by Harry Pickens, Byron mentor
I knew that there was something magical about the Byron Fellowship from my very first evening as a mentor five years ago. I drove in from Louisville, and had another commitment that afternoon, so I arrived after dark. The participants were gathered around a picnic table a few hundred feet away from the cabins, introducing one another by the flickering light of a campfire. As I listened around the table, it became obvious that these were some of the most remarkable young people I had encountered in my nearly 30 years of experience as a teacher and mentor.
Their passion for the possible, their sincere desire to make a difference, their track records of success in a host of domains with the common thread of working towards a sustainable future, impressed me. But what touched me the most was the tangible sense of warmth, connection, friendship, and community that I sensed even though the 24 people gathered around this table had only known one another for a few hours.
The Byron Fellowship experience is a container, a catalyst, a community in which transformational change occurs from the inside out. The Byron experience challenges and confronts with compassion, bringing participants face-to-face with both their visions of a better world and their vulnerability in the face of the immense challenges facing us. Byron fellows embrace their highest aspirations and face their greatest fears. They learn to catalyze real change in their communities while deepening their capacity to live lives of authenticity, integrity, and service. Each fellow experiences an inner journey which leads to greater clarity, focus, enthusiasm, and momentum as they live and work in a way that calls forth a new and better world for all.
The Byron Fellowship consistently attracts intelligent, gifted high achievers with a passion to make a difference in service of a better world for all. But Byron is about so much more than intellectual understanding. Sure, many fellows arrive with brilliance on display, ready to speak with deep wisdom and extensive knowledge of their areas of interest and expertise. However, they soon discover that the accomplishments and skills they have acquired to date, no matter how impressive, are not sufficient to take them where they most deeply desire to go. They discover that knowledge alone is not enough. Experience alone is not enough. Even passion alone is not enough. None of these qualities can bring about what every Byron fellow desires most deeply of all, which is ultimately not simply about intellectual accomplishment, getting more done, fighting for justice, or changing the world.
What each truly seeks — and what Byron at its best can catalyze — is a transformed state of being, a way of walking in the world that draws upon their deep capacity to love, to serve, to connect. Each fellow seeks a way of being with others that evokes empathy, cooperation, compassion, all in service of a higher aim. Everyone who comes to Byron seeks a way of experiencing, of seeing, of living life that automatically brings out the best in others, inspiring and uplifting all whose lives they touch. And the fellows discover, through their experience at Byron, that the real key to their embodying a new level of productivity and power is a matter of heart and soul.
What is this key to their ultimate effectiveness? Developing a quality of consciousness that unifies, awakens, uplifts and calls forth the best in themselves and in those they lead and serve. I believe this is the unique gift of Byron – its capacity to catalyze and support this inner shift. The Byron experience is not for everyone. It is, however, for those change makers who are ready to look deeply within, face what they find there, and take their work and lives to a new level of presence, purpose, and authentic power.