My stalwart coaching team is meeting on the deck at the stone lodge built by Dave Varty, one of the brothers who rehabilitated Londolozi's ecosystem. It's such an extraordinary part of the world that Nelson Mandela came here to relax after his release from prison. Master life coach Bridgette Boudreau, the CEO of my small company, is here to help guests who uncover emotional wounds we can't process in a group setting. Unofficially, she's also here to help me manage my own distractible self, which would happily follow a butterfly 100 miles if nobody stopped me.
Bronwyn and Boyd Varty, who are also trained as master coaches, grew up at Londolozi. Their father and his brother John were just 16 and 18 when they took on the unimaginable challenge they call "restoring Eden"—turning a parched land into the lush savanna that surrounds us now. The Vartys became friends of mine through a series of weird coincidences (that's a tale for another time). Now Bronwyn, poised and elegant, coordinates the logistics of the STARs, providing deluxe lodging in a place where hippos wander and hyenas steal food from dinner buffets. Boyd, my STAR cocaptain, has the bush skills of a wild animal and the soul of a poet. Like me, he tends to wander.
Sitting under the trees, we review our ten guests' advance questionnaires. This group of STARlets (as we privately call them) is exhausted. Four, by chance (or is it?), are struggling with chronic pain conditions. Several are caring for aging parents. Three have battle fatigue from teaching or counseling at inner-city schools. Lillian is worn out from trying to choose a career path while working as a chef and filmmaker. Angela is coping with her daughter's severe depression. Cassie married the love of her life, only to see him sent off to war over and over. As the poet John Milton wrote, "They also serve who only stand and wait," and Cassie is drained by so much lonely service.
All of this plays right into our plans. Every STAR follows a loose curriculum we call the "four Ps": peace, purpose, power, and practice. Most people think that once they've found their purpose and the power to practice it, they'll finally be at peace. Actually, though, it's only by starting in a place of peace that we find our purpose and power. Peace is the first step and the final lesson this group of STARlets needs to learn.
Next: The coaching process begins