The bare facts
John Brierley spent his early life in Dublin where he qualified
as a Chartered Surveyor and set up practice as Brierley & Co
in 1971 later merging with Jackson-Stops. An existential crisis
took him and his family to Findhorn in Scotland in 1987 as part
of a mid-career break. This was to prove a pivotal time in his life
with a reordering of priorities towards a spiritual perspective.
In 1996 he convened the international conference ‘Business
for Life’ where the core issue was identified as the crisis
of the human spirit and the search for meaning in life. The idea
of Business sabbaticals as an antidote to burn out and pilgrimage
as a way to reappraise life's purpose became his abiding passion.
In 2000 he walked up through Western Nepal into Tibet to complete
the renowned Mount Kailash pilgrimage sacred to Buddhism, Hinduism
and esotoric Christianity.
Life as Pilgrimage
“…It is now topical to talk about downsizing and mid-career
breaks. But we need to be careful how we spend this hard won space
in our lives if we are not to end back in a life of bored indifference.
We can change our work, our religion, our partner, our house, but
if we don't change our life orientation away from the mundane and
towards the sacred we just end up with more of the same. That is
why I find the idea life as pilgrimage so exciting. What higher
purpose could it have than to remind us of our divine origins and
our sacred contracts?
We live in a spiritual vacuum that is made all the more vacuous
by outdated creation myths and emotional environmentalism. The busyness
of our lives, even those dedicated to service, spins us ever outwards
away from our centre. Pilgrimage on the other hand slows us down
and opens us inwards to the Source. In one direction lies illusion,
the other truth. Thank God I stumbled onto a pilgrim path. The route
may still have its ups and downs but the overall direction is set,
the way-marks clear and the destination assured. The only choice
I have left is how long it will take me to arrive…”
Want to know more? Then read on and see how John describes his life
so far... and what led him onto the Camino and to writing these
guidebooks for you!
“…I started my own professional practice at the age
of 21. This is when I learnt the meaning of sapientism, or the art
of professing to know more than I did. Pretence then became so ingrained
that I lost all sense of my own identity and fell into a shallow
period that lacked any flavour of authenticity. Lost in mindless
materialism I now felt the weight of years of unconscious consumerism
and out of the blue came the gift of a celestial alarm clock.
Wake Up Call
10 years of quiet desperation led to a turning point, that opportunity
that comes to each of us at some pivotal stage in our life and offers
us a time to re-assess our direction. The classic existential mid-life
crisis that can lead to breakdown and breakthrough. For me it started
in January 1986 with an alarmingly persistent wake-up call. Looking
back I laugh at the idea of my spiritual guides working overtime
to wake me up. The dream needed very little interpretation but I
was so blind that I still could not read its message. I had this
dream, off and on, for a whole year before its significance began
to dawn on me. I really thought I was going mad during that period
and of course, in conventional terms, I was. The turning upside
down of consensus reality is frequently misunderstood as some psychotic
episode whereas, within the bigger picture, it is simply spiritual
emergence and the opening to knowledge of higher worlds. I slowly
became aware of a spiritual reality behind the sense-perceptible
The Alarm Clock
My daydream recurred like clockwork and never altered in any detail.
Within the dream - I am 65 years old and confined to a wheel chair,
the result of heart bypass surgery. A lifetime of dedication to
a material way of life has left my body and mind incapacitated.
I am being wheeled up the central aisle of a hall crowded with pillars
of professional society. At the far end is a podium on which a junior
partner in the firm I created is making an utterly insincere speech
about the enormous contribution I have made to the firm. He then
presents me with a plastic alarm clock and I am then wheeled back
down the aisle to polite applause and out through large double doors
that reverberate shut behind me. In that moment I realise that the
value of my life is measured in that plastic clock. The tears begin
to fall as it dawns on me that my physical and spiritual muscles
have become atrophied and I have no energy or time left to bring
any meaning or purpose to this life. I have squandered my time in
that which is worthless running down a cul-de-sac called despair
with nothing but my own mortality waiting for me at the end!
At the end of that year I realised that something profound was trying
to happen and it gave me enough courage to claim a mid-career break.
I was 39 and Ireland was in recession so my business partners needed
little persuading, my wife and children needed none. She had spent
her earlier years in an Ashram and couldn't wait to break away from
the mindless social and business circles. The children had suffered
a few years of the state curriculum and where likewise ready to
experience something more liberating. So a gap suddenly appeared
with this amazing potential for change and growth - I was off the
treadmill for a year!
The Journey of Awakening
We headed away in a camper van to ‘travel the world’
and during that year, 1987, I stumbled onto the Camino de Santiago
for the first time and felt its welcoming embrace. The Findhorn
Foundation in Scotland was the next stop along the Way and it was
there I realised that it was not an outer experience I was embarking
on but a spiritual journey along the inner pathways of soul. My
sabbatical year ended with a decision to leave Ireland and set up
home in the spiritual community at Findhorn. I can honestly say
that I have never looked back since and the journey has become a
source of great joy. Yes there are moments of forgetfulness and
therefore pain but essentially the orientation of my life towards
an inner reality is complete and unassailable.
I have created spaciousness in my life that allows for the ebb and
flow of earthly trials and tribulations to play out against the
backdrop of a spiritual purpose that transcends the illusory world
I dreamt up. Life itself has become the classroom and this earthly
existence a mystery school leading to the Unified Mind that lies
beyond the seeming separation. The exploration has become endlessly
If you wish to contact John Brierley, you can
. Remember he may be away from home on another pilgrimage so do
not necessarily expect an immediate answer!
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