Blood(lines), Sweat & Tears: Reflections on my Training Academy journey
My name is Satya Jehman and I was one of six participants who completed the Outward Bound Canada Training Academy program in Spring 2023 – an experience that had a profound impact on me. Here are some of my experiences and reflections:
The Land’s People: A Touching Story
As I listened to Skookum Lennie John – a Keltsmaht Indigenous man who led a territorial introduction on the first night of our trip – I could feel his heart so deeply that it brought tears to my eyes. We were camped in Keltsmaht territory and I was honoured to witness how healing it was for him to share his story!
We listened to him talk about how he experienced the passing of his estranged mother and father and the impact it had on him. He told us of his distant relationship with them, of his regrets – and of the valuable self-awareness he gained from the experience as he looks back now, many years later. He shared this wisdom with us and how we might apply it to our own experiences. As I listened, tears flowed as I thought about the traumatic, complicated and sudden death of my parents. The pain, the grief of our shared experience was palpable.
Skookum Lennie John also shared how his people were colonized. How their culture, tradition, customs and spirituality were canceled. How his people were forced into residential schools and the genocide that followed. These stories evoked the shock of my own colonized cells – 400 years of European occupation in my ancestral homeland of India. My heart was so raw and vulnerable as I absorbed his reflections, grief and trauma.
Just moments after he finished his talk, I pulled myself together to co-lead our group on the second day of our journey. The intensity of so much happening at once was undeniable. Being witnesses in this grief journey is the key to healing, I believe. Skookum Lennie John thanked us for listening to him and told us how sharing with us helps him process all the things and come back to himself. It was an honour to be in his presence and deeply powerful. These are the conversations I live for: raw, vulnerable, powerful. Where the power of softness penetrates deeply.
Overcoming challenges: How hardship helped me grow
We’ve all been through so much on this journey – fears, edges, exhaustion, pain – and moments when residual trauma came to the surface, at least for me. I also recall the fear that built up on my first wet exit during training day at the lake before the trip. I was terrified! But then I did it, with excellent support from the instructor. And I was exhilarated!
Then there was my first big solo crossing in a single kayak. Again, I felt fear. And then one of the co-leaders that day, Dave, paddled next to me for the entire crossing. We didn’t even have to talk, just knowing he was there was enough. That was all the support I needed at that moment. Breath. Sigh. And oh my, the lifting of those heavy kayaks! Especially those first few days when they were packed to the brim with our meals. I counted a total of 26 times we lifted them during base camp training and the outdoor journey – epic!
I must say that I’m so much stronger physically after the trip. It was probably the most physically-demanding endeavour I’ve done in a long time. I wanted to do Outward Bound training 20 years ago, but at the time I felt I couldn’t do it. And now, two decades later, I’ve done it. And that’s empowering. I may not have been among the fastest or most athletic (like back then, haha), but even that was deeply humbling. I realized that I brought many other skills and experiences to the group. For example, social-emotional skills and a crystal clear lens into the experiences of marginalized folks. It felt very important and meaningful to support and offer something in this way.
Winding down: Finding balance and empowerment through the ocean
It was glorious to be in the ocean for so many days. But it was also hard work and very challenging. Not to mention inspiring, stunning and beautiful! Blue whales, porpoises, sea otters, sea lions, seals, eagles, herons, ospreys, minx. Amidst the ebbs, we found flow and balance through the rhythm of the ocean as we connected with the land, the ancestors, the spirits, the group, and ourselves. By the end, we were empowered.
Learning & integration: Taking what I’ve learned into my daily life
I learned so much about the land, kayaking, leadership, guiding, risk management, route planning, mapping and charting, weather, currents, wind, waves, tides, swells, bombers, logistics, surf take offs, surf landings, etc. (I recently did an ocean canoe trip. It was the first time I had been out on the ocean since the Outward Bound sea kayaking trip. I felt so much more knowledgeable, aware, and prepared for this adventure! I was much more in tune with route planning, risk management, ensuring there was a waterproof chart visible at all times that outlined our route, the weather, the currents, the wind, the swells, the bombers, and launching into the waves – it was incredible and so satisfying!
When I returned home, I dreamed of kayaks, including one where the bottom half of my body was a kayak as I tried to get out of bed. Haha! Now I’ve been back for a few weeks and I can close my eyes and get back into the stillness, wildness and remoteness of the open ocean. This simplicity and silence is something I carry with me as I navigate the ebbs and flows of daily life. It’s my power and my strength.
A call for diverse folks to apply to the Outward Bound Canada Training Academy
If you feel inspired by this journey and you’re underrepresented in the outdoor community, I encourage you to apply to the Training Academy. OBC is now accepting applications for this fully funded program that focuses on diversifying the outdoor sector.
The program is offered in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Nova Scotia in two different ways: as an intensive course or over several weekends over a few months. The next offerings will take place in Fall 2023/Spring 2024/Fall 2024.
To learn more or apply, visit the Training Academy website.
About the author:
Satya is a freelance writer and editor. She acknowledges and expresses gratitude for living on the lands of the Hul’q’umi’num’ and SENĆOŦEN (Coast Salish) speaking peoples (also known by its colonial name, Salt Spring Island, BC). Satya also facilitates retreats, workshops and ceremonies in the Yogic/Vedic lineage of her ancestors. Learn more about her work on her website, her Instagram and Facebook profiles.