Recently I went to Boston, MA where I attended a personal mastery workshop. You know, a three to five day self improvement workshop where you work on vulnerability and learn about your personal strengths. We talked about the way the mind works, mindfulness, archetypes, Heart space, essence , choices and respect. We meditated, shared in groups, made connections, played and worked on trust. For some, this was a real turning point. An awakening in their lives. For some, it was a real struggle. A mirror they were not prepared for. For me, it was continued personal growth and a real defining point of bravery and freedom.
One particular exercise I participated in was called “life boat”. It began with a meditation.
I quite enjoy meditation. I have been meditating for some years now. I practice nearly every moment I can. Washing the dishes mindfully has become a joyful practice. But not all meditation is joyful. Sometimes it’s heart wrenching and healing.
When I closed my eyes and placed my hand on my heart, I was aware I was entering into a familiar yet uncomfortable place. As I was guided, suddenly I found myself on an airplane, over the ocean, about to crash. My palms began to sweat, heat rushed through my body and tears poured from eyes. My heart pounded faster and faster. PTSD was flooding my being.
I have never been in a plane crash. I have lost a lover in one though.
I was uncomfortable and wanted to run away. My practice for months had been “sitting in my uncomfortableness” and this night was a true test to what I was learning.
Tears poured as I sat there feeling. Memories of my lovers crash flooded my mind. I acknowledged each thought as “a thought” and brought my attention to the safety of my heart space. I let myself be on the plane. I felt the shaking. I could hear the screaming of fear and metal twisting. I noticed my breathing. Everything was spinning. Just sitting in my chair became a struggle. I wanted to scream. I wanted to crawl out of my own skin.
“Open your eyes”
I was shaking and crying. I needed to leave.
As calmly and swiftly as I could, I walked to the back of the room through an ocean of emotional souls. The empath in me was overwhelmed. The ptsd was persistent. The protector in me was looking for safety . The buddhist, grounding.
As I pushed through the doors, words exploded “Fuck. Fuckity Fuck! I was not expecting that”. I found a hallway and collapsed. I began sobbing.
The cold floor helped ground me. In fact if I lifted my hands, I would immediately lose control. And the second I touched the cold floor with my hands, I felt grounded. It was surreal to experience.
A group of women lovingly surrounded me. They asked me what I needed. To my surprise, I clearly and concisely expressed my needs. “Touch is fine. Please don’t move me. I am grounding myself”. And with that, I did. Suddenly I could lift my hands to my heart and sit up. I deeply breathed.
I excused myself.
After getting up and washing my hands and face, I looked in the mirror and smiled. I understood my freedom. I knew it was time to be brave.
As I returned to the group of women, I told them I needed to return to the exercise. They turned to each other and discussed it, as if they had a choice in the matter. How cute. Then one woman stopped the discussion, turned to me and explained what I was about to walk in on. I was going to be asked to defend why I deserve one of the few seats on the lifeboat. Was I prepared to do that?
I looked this woman in the eye “Ready? No. But I still am going to do it” with a big grin, she opened the door for me. I bravely walked back into that room.
Groups of people sat on the floor while one person from each group had 40 seconds to stand and plead their case. Some gave up their seat. Some begged to be saved. Some froze and stood there balling. Some didn’t stand at all. Others still, calmly and bravely stood up for themselves. They had a purpose. Then it was my turn.
I, again, as calmly and bravely as I could, stood before my group. I took a deep breath. “I’ve lived a full life and I have zero regrets. I give up my seat. And it feels appropriate to die in a plane crash, as my lover did too.” The room fell silent. I stood in my power for the remaining 30 seconds. It was unbelievably uncomfortable. And incredibly empowering.
The next part of the exercise we stood before our group again as we were voted in or out of the lifeboat. Receiving criticism, even helpful, is a challenge for the ego. I welcomed it. After all, wasn’t this the whole reason I was there, to learn more about myself? Yes, of course.
The first person did not vote me in and said they saw my reaction as suicidal. The next person did not vote me in either because I asked them not to. However who they felt I was did not match my words of surrender so it was not their preferred choice . The next several people also believed my words did not match my essence. They felt I should be on the boat because I would make a great leader. Except they DID vote me in, even though I asked them not to.
So whose right? The person who respected my wishes and let me give up my seat? The people who said I would be a great leader and voted me in anyways? Was my reaction suicidal?
I did not feel suicidal. I know what that feels like. Yet, I could see how it would appear that way. I was letting go.
I am a great leader. And I am helpful in chaotic situations. Great leaders also make sure everyone is safe first. Giving up my seat could be viewed as brave.
And the person who respectfully voted me off the boat, their decision was not one they wanted to make. My essence or light shines much too brightly.
So I suppose we were all right. It just depends on who’s shoes you are in. It’s all perspective.
The next morning, after the best rest I had all weekend, we finished the exercise by sharing what we gained from this experience. Standing tall with confidence, I spoke “Last night was one of the hardest things I ever went through. I struggled with PTSD. However I found that my vulnerability and strength go hand in hand instead of one or the another. Also for the first time ever, I recognized my bravery as it was happening. And most importantly, I learned I did not abandon myself”
I did not abandon myself. I am both brave and vulnerable. I am a warrior.
I am thankful for this entire experience. I learned so much about myself.
A few weeks later I had a dream I was in a plane crash. No one should have survived. Yet I found myself at the doorstep of the person who created, founded and facilitated the workshop I was at. When she opened the door she was both surprised and not surprised to see me. When you are that connected with the universe , you expect the unexpected. My only words to her were, “I got on the fucking life boat.” She embraced me and I woke up…laughing.
Love and hugs, Adventure