Here is another response to the extended questionnaire I sent to Certified Facilitators.
It took me a while to put this together little by little in the past few weeks. Just writing all this down has had a tremendous positive impact on me and I am not sure some of the stuff is still true for me as things come and go in cycles and I am mostly in a peaceful place at the moment.
What I noticed is that when I thought that some parts of what I wrote might be shared or published, I would censure myself, hence distorting the purpose of the exercise. I decided not to do that and I am now asking you to consult with me before publishing or sharing it. There are also large parts of it that I am fully willing to share with anyone, should you think that what I wrote has value for other people.
1. Has your life changed since you began doing The Work? Sum up the changes in a few words.
– I experience more peace more often.
– I am happier.
– I am my best friend and really enjoy my own company.
– Less driven, competitive and ambitious.
– Get on better with people around me.
– Fewer requirements to feel safe / feel good (people, money, health, a plan…).
– No need or desire to be in a romantic relationship.
– Better connected to my body and a felt sense of being.
– Not systematically distressed or distracted by physical pain, able to watch it with curiosity.
– More in touch with my emotions and freer in expressing them.
– Feeling that no matter what happens in life, I am able to handle it.
– More adventurous in inner and outer life.
– Living more on an even keel and more flexible / adaptable.
– A better listener to myself and others.
– More genuine with my words and actions.
– Not so quick to blame others or myself.
– Better at taking responsibility for my own part.
– The world looks benign, inviting, and fresh a lot of the time.
– Never bored anymore.
– People are more and more fascinating to me.
– Less of a rescuer, and more available to others.
– More intuitive.
– Feeling more integrated in the world.
– Not in control and with less of a need to be in control.
– Deep sense of trust, of feeling accompanied or even ‘carried’ and cared for a lot of the time.
– More gratitude.
2. Write a brief account or anecdote that illustrates how your life has changed.
I have been living with no fixed abode for two and a half years now. Little by little, the things that were seemingly of utmost importance to me are leaving my life and I welcome that with a sense of relief.
3. Anywhere in this questionnaire, if you think the question is best answered with an anecdote, please write it for us.
Shortly after I discovered The Work, I went to Brittany to visit my mother and stepfather. I moved in with them when I was five and a half years old and had passionately hated my step-father ever since. It was time to do something about it. I had a three-hour train journey ahead of me so I pulled out a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, wrote it on him, and spent the whole journey working on it. When I reached my destination, I busied myself with my luggage and making my way through the crowd to the exit and then I saw him. He was waiting for me at the station, as he had done so many times. I literally fell in love with him in that moment; all the things he had done for me over the years, how well he was doing in spite of his condition (nowadays, I think he would be diagnosed with having a form of autism or Asperger’s), his humility, his kindness… it all made sense to me in a flash. I greeted him with sincerity for the first time in my life. Our relationship has radically improved since. I wouldn’t describe us as ‘close’ yet, and now we have respectful exchanges and extend support to each other when the need arises. There’s more harmony in the home when I pay them a visit.
– – –
One night, two years ago, in Africa, I got bitten by a guard dog. He came from behind, didn’t growl or bark, just nipped my calf. Just as the bite happened, I started watching my physical and mental reactions. There was some pain and it was very bearable. I noticed I didn’t feel anger towards the dog or towards my hosts, who had released him in their yard before I left the house. I took care of the wound as best I could and continued with my trip. Two weeks later, I was dealing with a major infection. My leg was painfully inflamed and swollen; I had a high fever and threatening septicaemia. After a memorable bursting of my abscesses by squeezing out the pus without anaesthetics while lying on a wooden table in the local Guinean hospital, I travelled back to France, where medical staff took care of my leg with more sophisticated means and put me on a first course of heavy-duty antibiotics. What was interesting is that I was concerned and did all I could to help my leg heal, and yet I couldn’t get worried about it until after six weeks of daily packing of the wound, etc. A doctor in the U.S. took the last routine swab to see if the infection was resolved. I got a call from her a couple of days later to say that the infection was back and the antibiotics (2nd round) were not working anymore.
I felt the fear fill me up and take over my mind and body within seconds. It was squeezing my chest, rising up my neck all the way to my jaw. All that the doctors had been saying in France and then in the U.S., and that I hadn’t really integrated so far, came rushing in: they had been talking about how serious this could get, amputation, septicaemia….
That was the first time I felt the need to inquire on that topic and I don’t fully remember which thoughts were on my Worksheet apart from ‘no one cares whether I end up with just one leg’. By the end of doing inquiry, I was okay with the possibility of ending up with just one leg, even peaceful. It came to me to call a friend of mine who helped me work out a more accurate homeopathic prescription than the generic first-aid remedies that I had been taking. I started a new course of antibiotics and booked a session with a local bio-energy practitioner whose flyer I had been given at the market. I don’t know what worked to help resolve the infection. I still have two legs and now a heart-shaped scar on my right calf. History.
About a year and a half later, I was back in Africa and entered the ‘wrong’ yard. A large dog rushed towards me while barking, baring his teeth. I felt some fear rising and then abating again within seconds, leaving me very peaceful internally. I knew that I couldn’t take a step forward or backward, or I would get bitten. There was nothing to do so I just waited. He came closer and closer, still barking loudly and bearing his teeth until I could feel his wet nose on my bare legs. He even stuck his nose in my groin. Eventually, his owner chased him away with a broom. It was so fascinating for me to witness the absence of a fearful reaction in me and the simple, clear messages I was getting instead.
Yet another year later, I was doing a very early morning walk in an unfamiliar part of the French countryside when again a big black dog pounced towards me, barking loudly. I immediately stopped walking and got quiet inside, like a reflex. That time, the owner called him back before the dog reached me. I am left wondering how many more times I need to get threatened by a dog to learn what I need to learn. It is also fascinating to me that I still react more to verbal attack than to physical attack.
4. Is there any area of your life that The Work doesn’t seem to have reached and you wish it had? Do you have anecdote about that?
I feel a deep sense of loss or lack that underpins all the thoughts that I inquire into. Just now, bringing it to mind puts a knot in my stomach and tears of powerlessness and confusion are rolling down my cheeks (and I am on a busy train…). It is a sure button to press to get me going when this is active in me. It is the one thing I don’t feel equipped to deal with. I have spent hours sitting with it and inquiring when it arises and yes, it helps every time, for a short while. My inquiry on it feels stale at this point, as nothing new comes to me. I hit on a motive and when I question it, I may find another one, then eventually entitlement, resistance, or unworthiness. I feel very stuck with it. I would love some guidance and don’t know who to turn to.In my relationship with others, especially with my parents, I feel a barrier preventing closeness and intimacy. There has been much improvement on that front over the years and I still experience entrenched restraint.
5. Describe yourself before and after The Work. What do you think is the most striking change in you?
(Another way of saying this:) If someone you know were to describe you before and after The Work, what do you think would be the most striking change?I am more tolerant, less argumentative, taking things less personally, a better listener. I have a long-term tendency to act impulsively and before The Work, that could be either in a destructive way or a generous one. Now this trend expresses itself in kinder ways.
6. What is your moment-to-moment experience like, when you see a problem? How is it now and how was it before you met The Work?
I see much fewer problems now. I can find myself in the strangest of situations and watch with curiosity, wondering what is going to happen next. For example, the other day, a foggy day, I tried to drive my 29-year old jalopy out of my father’s place. He lives on the edge of a busy road with a lot of heavy truck traffic. As I engaged on the first lane to get across it, the car stalled and would not start again. The key would not turn in the ignition. So there I was, stuck across the road in the fog, blocking potential oncoming traffic. I listened and peered into the fog to see if a car or lorry was coming. Inside I didn’t feel afraid, just very alert and somewhat amused. I was about to just exit the car and leave it there when my father, who I thought was pottering in the garden behind the house, arrived on the scene seconds after the car stalled and helped me push it over the second lane and I parked it on the grass on the other side of the road. My father was pale and looked frightened. He said that I had put the ‘wrong’ key in the ignition (the car has a key for unlocking the door and another for starting the engine; they look identical) and that I should have had the reflex to put on my warning lights. I knew that none of it was true: there was no right or wrong key and the information about the warning lights had not been available to me in that moment, so his comments didn’t affect me; I just noticed that he looked and sounded frightened. Later, he said that I had actually used the ‘right’ key in the ignition and that I was innocent after all. I smiled. In my world, I had been innocent all along. I have driven that car for thousand of miles now in several countries in the past few summers; I have had regular breakdowns with it and every time help came within seconds. It’s like a magnet for kindness.
7. Do you experience times of disturbance, confusion, or frustration? If so, write something about your process. How do you move through these times?
Recently, I have had a more intense and entrenched conflict with a couple of people than I have had since I started doing The Work. I knew what to do and yet the resistance was huge and I actively sabotaged most things that could give me some peace and bring resolution to the conflict. I was as frustrated with myself as I was with those two people, embarrassed about my pettiness and desire to retaliate. The first real shift happened for me when I realised that I could not pretend to me nor to others that I was feeling any different from what I was experiencing. I couldn’t deny it, suppress it, or hide it. I realised that what I was actually working with was the fear of losing people’s love and support when I let rip and I am at my worst, of being labelled as an angry and difficult person, of never being forgiven, of being punished and ostracised. Once I noticed that none of that was happening in spite of giving my best shot at being horrible, I could at long last genuinely get down to the business of doing some Work on those two people and things started getting better and better as I started seeing my part and resentment started to leave me. On the spur of the moment, when something affects me and if I have the reflex, I just notice the intensity of the negative emotion and accompanying sensations and try and sit in it and do nothing else. My mind reels with defensive thoughts, anger comes with subtle internal shaking and heat, even if I look composed on the surface, fear makes my mouth dry and my throat tight, etc. Accepting that it is happening takes the edge off it and as soon as I have an opportunity, I jot down a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet and start working at least the first concept, often using the recording on my phone (see below). I may finish the Worksheet later during the night if the issue is still charged for me.
8. Describe how you do The Work now for yourself. Do you have a personal way of self-facilitation? How does it sound when you question yourself?
Do you still fill in Worksheets and ask all the questions and turnarounds? If not, what are you most likely to skip?I find that I have what I call a ‘day-mind’ and a ‘night-mind’.During the day, the questions now have their life in me most of the time and I also do inquiry more deliberately almost every day. I have different ways. Sometimes I write a ‘formal’ Worksheet on my iPad and investigate most statements, sometimes I scribble a quick Worksheet on the back of an envelope. I always have a few going. I rarely have the time to go through one from top to bottom in one go. I also do close inquiry while facilitating a client and if I feel there is still something remaining, I may rework their Worksheet on my own after a session, as I find it often fits like a glove what is going on in my life. I don’t finish all Worksheets; however, I try to finish inquiring into each concept that I start exploring. The questions often run into each other and there is a direction or a flow that I find I miss out on if I don’t work a concept until the end. It is about finding the balance between mustering the necessary focus and then letting the answers come without any effort or involvement required on my part. Paradoxically, it takes something to require nothing. Initially, for the first couple of years after I discovered The Work, I wrote everything down and filled in dozens of One-Belief-at-a-Time Worksheets, there was never enough space on them for all that poured out of my pen. Now I very rarely do The Work in writing. I have recorded the questions and sub-questions on my mobile phone. I pause the recording with the button on the cord of my headphones to give myself time to answer the questions. I have found this very helpful to keep my mind in focus and it helps me do inquiry at my own pace. If I get distracted, the recording brings me back. That’s handy when travelling, cooking, and performing other routine tasks and in ‘emergency’ cases when I get upset about something and want to work on it on the spot. It is like my own private helpline with my favourite facilitator that is always there for me. I listened to you often talking about stillness and about The Work being a meditation. I was left wondering what exactly is stillness and how do I know when I have it or enough of it and how to go about cultivating it. After doing Turnaround House, I felt some strange physical sensations. My legs from knee to toes were tingling and felt immaterial. I used to call that ‘my energy boots’. I mentioned it to Jimbo who told me about Vipassana meditation. So in August 2011, I enrolled in my first 10-day silent course where we meditate 10 to 12 hours a day. We spend the first three and a half days watching the breath to concentrate the mind and the rest of the course is spent in becoming acutely aware of sensations, pleasant or unpleasant, with equanimity and an awareness of impermanence. We just observe reality and nothing else, at the physical level. At some point the awareness starts sweeping and dissecting the body, and it is accompanied by an experience of free flow.
The whole focus in that technique is on sensations, there is no mention of thoughts at all in it.
I use it together with inquiry. Becoming aware of my sensations has helped me a lot in identifying thoughts, since the link between sensation and thought is so evident in that space. My first retreat was amazing. I discovered thoughts I never knew I believed, fears I didn’t know I had, I had nightmares when I am not usually prone to them, long-forgotten memories came up, visions, etc.
Then pain came (we are invited to sit completely immobile for an hour three times a day and just observe sensations with equanimity) and I got really angry at it. We are not allowed pen or paper on these courses so I wrote a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet in my head for the first time, a short, simple one with carefully chosen statements, and I then proceeded to do inquiry on each sentence. I don’t remember the exact concepts I Worked, apart from ‘Pain is cruel’ in question 5 of the Worksheet and the enormous release when I turned it around to ‘pain is kind’. I sat the remaining six days of the course with no pain. I have done a further 12 courses since and I experience very little physical discomfort during that time, and if I do, it is welcome, the fear of it seems to have left me for now.
Ever since my first Vipassana course, I start meditating prior to doing inquiry. It only takes a few moments to get relatively still.
At night, I am more in tune with my inner world, things come up for me that I am not conscious of during the day (images, fears, sensations, sense of loss…). I can go through days when I only sleep 4 or 5 hours a night and I can still function normally during the day. Then I hit periods of resistance or not being so interested and I go back to a more usual 8-hour night for a while.
Nighttime is my favourite time to do self-inquiry: my mind is full of weird stuff and it is also open to exploring beyond it, it has nothing else to do. I usually wake up in the small hours of the night. I just lie quiet but I run the risk of falling asleep during inquiry, so I often sit up or quietly go to my meditation cushion. I find it distracting to get up or switch on the light, so I do inquiry without pen and paper, while continuously sweeping the body for sensations until it becomes automatic. It is a little like doing an internal morning walk but without naming, just noticing. I just wait for stressful thoughts to arise. Sometime they are just like a tiny whisper and I really have to pay attention to catch one, at other times they are as painful as a fire bullet. Once found, those don’t let go, they are like a broken record. At times I mentally compose a simple Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, at other times I work the concepts as they arise, one leading to another.
I have found that at the beginning of inquiry, I need the framework of facilitation and questions or else, particularly in question 3, my mind wanders away and gets lost frequently and for long periods of time. So I have put together a list of sub-questions that I answer in a particular order and that I use to hold myself in inquiry. They are like a downward spiral staircase for me. When my mind wanders, I bring it back to the last sub-question. It even works as an anchor when I fall asleep and wake up again: I can resume my inquiry where I left it; something tracks it. The sub-questions are the usual ones and some deal with hope, regret, things I try to hide from myself and others, the assumption behind the thought, etc. While answering, I am watchful of my physical sensations. When I get ‘in the zone’, I don’t need the sub-questions any more and question 3 naturally flows into question 4 and the turnarounds are obvious. At times, just ‘Is it true?’ is enough for the whole inquiry to unravel. It is timeless and usually ends in an overwhelming need to lie down and sleep or else I lie immobile while something is pumping in waves in my ‘physicality’ (I couldn’t call it a body at that time). I often don’t remember the next day the concept I took to inquiry during the night, and if I do, the thought sounds totally insignificant and I wonder why I got so caught up in it.
At other times, I wake up distressed or crying, the impressions are fast and furious and so strong that I just have to wait for the storm to pass before I get a chance to inquire. I get persistent recurring images, some of them sad or scary, some of them not, and I don’t always understand why they are so distressing. When it doesn’t pass, I get really distressed and lost, and yet I am also aware of something in me that doesn’t want it to pass, that indulges in it, that wants to resist and feel bad and that in turn feeds the sense of powerlessness, it is a vicious circle. Eventually, it passes and it may not recur for months. When I spend a lot of time with myself or go to one of your events, my night-mind is more active during the day and I may spend hours crying. I am okay with it now.
9.If you facilitate others, how do you go about it? How has your way changed in emphasis or in any other way? Describe the most remarkable result of facilitating someone you’ve experienced, positive or negative.
The way that works for me has influenced the way I work with clients, albeit with a much lighter touch. When facilitating, I first get connected to my breath and/or my physical sensations. The sweeping of my body now often starts automatically, especially when being one on one and face to face with a client. I get more easily distracted on Skype or on the phone. It may be because I can’t see the facial expressions or notice the way they are breathing. When my client answers very fast and when the answers seem to have been co-opted by the mind and become rote or if the client seems to be giving me the answers he/she thinks I want to hear, I ask my client if he/she is interested in looking a little closer at what is happening inside of them, at the experience that the words describe. If they are, I use questions such as: ‘Anger? Where does that live in you?’ or ‘What lets you know that you are angry?’ or ‘How do you know that you are angry?’ and once they find it, I may invite them to give the sensation/feeling/emotion some space, time, and all their attention or to fully let themselves experience it for a little while. They often close their eyes without me even suggesting it and once ready, deeper and more genuine answers come out of them without me having to prompt them again. I use the same invitations for stress reactions arising from question 3 as for what arises in question 4 like ‘calm’, etc. or for insights in the turnarounds. In most cases, once my client sinks into a state of closer inner observation, I just listen and remain silent again. I have witnessed some of my clients go on wonderful journeys within themselves, tracking sensations, thoughts, images, and gentle tears… All of this only works if I am connected to my client and really listening (and that’s not just with my ears) and tracking him/her as well as my internal reactions. It is like a twosome meditation. I love the timelessness of it; I get a lot out of it too, of course. I see facilitating as part of my practice now.
10. What has been the biggest shift in your form or experience of inquiry over the months or years?
Shift in form: Doing inquiry on my own, slowing it down, paying more attention to the actual experience that comes with the ‘worded’ answers.Shift in experience: more trust in the process, more closeness to myself, better connexion and more empathy with my client.
11. Has The Work created any difficulty in your life or in the lives of other people you know?
I have detached from my ex-partner for no apparent reason. He is a wonderful man and a great friend and I have no need or desire to be in a relationship with him or anyone else at the moment. I am following something else. He hasn’t been demanding at all about it, and yet finds it hard to understand and doesn’t know how to move on at times. At the end of my first School, nearly six years ago now, I was left feeling very different. It was like being shrouded all over in a balmy feeling. It was sensual without being sexual and got more intense when I found myself in places like airports, where there were a lot of people. It remained intense for about three weeks, and then started to subside. Now it comes and goes and I get to experience it intensely every few weeks or so and a residue of it is constantly there. The other side of that coin is that my sexual energy, which used to be quite high, literally collapsed after that School, as I was to find out when I got home. Doing Vipassana meditation and more inquiry later took care of whatever was left of it. I was concerned and even ashamed about it at the start and now, I feel grateful as my life feels so much simpler now. I couldn’t care less if I never had sex again. That has been tough on my partner. Some members of my family are concerned about my frequent trips to the U.S. and the fact that I have left my home, partner, business, and career, that I am not making much money and am now living a nomadic, unconventional, and seemingly disjointed life. I think they see me as lost and having regressed, my lifestyle is so far from their frame of reference for ‘a good life’.I got to know the paternal side of my family only in recent years. A family gathering with them sounds like an extended version of the ‘I complain about’ exercise. I don’t partake in the incessant string of complaints about the weather, the government, young people nowadays, lack of care for the elderly, etc. and I often just sit there, listening in silence, present, entertained, and even amused. They have tried at times to draw me in and encouraged me to join in their litany. I remain neutral, careful not to teach, often answering that I just don’t know or that these things sincerely don’t bother me when they ask for my opinion. Yet they have labelled me ‘too quiet’ and there is a feeling of ‘you are not one of us’. I feel they see me as distant and indifferent to their lot as victims on this planet. That is not my internal experience, and what can I say?
12. What aspect of The Work, if any, do you find most difficult or confusing?
On a personal level:I feel I have been diligent and sincere in doing my Work for six years now and the change in me is more rapid and radical than with anything else I have ever done or witnessed and yet, in my dark moments, I feel I have such a long way to go for my Work to be done. It is not so much The Work that is confusing me as life itself, the way it is set up. Why is there so much to undo and why is it taking so long? And why are there so many peaks and valleys? And why do I have a longing for something different on the one hand and motives and resistance on the other hand? How did I end up so far from home?Another thing that is confusing me is the recurrence of identical concepts and the fact that they are still painful after years of them paying me regular visits, no matter how thorough and sincere I am in my process. As much as I love being left to my own devices and doing self-inquiry, there are times when I really wish I had someone with more experience to talk to, someone who would share their experience and point out to me things I have missed or other directions when I get stuck. I understand that ultimately, it is all up to me to do my Work and it is still a lonely old road at times. I would love some guidance and at the same time, I am ashamed of my neediness and feel I am taking up time and space and being a bother. On a more global level:
I would love events and experiences as deeply transformative as the School or Turnaround House to be more affordable, widespread, and accessible.
I see you, Katie, as tired at times and I hear about your physical health being challenged and I am concerned about that. You say to us, ‘You are the ones who’ll be giving The Work its life in the future’ and I am wondering: are we ready? For my part, I don’t feel I am. Humanity doesn’t have a very good track record in passing on something not fully lived and integrated. Truth so easily turns into dogma in our hands.
To be totally honest, I see us, the people really focussed on The Work, as so few and not always well equipped or ready to do justice and faithfully maintain and develop what you have set in motion. The people whom I see as having been really steeped in The Work and now truly inspiring as a result are also ageing and moving towards retirement. Not all of us have the stamina or the natural inclination to move The Work at events. All I can do is keep doing my own Work and yes, I will probably die happier than if I didn’t have The Work, and that feels so insignificant on the scale of things.
13. What aspect of The Work do you find most wonderful or enlightening?The sheer fact that it exists, that it came my way, that it gives me a way out of my own insanity.In contrast to what I wrote above in the last questions, it works every single time if I answer the questions. The benefits I have derived from doing The Work far outweigh the difficulties I encounter with it. The fact that it doesn’t require anyone nor anything external, that it is devoid of rituals, tricks, trends, things to learn or practice, that I can let it evolve within myself at its own pace.
14. Do you know anyone who has experienced The Work and doesn’t like it? Can you describe why you think that is?
Some French people to whom I gave Loving What Is came back to me saying that it was ‘too American’ and when I probed a little, they were not able to tell me exactly what they meant by it apart from ‘too optimistic, based on a recipe like U.S. movies that are all built on the same model’. I am not sure they read it to the end. The videos they say are ‘like any other American chat show where you make a fool of yourself pouring your guts out on TV’. They seem to have a fear of being tricked, roped into a cult, of losing one’s discernment to an ideology or religion. I also heard things like: ‘There is no magic trick’ and ‘It couldn’t be all down to me’, ‘It’s not healthy or helpful to dwell on what’s painful in your life’, ‘leave well enough alone’.Some of my African friends were afraid The Work could go against their religion or take its place, they were afraid that God would be angry when the answers they found in themselves clashed with what’s in the scriptures—for example, the fact that we are all sinners, suffering being a necessary retribution, God being in charge of our redemption, the fear of hell and the devil as healthy. They saw judging God as blasphemous. They were not comfortable with seeing things like homosexuality, divorce, abortion, or adultery as okay and not as the work of the devil.
15. Is there anything you don’t like about the way I do inquiry?
No. I really enjoy it, especially the fluidity, nothing mechanical about it, the humour and the straight-to-the-point approach. I can – and do – listen to it for hours.
16. How would you improve The Work? Please write specific suggestions.
Just leave it alone. It works best for me in its simplest, original form. Yet I enjoy being facilitated by someone who has developed their own style, their favourite sub-questions, etc. I don’t enjoy it when the ‘add-ons’ or variations are mechanical and generalized across the pool of facilitators, like a learned format. I feel I am being facilitated by a robot or the police.Doing The Work requires the questions and the stillness to answer them. The Work itself is just fine the way it is. What I see as helpful is guidance and/or a framework to find and cultivate the necessary stillness to do The Work. Specific suggestions:
I find that the aspect of integrating The Work as a daily practice within one’s busy life is very well covered through the tele-classes, the one-for-ones, the use of Skype, etc. and that’s wonderful. Thank you for making it so easy and accessible. Yet, since I discovered The Work, I have also felt the need for the opposite of that: to step out of my busy life while being in a supportive environment and initially I didn’t know where to go. Attending and staffing Turnaround House met that need, as well as attending your events. I am lucky that the finances have always worked out and that you supported me in making it possible and when other circumstances prevent me from being there, I go and squat Vipassana centres instead 😉 (I am not entirely comfortable with that, as I go partly under false pretence.) I would love to have a place or a choice of places where I could be supported to go and sit in inquiry for anything between a weekend and a year, surrounded by people who are doing the same and can support each other.
17. Write about who, what, and how you are without your story?
When I am most free of my story, true listening happens. I watch life happening automatically. Walking, in particular, totally happens on its own, and it is like that for speaking some of the time. I may feel grateful for the slightest little thing like a trash-can sitting there just when I need one, and if there is not one, I notice I have a pocket, and if not, I have two hands, etc. I stop taking things, and people in particular, for granted. They are all gifts given deliberately – I don’t know by what agency – and I am conscious of being the one all of this is gifted to and I wish to be fully part of the giving back to what’s giving. On a physical level, I feel radically different. Even when ill, I feel alive and vibrant. There have been times when I felt as if my bones were crumbling or that mini nuclear explosions were taking place inside. There are times when I feel I am being held in the deepest place in somebody’s heart. This can happen anytime, for no apparent reason, walking down a busy street, in the shower, anywhere. It comes with tears. It is both beautiful and somehow painful; I can’t explain it. At my last retreat, on day 8 I think, I was just sitting there meditating and questioning thoughts as they arose and all of a sudden I perceived ‘little me’ as a fictitious character in a made-up cartoon strip. What was perceiving that was pure compassion. It extended to everyone, with some extra tenderness for ‘little me’.