The calling that cannot be denied!

An interview with Armin Wirth about what drives him to continuously embark on new and dangerous expeditions.

Why are you going to Antarctica?

I have tried to answer this question for a long time. To find an explanation as to why I have felt this attraction towards icy and remote regions for the last 20 years. Especially since, aside from tremendously beautiful experiences, I have also suffered dearly there. Many years, filled with many expeditions across Greenland, Spitsbergen, to the North Pole and now for the second time to Antarctica, after our failed attempt in 2008…  
But the simple, yet hard to grasp truth is that there really isn’t any particular reason for it. There is only an inner calling, and I have to follow it. It just cannot be denied. It simply is! Mostly quiet, yet ever-present. Usually it is overpowered by the incessant noise of daily life. Though this calling beckons tirelessly, it also seems to have infinite patience. And once you have really heard it for the first time, there is no turning back. It draws all attention towards it.

How does one have to imagine such a calling?

To follow it, is just like the unshakable knowing that one is on the right path heading back home. It is a feeling, an existential certainty which releases an abundance of energy, lightness and joy. This may occur totally independent from what appears to happen around me. I may be in a blizzard or it could be completely calm and sunny. Just joy.

Is it easy for you to heed this calling? To constantly challenge yourself to set out again and again?

After Aloha 2008 I tried, as I have many times before, to smother this calling. It is one thing to be able to hear this calling, to commit oneself to heed it is quite another. There are consequences.  
Am I ready, without knowing all the details, to devote myself to follow this calling? Especially when I am afraid to take the next step? To be once again disoriented in a snow storm, yet still trusting my calling? Am I willing and ready to relinquish control and not to want to know it better? Allowing myself to surrender into a completely new experience - without prejudice or judgement? To be completely present in this very moment and to say: “Yes, I am available”, even if it means to embark on a journey to the South Pole.

What do you learn on this journey?

I am learning and experiencing in every moment that it is my own shadow that makes my life stressful and unsatisfied. And through the expedition this shadow is brought to the surface. Within the vast expanse and silence of Antarctica there is no place where it can hide. Where I can hide from myself.
This is how the process of witnessing and releasing my shadow unfolds, step by step. Relinquishing the belief that an illusion could ever bring me lasting happiness and fulfilment. Recognising that an illusion’s only true reward is pain and suffering even though our shadow continues to promise happiness in return for our allegiance to it. It is ironic that happiness itself is the price for our allegiance and thus cannot be given. Because all the shadow knows is fear, suffering and guilt.

What does that mean for your life?

It is my experience that expeditions teach me through their contrast to my day to day life. They amplify my ability to recognise when I am truly following my calling and when I have succumbed to the lure of my shadow. Currently, I am not yet following my calling consistently. I still make a lot of detours, struggle until the pain becomes great enough for me to realize that I have unconsciously affirmed my allegiance to my shadow. It is at that point where I re-focus my attention on the presence of my calling once again.
The same principle and process is applicable in all aspects of my life. Whether it is in my company, a relationship or on the edge of the world pulling a sled across the ice. Peace and joy return when I heed my calling. Because ultimately this is my inner calling.

A journey through unknown and frozen territory:

“I don’t go to Antarctica, to claim a prize or merely to have been there”

An interview with Dieter Staudinger about purpose – and how he claims his by following an inner calling that has led him to embark on a quest to the edge of the world – Antarctica!

What is your motivation for going to Antarctica?

My motivation is simple: There is an inner calling – and it cannot be denied, and believe me, I have tried! I have felt the presence of this calling for quite some time. The veil of obscurity surrounding it was lifted in 2008 when my expedition partner Armin called and asked me to join him on an expedition to the South Pole. We ended up having to abort our first attempt prematurely in 2008. The wind forecasts that we had gathered from various experts and had based our route upon just weren’t accurate. This was a major blow and at first, neither of us wanted to go back to Antarctica. We did everything to ignore the calling that still beckoned from deep within, patiently but persistently! No amount of busying ourselves with growing our businesses, nurturing our relationships and all the other things each of us do in our daily lives could distract us long enough from the simple truth. The calling was there, alive and well – and over time we started paying more attention to it again. The desire and enthusiasm to explore new horizons within and without was revived! Eventually I reached a point within me where resisting this calling, however challenging and fearful its implications might be, brought up more uncertainty and inner tension than the thought of surrendering to it. In this moment of clarity I realized the purpose of the calling itself: Embarking on this journey is an expression of my trust in and love for this inner Teacher, which offers to guide and lead me, if I let it. The decision is mine, and mine alone. Committing to it immediately brought about a deep sense of freedom. It was truly fulfilling and mere words cannot convey its essence. My motivation is learning to improve my ability and courage to follow my calling anywhere, anytime.

What do you hope to experience on this journey?

I like to relate it to my schooldays. In school, I learned because I had to but most of the time there was neither joy nor a meaningful connection to that which was taught. I rather spent time in nature and went on my own explorations there. In nature’s classroom I felt solace, comfort and a deep sense of belonging. I studied nature with passion and enthusiasm, without knowing that I did. So one could argue that even back then I followed my own calling, without knowing how and why. School teaches ‘how’ and why’ stuff but without meaningfulness, which only arises through enthusiasm. It teaches understanding and knowledge but doesn’t teach fulfilment and peace. I realized back in 2008 that Antarctica is an ideal ‘classroom’ for me and I am ready for the next lesson in the curriculum. In my preparations for the expedition, as well as on the expedition itself, I am learning to face my own resistance, the edges of my own inner world. I do this with sincerity and courage, and learn from whatever happens. The expedition commands a lot of concentration and attention in this area. The calling is my inner Teacher who guides and leads me through this process. Through its presence I am learning to accept the experiences and challenges, on the expedition as well as in daily life, exactly as they are. The expedition serves as a tremendous focal point for this process.

What do you hope to gain by embarking on this journey once again?

Put plainly, a greater understanding about who I am and how to express it ever more authentically. I have always been utterly amazed that each of us has such great potential – but in the process of manifesting our best intentions, we come up against the experience that there appears to be another part inside of us. This shadow not only resists but seems to work against the successful transformation from intention to experience. A lot of people know exactly what I mean. Unfortunately we place our trust into this obstructive force within us far too often, because it is loud, very familiar and an expert in using our weaknesses and fears against us. At least that’s my experience. Instead of hoping to gain anything, for me, the expedition is more a declaration, a choice for this inner calling. It is often difficult to hear or recognise the presence of our inner Teacher amidst the noise of daily life. It is always present though and unwavering in its guidance and love for us. Of course there is much to be gained in the process of practicing my ability to decide for my inner calling more consistently. Deciding for it leads to more trust in it, and more fulfillment and peace within me.

How does one have to imagine such a calling?

It is an inner presence. A guiding force whose leadership brings meaningfulness into our lives. I believe that all human beings have access to it. Most people can’t imagine going on an expedition such as this. The sheer physical and mental exertions combined with the very real threat of injury and death is not what most would consider desirable. However what is comprehensible for most is the desire for true Peace, happiness and meaning. I share this desire as well and it just so happens that my inner calling is leading me to Antarctica. This Voice communicates with me in images, ideas, feelings, flashes of inspiration and at times through thoughts as well. I have come to understand and accept that its purpose and goal is always to enrich my experience of myself and gently but steadily encourage me to ever more realize and live my life to its greatest potential. I do not choose the content or the form the calling may take. I am however free to choose it, or not. In this sense, my main goal is not to reach the South Pole, but to fully immerse myself in the space where this inner calling originates, and thus, through the journey itself, give expression to it.  Not an easy task, I admit, but worthwhile to me indeed!

What does that mean for your life?

I am very clear that our life has a purpose and meaning, namely the one we give to it. One of my favourite poets, Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” What is so remarkable about this statement is that one can substitute ‘the beautiful’ with peace, happiness, love, meaning, etc. To me, it has become most meaningful to develop my awareness of this inner calling. To become more capable of hearing it, and ever more courageous in following it. The expedition itself provides the space in which I can meet myself openly and honestly, to face my fears and dysfunctional beliefs – and explore what is yet untouched and unknown. What exactly this means for my life, I cannot say. What I can say, is that it is my life to dedicate myself to deepen my trust and understanding in this calling – to learn to accept it without reservation, wherever it may lead me. And maybe, one day, the full depth and promise of Emerson’s poem will indeed be my experience….