Essence Process

Menis Yousry, the most empathetic person I have ever met, showed me something at the heart of me which I have been running from all my life, and so gave me self-respect for the first time. That was in November. Another group did the Foundation earlier this month, and fill Facebook with delight and wonder, and write of the emotional rollercoaster thereafter. I want to create this in my every-day life.

Menis gives complete acceptance and is wonderfully perceptive. He helps us untangle the problems which have been besetting us forever. He helps us forgive our shame and guilt. He leads the group so that we are all supporting the person sharing. This brings us together: it feels a wonderful close bond. Yet I do not foresee forming any lasting friendships with this group, and that is OK: they are far away, and of different backgrounds, and there are lively stimulating human beings nearby.

That line “What do you want the others here not to know about you?” is a way into self-absolving, yet that by itself even in a group of Quakers might just be dangerous and ineffective. I have my shames, still. The ones I brought up then are not shameful for me. Possibly that I do not know them, and will not see them again, helps us into this completely supportive way of being together.

Others besides Menis can create this atmosphere. He does it particularly well. Counselling works, an hour a week, though I like the intensity of five days.

Perhaps I cannot create this in ordinary life. I have retreated for my personal growth for years. It always feels that I see further from the mountain-top, but when I return to the valley I never lose all which I had seen. Each time I retreat, I see more clearly.

I maintain my self-acceptance through affirmations, mirror exercises, and meditation including metta. I have not meditated for some time. I fear it and avoid it, yet when I did so this evening it felt good. It does me good when I do it. But the heart of the Essence experience which I value is the acceptance of others: as a social being, it does me good.

I wondered, when with Community Building in Britain, whether the acceptance of each other depended on being with a group one did not know before, and would not know after. When we sought to do things together, suddenly the disagreements we had, and the judgments on how effectual another was, mattered. I don’t think it an absolute barrier, but when we work together in the long term it is a continual effort to create that acceptance.

I have not seen Terry for nine months. I told him “I have self-respect for the first time” and he said I had always seemed to have self-respect.

This is really good

This is really good, beautiful, positive, new pieces of the jigsaw giving a new view.

Mmm. Should I bother stating the old view? Perhaps, for a bit of context. I need to celebrate moving on from it.

OK. How have you felt about being a recluse?

Dreadful. A complete failure. I have stuck with it because I have not seen any better way. Meanwhile, my inner critic has told me that I am waiting to be rescued by some knight/ dame on a white charger, and that that is never going to happen, and that I had better hit rock bottom soon and start doing something about my problems myself, but then that is the challenge that I have never been up for.

I have felt completely shamed. The shame has sat, undigested, mostly below consciousness, a ball and chain.

I have had a Christmas present of “The Sacred Journey- Daily Journal for your soul”. My friend writes (in part) Give yourself an entire day before New Year’s Day, really thinking about the “goals” and “questions”  at the front of this journal. I LOVE mine, and I love my day of solitude, preparing for the coming year.

And of course my inner critic has been delighted with this. Goals=Income, except that is going nowhere because I am useless.

The inner critic even got hold of “I am worthy of Life” and twisted that. I have buried my talent. I am “soft, gentle, peaceful” and that is my problem.

The breakthrough came with saying, “I am soft, gentle, peaceful, and that is what is ‘worthy of life’.” There is no vulnerable bit, no “real me”, there is just me. The accretions of self-image or desire to be other fall away. The inner critic split those two statements and the answer is to unite them.

It leaves me with fear. What shall I do? Better than shame whispering there was nothing I can do.

This feels big, like new insight; and it feels like yet another wave: down into shame, up into healing. Down into old patterns and understandings, up into new. Fear is better, it is conscious, it does not eat my self-respect but sits alongside it, because it is not introjected from elsewhere but of me.

Still with the problem, of course- what shall I do? Things to cheer me up, I think- a bit of self-nurturing.

Chagall, le pond de Passy et le Tour Eiffel

The Shropshire Lad had it about right:

Her strong enchantments failing,
Her towers of fear in wreck,
Her limbecks dried of poisons,
And the knife at her neck.

The Queen of air and darkness
Begins to shrill and cry,
“O young man, O my slayer,
Tomorrow you shall die”

O Queen of air and darkness,
I think ’tis true you say,
And I shall die tomorrow;
But you will die today.

Afterglow

William Blake, Night startled by the larkA week after the course, still full of the excitement of it, I went from South Wales to London for a reunion, and my friend agreed to put me up. In the taxi, she told me who her husband was, and I would have a name-dropping story if I did not feel confidentiality mattered here. We had texted a bit:

-Hail to thee, Blithe Spirit!
-Bird thou never wert
-I have you on my phone as Elvira!

A week later I phoned and she had no time, and after that I phoned and never got a response, and then a shit-storm erupted around her. Was it something I said, or did, that stopped her responding? I don’t know, it is possible. I would love that friendship, I would love her spirit and energy somewhere in my life whoever her husband was. We had an email group which stopped, and we had a last reunion in 2012.

Nearly five years later, two weeks after another course and with a real sense of the blessing of it, I went from Northamptonshire to just south-west of London, and met people from the course. I have seen the beauty and strength and vitality of these people, and again I want that in my life.

The Hoffman Process gives a great deal: tools for bringing subconscious truth to consciousness, liberation from the patterns of behaviour of our parents which enslave us whether we follow them or rebel, again by bringing these to consciousness. It has percolated in me over the last five years, bearing fruit. I did not free myself then, or understand all those patterns, and I understand them better now.

Blogging, now- no answers, only, er-

What do I have in common with these people? I have hidden my talent, hidden myself away at home on the sick, they have jobs and houses and- children-

no, I will leave that in, but it does seem a bit panicky. Unnecessary. I really do touch others’ hearts. I see evidence of that. I am loved and valued.

Misgendering does not bother me as it did. Someone said “Good man” or some such phrase, on Saturday night, and it did not matter to me. I know I am female, or feminine, and that is OK, so “never trouble to deny“. This is the all-new self respect. For the first time in my life I have self-respect.

I am vague, now, because of confidentiality issues- after most had gone, I heard what shamed a man, and it made me respect him more because of what he had overcome. He shared with a group of us who had done Essence, and together we held him, first by our love and attention then physically in a group hug. It was an intensely powerful blessing for me, and also I think for him.

What do we have in common? Love. The power of God. Right now, we need that contact, to feel the group’s love for the individual as we face our uncertainties. We will need it less. But for friendship, that is all we need in common.

And now I am clear

Essence process day 16

I wrote, I am unsure where I am with this, and now I am clear. I realised this morning,

 
No-one can hurt me if I love and care for 
and respect myself.
Therefore, no-one else has ever hurt me.

Gentileschi, St CeciliaArguably this is not true of children; but by the current legal definition I came of age thirty years ago. So, with Ruth, where did that situation come from? Four years ago, overseers considered looking after me- I was quite needy- and Ruth took me out for lunch, and we walked together several times.

What do I Want? If I find Ruth’s emails like sandpaper rubbing at a sore, I want them to stop. So I must consider my attack carefully, in order to make them stop. However sweetly and smilingly I approach her, I would not come from love, just from an attempt to gain the moral high ground and shame her into stopping.

If I can accept them- this is Ruth, yes, Ruth does feel a need for things to go Right within the Area Meeting, I am happy with my actions as AM clerk or can see a way of improving- then I can come from Love, and seek a warmer, less fearful relationship. This morning I saw this as a “necessary confrontation”- I must establish boundaries and take my power; my self-respect and proper functioning requires her to behave how I consider appropriate. And now I don’t. I will see her in January.

Coffee this afternoon with my wise, delightful friend Liz. I told her what I had been doing, and she got it completely. I told her “no-one can hurt me” and she understood. Taking a little courage, I held her gaze and stated my affirmation, and she smiled delightedly and said Yes.

-You’re a different person from the one I met four years ago. You were anguished.
-Yes, I said, and enraged.
-And now you’re not.

I have gained permission to be myself. I have gained respect for who I am, and do not wish to be otherwise- at last! I am so grateful for the space and time I have to process all this. Liz agreed, and helped me to clarity about Ruth.

It was quite lovely, affirming myself to Liz. And- it is my responsibility to affirm myself: if I cannot, no-one can do it for me. I want to communicate this Blessing to others. I take care with Holy things- and it is a challenge! Communication is my gift, and my delight!

Protection II

Essence process day 2

van Gogh, Adeline Ravoux 1Written Thursday 27th:

What is my game? What is my protection?

Getting up, I thought “I want absolution”. I thought of my previous experience, of weeping then finding myself Open, feeling my emotion more clearly. At 9.50, in the workshop room, it seems that we are in cocktail party mode, with polite conversation, so I go out to connect with myself by connecting with sight and feeling. That velvet cushion. The trees outside. Then the pictures of the hotel’s wedding services- the restaurant seats have white covers like bridesmaid’s dresses!

It seems to me that one of us rebels against the exercises, and I really want her to participate: I am projecting again. On one, I note I hate you because I cannot play my usual comfortable games with you, but I am still playing games. Menis comments that people orientated on achievement choose people who would complete the task. Ah, that is me. Still achievement-orientated, after two years without any work. A great gift, to see oursels as ithers see us. I love my drama. If you play your game, you lose and everyone else wins. Give up your pride and you will be happy.

It seems that all I do is Game, whether I express emotion, perform as to an audience, whatever.

Ah.
My protection is,
I push people away.

Yes. Just about all of them. One said that something wound him up, and I treasured it: I can use it if needed. My needy self is like a helpless baby. It terrifies me- Menis says, so I terrify others.

I am ready to share. I have a new conscious awareness which I find intensely valuable. My protection is that I push people away. I request that when I push you away you will give me time to notice this. Menis suggests, hold my hand. He does. It feels good. Everybody needs a connection. I will continue using my protection, pushing people away, but I will be more aware and more at choice. They applaud me, and I stand at the front to drink it in.

van Gogh, Adeline RavouxAfter a break, we play-act our protection. How do I avoid intimacy and being real? I play-act, smile, do the useful thing, find the rules and obey them. It seems to me that performance, which I use to protect myself, is the real me, which I could use to be authentic before others. So I name my act- “Goody two-shoes” and mime her. One of us shares something in the small group which makes me fear and despise him and want him out.

In the evening, we did work on parents. I have done a lot of work on my parental relationships. I have had people play my parents before, and been held. However when told to tell them what I am proud of, my self-knowledge, acceptance and spiritual growth seems not enough. I am so ashamed. Then- after we imagine ourselves as babies, tucked up beneath my soft warm blanket, I write these words about myself: I am- beautiful, strong, loving, creative, resilient, nurturing, intuitive, intelligent, worthy, excellent, holy, vivacious, sweet, sensual, physical, exciting, perspicacious, supportive, musical, Good, loyal, witty, entertaining, a survivor, Open.

Or- not ashamed. I have climbed so far out of a pit. It has been such a great effort for me, and at the end of it I am alone and vulnerable. I have nothing.

Open.

Protection

Essence process day 1

Van Gogh, The little ArlésienneI was so frightened of this, and now, it seems I have had the born-again experience I had hoped for. To continue from the beginning- some of this is what I wrote then-

Here we are, doing this personal growth thing. Why would I do it? For the fun of it itself, perhaps, but not for any change, I am just too comfortable. K is. I have undertaken not to reveal what the exercises were, but

here I do, obviously, not detailed description but giving the idea. Delete.

Then I had time silently to think, and wanted to connect to another human being. We went for dinner, and Judgment and projection. My account has too much judgment, and I do not like it, now. I will leave in this bit of projection: Though he does all these courses, it seems to me that he does not change because he is just too comfortable as he is. Probably me, too. [I can recognise some projection.] I disliked him, by the end of it, but see no reason why my emollient manner should be any better than his abrasive one. It is a difference of taste.

In this course, we ask what we do by habit or to manipulate people rather than acting from the heart, and relating as our real selves (or something- I am not quite sure how he would put it). I have so many manipulations to choose from it is almost like heart opening. In sharing I got angry, and it feels like being authentic, but Menis says I am just pushing people away. He told me to say to the group, “Would you please be close to me and accept me?” Not easy to say. But they would, almost all of them.

“I feel I want to care for you, now,” said one woman, and I have probably succeeded in pushing her away. Not that I imagine I want to. But when I sought what gives me pleasure, doing something constructive/helpful was one of the top; and asking for something seemed Wrong, somehow, it was me seeking to be a parasite [that is such a violent word! I condemned myself so cruelly!] rather than be independent.

The magic happens outside your comfort zone: I learned that in a personal growth workshop. I requested something else. “At one point Menis referred to me as ‘he’. If someone does that, will you challenge them?” They would. Some said they felt queasy when he said it. I want to survive, and Menis thought this a good thing, but I should do it in Love.

Seeking to be Real, I will dust off my old compliments. I am a joyful, playful child, said Hazel. I am interested in Life, said Angela. I am like a deer in the woods, peeking out, wondering who will come and play with me, said someone- all more than ten years ago. I liked those, and have remembered them. Perhaps there is something about Being Authentic in them. But it is so Vulnerable! Actually, I quite like that. I was beginning to get it.

Affirmation

Essence process day 3

I am Abigail.
I am worthy of Life,
Radiantly open to myself, my world, and to 
all people,
giving and receiving Love.
I am soft, gentle, peaceful.
I am an artist with words, 
communicating my authentic self 
with compassion and acceptance
dancing in Abundance
touching people's hearts with my truth 
and courage.

Turner, Buttermere Lake, with park of Cromackwater, a showerWhere does this come from?

On Friday, a man’s share fits me perfectly, and so Menis’ response fits me too. He says “The anger that you feel at the moment is your way to heal”. Then he dictates for the man, with me silently repeating:

I will stay angry
until I understand
that you have given life to me
and that I deserve it.

I have issues around accepting help from others, and so claiming benefits is my way of relying on others. I do not need to share this, with this group. It is cold, uncomfortable care, but it is sufficient, and now I rely on it.

M dictates again,

I allow others to take care of me.
I am at peace with myself and the world.

Then we get on to Affirmations. This is a statement of what I want, couched in the present tense, for the Universe. I want to say what is true now. If I say I am truthful, etc., I reinforce my best self. I have words, and I hone them over the afternoon. I have to go in to see Menis three times, because I still resist. I want to leave it at “touching people’s hearts” on the specious grounds that I touch people’s hearts with all of me, not just my courage. I was wrong. I need a reference to my courage. Courage is entirely separate from this faux-masculinity I have sought in vain.

He changes I am resilient, courageous, truthful, safe, peaceful to I am soft, gentle, peaceful. My voice changed when I said “resilient”- that masculinity I have sought to use to protect myself, the filthy rags I have pulled around myself. These powerful, truthful words are the most difficult to recall when I speak it. Indeed now (Wednesday 3rd) I can be put off at them.

Worthy of Life is a reference to the Gospel of Thomas saying 114. My straightforward interpretation was male-like, taking no shit. I find this site too Gnostic for my taste, which says all souls are from the father therefore male. Whatever. Menis deleted “I have always been my best”, a defensive assertion he sees as coming from my protection, and dictated “I communicate my authentic self with compassion and acceptance for myself and others. I touch people’s hearts with my”- self-acceptance? I had to turn this to my own words. I would not, now.

Dancing in abundance: this is an abundant world, though how I approach it matters.

Performing

Esssence process day 4

A Disaster at Sea- the Wreck of the AmphitriteOn Saturday evening, I got the chance to perform, and how could I resist? Performing, I am at home. But I wanted my performance to have meaning for me, explaining it: I have drunk so much poison, and this evening I will complete one course of one antidote; or I have a devil on my back, and will rip it off.

I have created my sketch, instructed my improvisation-partner, and obtained the props. Asking for the props, and for the stage-hand work, was difficult, and getting it lovely. Then: there are things in my life of which I am not proud. I reached down to the floor on Monday, pushed dust to one side, then picked up a handful of it. I had been thinking I should sweep my living room.

I had thought initially that I would confess my inactivity, and turn my back on it; that would be stepping through the looking-glass, making the turn of 1° that I needed to make. At lunchtime on Saturday, suddenly that changed. I would not deride it, my pathetic, paltry attempts at feeling not worthless, justifying my existence by my achievements, when my achievement was reading “Christian Origins and the Question of God” or “In search of lost time”. I would show it as beautiful. I have done what I have wanted to do.

The change I desire is not in any of my actions, but their motivation: rather than fear of my insane controlling parent, I would do things because I wanted to do them in love of me and the thing itself, nurturing myself as I need. I do not need to judge, or mock, or refudiate my past. Rather, I need to accept it. Moving on may come in its own time. So I did.

I showed these people my life, now: dressed in my old sweat-shirt and woolly hat in which I slob around the house, I strewed magazines and books round the floor to show its untidiness and told them how I spend my time. Before, I had waited in that woolly hat, and caught someone’s eye, and she smiled at me. Then, embracing my femininity, I changed into S’s beautiful long dress, borrowed because I had only brought jeans. I am soft, gentle, peaceful.

My life had shamed me. Disclosing it, I absolved myself, with the help of the loving, accepting attention of these people. The dress symbolises my increasing self care. Then, as Menis suggested, Rose playing my mother discovered me dressed female and expressed disgust and horror, addressing me as “John”. This no longer need hurt me. I ignored her, helped by the felicitous fankle in my ear-ring, then cuddled her, showing her the audience- they love and accept us. She would have got this personal growth stuff completely had she had the chance. I forgave her long ago.

Flowering

Essence process

To begin at the end-

Turner, Keelmen heaving in coal by moonlightI woke in the night on Sunday, weeping over my resentment at the waste of my talents and the restricted position I find myself. There is blessing in it, of course, not having to work, I see the blessing, and still resent, now and my painful past.

I may not get the chance to share to the whole group, though. There are so many of us. Perhaps another’s shares will do. They are useful, and Menis’ comments are useful. We are used to failure, he said. I lived in a hut. Then I was given a castle- and I wanted a hut. I scribble this down, hungrily. Our past comes up because it wants to go away…. when it comes up people around me can reject me, or make me feel safe. Love is about safety. He tells someone to ask us, Can you all please hold me until I feel safe? I could do this vicariously-

I note down that I am soft, gentle, peaceful, and it feels like that gets in my way. I have been told it is ridiculous. It isn’t. But to get on in life, I need to be Determined, Confident, I need manly characteristics. If Dad had a catchphrase before retirement-

-Dad: I’m defeated! Defeated!
-Mum: Oh, Sandy!

Menis: Do more of what works, less of what doesn’t, try something different. It sounds so simple, said like that. You must push people away, until you can have safe boundaries.

Last share. Does anyone want to speak who has not spoken before. I put my hand up, and get invited forward. “That was a lie, I’m afraid,” I joke.

I am soft, gentle, peaceful, and it feels that this gets in my way. To get ahead, I need to be a man. I stand, move away from him. I am soft, gentle, peaceful, and I resent it! I circle back: “I am soft- gentle- Peaceful…”

I lie back in his arms. I want a relationship with a woman! I expostulate, as if this were completely absurd, with me as I am. It isn’t. It really isn’t. They come forward, hold me, touch me, hold my hands, caress me. It is utterly lovely.

Given a chance to speak at the end, I quote,

We shall not cease from exploration
and the end of all our exploring
will be to arrive where we started
and know the place for the first time

I feel I understand those words better than I ever have. I feel that my soft gentleness which I rejected is truly who I am, and the only way I can possibly move forward is to be that person, where I started.

Do you find this strange, that I repose such trust in this man, note down the words he says, want him to touch me? I do not trust easily. Perhaps it is because of the atmosphere of acceptance he creates: when we are relaxed, we find our best selves and accept others better. Perhaps it is how his words seem so intensely valuable to me, that he sees things in me which I had not seen, yet which when I hear them, they fit so perfectly.

Day after

J.M.W. TurnerI got a completely different impression of the hotel today: the room next to mine was open, and I saw a normal-sized en-suite hotel room with recent furniture rather than 1950s.numbers The photo shows my room number in marker pen in case you don’t believe it: I hardly do. I have a cold. Should I just go home, or go to the Tate as planned? I have a feeling I might miss something.

I enjoy initiating conversations, and want to clarify my thought: this view of Venice, the moon here, the sun over here, that is clearly not a single view, is it? The woman agrees, there is night and day in the same picture. That is night, or perhaps that. “Painting set free”, they called the exhibition: for me today that fits “Steamboat off a harbour’s mouth” with the swirl of black and some white showing an emotional, rather than physical, storm.

Before A disaster at sea– the caption refers to the Amphitrite scandal where the captain refused to allow the convicts to be rescued, in case they absconded, and most died- I find two elderly gentlemen discussing Michael Frayn. They like his plays but not his novels. I interjected, “You don’t have to finish it if you don’t like it.” To call that crass is too harsh, but in the ball park. The one sitting closer turns to me, and says, “I did not hear your question,” then, “You will have to forgive me, I am rather hard of hearing. I did not hear your question.”

We got talking anyway. Frayn went to Kingston Grammar school, and they live in Kingston. I can’t remember his novel which I read. “Quite,” he says, “You would remember it if you liked it.” What would I recommend? I have just been reading Octavia Butler, African-American SF. She imagined a church as horrible as could be: if all the wickedness is outside our Group, then anything we do is justified. Anything comedic? Um. No, not recently.

I responded to his gentle, probing questioning and then said something of what I have been doing.

-You’ve had it quite hard, haven’t you?
-Yes. I am gentle, and I have heard that called weak, and so I have sought strength in vain, hating both my gentleness and defensive, failed attempts at strength.

He tells me that I need a partner. He has been with his third wife for 35 years, no, since he was 40- 38 years. She is his best friend: that is more important than passion. He hopes I may find such a partner before I am forty, and shares a “friendship kiss”, just on both corners of the lips.

In the last room, there is a picture which is almost entirely white, mixed- I don’t remember the technical details- with something which makes it glow and shine. In the group, one of us was surprised I had not noticed something about her. What, you did not see-? I am, not ashamed, for it is where I am, but sad that I am so internally focussed, on my own responses not the world around. Shame turning to sadness seems a great healing to me.