Monday 14 April 2014

Life under an alternative parachute - March 8th to 18th - Ojay California.
Some 226 days beyond feeling consumed by “organisation” I made my way to Heathrow to finally action the first idea that went on the “what I will do” list that I wrote when I believed that life beyond “organisation” would be my own. As chronology has it, the first idea was the last in a series intended as kind of closure exercise. As life has it, the story never goes the way it's supposed to. 
Funny that. 
Kate and I drove from LA in a beetle down the pacific high road, we stopped at Malibu beach, forgot the time and stood mesmerised by the beach and the people and the life we unconsciously occupied. I think we thought we were on holiday. 

Hours later we rolled into a beautiful complex in a Californian wine vally. The smell of blossom was pungent and the mass of people with whom we were to spend the next 10 days was tidal. Full of nothing but trepidation I moved my feet and pulled my case up a hill that was to become well worn with  footsteps, thoughts, fear - all paced out inch by inch carefully each of 10 days in silence.

It’s been ages since I visited this blog.  What I notice  today  is how quickly an old reality becomes a new one and new ones become a habit. Life in Ojay had a predictability to it that was comforting and terrifying in equal measure. Imagine a whole community apparently suffuse with willingness, kindness, energy, courage... It’s hard to believe and so I didn’t. Instead of immersing myself in what I paid to learn I  immersed myself in myself... spiralling in self defeating circles.

You’d think pushing yourself way beyond your comfort zone for 14 hours a day would work right?  Out of my comfort zone, out of my comfort zone, out of my comfort zone, in my head, in my head, in my head.  All that effort and something in me stood by celebrating my imperviousness and I think it was probably me. Honest. All that money, all that way, all those people, all that effort and I got my thrill from resisting. 

Cue a conversation with Kate. “I am holding the lid on tight here Kate, I am not sure that’s what I am supposed to be doing”. Kate suggested I go talk to Bob. “Bob’s good”. (Bob achieved that qualification the night before for having the audacity to tell Kate something about herself she didn’t want to see. Having raged a fair bit she could see no good reason why she should keep that to herself and so she packed me off for my fair share and, unsurprisingly I got it from Bob all barrels blazing). (Cue Bob) “What are you here for, what brought you here? ........I didn’t know. He told me to think on it overnight. I asked if I could look him out in the morning. He said no. Got to admit it, the truth hurts. 

We promised the school we wouldn’t publish the curriculum, so you’ll have to take my word for all of this “discomfort stuff”, it makes running a marathon and jumping out of planes look like nursery school. A buffet of experience, a unique opportunity, an incredible group of people, a stunning teacher, a gorgeous friend and at day ten I was still dancing round the learning buffet too afraid to let go and really join the party, too hung up to part with my perception of things, too self conscious to notice that no one else cared.

Not such a happy ending to a long awaited event right?

 I left with a hacking chest cold, a roaring temperature and a head that sounded on the inside like the roar of the engines in the plane that flew me home. No peace.

I rejected the invitation to connect with people from all over the world to continue the learning - hanging on tight to the belief that I could do it on my own. Pah! Who needs a globe full of people when I’ve got me??? What a schmuck.  

Just under a month later Kate and I have fallen into a modest rhythm of mutual support, twice or three times a week, just practicing what we were taught. It’s not global, but it’s a start..... Actually that’s not true.....

Until this week I kept on keeping on - imagining an epiphany and experiencing the same old reserve. Then on Sunday a break through. On Sunday I actually needed the work. I didn’t just want it I needed it. I reached back out for the books & made my way through them painstakingly looking for what I had missed or forgotten to remember. An inferno of thoughts commanded me, diminishing everything to an anxious puddle of nothing, going nowhere but round and round and then I found it. The penny dropped.

It’s a curious thing need. There was something they kept repeating in Ojai...... “The work works you”. I pretty much took it as a strap line, something that rolls off the tongue so you don’t have to connect with it too much, but here I found myself using what I had learned (or was Kate using it for me) and something started to shift. 

Pity this is writing and not a film... there would be lights and music and cameras now were it not just me talking to myself in prose. 

Anyhow here’s what I learned, what I keep coming back to and what I want to share. 

I have felt the disappointment of being on development courses with people who don’t really want to develop. This time for all I wanted to challenge myself, I never really gave myself to the learning. I was one of the ones who didn’t really give myself to it and so I didn’t get it. Makes simple sense right?

Maybe I went all the way to Ojai to learn that there’s nothing to be gained from holding back, that learning means what it says it is and it doesn’t come all at once. You have to wait and work for it, wait and work, wait and work. It comes when it is ready. 

Maybe I went all that way to learn that journeying with expectation usually brings you out somewhere than other than where you expected to be & that it’s not what you went for but what you take home that matters. 

Or maybe I just went all that way to learn to be with myself. It’s nice to meet me and we are getting to know each other quite nicely for the time being perhaps...


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