind of secret that you and I keep from each other every day. You meet an old acquaintance, and she asks, “How are you?” You say, “Fine!” She asks, “How are the kids?” You say, “Oh, they’re great.” “The job?” “Just fine. I’ve been there five years now.” Then you ask that person, “How are you?” She says, “Fine!” You ask, “Your new house?” “I love it.” “The new town?” “We’re all settling in.”
It’s a perfectly innocent exchange of ordinary banter; each one of us has a similar kind every day. But it is probably not an accurate representation of our actual lives. We don’t want to say that one of the kids is failing in school, or that our work often feels meaningless, or that the move to the new town may have been a colossal mistake. We tell ourselves that we don’t have time to go into the gory details with everyone we meet; we don’t know each other well enough; we don’t want to appear sad, or confused, or weak, or self-absorbed. Better to keep under wraps our neurotic and nutty sides (not to mention our darker urges and more shameful desires).
Rumi says that when we hide the secret underbelly from each other, then both people go away wondering, how come she has it all together? How come her marriage/job/town/family works so well? What’s wrong with me? We feel vaguely diminished from this ordinary interaction, and from hundreds of similar interactions we have from month to month and year to year.When we don’t share the secret ache in our hearts—the normal bewilderment of being human—it turns into something else. Our pain and fear and longing in the absence of company, become alienation and envy and competition.
The irony of hiding the dark side of our humanness is that our secret is not really a secret at all. How can it be when we’re all safeguarding the very same story? That’s why Rumi calls it an Open Secret. Rumi tells us that moment we accept what troubles we’ve been given, the door will open. If you’re interested in opening the door to the heavens, start with the door to your own secret self.


How to Reveal Your Own Open Secret

After my wife passed away, I was ready to seek out help. Nothing in my life had prepared for such a life event. No books, magazine articles, conferences, counseling, movies. Nothing. Yet, I remained convinced that those resources had to be out there, as humans have been dealing with grief for thousands of years. We haven’t all suffered in silence.


So, I started asking people if they knew of anyone who had lost their spouse. I met with them and was curious as to what worked, what didn’t work and what would they do differently to get through their grieving process especially those who had children home. What they shared was invaluable.


I also talked to as many people that I could and people from different journeys, be it healers, therapists, mediums, sponsors, and more. Right from the start, I was comforted by meeting other Twice-Borns on my journey.


While I was hesitant at first, I found the more I shared about my experience the more I found others on their personal journey. More importantly, I was surprised by how many of my fellow travelers became my new best friends. These were instant, yet deep connections with real people living real lives. Where had they been my entire life?


Meeting My Spiritual Coach

In fact, I found a fellow traveler right under my nose. One of my former clients was a founder & CEO of a high-tech company. She resigned her role as CEO, enrolled in a multi-year program at New York University, and became a minister without walls. Her name is Reverend Sara Gates, and I hired her to be my spiritual coach.


For many years, Sara held leadership roles, including time as aCEO. Over those same years, she embarked on her inner, spiritual journey to discover the truth of “Who I Am”. She was driven by a single burning question: “Who am I made to be?”


This led her to traverse the world’s great wisdom traditions - from her native Christianity to Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Judaism, Islam, Shamanism, comparative mythology, and the depth psychology of Carl Jung. She was astonished (happily) to discover that all these great teachings point to wisdom. Specifically, it’s a wisdom that’s concerned with the transformation of the human being.


Her travels eventually begged the question: “Transform from what to what?” Over and over again, her journey pointed her toward this answer: “Transform into your True Self, which is always who you’re on this earth to be.”


She’s also learned the extraordinary power of being witnessed on the journey, so she sits with others as their witness. In that seat, she is both teacher and student, heart and ears.


Admittedly, I’m biased, but I believe Sara is a modern-day mapmaker for the inner journey to True Self. Since she couldn’t find a map to where she wanted and needed to go, she created her own. Specifically, these are created maps for embarking and deepening the inner journey.


These maps are a set of practices you can use to uncover and discover wisdom. As it turns out, wisdom, like most spiritual disciplines, is a set of skills you must hone on a regular basis, which means you must show a willingness to apply them. Her maps borrow principles from a variety of traditions, though she’s modernized them for the 21st century.


How to Find Your Own Fellow Travelers

Nearly every story about voyaging –whether it’s an epic like The Lord of the Rings or a travelogue like On the Road and Travels with Charley – has reveled in the relationship between the fellow travelers on that journey. They’ve also highlighted the importance of having a map to aid in those travels. Why should it be any different on the journey to find your True Self? Not only will finding Fellow Travelers for your life’s journey make the road a little easier, but they also might be more adept map-readers than you.


This is why it’s important you remain ready, willing, and able to share your Open Secret. How else will you meet the Fellow Travelers who will be instrumental in transforming your life?


Are you ready to engage with Fellow Travelers so you can be more self-aware and more present to those you engage with every day – your family, friends, and co-workers? Let’s talk!