I have been afraid of looking inside myself and being completely overwhelmed by all that is there. My fear has led me to look everywhere and anywhere but inside of me, at my own feelings and emotions. I have figured out ways to not look inside, and these ways became patterns in my life. These patterns were circular in nature and allowed me to hover above my emotions but never land. As long as I was in a self destructive loop, I could avoid really looking at my true feelings. Sometimes when these patterns let me down and some of my real feelings would start to bubble to the surface I would get drunk and try and erase them from my mind. If that didn’t work, I would immerse myself in a toxic situation or drama so that I could be distracted. I didn’t want to see me. But, what was I so afraid of?
My journey to find the answer to this question started about 5 years ago. Three years ago I have up alcohol. In giving up alcohol, I gave up my high highs and low lows of being drunk and hungover. At first, the silence of soberness was deafening. Through clear eyes I started to see the things in my life that were bringing me down. I was able to make better choices. Slowly and quietly I felt my own intuition nudging me to keep moving forward. I unwound some negative relationships, and said heart breaking goodbyes to people in my life that were contributing to keeping me stuck in self sabotaging patterns.
I started this blog a year ago, and began sharing my journey with others. In expressing my true feelings, I slowly started to feel a sense of self worth and value that what I felt was ok. I wasn’t weird or stupid, and people weren’t rejecting me. But I started to realize that my validation was mostly coming from outside of me. So, I started to feel a pressure to try to do things that would earn acceptance and approval. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. My life was improving, my relationships were improving, and I was getting scared that maybe it wouldn’t last. Was I worth all the love I was receiving from my IG friends, or would they one day get tired and bored of me? What was I besides a wife, mother, friend or coworker? What was I when I was just alone and not writing my blog or doing my art? What was I, just by myself?
So, this last weekend I went on a mountain retreat with no access to my cell phone or internet to try and find some answers to these questions. I signed up for a Breema Bodywork ‘Art of being Present’ workshop. I had no cell or internet service from Friday afternoon until now, Sunday at around 3:00. I drove up to the Oregon Cascades, and then up a 9 mile snow covered, one lane highway to a hot springs retreat nestled in the foothills of Mt Jefferson. As soon as I got there I looked at my phone, and in the upper left hand corner were the words ‘No Service’. My heart jumped a little at seeing those words, and I said to myself, ‘Ok, here I go’.
I went with a friend to this weekend retreat, and we were assigned a small cabin with 2 beds, a desk and a small bathroom. We had to put our luggage on small sleds to get it down the hill to our cabins. Then we made our way over to the main lodge which consisted of a large open room, a dining hall and a bathroom. Nothing fancy, but it worked.
In the first hour of the workshop of ‘being in the moment’, I was anything but! I slowly started to realize that I was in way over my head. The teachers talked to me slowly with calming voices, and looked at me with clear serene eyes that made me wonder if they could see right through me. I felt my anxiety well up deep in my stomach and part of me looked for the door, and eyed the clock to see how long I had to be there. But, I didn’t run out of the room as I would have done 5 or 6 years ago. I stayed. I listened. And I did as they requested and I gave my ‘full participation’.
We were asked immediately to step out of our comfort zone by doing body work with someone in the room that we didn’t know. My immediate reaction when the teacher was demonstrating was that I wasn’t going to do it. My resistance welled up inside me like a brick wall. What? I didn’t sign up for this. My vision of this weekend was of me sitting cross legged with gentle music playing and the instructor giving me a guided meditation at a safe distance away from me. Not having access to my phone was bad enough, but interacting physically with strangers was asking too much of me. But when the teachers said it was time for us to participate and looked at me without judgement, and told me to be ‘body comfortable’ , somehow I found the courage to walk to the center of the room and participate. When I was uncomfortable, they taught us how to bring our consciousness back into ourselves rather than thinking about the other person. With every new exercise the instructors had us do, my resistance would well up inside me. I would look at the clock and look at the door and then again I would find myself staying and participating. I found the strength to walk through my resistance and perform the bodywork. Then share my experience of doing the bodywork sitting face to face with a stranger. I was definitely out of my comfort zone and in the present moment. “A drop of understanding is more valuable than an ocean of information”, the teacher said as she walked by me.
The present moment is right here, right now. The present moment is my fingers typing on this computer. The present moment is me thinking of the words to write in my mind, and it coming through my hands and onto the computer. The present moment is you reading this blog right now. The present moment is happening all the time, every moment is the present moment. So, why do I have to be reminded to be in the moment, aren’t I here already? I am physically here, but I am emotionally hiding behind my veil of protection and judgements. My filters that tell my mind who I can trust, who I can’t trust. My filter that categorizes people based on their clothes, mannerisms, and the way they talk. My mind is a miraculous computer that filters and categorizes everything and everyone that I come into contact with. This saves time as I don’t have to analyze every situation and decipher it. My mind immediately does that for me. Then my mind tells my body and face to react in a predetermined way that corresponds with that category. But my filters get old. I may have a filter from my childhood that is reading situations incorrectly and so my reaction is inappropriate, and doesn’t work anymore. Sometimes I need to clean out my filters, reset my brain and take the time to see and hear what is happening right in front of me. What is happening in this present moment; this moment that has never happened before?
The next morning I cried at breakfast. I was talking and in the middle of a sentence a ball formed in my throat and tears came out of my eyes. No one was more surprised than me. I couldn’t even tell you why I was crying. Maybe a release of nerves and anxiety. Maybe it was because I felt so grateful that I finally had the courage to drive to this retreat, turn off my phone and just BE. Maybe it was because I had found a place where others believed what I have always believed, that it is ok to put myself first and take the time to go within and acknowledge my power.
They taught us many phrases over the weekend but one phrase that keeps running through my mind is “No Extra”. Maybe because of all the phrases we learned it is has fewest words with the most meaning. They said to not bring any ‘extra’ into the room. Meaning, they wanted us to leave our judgements, resistance, bad energy and all of our negative baggage at the door. They wanted us to be present in that very moment with no extra thoughts and feelings as they aren’t necessary. They weren’t necessary this weekend, and they aren’t necessary in my life. The extra gets in the way, the extra is a weight that becomes a burden. The extra takes away new experiences from me, as it looks at new situations with an old lens. And I have learned that it is possible to live my life in ‘full participation’ with ‘no extra’.