Day 1–Stop Running
Here we go. 30 days. 1 entry per day. I’m giving myself the challenge.
What would I say to an audience? Speak from the heart. When clutter is removed light starts to peak through.
I’ve been waiting for so long to share my writing with a larger audience. I don’t know if my book will ever be ready for publication or if it was an exercise unto itself to write it. I miss writing so I’m just going to write. What? I never wanted a blog, preferring something more polished but that seems futile at this point. Would there be a theme? A journal of everyday life? How would it be different from what is already out there? What do I have to add? Forget the questions. Here I go.
I, like so many, have been seeking for peace, freedom, and purpose in life. In relationship, in personal growth, in career, in writing itself I have searched, returning again and again willingly or unwillingly to right here, to now. When I was younger I searched frantically for meaning in my family relationships dissecting each one, in love relationships attempting perfection or idealized romance. I’ve searched in work for meaning in the world, to create a better life. Eventually my seeking led me to meditation. I was not led to meditation by an external teacher or spiritual practice. Rather I was in the middle of a divorce and in so much pain, darkness, and confusion that I did the only thing that was left. I stopped running.
I stopped running and sat still in the middle of my backyard, closed my eyes, and listened to the birds. Contrary to my imaginations of meditation, nothing amazing or horrible happened. I experienced stillness, for a moment, amidst my grief.
Shortly thereafter I joined a women’s group. I’d been wanting to join one for ages and suddenly I was invited by a friend to help start one. There were eight of us. We all had two things in common, vaginas, and a desire to create full meaningful lives. None of us knew each other except through one common friend, Christina. All of the women in the group were married and had children, except for me. I was recently divorced, dating a new guy, starting a new job, and not sure what I was doing with my life in anyway.
When we started the group we didn’t know what we were doing or where we were heading, we simply began to meet, once a month. At first we drank wine, ate food, and talked about what the group might become.
“I don’t want it to be like book group… you know where we meet every month and never get to the subject matter?”
“Yeah, I agree with that, I’m in a book group and all we do is sit around, drink wine, and bitch about our husbands and kids.” Several women guffaw in agreement.
“Well, I don’t want to pay.”
“And I don’t want to facilitate anything!”
“Here, here! I just want to show up and be able to relax.”
“Well, I want to be pushed. You know? I want to people to really call me out on my shit and make me own it.”
“Yeah, me too. I know this guy who leads a mens’ group and that’s what they do. They really push each other and hold each other to task.”
These last two voices were me and Christina. I didn’t notice it at the time, but a couple of other women were terrified by the idea that what we were proposing: pushing each other? Holding each other to task? What does that even mean. One of these women told me, years later, that when she heard us talking that way she almost dropped out.
The eight of us seemed to know a lot about what we didn’t want, but none of us could quite put into words what purpose or place we did want this group to hold in our lives. We fumbled through several months of meeting before we decided that we needed a facilitator to help us arrive there.
First we found a guide who was not the right fit for us, we ended up spending more time eating food and drinking wine than connecting with each others’ lives in meaningful ways. I proposed each of us taking turns leading activities, but no one wanted to prepare anything ahead of time. Many of the women in our group were teachers and more prep work was not something people wanted to commit to.
By now a little more than a year had passed since we’d started meeting. Miraculously through all of the turbulence and capriciousness of what exactly this group was, all eight of us were still meeting at least once a month. If nothing else we were dedicated to the idea of this supportive women’s space. That month, after we’d broken up with our first facilitator we met up over dinner to discuss our next move.
We knew each other better but not much. I still remember feeling nervous and unsure of my place in the group at that dinner, not speaking up too loudly, and not wanting to say the wrong thing. Yet, I couldn’t stop coming I wanted so much to create a meaningful community space. We poured ourselves glasses of wine and sat back to check in. There was no format to our check-ins, just talking and ideas being thrown around. I was used to a more formal check-in process from my graduate studies and this casual format that involved a lot of interrupting flustered me.
“If we don’t figure this out soon.” One woman said, “I think I’m going to have to drop out. I just can’t justify being away from my kids to hang out.” Her words stung, yet I understood. I too was becoming frustrated with the whole exercise, it didn’t seem like one thing could please everyone, there were always a couple of us who didn’t quite like where things were heading. It seemed this might be our last meeting. That’s when Christina, the common connection between all of us at that point, suggested one final try.
“I just started seeing this amazing woman. Her name is Jennifer, and she leads groups.” We were all ears. Christina and her husband had been seeing Jennifer, a counselor, for a few weeks with profound realizations in their relationship. “She’s really different.” Christina explained, “but I think you’ll like her.” We talked for a long time about whether or not we should meet with Jennifer. One of the women felt that it was unethical for a counsellor who was seeing Christina in one capacity to also see her in another. The rest of us agreed that we’d like to give meeting with Jennifer a try.
Two weeks later, less one women who’d decided to move on, the seven of us who were left sat in a circle in Jennifer’s office.
For the next hour we were mesmerized.
“If you all decide to continue meeting with me,” thin, grey-haired, blue-eyed, Jennifer told us in a slight southern accent, “we’ll spend time exploring who you really are.” She paused and looked around the room at each of us.
“Have you ever noticed that there are two of you inside your heads? You know, the one who talks constantly, a running stream of commentary, thoughts, judgments, worries etc., and the one who watches?” I looked around the room. I could see questions forming in everyone’s heads, but something else was happening too, and it was more important. We were all listening.
“Michael Singer, the author of The Untethered Soul, ” Jennifer continued as she reached for a book, ” he calls that voice in our heads, our “inner roommate.” Have y’all ever noticed that voice?”
I was unsure exactly of what Jennifer was talking about but was also feeling a resonance deep inside of me. The other women’s faces looked about what I imagined mine looked like: calm, relaxed, receptive, smiling and nodding slowly. It was the first time we’d all agreed on anything. This was the place we wanted to be together.
That first meeting was almost five years ago. There were a lot of questions from all of us as we went forward, at first we met every three weeks, and then every two. Jennifer answered all of our questions as best she could, explaining patiently over and over again the subtle yet profound difference between the conditioned self and the true self
OR between personality and sprit
OR between mask and reality
OR ego and god
OR patterning and freedom…
There are hundreds of ways to describe what Jennifer was pointing to, I learned, for it is a part of every religion and the basis of the human condition. It is what I was looking for someone to talk to me about for 28 years before our group stumbled upon exactly what we were looking for.
Most of our questions as we started out had to do with, “Really?” where do I find this true self?” And “Why would I have a personality or ego, or mask, that keeps me from true self or spirit, that doesn’t make sense…?”
All the same we were hooked. This was the most interesting, enlivening thing any of us had heard. That first meeting was almost five years ago. Our first assignment: meditate everyday for at least 5 minutes. It was one of the most difficult homework assignments many of us had ever received.
This is the first entry in a blog I’ve had for 7 years. In that time I’ve been writing a book, thinking about writing a book, editing a book, sitting on that book, not sure if I will ever publish that book, waiting for the book to tell me what to do… today I woke up and wrote this. It is the first piece of writing that felt like sharing with anyone in over a year. This is not a blog about my women’s group, though the teachings, support, and love of that group will most certainly appear in these pages. These entries will focus on my experiences in life… That’s as close as I want to get to defining what will appear here. Start date: October 9th, 2013 End: November 7th, 2013.