Sunday, 27 April 2014

To Infinity and Beyond!

Spring cleaning the soul. Not what I was expecting from a three day course. 

It was sunny Wednesday afternoon a few years ago and I’m waiting at Liverpool Street station for my friend, Lily, feeling unsettled. I’d been confused and down for the last two days and seeing her was a welcome relief.

That familiar mass of blond hair was the first thing I saw as she bounded through the ticket barrier then her I’ve-had-two-kids-and-you-wouldn’t-know-it figure and of course her beaming smile.

She was with me for moral support and was excited for the evening ahead, a lot more than me, I can safely say.

I’d just had three of the most exhilarating, testing and life-changing days of my life, followed by two of the darkest.      

I’d arrived at a Mayfair hotel the previous Friday morning not really knowing what I’d let myself in for. Lily had told me it was a course that would help me be more “authentic”. She didn’t say much more as she wanted me to experience the whole thing first-hand. Great. Even though I’d known her since school and deep down knew everything was going to be OK, I did feel more than a smidgen of trepidation.

It was 9 in the morning and the stand up comedian in me was grumpy at the early start as all 36 of us were ushered into the seminar room. Feeling anxious, I broke the strangers silence and dove into the obligatory awkward conversation with the lady sitting next to me. “Yes it is early” we whispered. “It is cold in here. I wonder if that’s to keep us awake”.

Luckily we had an awkwardness reprieve when the course leader finally arrived and took his seat at the front of the room. He was a tall grey-haired American guy called Greg and he filled us in on what was ahead. Apparently we had an appointment with infinity and the journey started here. Goody, I thought. I’ve always wanted to go to Infinity. I hope it’s like Fuerteventura but less windy.

In simpler terms, We were on a three day program called iEvolve designed to explore the nature of being, allowing us to "escape unrewarding patterns and be more authentic in our lives". Lily had, on a number of occasions tried to explain this iEvolve program to me but I’d never really gotten it. “What do you mean, more authentic?” I’d always say but then, through a strange set of events, I ended up taking the leap, finding myself on a conference chair in chilly seminar room 6 hours after I'd gone to bed.

I’d gotten to a place in my life where things were stagnant and I wanted them to change.  My life style was not serving me. I drank and smoked too much and was not looking after myself emotionally or physically. Being a party girl apparently had its down side. Who knew?

My past was a hinterland of unsuccessful relationships, of blame, repressed frustration and hurt. I couldn’t quite articulate what I was in, I just knew it was time for something else. I felt distant from my mother, blaming her for much of my pain but not seeing that that was what I was doing. It was simply the reality I was living.

Back in the seminar room Greg asked us to partner up and talk about what had brought us here. One man spoke very eloquently about feeling curtailed by his strict father. This broke my heart. I bowed my head embarrassed that I was unable to stop the tears flowing. I didn’t know it but this broke the seal on what was about to become my three day cryathon.

As the day went on I passed through so many emotional spaces. The conversation moved between psychology, poetry, literature, science and philosophy drawing on many, many sources, all in service of exposing, revealing what it is to be a human being. On occasion the facilitator gave participants the opportunity to share aspects of their own lives (if they felt moved to) which helped give us some rare altitude on what it is to be and what is really running our lives.

At times I was exhilarated by the conversation, at times deeply depressed, at others pissed off. Every now and then, a little levity would come in and we’d all laugh about what we were seeing about ourselves. We were starting to get, experientially, that so often, what we think of as “me” is actual just a series of old patterns based on past experience, a mechanism seeking out emotional triggers to keep itself going. At times it was referred to as the “story”, the “me” or as it’s often called in common lexicon, the “ego”. Experiencing even just the briefest taste of life as the observer of this ego rather than living from it was, for want of a better word, deep.

That evening I had a major breakthrough although it felt like a breakdown at the time. I saw how much anger I was directing towards my mum,  a huge emotional load I’d borne since childhood. I cried, again. Snotty and loud but I didn’t care because a life time’s worth of sorrow poured out of me and after, I felt so much better. A weight I didn’t even know I’d been carrying was being lifted.

Over the course of the next two days, we continued the process, the conversation about the nature of being and our true selves, trundling towards this "infinity". I had little idea what it was going to be like when we got there, I just hoped there was ice cream.

It was Sunday afternoon and we were heading towards the end of this segment of the program. Through deep and generous sharing of the whole group, we were starting to see the shift in each other and feel it in ourselves, that there might be more to us than this story we’d been telling the world and indeed ourselves about who we are.

Through the course of the weekend, we’d been able to create just a bit of space between ourselves and the Me we carry around. I got this strong sense of the show we put on every day for everyone and the years and years, and layers and layers of patterns and learned behaviour that had gone into making up this Me and that really it isn’t us or at least isn’t all of us. I saw how much energy and effort goes in to keeping the me going, the story alive, the show on the road. It's exhausting.

There’s an expression of ourselves that doesn’t have to live from those patterns if it doesn’t want to and through this course, we got access to that one and it was that one that was infinite. It’s only our ego or story version of ourselves that has a concern about time, about a past and a future, that has regrets about what’s done and anxiety about what is yet to come. It's the one that needs to impress, gets angry, is self-righteous, carries shame, gets bored and the myriad of other ways it chooses to express itself. The infinite one has no such concerns. It is still, quiet, at peace, timeless. Greg had kept his promise. We had indeed rendezvoused with infinity.

It was exhilarating – at first. On the Sunday evening we all went home, feeling loved up, and in love with the world, thinking everyone and everything was great. We were like a pack of urban hippies. With no trees to hug, we would have hugged lampposts we all were that buoyant.

At the time, I was living with my mum and that night, we spoke, honestly, for the first time in a long while. I told her that I thought she wasn’t proud of me. We hugged and cried as she told me she was and always has been and I apologized for being a prick. That was the start of a long road to us mending our relationship and making it what it is today.

The two days back in our lives was an important part of the program. It gave us a chance to see what this new perspective felt like, to interact with loved ones, return to familiar environments and see if things occurred differently, all in the context of the program.

I’m not going to lie, for me those two days were, at times, like wandering in a wilderness. I felt as though I’d been unplugged from the matrix and I wanted desperately to go back but knew that wasn’t really an option. Luckily the organisers of the event were well versed with the varied reactions people have to the program and there was nothing unusual about mine. They were able to coached me through those darker times. 

They’d said that the Wednesday completion evening was an integral part of the program and that it wasn’t complete without it and so Lily had offered to accompany me. She knew I might be feeling out of sorts. As we walked to the event, I felt the heaviness lifting in me and seeing everyone from the course after the two day hiatus helped me come back into my body, to myself.

I was shocked to see some of my fellow participants though. Some were unrecognisable. Somehow the stresses they’d been holding in their faces and bodies had melted. People looked younger, happier, more relaxed and contented. Everyone had had a completely different experiences and gotten something different from the programme but pretty much all of them had experienced a profound shift.

The completion evening was important because it set us up for our onward journey following this existential adventure. Greg made it clear, the objective of the work was not to rid ourselves of the story,  or ‘me’ character as I had first thought but simply to get some altitude on it so that we don’t have to live our lives from that place. I learned that taking your energy out of keeping the story going just by observing it, calling it out, starts to give us freedom from it, allowing life to show up differently. Greg also reiterated that the purpose of the work was not to find something wrong with us. We are perfect and whole and complete already. It simply furnished us with the perspective to begin living that way.

A whole world opened up to me through participating in this program. When I think back to who I was before the program and after, they are two different people. I've participated in other courses following iEvolve as I could see how much richer my life was becoming as a result of the work. In doing so, I saved myself from a destructive path and the limitations of the story I was telling myself  about who am I, the story that no-one cares, that I’m all alone and all the other pointless things we tell ourselves so often we start to believe them.

Interestingly, most people already know everything that’s taught in this course but only on an intellectual level but because of its intensity (three long days and one half day completion evening) and working in community with other people seeking the same shift, the course is able to short circuit the learned thinking so that participants get an experiential taste of infinity, of what’s on the other side, of life beyond the ‘me'.

It’s not about being told you’re lovely and getting a hug. It’s a lot more simple, honest and sometimes brutal than that. It’s about telling you, that limited story you’ve been telling yourself is bullshit – in the nicest possible way and that there’s so much more to all of us than that.

It’s a powerful program that has changed my life and of the people I’ve introduced to it (including my mum) immeasurably. It’s not for everyone but if anything I've said here resonates, I highly recommend giving it a try and making a leap too.

In loving memory of Lily who gave me one of the greatest gifts of my life.

If you enjoyed this, other posts which may be of interest: The Power of Intention, Baby!, Are You Attractive: The Law of Attraction - Let The Cat Sleep On The Damn Bed - The Power of The Ego

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