This is a story of all that is possible when the heart is fully aligned with a dream. It’s a journey that has led around the entire country on four wheels, from beachside book clubs to transforming whole towns. Tom has explored the world as an outdoor educator and now shares his wit and wisdom through workshops which help people refine their passion and purpose.
Tom’s experience as an outdoor educator hugely inspired and impacts the work he does today. He tells me about the rewards of working with kids and the conversations he’d share with teachers, describing the dream keeping his imagination awake at night.
“I wanted to share everything I’d been learning about.” Tom says, excitement in his voice. “To put workshops on at schools to teach kids how to make healthy decisions that would make life a better experience for them. I kept talking about it but I didn’t take any action. Then one day, I was giving a teacher the same old spiel about being a motivational speaker and he booked me in, there and then.”
After years of talking about his dream, Tom found himself with less than a week to prepare his first workshop. He didn’t spare a single moment for doubt.
“I’d thought about this stuff so much that when it came time to execute it, I put a PowerPoint together in a day. I flew to Canberra, did my first school talk and nailed it. I couldn’t have felt any better with how I delivered the content and the way that it was received by the kids and teachers. Until that point I thought I had the best job in the world. I knew I was the luckiest guy, teaching snowboarding and surfing, all these outdoor adventures, then when I did that talk I thought, ‘Holy fuck, this is it. This is what I’m here to do.’”
The door swung open for Tom to pursue his dream. It naturally expanded into something even bigger, positively impacting not only the kids he taught in school but their teachers and parents as well.
“I began to put workshops together for the teachers, parents, even for just men in the community to have discussions around toxic masculinity.” Tom explains. “I want the kids to maintain these new habits, to go home thinking, ‘Wow, I'm gonna be a better son.’ I want parents to then go, ‘Well, we're going to start changing as well, to be more attentive to your needs. We're going to start eating family dinner together with no TV. We're going to carve out time to be together.’ When the kids go to school the next day I want the teachers to feel totally reinvigorated by their passion for teaching and purpose for being there. It means everyone is supported and held accountable.”
For Tom school is about culture and community. It’s a place where people grow together and he is witnessing the positive shift that occurs when mindfulness practices are made available and how they contribute to a nurturing environment.
“I’ve always been childlike at heart.” Tom confesses. “Kids would always ask me for advice about stuff they were going through. One of my biggest skills and attributes to this work is relatability. Even from a young age people would come and ask me for advice and I’d just tell them the truth. I kind of became this roaming counsellor.”
Tom immersed himself in the study of self-development, reading book after book that changed his life in some big or small way. His earnest desire to share the wisdom he learned led to a venture he called ‘Mindfulness Coffee.’
“I’d pull up to a beach in my combi van and lay out all my books. I’d be there, grinding beans, pumping shots, and people would come and read, chat, play the guitar. I believe in the power of books, of how we’re shaped by what we read, watch and who we spend time with. Every single experience shapes us into who we are today.”
I ask Tom what experiences he’s had which have led him to where he is now.
“Life has been pretty peachy for the most part.” He says truthfully. “But in my 20s I took heaps of drugs, went to a bunch of festivals and I made some really big mistakes. I saw people overdose. I had friends commit suicide. I had a big wake up call at a festival, where I was a passenger in a car full of people and the driver was drunk. The car hit somebody - thankfully, they didn’t die. But it really made me aware of how bad things happen when good people do nothing.”
Tom recognised in that moment that so much suffering could be avoided if more people stood up and spoke the truth. He made a commitment to be one of them, acknowledging the weight of responsibility he’d have felt if events had ended differently.
“If someone had died that day, even though I wasn’t driving, I would have felt responsible. I’d always know that I should have said something. I didn’t want kids to make the same mistakes that I had.”
The experience inspired Tom to learn as much as he could about mental health, meditation and making better choices. Tom loves building communities where people are able to be honest about the work they’re doing to better themselves. It’s so important to be seen and supported, as well as being held accountable for the positive changes we’re trying to make.
“I would love to teach people how to keep holding the space once I’m gone, specifically the men's circles.” Tom says. “Men’s circles are so able to be taught if you feel called to do that work and you're good at holding space and listening.”
Tom and I deepen into the conversation around holding sacred space for men. It’s something I’m truly appreciative for because I’m an advocate for the power of and relationship between self-expression and emotional healing.
“We’ve got such a long way to go.” Tom admits, his eyes alight with honesty. “Men have always felt like they've had to be strong and tough. We get told not to cry, not to share, not to express our emotions. It’s incredibly toxic.”
He explains that if we grow up in a culture that doesn’t practice the healthy processing of emotions, they accumulate into painful experiences.
“Emotion is energy in motion. If it’s not coming out it’s going to build up and fester. It causes us to smoke, drink, take drugs and feel really depressed.” Tom says.
But he also believes we’re doing our best with what we’ve been handed from one generation to the next.
“We need nurture and acknowledgement from our parents.” Tom expresses. “If we don’t get it in the early developmental stages of life we learn not to talk about our hurts, we get stuck and create beliefs out of unconscious untruths. This work is about giving men the permission to share all of these things in a space where they’ll be heard, seen, uninterrupted and not judged for how they feel.”
Tom and I share our positions on how this important inner work affects the balance of the world. Tom’s vision is equality and his contribution to that is the facilitation of circles where men are given the space to share.
“Men can be cockheads, straight up.” Tom admits.
He says this in reference to the oppression of women over generations, the lack of equal opportunity, sexism, the right to vote and compete in the Olympics.
“My sharing circles address this.” Tom continues. “I invite them to talk about their relationships with women. I ask about their mothers, sisters, partners, bosses. How do you relate to these people? Are you being supported by them and supportive to them?”
I express my view that how we’ve collectively treated the feminine directly relates to our environmental predicament. Ultimately though, aren’t we all human? Don’t we all deserve love and nurture? Isn’t it time to look beyond gender roles and recognise ourselves as an earthbound community?
As adults trying to navigate relationships more consciously, we’re realising we each have the desire to connect more intimately. This extends into all our relationships.
The parallels between our relating with each other and with nature gives us the option to be immobilised by shame, guilt or regret, or to acknowledge our generational trauma, heal what we can within ourselves and start looking for ways to move forward and hold each other in our individual and collective experience.
We venture into the delicate dance between masculinity and femininity. Exploring the very real way in which men and women relate, Tom offers his own vulnerable example of how it feels to be judged, mistrusted and furthermore that he understands why.
“This has happened more times than I would like, where I’ve been walking to a gig and it’s dark, and there’s a woman 100 metres down the same street as me. I’m so excited by everything, especially human beings!” Tom shares with a laugh. “But when she sees me, she crosses the street, puts her head down, walks as fast as she can away from me. I understand where that comes from. I’m very delicate with who I would say this to, but honestly, as men… I think we’ve fucked it.”
I am incredibly touched by Tom’s openness and the opportunity to explore this issue together.
“There are beautiful, conscious men out there.” Tom continues. “But we are men and we all get put into the same category. I worry that because I’m a man, I represent every other man. I don’t want women to feel like they have to cross the street because they’re afraid of what’s going to happen. I’m not saying a men’s circle is going to navigate us through that completely, but it’s about exercising that compassion muscle. The majority of men haven’t experienced this or understood what’s possible when we speak about our experiences.”
At Sacred we have a philosophy of leaving a place better than we found it and people better than we found them. Tom’s work is fully aligned with this shared vision for a more compassionate planet. Since drinking cacao, this connection has only deepened.
“I resonate so much with Dan and his mission.” Tom says excitedly. “I couldn’t not be part of the Sacred family. Cacao focuses me and drops me deeper into what I’m doing.” He reflects. “It seems to meet me where I’m at. In the morning it feels sacred, because I’m doing my meditation, yoga and journalling. In the afternoon it’s writing emails and making calls, which is less intentional but it makes even those tasks more centred around the heart than head. It’s a very subtle, heartfelt feeling.”
Out of the delicious Sacred flavours I ask Tom which one he prefers.
“It’s got to be Love.” Tom answers. “It really invites people to drop into their heart and the heart knows no lie. The heart only speaks true and if you've got the courage to live from there, you’ll lead an authentic life. There’s a great bit of wisdom about how the head and throat connection is about logic whereas the heart and throat is truth. It's layered with compassion and beautiful intention. What we do or say from that place is not only for your highest good but also intended to be received by the other person’s highest good as well. That’s how I work even when I’m writing emails, imagining that the person opening it is going to feel that intention.
“The Finding Your True North workshops I run are deep and incredibly challenging for a lot of people. A lot of eye gazing, giving a compliment to a stranger, small sharing circles. It's hard. It’s confronting. Having Love Cacao at the workshops really assists people in meeting themselves in that. It’s so aligned.”
Tom helps people redefine their purpose and passion through stories, stillness and movement. His workshops bring in spirited self-expression, meditation and yoga. He guides participants in deepening the connection they feel to themselves, others and the natural environment.
“It’s all about making better decisions.” Tom explains. “How can I be a better guy than I was yesterday, last week, last month, last year? I’m in constant self-reflection. I encourage others not to shame or belittle their mistakes either, just recognise, reflect and next time choose differently.
“What is Sacred to me?” Tom wonders. “Meditation, journalling, yoga. Being in nature. That’s all so sacred. Whether it’s the mountains, beach or forest, as long as I’m outdoors I feel the connection. I feel like facilitating my work is sacred. I couldn’t be more in my heart than when I’m running a workshop or being a mentor. That work fills my cup, more than anything else in the world. My heart is in overflow and I feel so expansive. It’s next level.”
Tom describes how the connection extends beyond the workshops.
“After a workshop I might invite everyone to join me at a gig I’m going to. It’s been a huge day and we’ve been vulnerable, yet I’m not a typical yoga teacher. I enjoy a beer and if they come along, I’ll be no different to who they met that day. A handful will come and wonder how I’m still so full of energy and I’ll explain, ‘That workshop is like having fifty coffees. It’s so good!' That’s what’s sacred. This feeling. This soul-nourishing work of healing and assisting others to heal.”
Connect with Tom
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Website | www.linktr.ee/lifeis_theway
Written by our Sacred Scribe
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