Life for Peter began relatively trouble free. The eldest of eight, Peter’s family moved to the North Queensland town of Lucinda where he grew up at the seaside as a boy who loved sport, fishing and hanging out with his mates. At age 11, Peter was forced to grow up quickly when his mother was hospitalised with postnatal depression after the birth of her fifth child. With his mother away for months, Peter shouldered the responsibility of looking after his siblings and quickly learned that life wasn’t just about him. With this matured perspective on life, Peter often sought silence and solitude. With the birth of three more children, continuing health issues for his mother and a move to Brisbane, Peter found himself struggling to adjust to the extra challenges and stress of home.
At 16, in grade 11, Peter dropped out of school. He was encouraged by a psychiatrist to take a year off and do exactly what he wanted to do. Where Peter found himself was helping a missionary couple to sail their 65-foot yacht back to Australia from Fiji. For Peter, this trip was his first encounter with real poverty. Yet, what stood out most was the impact that his smallest gestures could have on people he encountered. Despite returning home a new man, Peter’s relationship with his father was tense, coloured by resentment and a personal sense of failure. He felt like he didn’t measure up to his father and that he wasn’t treated as an adult, despite his responsibilities. So, Peter left home on poor terms with his father.
Things changed again when his father was admitted to hospital four years later needing emergency surgery for bowel cancer. Sitting alone in the hospital room with his father, Peter yelled. His father couldn’t die now! Peter wasn’t ready for the responsibility of looking after the family and he didn’t want to leave their relationship issues unresolved. In the last two years of his father’s life, Peter was able to bridge those gaps and reconcile the relationship. Peter cared for him and regularly engaged in profound conversation with him, often speaking of their love for one another and for the family. Upon his father’s death, at the age of 23, Peter knew that while he could never replace his father, he had needed to try and fill the void he had left. Through footy matches, camping trips and motorcycle rides to get ice cream, Peter built strong and reciprocal relationships between he and his siblings.
For Peter, silence and solitude have been important throughout his life as avenues to inner work. His first intentional attempt at inner work came after reading The Power of Positive Thinking. Peter wanted to change how he interacted with others to be less sarcastic and cynical and instead provide relationships of safety, honour and respect to others. When he changed his regular language to be more positive and joyful, his demeanor was infectious to those around him.
Peter’s thinking has changed through inner work too. His journey is one of choosing character over kingdom. It is more important to him to be remembered for how he made people feel than the material possessions he leaves behind. Inner work, to Peter, is about developing the best of habits in your life that bring you inner and outer health. This work is about filling your own cup first, finding the right tension and balance, so that you can contribute to the lives of others.
Being a man means fulfilling many roles to the different people in our lives, from husband and father, to mate and mentor. Peter acknowledges that for him and many other men, there is little choice in some of these roles. What is most important in becoming the man we are meant to be is that we remember to live intentionally in these roles. This means sometimes living selflessly to provide the support, wisdom, guidance and leadership that others need. Peter’s commitment to his own inner work comes partly from a desire to never be caught unprepared to fulfill a role that is required of him.
Peter’s experience with Men Alive has emphasised to him the importance of combating isolation and empowering men to be the best husbands, fathers, bosses and mates they can be. The need is great for men to have support to be their best selves, because the risk is that the things we don’t repair or reconcile are the things that we repeat. Peter has witnessed the transformative power of community groups such as Universal Man and Men Alive, often enhancing men’s ability to positively impact their own legacy and the destinies of those around them.
Two things that Peter says you could do today to break some circuits and build or maintain space and momentum are journaling and meditation.
Peter uses journaling as a brain dump that provides him with clarity about the things on his mind. It also allows him to look back on past thoughts and reflect on whether the same issues are still impacting him and the strategies that effectively dealt with them. It helps him to align his thoughts and dreams and notice what his spirit is saying and what might be shifting. Most importantly, it is a tool that he says helps to keep his mind above the regular clouds of the day.
Meditation to Peter is as simple as giving yourself 15 minutes when you wake up each morning to sit in silence and allow those monkeys in your head to settle in readiness for the day ahead. And for Peter, meditation works a lot like compound interest: it just takes a small deposit of time each day to be still and experience silence for you to reap some really valuable rewards in headspace, energy and inner wisdom.
Pricey and Grego