It was late night. We were spent. It had been a long three days with no coffee, alcohol, or nicotine and eating meals that even the Elves of Rivendell would think pushed healthy eating too far. The initial giddy and nervous excitement of promised enlightenment in a Kent country house, had given way to hollow tiredness. The week of JumpStart couldn’t come to an end quick enough and nerves were frayed. The evening class of Bodywork had claimed some teary casualties but most had got to the end of our stretches and were longingly eyeing the exit door to sleep beyond. But a firm hand on my shoulder stopped me. My fellow grumblers left and in that gloom, Sheila Parmar, the coordinator of the week asked me the simple question: “It must be desperately tiring for you Liam, trying so hard, in pretending to be you?” and I broke. Down. I gave it up. I no longer could keep up the act.
My thoughts have slipped now, like trying to hold the remnants of a vivid dream in the rays of a morning-curtained sun. But that is how I recollected the words that forced me to open and allow me to accept without judgment. The week wasn’t the same after – as we all, to a lesser or greater degree, found our own space.
JumpStart is a week long programme provided by Concord Institute, one of many that they do, offering educational programmes and services that enable people to become more self-reliant in terms of assuming greater responsibility for their health and well-being. From cooking in a way more resonant with nature and our bodies, to bodywork sessions of meditation, stretches, and postures and philosophical explorations with poetry, music and deep metaphysical enquiry, this is a full week.
But that is only the husk, I actually cannot properly explain the enlightened moments that happen in between as we get to see ourselves as we really are. To see ourselves as characters in our own stories, desperately trying to survive with in a world largely of our own construct.
Here I had one of those defining moments of my life where I suddenly saw who I was: a terrified boy trapped in an adult’s body but still trying to protect himself by pleasing people with flattery or humour. A boy afraid of the world finding out how scared and unworthy he really was. The more he searched to “know himself” and “be grounded” like all those friends he admired, the further away he was from the goal. Sheila was right of course; I was so soulfully tired of it all. Checking in with every scowl or tossed words to see if the person I cared about still cared. Adjusting my behaviour to suit. Dancing on eggshells and being all things to all people and losing any sense of who I really was. Mind you, Sheila did say that at times we are all entertained by this interloper so he did have a great deflecting wit. But at what cost to himself?
I came away from JumpStart with new friends – friends as only can be forged in such an intense week of soldiering at a battlefront. We may never see each other again but we have surely that shared enlightening that connects us all forever. But enlightenment, if it is that, is a fragile vision which ebbs and flows in the days ahead. It is a flash of revelation that is soon lost when the conscious practical mind tries to understand it, as we would try to understand a Van Gogh painting – rather than just experience it. I personally came away with a new sense of who I am – knowing to see myself as being that character in my own story of life. I have learned it is enough to simply be and see, to see that boy instinctively react when threatened with disfavour or when someone comes too close to his heart. See and be with that boy, as that is enough to change everything. Truly seeing ourselves without judgement allows us to see others then too.