It was a day of masks, fairy stories, and a contemplative walk in nature. A day of significant conversations and deepening connections; of listening and sharing, reflection and insight; and of daring to cross the line. It began, almost inevitably, with dancing. This was Mind Work Productions (MWP), after all. Twice before* I have taken part in one of their days, and each one has been a demonstration of how valuable it is to leave our comfort zone behind.
On this particular day, they had invited a group of trainers (referred to as Change Agents) to their premises to audition for the chance to play our part in their continued story. Eight hours later, we were asked whether we felt we had shown ourselves. Had I been asked that question late morning, my answer would have been ‘No’, but I left in the evening having shown myself so clearly that even I sat up and took note.
Confusion & Collaboration
We had all come prepared with rehearsed 20-minute slots designed to reveal ourselves at our best. However, without warning, we were dropped into confusion. Following an introduction of all 15 people, the curveball was thrown: None of us would be doing our own exercise. We would do each others’. In pairs.
The intention was clear. Aside from the impossibility of doing 11 exercises in one day, we were being challenged to adapt, improvise, and take instruction on our allotted exercise by its author. A clever use of time and resources, and something which has characterised all of my dealings with MWP.
That approach fostered a sense of collaboration, not just between the pairs of trainers, but also with the author of the task. It strengthened our desire to see each other succeed. And at every step, the feedback came: sharp insights and deliberate comments for all who wished to improve. Feedback is the meat and drink of personal development. It fortifies our practice. (We give ourselves detailed feedback when we do written reflection.) Here, it was given eagerly and consistently by the four observers. There was one in particular (notebook forever in hand), whose feedback was so concise and incisive, as to be compelling.
Sombre & Fragile
A shared podcast took us outside. Through the park, along the water’s edge, and beneath listening, leafless trees, we were prompted through headphones to take in the diversity of the natural world, and to let go. As the rain fell gently, a tight line of people became a meandering flow; all of us playing out the exact same experience differently.
During the walk, I was confronted with the first of two injunctions highlighted in this post: You are not good enough. I felt a sombreness which found reflection in the grey sky above. A gentle conversation around the final curves of the park held me steady in the fragile space I found myself inhabiting. It was a bridge to the rest of the day, because I went on to provide myself with unequivocal evidence that I am good enough.
Dropping The Mask
In the third workshop, we were asked to share the facade behind which we most often hide. A captivating introduction spoke to my familiar struggle to raise myself to sociable levels. My default is to decline, even though I know can do it and very often enjoy myself. Nevertheless, it requires effort, so that’s what I wrote on my cut-out, cardboard mask: Sociable/Outgoing.
The ensuing paired conversation offered the chance for me to share and then drop my mask. In fact, having initially had to talk through the masks – which necessarily brought us closer together, whilst also allowing us to remain mostly hidden – there was a definite sense of relief when we put them down. I felt liberated from the physical constraint of the mask, as well as a release from the psychological effect of pretense. What remained was the simple freedom to be whoever you are.
That marked the beginning of the day I had come for. What I experienced of myself from there onward surprised me a little (but not really). Furthermore, I knew I was seeing what two people in particular have always seen in me. (I am reminded of the calm joy and satisfaction I had felt listening to Karaj’s 2014 conclusion in Still Working.)
A Final Flourish
After a personal highlight, which I’ll address in a separate post, two trainers gave my workshop, which was all about connection with the self, others, and the Earth. I felt myself willing their success, and they did a great job, especially as it was a tricky one to pull off: tightly timed, with little room for explanation, questions, or doubt. By then, though, people were in the groove of the day, moving naturally through the learning landscape with nothing but questions, reflections, insights and laughter.
Finally, I presented the last exercise as part of a well-matched pair. And as if the day couldn’t have gone any better, that final workshop was all about Script. A familiar subject, and one which allowed me to tell a brief version of this story: It’s My Script. Three groups formed, and there was an audible contrast between the lightness and laughter of the creative part, and the depth and focus of the discussion part. We agreed, therefore, to let the whole room overrun, captivated as they clearly were by their newly discovered insights.
It meant that the day ended with an intensity of momentum and openness. Having spent hours gradually offering each other details of our stories, people united in sharing the foundations of their individual scripts. An excellent way to conclude a delightful day.
One Last Insight
During my reflection for this post, the subject of Script returned with a powerful insight. I became aware of a long-standing influence on my own script. It’s one I have overlooked my entire life, and which adds great weight to another injunction I carry with me from my early years: Don’t be who you are. (I refer to something similar in the piece Desperate To Belong.)
Everything together, and everyone together, enabled me to conclude the day knowing I had shown myself. I had also fulfilled my intention to make full use of the opportunity. The way it all unfolded says as much about me as it does about the environment created and the people present, because not only did I show myself, I was also seen. And, most satisfying of all, I was acutely and exactly who I am.