There were a few really big moments during the weekend that rocked me hard. A lot of them were unconscious at the time, but revealed a lot of information that I was not able to flush out in the moment.
The first was immediately upon getting off the elevator. I was there to learn and the staff was there to guide me. My cheque cleared so the roles were very clear to me. I was an authentic student with an open mind and gave into the notion that they were authentic coaches / teachers / guides. Most of them were distant, guarded and lacked something that those who suggested I would gain from attending possess in abundance – authentic fearlessness. Frankly, I got the sense that most of the staff was scared crapless of me and I couldn’t push away the feeling that I was actually there for them.
In the waiting room I chatted with some people and asked them what they were hoping to get out of being there. The participants were nice, some were complete phoneys that made my skin crawl, some seemed to be missing a critical piece of the puzzle and it was evident that many were guarded. I did what I do which is effectively be different from everyone else. I turned and opened up and started mining people for their stories.
We all went into the large room and I took my seat in the front row and engaged the two people who were on either side of me. It is impossible to include everyone when you are in a line so I sat on the stage to form a triangle (a circle that just happens to have 3 straight lines forced into it). The group therapy had begun. It’s easy to notice that no other line of people was doing this. The three of us were special. The leader walks in and the session begins.
After some introduction stuff, the leader asks “when someone gives advice to a group, who do you think they are giving to?” There were three answers, silence, “other people” and mine “me.”
Hmmmm….. if I hadn’t yelled “me” I wouldn’t have thought much about it, but there I was, a student who was there to milk the hell out of whatever anyone was going to say or offer. Alone, fearless and authentic. I started to levitate and a lot of what the weekend was about transformed in that instant (not accurate, but for all practical purposes how it was).
People asked some question and when the leader was asked about himself and I got up and left. At the moment I thought it was because I had to go to the bathroom and possibly eat something, but as I walked out of the room I realized it was because I didn’t really care to listen to his answers. It really didn’t matter to me. While some may consider that rude, knowing too much about a possible flash bulb mentor can weaken their position. He had effectively told us that his entire presence was contrived so what’s the point in listening to someone continue to manufacture context?
So, the first thing I realized that I wasn’t being the same as most of the other people there. I was being me, manipulative, controlling, and authentically consuming whatever anyone was willing to give me.
First break and I head across the street to get my lunch out of my car and find somewhere to eat it. There’s a grocery store with some chairs in it and I see a bunch of my fellow participants. All of the tables are being used so I sit on my cooler and begin to use a free chair as my table. A guy says “hey, you want to sit here” pointing to the empty spot at his table. I do. We start the small talk and it turns out he’s one of us, both in terms of a participant and outlier. He leaves and after a few minutes I notice that his jacket is still on the chair. After I finish my lunch I bring the jacket up to the room and go outside to put away my lunch. I see him and say “hey, did you leave your jacket?” and he says kind of avoidantly, “yeah, it’s upstairs.” And I say “it is now, you left it at lunch. It’s under the table where we leave our drinks.” He doesn’t believe me but says “thanks” to a lair who is trying to get credit for doing something they didn’t do. I smile and float away having read his mind.
I get a decaf coffee and head back. As soon as I get into the room, he walks up and I point to under the table where his jacket is, he’s just come from his chair where his jacket isn’t. There’s a look in his eyes that wasn’t there before, the guard is down and he is not afraid of me anymore. He says thank you and sort of outlines the consequences of what would have happened if it was lost because he didn’t remember wearing it when he left for lunch. I say “no, thank you for leaving it. Normally I would have just left it there for the person to come back for. You have given me a gift by providing me the possibility for a different future and then for me to make that different future.” I hug him and he hugs back – two strangers, men in their almost 40’s hugging because of a shared sense of gratitude seeing the gift the other has given to them.
I found my seat for the next session and sat behind one of the greatest people I have ever know. A member of the unawakened walking dead. That’s when things really began to get interesting….
NOTE – any one I mention in these series of blogs has given me permission to talk about our experiences.