Well, fuck. This experience was a good reminder of why I don't take my own advice.
I guess this "You get what you put out into the universe, whether you like it or not" business is true because not even an hour after telling you all that I did not want to be the one being told, "I acknowledge you," my dumb ass was being acknowledged.
I once again fell into the trap of thinking I was smarter than everyone else. I had planned to volunteer enthusiastically for every activity other than the deep emotional stuff, so I would appear to be a team player without doing things I don't want to do. I had a few "safe" things to talk about to get around whatever they might attempt to drag me into. So when she asked for a reader during morning meditation, I flung my hand into the air because I fucking rock at reading. I would impress her and the group with my excellent inflection and confident voice. And I did great, like I knew I would.
I'm not even getting into the details, because I don't even know if I remember them and don't want to check, but it was something about our visions and dreams and when she asked for my personal interpretation I blah blah blah-ed about my writing "career."
And then I don't even know what happened. I very quickly realized I was no longer in control of the situation and she was marching me right down a path I didn't even see coming. She's a licensed therapist and former social worker and sneaky, sneaky and a whole lot smarter than I am.
15 minutes of soul searching questions and answers later, I was sitting there with my chin trembling uncontrollably (fucking chin! Traitor! Why couldn't I have just cried like everyone else? I didn't want to cry, but god it sucked to have no control of my damn face in such a weird way) and reciting "The lie that I am living is that I am not enough," into the eyes of my various classmates.
Then she'd tell me that I don't sound sincere, and I appear to always come from my head instead of my heart, and ask me to say it again to someone else--and then ask these people, my new friends, who just watched my chin trembling, how sincere I sounded on a level of 1-10.
For someone who often feels insincere, self conscious, and socially vulnerable, it was a fucking nightmare.
I averaged around a 7, which was fine with me. She seemed surprised that I was okay with that, and I explained that it was only day 2 and I didn't even realize I was living a lie 30 minutes ago; that I'm here to work on connecting better with people, in part, and that I can hear myself and I know it doesn't sound sincere. I was reciting something I've just been told a moment ago and didn't generate on my own.
(Chin and lower lip still doing their own thing.)
She stared at me for a really uncomfortably long time, in a compassionate but searching way. I was a little pissed off at her. She asked if that was my lie, if that fit me. I told her it absolutely did. She asked how it felt and I told her that it sucked--that it felt right and that sucked. She acknowledged me.
Hearing other people's lies is hard. (We usually do this shit at night, which is why I was so easily tricked. She would have gotten me eventually though, and probably will again.) Seeing people feeling raw and exposed in front of a group is physically painful, in a sense. She says we need to make space in our heads so we can hold space for others and that we're going to get all of our own shit out (there's a ton of cursing that goes on, I'm right at home) but it gets really heavy and intense.
Then, stunned and quiet and glassy eyed, we were all sent straight to hot power yoga. By the time we got to meditation afterwards (savasana, which is 99% of the reason I do yoga), we were soaking wet with sweat and the air was heavy and gross with humidity. As my hands splayed out into meditation position, they accidentally brushed the soggy, slick, hot hands of the people on either side of me.
Instead of recoiling as we all normally would, one of them grabbed my hand and squeezed it quickly before releasing and I grabbed my other neighbor's hand and did the same. We lied there with the backs of our hands lightly touching for the rest of savasana. It was...nice.
Then there were hours of learning, and more yoga, and more yoga, and assisting a sweaty almost stranger, which involved massaging and pressing on their butts and whatnot, and practice teaching which is still terrifying, and then circle time again and more lies and more stories and more crying.
At 11 pm, they told us there was one more exercise and told us not to speak from that moment on. They led us to another room that was set up movie theater style with folding chairs. I was hesitant but hopeful that we would be watching a movie. NO SUCH LUCK.
Four at a time they took us to the front of the room and had us stand there shoulder-to-shoulder and look out at the group. And the group looked back at us. And we were stared at for 5 minutes. We were told to stop being afraid of other people, to embrace the discomfort, to create a connection, to be present and see for our own eyes that we were not alone and never had to be alone, to drop our masks and just be. I was fine with it, mostly because I had control of my own face.
Then she led another 4 people in front of us, and lined us up so that we were toe-to-toe and with some people depending on stature, belly to belly and we stared into each other's eyes for FIVE FREAKING MINUTES aka an eternity.
By this point, I was so mentally and physically exhausted that I could have stared into Hitler's eyes with love and softness. I would have done anything in the world to go home. Some people were chastised for giggling. Others cried. I just went ahead and looked at the person in front of me. I would match my breathing to theirs and look in their eyes (with sincerity!) and think about how they were beautiful or wise or kind and how I hoped we could go home soon and how I should have accepted that Tic Tac that was offered to me earlier.
When we were done, they asked us to maintain a "noble silence" and not speak to each other or to anyone at home until after meditation tomorrow--no Facebook, no email, no people. Again, they wanted us to stew in it.
I went home and slept better than I ever have.
The next morning, once we were allowed to talk again, all 3 of my people approached me separately to tell me that it was easy or nice or comfortable to be my partner last night and thanked me, and that made me feel good. I felt sincere. I felt like I was enough.
God, I want to barf just reading it all! Please feel free to roll your eyes, I would too. It's all so not me. How in the hell am I gazing softly into the eyes of strangers and massaging and hugging sweaty people? How did I end up off of the couch and doing yoga for 3.5 hours a day? How am I teaching a subject I don't yet know in front of a group? How the heck has this all happened?
And despite it sounding like a living hell, I don't hate it. I don't even dislike it. I don't dread the next session, I look forward to it. I already miss my people. I'll probably get together with them this weekend, voluntarily.
On the last day of the weekend, sore both emotionally and physically, we were called in front of the group and asked to give up our lies with enthusiasm and declare our new way of being. One by one, the people who had sobbed and wept and trembled before us all weekend, jumped/skipped/danced/jogged to the front of the room and shouted with confidence and a wide grin (in every single case) as we cheered for them.
The lie that I am giving up is that I am not enough, and my new way of being is of strength!
I said it with sincerity. I said it with an exclamation mark.
Now we'll see if I can do it.