I attended another event from Mind Work Productions. (See also, ‘Courage In The Darkness’.) A whole afternoon of workshops and connection. I felt at home, but I also felt reluctance; not only at the invitation to leave my comfort zone, but also the confrontation of having no real choice. It was an almost breathless journey towards familiarity – familiarity with the environment, with the people, and with the self. This blog post focuses on the three main insights I took from two of the workshops I attended.
The first workshop was a familiar exercise, carried out mostly in silence. In various different ways and constellations, we were asked to look into the eyes of strangers. The idea was to recapture what it was like as a three-year-old child, when we could easily stare into the eyes of grown-ups without judgement, embarrassment, or feeling self-conscious.
Toward the end of that session we were instructed to read the emotion in the face of our silent partner; and then feel an emotion for our partner to read. I read sadness where my partner was feeling anger. And, in turn, he read disappointment where I was feeling sadness. Not wholly accurate, but not unconnected either. Those exact same emotions would surface again in the second workshop, in a very different way, although I didn’t see the link until way after the day had ended.
The second workshop was very different. Asked to imagine a given scenario, we were told to tackle the problem normally, and then with increasing anger. It was fun, but also draining. So when we were directed to find another partner, and tap into a personal conflict in our lives, I wasn’t sure I could do it. Or even that I wanted to. But I did. Interestingly, instead of feeling my anger, the woman with whom I was working felt disappointment and sadness. The same three emotions again.
After the exercise, the feelings lingered. Not from the conflict material, but from the exercise itself. I felt sadness at the anger. Here was the first link back to the previous workshop because when I had misread someone’s anger as sadness, he had explained that whenever he gets angry, he always feels sad afterwards. I wanted to find him and tell him I understood.
Instead, I approached one of the trainers to ask if I had missed something in the introduction. What had been the purpose of it all? When she talked of anger being an energy, I realised immediately that I don’t want to waste my energy being angry. Here was the first major insight of the day. The raw experience of the workshop was an unequivocal demonstration of how not to be.
After a third workshop – a stunning example of the power of intention, and a personal lesson in relaxing with wherever you are – we gathered in smaller groups to share our experiences. It was during this reflection that I had the second insight.
I saw clearly the contrast between the two workshops. It was the kind of moment when you realise that something has been there all along and is so obvious, you wonder how you didn’t see it sooner. I had interacted angrily with another human being on a level which solves nothing and inhibits connection. In contrast, during the first workshop I had looked into the eyes of people I had never met, connecting with them intimately without saying a word. Furthermore, the connection was mutual, and felt at a depth which can be considered quite remarkable in just 20 seconds.
I recalled the silent retreat from two months ago. This day was further confirmation of what is possible in the stillness. The polarity of the two experiences reinforced the beauty of silence and what can be achieved there. There is no need to be angry, especially when there is such strength and serenity in the alternative.
Ubiquity Of Emotion
It was only in the middle of the night that I saw the emotional link between the sessions. I lay awake in the early hours of the morning, unable to sleep, making more connections in the stillness. At a time when I was only hours away from a morning marriage proposal, the darkness found me contemplating the depth of the previous afternoon’s experience. I saw how the same emotions – anger, sadness and disappointment – had been present in both workshops, in totally opposite contexts. Given all three insights: the ubiquity of emotion, the unnecessary waste of energy in anger, and the connections in the stillness, the conclusion is clear.
There is no point in trying to rid ourselves of the darker side of life. That is a futile pursuit. Instead, we can choose how to be with those emotions. They will eventually pass anyway, so why not be with them in silence if you can. Rest with them for a while, but know that in the stillness there is also depth, peace, and love. Seek out the stillness in yourself and reside there. Be quiet, and connect effortlessly in the emptiness you discover.
These reflections and insights wouldn’t allow me to sleep, so I got up and wrote them all down. A few hours later, after the sun had risen, I knelt before her in the garden. Wrapped in the stillness of the early morning, we connected, and her response to my question was a simple ‘Yes’.