How the combined ripple effects of your experiences create the INNER and STRONGER YOU! – An interview with John Stephen Broadbent
Written by: Louise Keramaris
The first of May is a significant date for you? What happened on this date?
On 1 May 1987, I decided to leave the security of permanent employment and a regular pay-check, and head out on my own. I was in a pretty comfortable place at the time when I left my job as I was able to collect my superannuation and long service leave, I was debt free and I owned my own house. I had a $3,500 a month in income and owed nothing! I was bored with my pharmaceutical position and my “heart was not in the business.” I was approached by a colleague who was a contractor to provide support in his business so I threw caution to the wind and seized the opportunity.
What was going through your mind at that time? What were you saying to yourself? What were you feeling? What were you thinking?
I'll never forget that first day of wonder, knowing the world truly was my playground! I felt an extraordinary sense of liberation and that I was the master of my own destiny.
I reflected back on my high school motto which was “Every man is the maker of his own fortune”. If I back track to my birth my parents were advised that I had “24 hours to live when I was born”! In so in many ways I was not “supposed to live” and yet it was this “tenacity” within me as a driver running throughout my life. I grew up as an only child where I had to adapt totally on my own and then later in life I got myself my own scholarship and then cadetship. I spent a lot of time on my own with a “strong sense of independence or rather anti-dependence”. I saw this strength as a “double edged sword”. I got everything by myself.
Later in 1991, the 'recession Australia had to have' cost me my home, my life savings and my 17 year relationship. And a time for some deep introspection after contemplating suicide for feeling such a failure. I remember leaving the house that I built and owned on the long weekend of October 1992 and looking at the keys as I left them on the breakfast bar and walked out with a suitcase, to head to a job in Kuala Lumpur.
When you said you “were contemplating suicide for feeling such a failure” – What did you focus on that prevented you from going down that path?
I drew on specific memories that helped me during this tumultuous time in my life. Let me give you some context… At the beginning of 1991 my wife wanted to swim with the dolphins in Monkey Mia. You can imagine that this was not something that I was keen to do being an engineer! However, I did do it and during this challenging time in my life I managed to reflect on this extraordinary experience. I recall being so immersed in their world and having so much fun and joy. What I most remember is the synchronous event that followed.
When we got back from Monkey Mia I got a phone call from the personal assistant of a spiritual teacher who had recently moved from Adelaide to Sydney, inviting us to a “dolphin meditation”! How that person got my phone number is still a mystery! I was destined to meet this extraordinary man living in “tie-died King G overalls” who happened to be one year younger than me. I ended up going to one of his workshops in June 1991 and within 3 minutes of talking to him he had me in tears. I hadn’t cried like this in years. He then said to me “I know you better than you know yourself.” It was this friend and mentor and these experiences that I drew on during this time.
I came to realise that I needed to be stripped bare of all the things that society tells us are important so that I could recognise what was left was “me”! I spent the next 8 years or so investing in myself and used all my income to travel with this man to various countries and met a Shaman in Alaska, Healers in Bali, Elders at Uluru, Masaai in Kenya and sages in the Himalayas. What I had to go through I would describe as “dismantling my ego” completely. What I realised was that I had to connect with a “complete lack of self-worth” that was at my core, to dismantle this and then re-assemble and build my new self.
Later in 2008/9 the Global Financial Crisis cost me $300k in a wellness centre, again, overexposed and not enough in the bank for a month of rainy days. Being homeless for 8 weeks with a 1year old and 6year old is not an experience I'd like to repeat, however it humbled me by the support I received from our school community. Looking back, it was probably the beginning of the end of my second long-term relationship, which eventually ended last March.
As you reflect on the past 9 years, what advice would you give to someone that is themselves going through a massive upheaval in their life?
The pain is worth it! The sense of liberation is enormous. You only do it once. In effect, you’re engaging with your psyche. The first time is very painful as it is the death of a part of the ego but as you take a little chunk at a time you see the cycle of your own self-empowerment journey unfolding, so you take another bite and then another. You learn more of who you are and then you take another bite and soon enough inertia builds up and you are “learning that who you are is the gift of unlocking something about yourself” and then you realise the “how I know what I know” is the journey towards “the gift of wisdom”. You realise how much the unconscious level has been controlling you and you see this gift as a celebration. I realised then when “we think we are in control” we are truly at the call of our unconscious controllers. We need to do the inner work to come to this place of self-realisation.
As you reflect on the key events that rocked your life what “ripples” did they create? In particularly what ripples were created:
There is no competition between me and my sons and if I can give you an example of the nature of our relationship, I recall a time recently where my son was sitting next to me and simply leaned into me and put his head on my shoulder. At the age of 15 years that so moved me. I’ve also more recently reflected on his experiences with his ex-girlfriends and how he has called each of them to account when “they lied to him or played games – he called it “putting his mind through a blender.” I am so proud that he has such a strong sense of who he is in the world.
The work I’ve been undertaking on over the last 25 years, experiencing “rites of passage” ceremonies with boys, attending mens’ groups and gatherings is focused on understanding the maturing process of men. It has included providing a safe environment to take boys and young men on that journey. My work has been drawn from research done in this area by a key Anthropologist, Arnold Von Gennup, who worked and studied the “rites” of Indigenous communities world-wide. What Gennup identified is that there are common practices across all communities. These are in 3 areas: separation, initiation and integration, also known as pre-liminal, liminal and post-liminal.
For example, the boy is taken away from the main tribe for a period of time. During this time the boy is then supported to participate in a mysterious process of initiation to test his stamina, fortitude and grit. Following on from this practice the boy is then re-integrated back into the community as a “warrior”. The boy is now expected to operate from a place without the ‘me’ ego. This work has proved to address a huge gap in what is absent from many cultures and societies today.
What else have you learned about yourself?
I have learned to trust myself now. I’ve become aware of what is called the “witness process”. At the Wellness centre in 2008, there was an outstanding NLP practitioner who explained the concept of the “witness process”. By this she was able to describe that I was experiencing an awareness of this “observer” in me whilst I was watching me. I thought at one point I was going mad as I had this ongoing sense of watching and monitoring myself. She explained that it would go away in its own time and yes it did do just that. It’s then that I realised that I am free, that I trust myself and at my core I know what to do in any circumstance. If I do make a poor decision (I don’t believe we ever make mistakes), it then becomes an opportunity for reflection and further growth.
Last year between April and May, I ended my 21year relationship, buried my cousin and also asked a 20-year friend to leave our business partnership. It was a whirlwind time of my life, yet considering what was going on I had this “deeper inner peace” of “acceptance”. I felt in one piece and mentally, physically well and solid. I understood that I was simply where I needed to be. I noted the “paradox of being nothing and everything at the same time”. It reminded me of the experience I felt whilst doing a profound workshop in Uluru many years ago. A privilege granted with the respect of the Traditional Owners. At this powerful workshop, I experienced a process where each person was led into an egg shaped hole in Uluru and invited to climb in and sit in an almost foetal position. I watched as each person had to be carried out of the hole which was intriguing in itself. When my turn came, I climbed in and as I connected to the space my consciousness was propelled into space where I experienced a state of bliss and being-ness and I was consumed with a divine sense of oneness. I thought “there is no way I’m getting out” and then like the others before me, I too had to be carried out!
So tonight, 1 May 2017, I'm pouring myself a wee dram of Lagavulin (my favourite single malt whiskey) to remind myself of my grit and determination in still wanting to turn up every day and give my best.
Do I have difficult days? Hell yeah! Do I have any regrets? Hell No! Each decision I made took me one step closer to self-awareness and closer to my destination ... whatever that looks like. I now know I have a well of inner strength that has become a solid foundation on which I can engage with Life … and that it contains!
John’s book, Man Unplugged – Exploring The Inner Man, is available at manunplugged.com.au and explores: