Boyd Varty is an experienced tracker, a skill he gained from a growing up on the Londolozi Wild Game Reserve in South Africa. He spent his early years exploring the terrain and learning the trade of a tracker, before taking over the reserve that his grandfather started. It was there that he met a particular woman who opened his eyes to the more important things in life. He has since ventured to do the same for others, striving to help them “track” their lives and discover their true purposes. He has written two books in this effort, The Lion Tracker’s Guide To Life, and Cathedral of the Wild: An African Journey Home.
Boyd joins me today to talk about his unique journey through life, including what it was like to grow up on an African game reserve, and a higher calling he found that urged him to leave. We talk about the skills that an experienced tracker must gain, and how they apply to coaching. He also sheds a very unique and naturalistic perspective on what it means to live a good life.
“Let go of the outcome and just do the next thing that feels good.”
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Boyd Varty [00:00:00] You just have to do the next thing you know to do with no sense of where it’s going. You have to build a relationship with the unknown.
Brilliant Miller [00:00:08] Hi, I’m Brilliant, your host for this show. I know that I’m incredibly blessed. As the son of self-made billionaires, I’ve seen the high price some people pay for success. And I’ve learned that money really can’t buy happiness. But I’ve also had the good fortune to learn directly from many of the world’s leading teachers. If you are ready to be, do, have and give more. This podcast is for you. Today’s guest, Boyd Vardy, is an expert on tracking. Boyd is an artist of experience. His passion is to create transformational experiences for himself and others as a way to explore what it means to truly live. Boyd has written a book called The Lion Trackers Guide to Life and another book called Cathedral of the Wild An African Journey Home. Boyd grew up on the Londolozi Game Reserve, which is about a 60 square mile large game reserve in South Africa. In my own learning journey in recent years, I have felt called to learn more directly from nature and also from my own embodied wisdom, the somatic awareness and that kind of thing. And these are things that Boyd talks about and teaches. You can learn more about Boyd by visiting Boydvarty.com. You can pick up either one of his books. I hope you enjoyed this conversation with my new friend, Boyd Varty. Boyd, welcome to the School for Good Living.
Boyd Varty [00:01:31] Thank you so much, Brilliant. Great to be here with you.
Brilliant Miller [00:01:35] Boyd, will you tell me, please, what’s life about?
Boyd Varty [00:01:42] Life, to me is about discovering how to align your own harmony with its intelligence, how to become whole and how to develop the awareness that allows your essence and your gifts and your magic to flow into the world. And what I’ve experienced is that the more you go inward and attune with what the Buddhists call true nature or what they call in the east, the unfolding Dalle, what they call it, Native American culture, your medicine way, the more you attuned to the unique frequency of your own being, the more life flows through you and the more you find yourself on a current doing gives way to a kind of knowing that that flows through you and allows you to bring yourself fully to cocreate with the energetic fields that life is itself. And in life to me is an innately powerful, kind healing current that I am a part of. And my goal is to to be as aligned with that as possible. And so, I mean, that would be my best attempt right off the bat at a very, very big question.
Brilliant Miller [00:03:03] Yes, for sure. Well, thank you for for that. And I’m I’m interested to to hear you talk about life as a kind like life as kindness, where life is also sometimes violent, dangerous. For some creatures, short. Right. And you have had encounters with black mambas, with crocodiles or other dangerous creatures from a very early age. Will you tell me, what was it like growing up where you grew up?
Boyd Varty [00:03:35] So I grew up in the wild eastern part of South Africa and, from a very young age, I was taught the way of the wild by some of the best Shangaan trackers in the world, men who lived out on the land, who could read the earth, who could follow an animal for hours and hours by its tracks and. Whilst I had numerous what you would consider dangerous encounters, what I found was that that environment had a way about it, that environment. There was a there was a kind of language that operated in that environment. There was a language of the wild. And the more I learned that language. Strangely, the safer that environment became and the more attuned I became to that environment. The the more I realized that the animals actually spoke to you very honestly in their body language and their behavior. And there was a way to be attuned to it that made it safe. Now, you’re right. I did have encounters when I was 10 years old. I was lying on a termite mound and I was watching some Impala. And at that stage of my life, I was still hunting for the pot. And suddenly I felt a movement on my leg and I looked down and a black mamba, which is one of the most dangerous and venomous snakes in the world, was crawling over my legs. And immediately my father was lying next to me. I grabbed him. I said that there’s a mamba. And he started looking around like, where is it? And I glanced down and I said to him, Don’t move Dad, don’t move. Because I had been taught from a very young age that when close to a dangerous snake, the key is to stay still. And so, again, it was an extremely dangerous situation, but there was a way of handling it that made it safe. And so we lay there still as the snake crawled across our legs and then at a certain point it started to slither away from us and it got to a point where it was far enough away. And I remember my dad grabbed me. He said, let’s go. And he ran over the top of the termite mound. This anthill punched through a thorn bush and and came out the other side. And we were unscathed, but we were unscathed because of the way we reacted in the situation. And that became absolutely a critical learning in the wild. You can teach yourself to react accordingly. And and mostly if you do that, it can become a very, very safe environment.
Brilliant Miller [00:06:00] You’ve written a book called The Lion Trackers Guide to Life. Who did you write this book for and why did you write it?
Boyd Varty [00:06:08] Brilliant, you know, I think that on some level, uh, it was one of those books that, you know, people ask me how long it took to write, it was one of those books that came out in six weeks. It’s not a long book. It’s a it’s a shorter book. It came out very quickly. But really, it was the culmination of actually about five or six years of living, a very strange journey. And what happened and I guess I wrote it for anyone who was looking to live in in what we call the medicine way to live inside of the expression of their gifts, anyone who was at a transformational juncture in their life. I think that it’s a more masculine book. And it was talking to men, finding their way through transformations. And although it’s for everyone, I think I was in a more masculine discovery while I was writing it. But what it really was, is it was the coming together of two very strange life paths. And the first was as a young man growing up around the Shangaan trackers and spending hours out in the wild, watching the way a tracker finds a path and follows it and finds his way to something that he’s looking for. At its core, tracking is about finding what you’re looking for. And I watched how the mentality of the tracker. I watched the approach of the tracker. I watched the resilience and persistence of the tracker. I watched how a tracker developed awareness. And at that time, I thought I was learning how you would follow the trail of a lion, for example, miles across an unknown wilderness. And then when I was about twenty three years old, this was the second part of the life path. When I was about twenty three years old, I was at a time in my life where I was extremely shut down. I had been a victim of violent crime. I had experienced trauma in various ways and the result of that was that a part of me had become numb and frozen. That’s the only way that I know how to describe it. Something was very shut down. I was I was lost and I felt like I couldn’t find my path. That life had no taste to it. Things had gone gray. And at that time, I was working as a safari guide and I met an incredible woman by the name of Martha Beck, who became my mentor and was one of those strange things, like I was the safari guide. And she arrived on the safari. And immediately the way she started talking started to catch my attention. And one of the things she said was that the transformation, the restoration of of our planet to nature will come out of a profound transformation in human consciousness. And this idea struck me and we struck up this dialog. And then eventually, after a four or five days of me being the guy taking her out on safari, eventually one morning she turned and she looked at me. We were in the car park. We had just been out on safari. And she said, you know, I can see where you are. I can see how lost and how shut down you are inside. And I’m I mean, I’m here for you. I’m ready to talk to you when you’re ready. And there was something so strange about being seen like that. And of course, she was an incredible healer and and she had that gift that a healer has to see. And I remember standing there in the car park and just breaking. Someone had seen this place inside of me that was so last. And I started to cry and I was meant to be the macho safari guide. And I was crying and this woman was just holding me and she became my mentor. And what she did as a healer, she started to help me find my way back to a very essential wild and and and part of myself that knew what my mission was. And she began to mentor me. She helped me tune back into my body. She helped me tune back into the feelings and curiosities that were guiding me. And what I started to see was an incredible tracker operating in front of me. And she wasn’t tracking a lion. She was tracking a part of me that knew what my purpose and mission was. And as I started to do my own work, attuning to that place and finding that place, these two strange life paths came together the way and the mentality of the tracker that I grew up with in the wild and the way of the inner tracker. And I suddenly started to see that the approach, the mentality, the way that a tracker found his way through difficult, unknown terrain onto the trail of something and then became present with that trail was the same way that all of us has to go through transformation. And so these two very strange paths came together. And that, you know, I think of my work now as as the work of an inner track. And what I offer people is the way of the tracker to find what I call the track of your own life, this unique, essential gift you have to offer. And the trackers have so much to teach us in finding that.
Brilliant Miller [00:11:14] I think that’s so beautiful and part of what I love about that is that innately honors the individuality and the uniqueness. Of each of our paths, it’s not like, hey, here’s the way I’ve got the solution, you know the answer forever.
Boyd Varty [00:11:31] That’s such a that’s such an important thing, because the first thing is, is that your track will be different from anyone else’s. It will be unique. And actually, I think of finding the track of your life as the discovery of your authentic path. And and the thing about it is you can’t look into the world around you and find that the ideals that that the world offers are not at the world tells you two things. It sort of tells you it offers you a set of ideals. And it says if you achieve these ideals, you will be happy. And once you start coaching people, you quickly realize that the two things happen. Either people live into the ideal, you know, the money, the success, the status. And when they realize it, they realize that’s not it all. We live in a constant state in the society of the feeling that we’ve never quite achieved. We’ve never quite gotten to where we could have got to know. Both of these places are built into the almost psychological structure of the culture, the feeling that I achieved it and it’s paper in my mouth or I’ve never quite been good enough. I never quite got there. And the way of the tracker says, no ideal outside of you is what you’re looking for. What you’re looking for is your unique way. And the way the way to begin to find that is to start to tune into the way the tracker. So, you know, what does it mean to tune into the way of the tracker while all tracking begins when you begin to hear a call? So, for example, for us out in Africa, all tracking begins with when you hear that lion roar somewhere out there in the dawn predawn light, a lion roars somewhere out there in the wilderness. And the first movement of the tracker is that although he’s roaring somewhere out there and we can use our ears to pinpoint a general direction, there’s no certainty about where that animal is. And the first movement of the track is to go without knowing. Every morning as trackers, when we head out into the wilderness, we open ourselves and we move towards a tremendous amount of uncertainty, you know, and when you start working and transformational processes and you’ll know this from your coaching work, I think of all the people who I sat with who have said to me, you know, when I when I’m absolutely certain what the next move in my life is, then I’ll make the big leap. Then I’ll then I’ll start making the changes. And what I would say to anyone who starts the journey of an tracking is this journey actually begins with starting to do things without being certain where you’re going. My mentor always used to say to me as a track of the walk of the trackers, I don’t know where I’m going, but I know exactly how to get there. You just have to do the next thing you know, to do with no sense of where it’s going. You have to build a relationship with the unknown. The next thing that you’ll need is, you know, we talk a lot about the first track. If you think about a tracker out there in the wilderness, and I’ll just give a little framework and then we can we can dance around around that. But you think about when you get out there, there’s an infinite wilderness. That lion could have walked anywhere, you know, but when you get on that track, you have a first track and then you have a first track and then you have a next first track. And it’s in that way that the trackers dial down the infinite possibilities in a vast wilderness of where that animal could have gone to a moment of presence and then a next moment of presence and then the next moment of presence. And so in a transformational process, as we say, go without knowing. And then all you need to do is the next thing you know to do, the next thing you know, to do the next thing you know, to let go of the outcome and just do the next thing that feels good. The next thing that feels good. The other thing the trackers will do is they develop what they call track awareness to track awareness is your capacity to teach yourself to see a track. And if you could imagine, you know, brilliant, if you and I were out in the world together and we walked down a path and I’m a tracker and either tuned my eye with practice to very subtle scuff marks and the way a rock moves, I walk down that path. I see a whole lot of information that you maybe wouldn’t see. And that, to me, is the fascinating idea, the idea that there is information there. But you have to attune yourself to see it. So some of the work of becoming an inner tracker is developing track awareness. You have to teach yourself to see your track. You have to realize that there’s information there, but you have to start attuning to it. That’s a very that’s an incredible idea to me. When I got into transformational work, there is a part of you that actually knows what your essence and gifts are, but you have to start tuning into it. So then how do we develop track awareness? Well, one of the ways to do that is to start to attuned to the way that your body speaks, what actually not as a rational idea, but what in your body starts to make you feel expansive and alive? If you watch yourself through your day, where was the moment where you actually felt an energetic openness and curiosity around you? Where did you find yourself sitting forward in your chair with curiosity. Where did you feel yourself energized and more alive? That’s how you tune to your track awareness. So, I mean, I’ve given you a few things there. There’s more in it. But that’s what I started to see. And I started seeing as I started to do my inner work and transform my life into a more essential place, I started to see man. Every morning these trackers go without knowing. They work on a first track and then the next first track. They have tuned themselves to track awareness. They’ve taught themselves to see specific things. They’re in tune with their bodies as they as they follow the animal. They can almost feel the pace and the speed at which the animal is moving and they’ve moved out of rational knowledge and they feeling the animal in their body. So I started to just see everything differently and apply it from tracking to finding what I was looking for. And I know I’ve been on a ramble there, but I hope that gives you a bit of a framework about how these things started to come together as a psyche, as an approach, as a mentality.
Brilliant Miller [00:17:44] Yeah, now, absolutely. And a few things that come up for me and this one is about, I think I think is traditionally Western, but the desire to have a formula, to have an algorithm to to know and then what do we do with it and what what’s the benefit of it and all this that’s immediately out of the mind. Right. So there’s that. And and that’s that’s interesting. Just for me to observe now, what I what I tend to believe is it’s useful if someone can see something for themselves. Right. Like if they’ve heard something that you just said, whether it’s about developing track awareness and like, oh, and they make the connection of, oh, that’s how I feel in my body. Or if it’s looking for and following first tracks are going without knowing. Right. That all this is. I’m sure that Eastern teachers have said the same things in different ways, but it’s the same thing. Right. So I’m fascinated by that. And then I’m also sorry. I just want to say this here, too, about it’s a process. It is a process. Right. I love that.
Boyd Varty [00:18:45] I mean I mean, the two things that you’ve picked out there couldn’t be more accurate. And, you know, from the time we are young, we are told we need to know and we need to do it right. And there’s an entire education system that is built around knowing and and getting it right. And so by the time we arrive at a place in our life where we are ready for a transformational process, we are programed that we should know what this next movement is and we and we’ve got to get it right. And you’re right in the east, you know, of course, the higher the what is most Heralded is is the don’t know mind, you know, in the pursuit of knowledge, every day something is added in the pursuit of wisdom. Every day something is dropped would be a more eastern philosophy. And so part of if you’re out there and you are in a change of relationship, that looking to change careers have arrived at a place in your life where you feel like nothing is actually feeding, you have arrived at a point in your career where you know, it’s time for something different and you’re about to go into transition. You know, certainly that conditioning of now, what’s the next thing I need to know? What the next thing is, is going to be absolutely up there for you. And what’s actually going to be required is that you give yourself the space to begin to be in a process as a tracker. It’s not going to happen instantly. I mean, now and again, someone will get blinding inspiration and see like that’s my next thing. But usually it’s an opening to allowing yourself to be in a transformative process that will take time and that will require you to not know a lot whilst paying new attention. And that is the discipline of the tracker to pay attention. Again, so many of us, I think that almost being human part of being human is that you will, as a matter of archetypal course, fall asleep in your own life and you will have to wake yourself up in your own life. And that always begins when we start paying attention again. So giving ourselves the process, letting ourselves not know in the process, and then just something like saying, OK, you know, if you’re listening to this right now, I’m just going to start to notice what makes me feel more alive. What are the actions, what are the practices? Who are the people who when I’m with them, I feel more alive because I am 100 percent certain that where there is more of that energetic in your body feeling of aliveness, there’s more of what is essentially authentically for you.
Brilliant Miller [00:21:23] I mean, I tend to agree. I tend to agree. I’m also really curious about what about the substances or the activities that are maybe not healthy for us, that bring us incredible amounts of aliveness, whether it’s video games or drugs or just unsafe driving at high speeds, base jumping, like at what point is that that call to aliveness actually something to be avoided?
Boyd Varty [00:21:51] Well, you know what? I would what I would say and I don’t know about, like extreme sports, like base jumping and stuff, because I don’t I don’t understand that chemistry. But what I would say is something like drugs, um, over eating, you know, I feel so good doing this. Give me that. Is that what you find if you actually pay attention, is that the way it leaves you feeling post that encounter is actually negative so that there’s a brief moment of pleasure and you dressed up as a liveness. But actually the way it leaves you feeling overall, if you’re really honest with yourself, is depleted, is not feeling good about yourself, is feeling more depressed. And so I’m speaking very specifically about actions that the more you do, the actually the better you feel, the more alive you feel. And a heroin addict and I have worked with people with substance abuse. If you actually if you actually, like, test their body muscle, test their body, they’ll tell you it’s the thing that I absolutely love, that the way that it actually starts to leave them feeling is just needing more of that momentary hit. And so that would be my my concern on those on the sports stuff. I don’t know where that leaves that. Sometimes in my experience with working with extreme athletes is that it does certain things do leave them feeling like nothing else in life really touches them. There’s a certain kind of numbness which is need more and more extreme. But I guess that’s the way to to be really mindful about how it leaves you feeling overall. You know, it’s like, yeah, that makes it it’s a really disciplined, discerning attention.
Brilliant Miller [00:23:39] Yeah, and I’m reminded too of, you know, I once heard one of my teachers said that there’s only two causes of disease, not enough of something or too much of something. And so on this call to aliveness, just being aware of that and when is for us something too much.
Boyd Varty [00:23:55] Absolutely. I mean, it’s just the way it’s just the way that. I guess, you know, you sit down and eat a plate of donuts, it’s delicious, and then you see how you feel. You sit down, you eat a wholesome, beautiful salad and you see how you feel. And then over time, you realize that consistently eating that salad is the thing that really makes you feel better all the time. Yeah, yeah.
Brilliant Miller [00:24:22] And you you shared something in this direction, something along these lines just just a few minutes ago. But I love the way that you phrase this about purposeful action toward an unknown purpose. You talk about that. Yeah.
Boyd Varty [00:24:38] I mean, that has been a that has been a new that particular languaging has been a new dimension for me, which began. I just think it’s an incredibly important idea. And the first time I heard about it, it was. It was in a story that was written in the late eighteen hundreds by this kind of crazy scientist who is incredibly advanced, but the story goes that I read in the book and with this phrasing originally came from a young native boy in the northern part of South Africa, was taken from his home and his family. He was blindfolded. And this was during the time when the missionaries would take young children from from their homes. He was taken from his home and he was blindfolded. He was taken on a Securitas journey via train and vehicle of about three hundred miles. The journey ended only about 50 miles from where he was originally taken, but it was distorted. The area was distorted by a mountain range. Sometime during the night, this boy escaped and the next morning, when they found his tracks and they tracked him, he walked on a direct route back to where his home was. And they were fascinated by how he had known how to do this, having been taken so far from it. He had never left his home before, moved around. And when they asked the boy about it, he just kept repeating, I did not know where my home was. I wanted to go home. And essentially what many, many very would native cultures has, was the capacity for Homing. And I’m fascinated by this idea. Something in him knew where his home was, not something rational. He did not know where his home was, but something in him knew and continued to walk him towards that. And so when we think of our healing journey or when we think of our transformational journey, I just think that’s a fascinating idea that something in us knows not rationally. You can’t say rationally. When I’m transformed, I’ll be like, there’s something in us knows. And the real art form is to work out how to continue to move towards that thing. And it will start to show up as small daily actions. And that moment to moment, a kind of knowing of what we mean to do that is deeper than just the rational mind. You know, there’s also in the in the wayfinder traditions, the Polynesian wayfinder traditions, the wayfinder would sit on the front of the canoe and using the stars, but more using a feeling inside of himself, be able to pull the canoe towards an island thousands of miles away in the Pacific, the capacity to home to to move towards something. And I really think that that is the art of inner tracking purposeful action towards an unknown purpose. I don’t know where I’m going, but I know exactly how to get there. And if you were to think of it more in in Jungian terms from the from the brilliance of Carl Jung, the psychotherapist. He talked of what he talked about as circumambulation, so his idea is that. There exists a future self, which is almost you in your full potential, your full expression, and the way to get to that full expression of yourself in the future is to pay attention in the moment to what naturally draws your curiosity and what you feel naturally excited and pulled towards. And the more you do that in the moment and the more you pay attention to that in the moment, the more you will be drawn via a spiral route through certain recurring themes that continuously deepen towards what feels fully like you. And so that that idea is fundamental to the path of the healer. It’s fundamental to what we’re talking about, because what what modern culture would offer you was some idealized version of yourself that you have a goal to be, you know, and that would be the perfect you. And to me, that starts to fall down with what you’re actually looking for is to go inward to a more hole you that you discover over time rather than trying to achieve a place you live moment to moment inside of an evolving relationship with yourself that starts to open you to deeper places. I mean, it’s another thing that becomes hard about this brilliance and is that, you know, the language does break down a little bit because it’s such a personal thing to go inward and continue to discover more of yourself and more of an expression of yourself. And so the versions of the language starts to break down around it because your way is unique. There’s no model that I can put up for you and say, this is it. That’s why it becomes hard to talk about. It’s not fully it’s your journey and it’ll be different for everyone towards your medicine way, the track of your life.
Brilliant Miller [00:29:52] Yeah. Now that that I get that and you recognizing that you know that everybody’s journey is different at some point, you know, it’s kind of the Buddhist the finger pointing at the moon. You start looking at the finger and not at the moon. It’s trying to to show us and so forth. But an idea that I found really useful and just I don’t know why it moves me so much, except I think looking back on my life, I could see it and I didn’t have a word for it was yours. You what you talk about about the track of not here, will you talk about that? Because I think that’s in this when we go, OK, when the language breaks down and what we were following as a line of teaching or a teacher who we were learning from or whatever a community we were part of, at some point that seems to me over and over again to ultimately become the track, like the track of not here.
Boyd Varty [00:30:46] Well, I mean, it’s such an important point because let’s say you are out there tracking an animal. If you’ve gone without knowing, you didn’t know. You don’t know where that animal is. But you said you’ve been working on first tracks, you’ve been developing your your track awareness. And at a certain point you’re actually slowing on the track. And you see this where the track is all the time. The eye is catching the track and they’re doing a lot of things at once, a way pointing of trees up ahead. They’re vectoring the direction of the track. They’re almost playing on the track and things are moving. Suddenly, we’re moving quickly across unknown terrain. We’re on the track of this animal. We can feel it’s movement and we’re we know we’re on track. And then suddenly, almost as you know, as deep as you were in the flow, you’re out of it. You’ve popped out. We lose the track and it could be hard ground. It could be that a herd of animals walked across the track. I mean, there are so many ways to lose a track. And one of the critical things that I tell people is that. Losing the track is absolutely a part of tracking and you have to know this and it’s the same and transformational processes you let go of the known, you let go of where you felt safe. You start moving towards what feels like you’re inner track, more energy, more curiosity. You know, you’re starting to get into a place where you don’t have as much identity and suddenly you lose. The track is very important to know that losing the track is a part of tracking. When the track is lose the track, they do a couple of interesting things. The first thing that they do is they will go back to where they last had a clear track. And so you might ask yourself, in my transformational journey, I feel a bit lost now. But when was the last time I felt really on track? When was the last time I knew I was clearly on track? What was I doing? Who was I with? What does that activity? The other things that the track is do is they start trying things. And this to me is so different from the Western way that we were talking about earlier. I have to know what the next move is. They start trying things. They got ahead. They check open terrain, they’ll they’ll look down a game pathway, animals of walk. They’ll check anywhere where they can get a bit of open terrain looking for it. Grass is push that they move forward sometimes hundreds of yards just looking. If they can cut the track any way where they walk, they’ll walk. Also walk like a sort of half circle anyway. Where they walk, where they don’t find the track, they don’t consider it wasted time. And I don’t know what I’m doing. There’s no tracks. I’ve lost the way they consider all of that. The the path of not here, anywhere where I walked that I didn’t find the track is helping me refine where the track could be and said that those dimensions become very, very important as we start, as we lose the track in our life. OK, well, everywhere we didn’t find it. It’s helping us refine where it was, try things, continue to move forward and try things can continue to move and play curiosity with an open awareness. Go back to where you had the last clear track. This information there that the key is not to become frozen in the idea that now I’ve lost the track, I’ve done it wrong, and I have to do a dry moving forward from here, give yourself the space to like a tracker, just play discover. And that’s the thing about trackers is they live in discovery. They do not live in needing to be right or needing to know. They just operate with this open awareness. And and all of this does become so important when let’s say you did say you had a job, you were in a career, things were going great, but something in you longed for something different. So you let go of the safety of the known and things are going well for a while, and then suddenly you ran into a place where, oh my gosh, I’m not sure it was this right? Have I made that crisis of confidence that comes in a transformational process, what they call transformational tension. And it’s important to know that being, you know, having gone into things were going great and then losing the track. That’s a part of it. You know, stay in the process, stay in the process. Let yourself be in discovery. I love that. OK, we can you know, in your when your process began, did you have any experience with that where it was like, you know. I’m I’m so in this journey, this is so what I’m in to do, this is so right and then a big moment of, like, lost within that process. I mean.
Brilliant Miller [00:35:15] Yeah. For me, man, and I. Like I I haven’t figured out how to talk about this publicly much, you know, because it involves divorce and I don’t. So the thing is, I married. Nice woman. We had kids together, got about seven years, and I didn’t realize how unhappy I was. I met someone new. I couldn’t believe how alive I felt. That was more than 10 years ago. That woman that I met that helped me feel alive is now my wife and best friend. And again, it was like earlier use the phrase, you know, go to sleep. The part of us gotta go to sleep. I hadn’t realized that. And that was my description of I felt like a part of me woke up like it was a physical feeling, you know, and that was against a backdrop of tremendous difficulty. My dad had died. I’d had a son who was born with severe brain bleed, spent nine months in the neonatal intensive care unit. I was in a job that I didn’t love but felt like I couldn’t leave because it was part of a family business, you know? So just a lot of things came together. And really at a moment of previous to that, I had had suicide attempts. So I’d lived in some pretty dark places, not really knowing why I was here and all this. And and that was one where it just felt like, wow, I didn’t you know, I didn’t know this was possible. I had a sense every day as I was going through the routines of living that, you know, life wasn’t great. I mean, I was playing tremendous amounts of video games. That was my coping. Sometimes there was gambling or sometimes there were other, you know, unhealthy behaviors. But but that for me was a moment of I I think, like hitting on a first track. Mm hmm.
Boyd Varty [00:37:01] Yeah. I mean, that that sounds and then you’re in that sort of circumstance, you know, the less and it’s such a deep blessing because it’s the question is, is the lesson here to hold on or is the lesson here to let go? You know, and it sounds like in this case, your your lesson was to let go and follow your new track. And it’s these things these things come in so many different ways. And they are such deep questions of us and there’s no right or wrong answer. You just have to do the work of being in touch with yourself enough to know, you know, with your check when you see it. And that’s a yeah. And that’s a really beautiful example of it.
Brilliant Miller [00:37:47] And I feel now I see this, you know, for a long time I’ve said like, I don’t know why I do things. I mean, I can explain things, but I know those explanations are bullshit. Right. Like, if I’m really honest, the answer is because I want to or because I didn’t want to. Right. But I’ve said recently, as I’ve I tend to think of it as honoring, you know, as I’ve honored this these these innate curiosities or impulses or whatever, that I feel like I’m having a second childhood, you know, like I’m just so grateful.
Boyd Varty [00:38:15] Yeah. The aliveness, you know, I mean, curiosity. If you if you’re in a place where you can follow your curiosity, I think of curiosity is the way in which life pulls you towards a destiny beyond what you could rationally have imagined for yourself. And it’s almost certain that you will be curious about things that are innate to you. And I see this so consistently, you know, and you’re a great example of that. Brilliant like. Well. I think of this this work of finding your authentic track of finding the path of your own life. In my experience, it’s a kind of modern day activism. It’s not selfish. You know, a lot of people say, well, you know, I just wanted to do what I want all the time. It’s not like that when people start to really touch this authentic, true track, I see a few things happen. One is they become naturally more contemplative by nature. When people start to touch that, too, there’s a natural draw to nature. Three people stop wanting stuff. I really see this incredible thing that people stop wanting more things for. There’s an innate and natural desire to serve or create some kind of offering for others. And five, there’s a there’s a turn towards creativity. And I just see it so consistently when people really touch the authentic life, they are not asking, what can I get? They are asking, what am I here to give? And it’s it’s it’s so consistent in my coaching work, in my transformation work. Any time people really get to this, you know, I just never saw anyone get there and say, now I know what, I’m going to get out of this, you know, and now I know what I have to give to this. Yeah. So I do think of it as a modern day activism, because people who touch that place, you start to feel this like what you’re describing. It’s like curiosity, that’s gratitude. And they don’t have to they’re not trying to pitch you to live like this. You just find yourself wanting to be around people like that and asking yourself what’s going on over there. So naturally, they start to draw people in and around them. Things start to change. And so I offer this to people not just as your own path, but as a kind of activism. And I think that when a lot of people change, even if you just think about a lot of people wanting less stuff will have a profound impact on the environment that has a profound impact on a return to simplicity, just takes us to different ways of living. And we need different ways of living because the model, the consumeristic model that we got offered, it’s not leaving us fulfilled, enriched and in communities that that feel deeply connected to this other way as we we are to me, we are living a different way of living into life.
Brilliant Miller [00:41:08] Yeah, absolutely. So I definitely want to ask you about this, and I, I actually get the chills just thinking about this, recalling your story. But there was a moment when you heard I don’t know if you heard them audibly or you heard them in your mind, maybe you could talk about that. But you heard these four words. You are always safe. Would you be willing to talk about when and why you heard those words and what they’ve meant to you, what they meant to you then and what they meant to you since?
Boyd Varty [00:42:03] Yeah, I mean, are you referring to the incident in the book where with my involving my family? Um, yeah, so what happened is that in. I’m not sure what year it was, but it was at a time when South Africa was going through a very, very difficult time, there was a lot of violent crime around and. My family, myself and my sister and my mother and a woman who was a tutor for us and we were home invaded and held up at gunpoint and tied up at a time when they was with that with those sorts of incidents ending in extremely violent ways in South Africa. And so I woke up at gunpoint with my mother and my sister tied up around me. And and, you know, it’s just in an outrageously terrifying experience and an experience that is so strange. And I had grown up around animals. And one of the things about animals is that they’re extremely honest. They always tell you through their body language what their mood is. But when you have a violent encounter with people and especially and traumatized people, because, you know, I don’t I don’t harbor any judgment of the of the people who held us up. I know they were traumatized by what the country had been through, but it’s still terrifying because you don’t know what a traumatized person will do. You can’t read that language. And this ordeal went on for a number of hours. I was terrified about what would be done to my family. I was I thought that we may well be killed at the end of it. And so it’s just absolutely terrifying. And right at the end of it, a group of these these assailants took me outside and they told me they were going to kill me. And it’s a it’s a it’s hard to describe what that feels like when you’re taken outside to essentially be executed. But something happened to me in that moment. As I went outside, I experienced some kind of shift in consciousness, and it’s very it’s hard to talk about, but the mystics do talk about it. Something happened and I just went out of all fear. One of the ways that the Mystics might said is that the ego just couldn’t hold the moment anymore. And so the ego ceased and there was just total fearlessness for a moment. Inside of that, I had all fear left me. And what replaced it was just an overwhelming sense of being connected to everything, including these men in front of me who had me at gunpoint. And I looked I looked into all of their eyes and all all that was there was absolute love and surrender. And in that moment, that’s where I just knew you’re always safe. And in that moment is a very weird thing happened like. Every one of these guys who had us at gunpoint been very aggressive, everyone just became sort of confused. I don’t know how else to describe it, but like the any kind of action in the moment just dropped. And these guys just kind of. They lost anything to push again, I don’t know. I don’t know how to talk about it, just like everyone became confused and then they walked over to a vehicle and drove off. And it was a very it was a very strange experience. And it took me weirdly, it took me almost more time to try and understand spiritually what had happened in that moment and then process the trauma. I realized I process some of the trauma, but what I could never fully process was the scope of what I felt in that moment. And it was like a glimpse into a certain kind of state. And it was a strange moment to get it. But yeah, it was right there at my most terrified that suddenly a veil opened and I touched, you know, the satory experience, maybe you would call it, or a glimpse of a different state. And, you know, it’s just I am by no means making any claims to it being more than a glimpse. But that’s it was it has never left me. And it has it has always that moment has always filled me with with a longing and a sense of perhaps a place that might be possible with enough disciplined spiritual practice.
Brilliant Miller [00:46:50] Wow. You know, and thank you for sharing that. First of all, when you mentioned earlier in this interview trauma, I suspect that was at least part part of it you were referring to. And to hear you talk about it now, when you talk about it as a place that was a place, that’s something that struck me as I’ve learned about emotions and human experiences that we do, I tend to think of emotions as places. Right, in that when we talk about I was in a dark place, I was in a happy place, I was high or whatever, and that’s so interesting to me to hear you just naturally sharing that experience, that that was a place. And I don’t I’d be curious to know how you see this, but once you’ve gone somewhere, right. It’s almost like you carry that place with you forever, right?
Boyd Varty [00:47:37] Yes. Well, you know, I think of it as in a cartography in some ways. And it’s like we place flags in certain places. If you could imagine, like, let’s say I had a moment where my consciousness opened to that state of total divine connectedness and safety and then it receded. But but it was a place that I know exists there. And there’s a place where perhaps you felt incredible open heartedness that you couldn’t live in, but you had touched it. And there’s a place where you’ve touched profound fear. And all of all of the spiritual journey is realizing that, you know, there’s some distance. It’s not enough. I am depressed. I’m experiencing depression, not I am anxious and anxiety is now moving through, you know, so again, it’s fairly eastern. But all of that is the capacity to watch these places move through us rather than be fully identified with them. And that is the experience of starting to develop more spaciousness in our spiritual practice. So, yeah, it’s it is a place it’s marked and I’m not there, but I know it’s out there. I keep sitting still until I can hopefully one day abide there.
Brilliant Miller [00:48:56] Yeah, build at least a summer cottage there, a
Boyd Varty [00:48:59] place that would be nice to visit more often for sure.
Brilliant Miller [00:49:02] In the meantime, I’d settle for bringing home the little spoons and putting them on the refrigerator.
Boyd Varty [00:49:07] Yeah, I mean, in the meantime, I’m just happy that any day that I get through without being neurotic.
Brilliant Miller [00:49:12] Yeah, well, on that topic, just as you bring this up somewhere in what you wrote, I read something. You don’t know if it was your original thought or you were quoting someone, but you talked about neurosis is a substitute for real suffering. Yes. What do you mean by that?
Boyd Varty [00:49:32] Well, it’s just something that, uh. That has become really clear to me how what’s the best way to describe it? I have found that when I have been incredibly engaged in true challenge or in feeling very tangibly connected to my life and having to deal with things like, for example, I just lived for 40 days and 40 nights alone in the wilderness, living up in a tree and every day spending on the ground, tracking, you know, foraging, being aware, making sure that nothing ate me, or just being attuned to to nature, dealing with storms, dealing with heat and making sure that I was taking care of myself as I move to the wilderness, all those sorts of things. And it’s just incredible to see how every day when we are tangibly involved in having to work through those sorts of things, there’s just a density of anxiety that starts to drop away. And we live in a society that is obsessed with with convenience. And I think that. In some ways, convenience starts to say things are so convenient that we actually start to feel a little bit detached from life every day we get up, we work in a digital ether and things happen, but nothing ever really happens. And that can start to bring up a certain level of neurosis. Like, for example, um, I think of I was just in. I was just in a storm in the tree and it’s late afternoon and the wind started to blow and I realized there is a huge storm coming in and I start to batten down the hatches. I start to I start to do everything I can to prepare for the storm. And this monster of a storm hits and blades of lightning coming down around me. I don’t know if you’ve ever been very close to a lightning strike, but it goes it goes like this, like the strange sound as it touches down just a little click next to you. And then the thunder goes after that. But when it’s very close, you hear a touch. It’s it’s absolutely terrifying. And as I sat through three and a half hours of the storm, I was absolutely terrified. And I realized it’s quite rare to be truly afraid as an adult. You know, it’s like truly afraid. And it is so different from ruminating in anxiety. Yeah. And another way to say it is, you know, out there in the wilderness, you experience clean pain or what I would call clean fear, and dirty fear. Clean fear would be, you know, you you get close to a lioness and she has cubs and she drops her head down and she starts to snarl at you and you realize you’re getting a message and you feel your adrenalin spike, you feel your awareness attune. You realize there’s danger and you start to move away from it. And that’s actually a very healthy kind of fear to show you. Like, you should be careful here. And dirty fear is when you think when you lying back in your bed, up in your tree house thinking that lioness is out there, she’s going to get me that like anything she could be waiting around the corner. Maybe she’s going to and you start to then play it in the verbal mind continuously. And so maybe that’s the essence of what I’m trying to say. Actually, there’s a strange thing. We when we live in the future or the past, fear that actually dissipates when we’re actually handling a situation live. And that’s what I mean. Neurosis is a is a substitute for real suffering. Actually, when you are suffering and you have to handle something, you’re actually quite engaged by it. It’s the story of it over the next years that starts to become neuroses.
Brilliant Miller [00:53:33] Yeah, absolutely. I have a teacher who said I love to explore this with people, but he says nothing is upsetting in the present.
Boyd Varty [00:53:44] And it was exactly.
Brilliant Miller [00:53:45] Yeah. And then, of course, people go, you know, what about when you’re being tortured? It’s like but if you’re imagining it, you’re not of the present.
Boyd Varty [00:53:53] You know, my grandfather died when my father was fifteen. And so there’s there’s been the story. There’s been this mythology. In our family, I would like the sudden loss by a heart attack from the time I was young, I knew the story because it really started my family business on its journey, the loss of my grandfather. And so I’ve lived with this. The story and the story of the family all has heart issues. And so I’ve had this lifelong fear, this lifelong fear of suddenly losing my father to a heart attack. And it’s a very masculine fear and it’s my dad. And we have an incredible relationship. And I realized I’ve lived with it for years. And last year in November, it happened. He had a heart attack, which he survived and he was OK. But what was incredible was that while it was happening, there’s this huge fear was being realized and there was no fear. There was just presence and action coming out of that presence and doing what I needed to do. And it was just a phenomenal moment to me to see to see the exact example of that. There was in the moment there was presence and and no fear. And in all the times before, there was a story of fear and to just to what your teacher said.
Brilliant Miller [00:55:17] So you were there with him in the moment it happened?
Boyd Varty [00:55:20] I was there in the moment it happened. Holy cow. And what were you doing? I you know, I was downstairs, my mom, my sister came in and said, you got to get upstairs. I walked in, I looked at him. I knew exactly what was happening and just went into action, managed to get him into the car, managed to get him to the hospital, managed to scream at everyone, but in the in the emergency room. And then a very lovely nurse screamed at me and sat me down and it couldn’t have gone better. But that moment of, like, getting him into the car, driving through the traffic to the it was just pure. I know what I need to do, not present. And yeah, I just I think a lot about that, uh, our story of what’s happening versus what’s actually happening. Yeah.
Brilliant Miller [00:56:13] Wow. So, boy, I feel I’m feeling in this moment like I’ve done a horrible job chasing this interview because what what I still want to touch on and you can help me determine what we talk about and how long or whatever. I definitely want if you’re willing to speak a bit about Londolozi. And so that’s one thing. Another is I at least want to point this out that you just mentioned, you spent 40 nights, 40 days, 40 nights in a tree house. People can follow along on your journey by listening to your track Your Life with Boyd Varty podcast, which is pretty amazing. So I want to make sure people know that another thing is with your online course. I’d love to hear you speak a little bit about that. And then the last two parts of the interview that normally still take about another hour. We definitely I know we don’t we won’t spend that, but there’s one that’s seeing lightning lightning round. It’s nine questions, usually takes 20 minutes. And the last part is about writing and creativity. So it’s kind of stacked it. But that’s what and in an all of that, if there’s anything else that we haven’t touched, I know we’ve covered a lot. But if there’s anything else that you want to talk about, I want to make space for that, too. So where should we go from here?
Boyd Varty [00:57:27] Well, I mean, maybe as a part of this, I will talk a little bit about how Londolozi affected me. And you’ll remember at the beginning of the interview, I talked about growing up with the trackers and then getting having this encounter with an inner tracker and starting to see how those went together. And the third part of that equation towards my life path was this place where I grew up, Londolozi Game Reserve. And the story of Londolozi begins in nineteen twenty six with my great grandfather drinking too many gin and tonics and hearing about this part in the wild eastern part of South Africa that was up for sale.
Brilliant Miller [00:58:03] And it was a point. I’m sorry to interrupt, but as you tell this, I just want to frame this for people that the place still exists and they can come visit. Is that right?
Boyd Varty [00:58:11] Absolutely. Absolutely.
Brilliant Miller [00:58:13] And as people here, this history be aware, this is not like in the past this thing happened, but this is a place that’s very much alive today. And you are welcome to come
Boyd Varty [00:58:22] very much alive. And what it was, it was a bankrupt cattle farm. The land was bankrupt and the cattle that’s been overrunning it attached to the Kruger National Park in the wild parts of South Africa. And my family went there in the nineteen twenty six consciousness of hunting and particularly to hunt lions. That was the mentality of that time. And thank goodness we’ve come a long way since then. But what happened was my grandfather, my my great grandfather went there to hunt my my grandfather grew up hunting there and my father and uncle grew up hunting there. And one of the things that had happened is as the cattle had grazed the land bear, a thick scrub had come up as the as the rain falls, when it’s been overgrazed, the water can’t sink down into the ground. And so you get this incredible runoff and scrubland starts to replace the grassland. And so at that time, there were very few animals there. Most of the place was eye high scrub. And so if you saw a few animals while you were down there, that was considered lucky. But they were there. You just couldn’t see them. And that went on in nineteen sixty nine and in nineteen sixty nine, my grandfather died very suddenly and my father and uncle were left with this bankrupt cattle farm and all of the family advisers said, well, first things first, you’ve got to get rid of that place you go hunting lions is dangerous. It’s a bad idea. And that’s the scrubland all over. There’s no valley. They get rid of it. And they stood up and from a place very deep inside of them. And that’s the place I’ve always been interested in, purposeful action towards an unknown purpose, they said. We want to keep it, we feel something inside of ourselves, that soundtrack, we’re keeping that place. And there were big arguments, family advisers, but eventually their mother said, if the boys want to keep it, we’ll keep that place. And and the boys also said we’ll make it pay because everyone said to them, well, how are you going to look after your mother now? And that’s how my family got into the safari business. And it was a very ramshackle operation, three mud huts, nothing really going on. The odd sighting of an animal until the arrival of a man called Ken Tinley. And Ken was a phenomenal guy. He was a high school dropout who had been admitted to university because he drew a picture of a mother with such intricate detail that the dean of the faculty put him in. And then after that, he had gone to live alone in a part of Mozambique and had lived alone for a year to do his PhD. And during that time, he had developed this incredible connection with landscape so he could feel the landscape in his own body. And he arrived at this rundown scrub encroach property where my father and my uncle were trying to get things going, and he said to them, if you want this place to work, you need to restore the land. You need to think of the animals as your kin. And you need to make sure that the local Shangaan people participate in the protection and well-being of this land. And so they said will restore the land, how do we do that? And Ken started to show them how you could clear the scrub away and start to pack it into where you were losing moisture in these deep, corrosive furrows. And as you did that, the the grasslands started to turn. So what I grew up inside of was watching the work of restoring that land, like deeply in practice. And I would go to a piece of land as a boy and I would see scrub land. And then I would watch teams go in and clear it. And I would think, now this looks like a wasteland. Everything cut out of the ground. And then a year later, I would go back to that same place and I would see a grassland. And as the grasslands returned, you would start to see zebra and wildebeest returning. And suddenly animals started to appear. Rhinos started to appear. We got the fence with Kruger National Park down in the elephants flowed back onto the land. And then in a really beautiful mystery, the leopards, wild leopards, they started to realize that we meant them no harm. The hunting was long gone. And in fact, we were building a relationship with the land and the leopard started to allow themselves to be seen. And so I grew up inside of the restoration of nature. That was the third part of the story. And I, I have felt like I have seen the possibility of of building our relationship with nature and restoring our relationship with nature. And when any of us get involved in the act of inner tracking or in a healing, I believe we become a part of that restoration process. And today, Londolozi is the model for conservation and restoration movement in the world. It’s a teeming wilderness. The animals are protected and the animals are considered kin. And it’s a place where you can come and have an encounter with a wild animal where it’s totally wild. No fences totally open, but they realize that we mean them no harm and they allow themselves to be seen. And so that’s the place that exists both as my home but also as a place inside of me that I am trying to recreate all over the world, a place where we are involved in the restoration of the planet.
Brilliant Miller [01:03:31] I love that. I want to visit.
Boyd Varty [01:03:34] Yeah, you got to get out there. Yeah, I’d love to show you around.
Brilliant Miller [01:03:37] I would love it. I had a chance to do a safari in Tanzania and to visit Kenya, but I have never been to South Africa. Looking at what you’ve got online and hearing your story. I definitely want to come.
Boyd Varty [01:03:50] To get you out there.
Brilliant Miller [01:03:52] Yeah, OK, maybe this is a good spot, too, if you would be willing to to share about your online program. I imagine anybody who’s listening this long is probably interested in learning more from you. So tell us about what you’ve created online.
Boyd Varty [01:04:11] I’m incredibly excited about it. It’s a it’s an eight module, you could do it over eight weeks so you can do it all in one go. And what it is, it’s an online program that allows you to walk through. And we realized we couldn’t get everyone to Londolozi. We couldn’t get everyone tracking, but we could via this incredible channel of the Internet and start to give people access to the approach and the mentality of becoming an inner tracker and living as an inner tracker. And so what the course will do, it will start to tune you into that way of thinking. It will allow you via journaling activities to refine and define and start to build awareness around the tracks that you’re looking for, tracks you’ve been on in the past. It will try and help you identify roles and and traumas that may be from freezing you. It will tune you back into the sematic landscape of your body and get you in tune with that. And so it’s an amazing thing. When you sit down and you start to write into these prompted questions, it starts to pull your mind. You know, I always think of writing as discovering what you think about things. So there’s something really powerful about writing versus thinking about it. You start to discover like, OK, and you start to be able to see what your tracks have been and what they might be in the future. So I think it’s a really powerful tool for people who can’t get out to South Africa or can’t get tracking with us a way for them to have an opportunity to do some inner discovery. And so we’re very excited about sharing that now. And you can find that at both dot.com and you can start to work through it and see where it takes you inside yourself.
Brilliant Miller [01:05:45] That’s awesome, I I think this is a program I would love because in the Lions Tracker, in The Lion Truckers Guide to Life, I love what you say about coaching, where you write something about the whole business of life coaching. Never quite sat well with me coming from the South African Bush belt, I felt pretty certain life did not need a coach. The unbroken stream of life that animates all things is supremely intelligent, and nothing in the world needs a coach to help it discover what it truly is. So for my part, I love that someone has written a program with that mentality coming from that place.
Boyd Varty [01:06:18] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it it’s it is funny that we have a life coach and, you know, I coach a lot of people, but it’s it’s less it’s it’s it’s more about discovering what’s innately there. You know, it’s not about fixing something or, you know, changing something. It’s there inside of you. And and it’s naturally there inside of you. It’s more about what you can shed than anything.
Brilliant Miller [01:06:45] Yeah, that’s right. And I love that description about knowledge accumulates and wisdom sets down. But I also love to in that same book you write, Wildness is a relationship with aliveness. Too much uncertainty is chaos, but too little is death. What a great description. So, OK. All right. With your permission then I want to go ahead and transition us to the lightning lightning round. I really don’t care about this.
Boyd Varty [01:07:14] OK, thank you get OK.
Brilliant Miller [01:07:19] Question number one, please complete the following sentence with something other than a box of chocolates. Life is like a…
Boyd Varty [01:07:31] Evolving journey towards the expression of more essence.
Brilliant Miller [01:07:37] OK, question number two here, I’m borrowing Technologist, and investor, Peter Thiel’s question, what important truth do very few people agree with you on?
Boyd Varty [01:07:53] One important truth to very few people agree with me on. I would say that, um. Does not matter what your. What your circumstances are, the journey of essence can begin anywhere, and I guess I’ll just leave it at that because I’ve had enough people say to me, well, well, I would do this if I were if I could if I and then I’ve seen hundreds of people who didn’t have the means, in inverted commas, who weren’t in a good situation to just start and go there. So a lot of people would probably disagree with me on that.
Brilliant Miller [01:08:42] Question number three, if you were required every day for the rest of your life to wear a T-shirt with a phrase on it or saying or quote or a quip, what would the shirt say?
Boyd Varty [01:08:53] Towards aliveness.
Brilliant Miller [01:08:56] All right, question number four, what book other than one of your own, have you gifted or recommended most often?
Boyd Varty [01:09:06] For me, my favorite book is the book called The Snow Leopard by Peter Matheson, and I guess on some level, everything I’ve ever written has just been an attempt to to get close to writing something like the Snow Leopard. It’s just it’s a book that I don’t know why his journey into the Himalayas and his observations, the beauty of it is just it’s just touches me. Mm hmm.
Brilliant Miller [01:09:32] What are you currently reading?
Boyd Varty [01:09:36] Right now, I’m reading two books, The one is Tribe by Sebastian Junger, and the second is in a book called Awareness by Anthony DeMello, who is a Jesuit priest who I think was pretty awesome.
Brilliant Miller [01:09:53] Question number five, so you’ve traveled a ton. Case in point, I thought you would be in South Africa for this interview, but you surprised me and you’re in Austin. So you travel a lot. What something you do or something you take with you when you travel to make you travel less painful or more enjoyable.
Boyd Varty [01:10:15] I mean, I have a practice that I take everywhere with me that is like this is my workbook and I question it’s the work of Byron, Katie and I question my thoughts using her system. I question thoughts that caused me suffering and I get anxious when I travel. And so I question my anxiety, anxious thoughts when they come up. And so I don’t go anywhere without identifying the thought that’s causing me suffering. And then and then sitting inside of her practice of questioning that that belief.
Brilliant Miller [01:10:49] Mm hmm. OK, I heard a lot of answers to that question. Nobody’s provided a response. Great. OK, question number six, what’s something you’ve started or stopped doing in order to live or age well?
Boyd Varty [01:11:07] Well, I mean, I have started fasting very, very regularly, and I fast, probably intermittently for days, four five days a week, and then I fast thirty six hours, once a month at least. And so that has been a big one for me. I would say that is probably been one of the most profound ones, I feel fundamentally different, having really begun that practice, so that would be one that I’ve started. What have I stopped? I mean, I have just for me, diet is obviously a very big thing, particularly traveling. And so I just don’t eat. I just eat, clean, you know? And I’m very, very disciplined about eating clean.
Brilliant Miller [01:11:55] All right, question number seven, what’s one thing you wish every American knew?
Boyd Varty [01:12:06] Wow, that is I mean, that is that’s a big one, right? I guess what I would say is I wish every American. Knew and had the opportunity to be attuned to what we call in in Africa, Ubuntu, Ubuntu is an idea and a consciousness. That is what I would think of as the we consciousness rather than the eye consciousness. But he says it is through our interactions with other people that we experience our own humanity. And he says people are not people without other people. So I would if I if I could offer one thing to to the United States, it would be to inhabit that we consciousness more and feel that sense of we need each other despite our views, despite our differences, to be human together.
Brilliant Miller [01:13:01] No, thank you. Question number eight. What’s the most important or useful thing you’ve ever learned about making relationships work?
Boyd Varty [01:13:12] Slow down, that’s been that’s been my practice and it’s a continued practice. I’m someone who tends to jump around, be interested in doing a lot of things. Talk too fast. Want to jump around subjects. And I’ve realized that when I slow down, there’s the capacity to bring reverence and honor and real listening to the conversation. And if I’m moving too fast, I can’t get into that state of consciousness. That is where relationships are truly fostered. So slow down has been my practice in relationship. Awesome.
Brilliant Miller [01:13:51] And question number nine, aside from compound interest, what’s the most important or useful thing you’ve ever learned about money or what something you’re always sure to do with it or you never do with it?
Boyd Varty [01:14:05] OK, that one is an interesting one, I would say that money, the money game has something to do with what you can normalize. And so it’s a strange it’s a strange thing to me. It’s just money is a kind of energy and the state of consciousness and it arises to what feels normal to you, which is why people who make huge sums of money and then lose it, remake it again, because that’s just a part of the game for them. And they’ve been there, you know, that type of inner mapping. Martha, my mentor once told me a story. She was friends with the actress who played Princess Leia. Her name is Carrie Fisher. And she asked Carrie Fisher, like, why did you become a movie star? And she said, Well, everyone in my family was a movie star. So to her, to something that was miles away for other people, like going to Hollywood and becoming a movie star for her, it was so normal that that’s what she became. And I feel that life has a strange way of doing that. What we normalize is where we sort of find ourselves. And so part of the money game is, is you have to do the work of normalizing a certain level of flow.
Brilliant Miller [01:15:25] That’s an interesting way to say that. I like that and there’s a lot there, too, related perhaps to identity, you know, who we know ourselves to be and that. Yeah, OK, question number 10, if people want to learn more from you or they want to connect with you, what would you have them do?
Boyd Varty [01:15:45] I mean, the best way is, um. via BoydVarty.com, very connected with people through that and and I would say that if, you know, if they’re interested in the work of of learning quickly, the foundations of what I can offer and what I’m offering that we can explore together is start with the online course, because it’s going to give you a foundational space of understanding and language that we can then meet in as we go forward. So that’s that’s why I really designed this so that people can get it from whatever level they’re at. Having never been in the wilderness, they can start to get into the mentality of the tracker, which I think is a really fun way to live.
Brilliant Miller [01:16:31] Yeah, absolutely. OK. And although I do have a few questions for you about writing and creativity before we go there, I just want to let you know that as an expression of gratitude to you for making time to share with me your experience and your wisdom with me and everyone listening. I have made a microloan through kiva.org to a woman entrepreneur named Jeomar in Timor Leste. She’s forty six years old. She grows vegetables and sells them at her local market. So she’ll use this money to buy fertilizer and seeds and equipment. So thank you for giving me a reason to to go make that.
Boyd Varty [01:17:07] Thank you for allowing me to participate in that abundance. You know.
Brilliant Miller [01:17:12] It’s pretty cool. OK, so coming down the stretch final. Oh my gosh. We could do we could easily do an hour on this alone. I have so many questions. Let me just rattle a few off and you can answer any of them or something else. What have you learned about storytelling? What have you learned about writing stories? After tracking a lion, you became obsessed with writing, what was that like? Have you? What challenges have you experienced writing about your family and people? You know, what have you learned in the process of writing two books? What technology do you use? And then whatever we answer will end with advice and encouragement for other other writers. So where should we go?
Boyd Varty [01:17:55] Well, I mean, some some big ones there and. Well, I mean, the first thing that I’ve learned that is that every book is a ceremony that and it you think you’re writing the book, but the book is also working on you, the process of creating it, the process of getting it out. You know, it’s that has been really, really big. The second thing that I’ve learned is it’s different for everyone. But I have to take time to give myself some structure to write to. For me, structure is freedom. The more the framework that I can, a broad framework I can get, the more creative I become within the bounds of that framework per chapter, per per offering. I’ve learned that within myself that I should be writing is never going to help me generate more writing. The critical voice of that, when I’m not writing, it seemed it doesn’t actually seem to take me towards more writing. I have to to really be disciplined about making sure that there’s a generative voice that is saying we will we will get to it. It comes when it comes. You can trust yourself to keep sitting down. Not you’re not writing. You’re not writing. You’re not writing. Because I find myself rebelling then against that tyrant and not writing. So that would be one. I have found that some stories, uh, some stories are really given to me. You know, it’s a wonderful thing about being a storyteller, as if I’m attuned to it. Certain stories are given to me. I don’t know how else to describe it, but there are some that come that are just really given. But the more that I sit down to write, the more I’ve given, you know, any any anecdote through the day, once I start to write, is I start to see how rich it was. So there’s a lot to be said for, you know, those those the willingness to continuously sit down and actually start to write even little anecdotes.
Brilliant Miller [01:20:04] What a perfect example, two of what you were saying of track awareness. Yes. That here, the more you’re attuned to the stories, the more they’re given to you. Totally.
Boyd Varty [01:20:12] And. And yes, something to me like something, you know, nothing that ever happened to a writer. That’s that old classic, you know, and I can and I’ve gotten to that point now where I can feel like when things are going a little like, oh, this is not so fun, I can feel like there’s a good story here. And growing up in the safari business, which is an anecdote fest, you know, the safari business just throws stories at you because things happen every day. And, you know, I really do live in that sense of like with when things are going wrong. What’s there’s a good one here, you know, that’s so that’s been wonderful. And what have I missed? What have I missed?
Brilliant Miller [01:20:50] I wonder if there’s something specific about storytelling. I’ll give you maybe an example of something. And I want to say this, too, because I’m going to come back to that. But I interviewed a mentor of mine, a guy named Marshall Goldsmith, who’s written multiple New York Times best sellers, and he has a writing partner. And he said something when I interviewed him for the show that I thought was really interesting. You know, he’s a really smart guy. He can write well. He’s got the discipline and clarity of thought and all that. And he said he said, brilliant, I’m a good writer, but I’m not a literary quality writer. He said, that’s for me. He said, I’m fortunate because my writing partner is that. And as I read your work, Boyd is my estimation that you are. And I know there’s other people involved in the process writing a book, editors and so forth. But my sense of is, I think I heard your voice through your writing, is that you are a literary quality writer, like your descriptions are beautiful and, you know, they’re not just two dimensional. And so the thing about storytelling, like I’ve heard people tactically go, no, you’re beginning and endings, you know, the transformation, the inciting incident like stuff like this. So I don’t know if there’s any, like, little hacks or, I don’t know, heuristics that you use to tell a story. But that’s one one component of the question. The other is, is there anything that you would offer writers who because you talked about with Peter Mathisen and the Snow Leopard, like you’re writing, you wanted to be him, but ultimately we’re all only ourselves. But is there anything that you would offer about like. Approaching literary quality writing as a writer, like especially as a storyteller.
Boyd Varty [01:22:25] While I mean the first thing is, is that that’s that’s such a wonderful thing for you to say. And because I don’t feel like like one of those, just like high level literary writers, I feel like a campfire storyteller who writes. And so I never think of myself as like New York intellectual strength writer or, you know, like these incredible literary type people. And but I guess what I would say is that what what has helped me is an instinctual sense of what the story is that comes from like a really kind of shooting the shit around the fire a lot. And and that is actually when I’m around the fire and it gets going and you start to talk about things and you get a few great storytellers, it starts to feed off each other. You can hear what’s landing on my ear as I’m talking out loud. And that is really helped me develop my voice. So I would say to writers like I know that sometimes the writing thing is about being inward and being alone. But like, you know, if you can get into an environment that is supportive, where you can hear your own voice in story out loud, that can also be a doorway. So so maybe something in that is what I would offer to people to play with that a little bit, to just hear how one word that is unexpected lands on your you know, like something like when I looked up, the buffalo was adjacent. You know, it’s so different to the buffalo was close to me. The buffalo was now in proximity. It was adjacent. You know, it suddenly, just like a word like that can change the feeling of the sentence. Yeah. And you get that by being out loud.
Brilliant Miller [01:24:12] I like that. Tell me about what was your I think the word you used was obsession, like there was something that happened and then you just got in like in a mode where you wrote intensely. Yeah, what? Talk about that.
Boyd Varty [01:24:30] I wanted to write a book about the things that we’ve been talking about today in a tracking Finding Your Way. I had a series of essays. I had a series of different thoughts, you know, thoughtful, like transformational processes for men. It was like I was in this very masculine place where I was wanting to create certain things in my life. And it was all kind of going on. I wanted to write a book about tracking trackers. Was it a book about trackers? A number of different trackers, woke up one morning, got together with my friends and went and checked the line. And suddenly the whole structure of the book was there on this one, this one track. And I just realized, that’s it. That’s what that’s everything I need to say has played out here today. And it was just like one of those great moments was like there was my structure. And just the minute I had that structure, I just couldn’t wait to go. And this is after a few years of living in the in the land of I should be writing. What is it? I don’t know what it is. Etchings, little vignettes not happening. It’s suddenly like the most obvious thing, a book about tracking, you know, a book about tracking. And so it’s amazing how it comes. But that’s how it came for me. And then and then it just had to come out and it came out fast and with absolutely flow.
Brilliant Miller [01:25:54] That’s awesome. In especially in the Cathedral of the Wild, you share a lot of stories about your family, and I know this from my my endeavors to write stories about people, I know about real people and so forth. What challenges, if any, did you encounter talking about, you know, people that you knew were going to read what you were writing about them?
Boyd Varty [01:26:17] You know, I was I was lucky with with that my family were extremely supportive, and I think that there was certain, you know, there was actually a certain catharsis in, you know, my dad read the book a lot and some of it was about his journey. And, you know, I would go outside and he’d be crying, reading a section of it. And it was in my case, it was very beautiful. I was lucky. My sister said that I ruined her intrigue going on dates because people had this whole, like, back story on her. You know, it is it’s it’s definitely tricky. I mean, Cathedral wasn’t tricky, but, you know, when you start writing about people like, you know, people have strange things that come up for them around the way they portrayed. But you have to write as honestly as you can and tell your story. And that’s that’s where ultimately that’s where it lands. And then you hope that you have editorial support. And again, you don’t have to do it all alone of people who help you find your way into, you know what, maybe doesn’t feel totally right. And it’s a it’s a it’s a dance. It’s a dance. You got to tell your story and then you’ve got to also ask yourself, what are the what are the consequences of my view on this? And it might be that the lesson there might be I’ve got to I’ve got to go with my view of the lesson might be, you know what? This is not maybe not mine to say. And I think that way, just being in touch with your own integrity is important.
Brilliant Miller [01:27:39] Yeah, no, that makes sense. Well, the last question then that I’ll ask for now, I hope there’s a part to at some point, but what advice or encouragement would you give to those who are either in the middle of their own creative projects or maybe their own book or even something else? For it’s a dream they’ve harbored for a long time that they haven’t really embarked upon.
Boyd Varty [01:28:03] I would say. It’s never going to be the right time. And if you can if you can get someone around you quickly who believes it’s possible, particularly if you haven’t if you’ve done it before, you know, people who have been involved in producing books, they know it’s possible they they’ve done it. They’ve been there. Whereas if you’ve never been there, it is Mount Everest. You want someone who’s been up to the top of that mountain and back a few times and knows we can do this. That’s what made a big difference for me, is my first editor woman called Betsy Rappoport. She was just she just knew. We’re going to get a book out, and when I was like, I’ve never done this, it’s too big, I don’t know what the structure she is like. We’re going to get a book of some of you’re going to write for a while. It’s going to be bad that it’s going to get good and we are going to get a book out. And just that made a huge difference to me is that character. And knowing like you’re going to be a movie star, the people around her, that was normal for them. So fine. Yeah, that’s what say like find someone who it’s not Mt. Everest to it’s totally normal to and pull them close to you.
Brilliant Miller [01:29:09] That’s awesome. That’s great. Well, Boyd, I have so much enjoyed getting to know you through your writing and in this conversation today and listening to your your podcast. I love that you took a kettlebell with you. I really enjoyed that. So thank you so much for for making time to connect. And I’m looking forward to staying connected in some ways.
Boyd Varty [01:29:32] Thanks. Brilliant. And it’ll be great to get you to South Africa and show you some of the work we’re doing on the ground.
Brilliant Miller [01:29:38] Yeah, I want to do that. So that’s OK. Well, I will talk to you later, my friend.
Boyd Varty [01:29:45] Thanks so much. Great to be with you all.
Brilliant Miller [01:29:53] Hey, thanks so much for listening to this episode of the School for Good Living podcast. Before you take off, just want to extend an invitation to you. Despite living in an age where we have more comforts and conveniences than ever before, life still isn’t working for many people, whether it’s here in the developed world where we deal with depression, anxiety, loneliness, addiction, divorce, unfulfilling jobs or relationships that don’t work, or in the developing world where so many people still don’t have access to basic things like clean water or sanitation or health care or education, or they live in conflict zones. There are a lot of people on this planet that life isn’t working very well for. If you’re one of those people or even if your life is working, but you have the sense that it could work better. Consider signing up for the School for Good Livings Transformational Coaching Program. It’s something I’ve designed to help you navigate the transitions that we all go through, whether you’ve just graduated or you’ve gone through a divorce or you’ve gotten married, headed into retirement, starting a business, been married for a long time, whatever. No matter where you are in life, this nine month program will give you the opportunity to go deep in every area of your life to explore life’s big questions, to create answers for yourself in a community of other growth minded individuals. And it can help you get clarity and be accountable. To realize more of your unrealized potential can also help you find and maintain motivation. In short, is designed to help you live with greater health, happiness and meaning so that you can be, do, have and give more visit good living dotcom to learn more or to sign up today.
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