Processing Down Under

26 Nov

Greetings from Australia. I’m in a beautiful valley in the bush of New South Wales where I have joined a team of volunteers at a retreat center. We work long hours expanding the retreat center and spend the rest of our waking time together in practices for personal and spiritual development. At this point it is 4 weeks since I arrived here and it feels like a good time to reflect and share some of my experiences and insights with you.

Our group here consists of eleven people—9 volunteers and 2 leaders. As we are half an hour driving distance away from the next town there are no distractions. The only other living beings we meet are kangaroos, wallabies, lizards, exotic birds such as colorful parrots and the mythic looking lyrebird, and every once in a while a cow or an echidnaThe eleven of us constitute the human faction of this ecosystem and we are family, colleagues, friends, and mentors for each other. We spend 15-16 hours together every day, except on Sundays when the official program ends at 2pm.

How long has it been for you since you spent 15+  hour days with a group of 11 people? For me, it’s been almost 40 years. Frankly, as someone with a nervous system that is easily overloaded, I am surprised how well I have been doing. But don’t get the wrong impression–it has been amazing and it has been hard. In summary, the first week was about arriving and adjusting and I constantly struggled to keep up. The second week my nervous system frequently shut down making it impossible to track where certain things were. I lost my phone (most importantly functioning as an alarm), all kinds of paraphernalia such as sunglasses and protective safety glasses, and even my toothbrush. All of this caused more stress, irritated people around me, and made me more vulnerable. I had an emotional mini-collapse when, within the span of 5 minutes, three people addressed me with criticism or had a tense tone in their voice. The third week I had to contend with physical pain (lower back pain, something totally new to me), and the fourth week I spent facing some of my less charming traits mirrored in a person I was teamed up with. Lots of opportunities for struggle and for growth and transformation!

Here in a nutshell is what I’ve learned so far:

Always add at least 1 mm wiggle room when building something for a 3-dimensional fit.
My vulnerability allows others to understand my process.
The deeper I allow myself to feel, the bigger the potential for transformation.
Defiance is a mechanism that walls me off from others.
Rigidity and the wish to control are rooted in fear.
Kindness toward others generates ease and engenders kindness.
Gentleness, kindness, and generosity are the most powerful tools. They melt the heart.
Surrender and trust are cosmic superpowers that draw in higher support.

Time to go and join my team and experience another adventure of a very human kind.

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