Words of essence:
Bold Brave Graceful Precious Endearing Honest Beautiful
Tenderhearted Courageous Dear Honest Loving Aware
Selfless Resilient Kind Generous Inspiring Open
This introverted thinking sensing judging engineer walks into a Soul Speaks workshop.
Waiting for a punchline?
I wish I could come up with one, but I’m not a comedienne. Well, not intentionally.
I took this workshop as a challenge to myself, as a minor investment in time and money to see what the next leap into personal development holds and deep dive into the core of my being. I knew it would make me squirmy and uncomfortable. I also knew that all my personal shit is so forefront in my mind that I was liable to share too much and risk a vulnerability hangover. I was right on both counts.
Two women run this workshop and to describe them to me Stretch Guy (yes, this is one of his pushes/suggestions) used words like loving and powerful. He told me I’d feel safe. I just stared at him wondering how these words like loving and powerful fall so easily from his lips. I never use those words. I’ve just now begun to understand what “grateful” means and been able to use it without sarcasm. I’m constantly in awe of how these other strong feeling words are so natural to Stretch Guy, and how they never seem contrived. But I digress…
I walked into the room and Soul Speaks teacher #1, whom I talked to on the phone glided up to me with a huge smile on her face, “I’m so glad you came!” with a big hug. Yikes. Then I discovered that most people a) knew Soul Speaks teacher #1 because she’s their therapist, or they had been doing these workshops for a while. I was the outsider on both counts. Immediately, I felt the armor come up, protecting me, enshrouding me. I wanted to be small, not noticed. A couple of people introduced themselves and asked how I knew about the workshop. “A friend recommended it to me.” “Are you excited?” “No. I’m really nervous.” During the whole opening of the workshop, I stared at the floor, at the wall, anywhere but at the teachers. Then, they explained what we would be doing. It’s called relational presencing and it boils down to eye contact; a breath, a soft gaze and holding another person’s eye contact.
So anyway, it was a really difficult and exhausting 4 hours for me, and at the same time empowering. I know that I need to do things like this to force me outside my comfort zone and to learn how to connect with people. I didn’t know what to expect, Stretch Guy didn’t really prepare me for it, and when I talked to one of the teachers about it she tried to explain, but for such a simple thing, it’s a difficult concept.
They start small, just take a breath, look into someone’s eyes for 30 seconds and don’t say anything, don’t break eye contact. That was the longest 30 seconds! Then we did it again and it wasn’t as difficult. Then we did it again and took turns talking, whatever comes up without thinking. Then we got in groups of five, sitting in a circle and took turns around the circle. The key is trying not to break eye contact while talking and move your gaze from one person to another about every sentence or so, and I found it easier in a larger group where I didn’t have to hold eye contact with one person as long. THEN, a bigger group, the room split in half and half went to another room. We did the same thing in front of the half group adding in a few steps. At the end of us talking without thinking for a whole minute while holding people’s gaze, the people in the room would shout out words that they see you embody as you stand there. And the grand finale, the entire group together and random names being called up to practice. The words I wrote down at the beginning are all the words people threw out at me as I stood in front of them scared, tears streaming down my face and wondering what the hell I just said. The things people say when in front of the group run the gamut from, “I don’t really feel like talking so I’m going to be quiet and just connect with all of you, to I’ve been doing x,y,z this past year, to isn’t this amazing all this energy in the room,” to people like me, who have all this heavy shit front and center that just comes out. The two times I was in front of the big group, I wished I could say something positive, and I guess some positive things were said about healing, at the same time it’s all shrouded in “hey my mom’s a narcissist and now I’m trying to figure out who I am”.
By the end of the 4 hours, someone commented on how much my demeanor had changed from when I first talked to people and the end of the day. She was right, I felt more relaxed and I was able to focus on the people talking rather than my shit because I was actually seeing them. That’s got to be one of the things that I have trouble with the most. I don’t see people because I’m so wrapped up in how I appear to them, if I’m acting the way they want and taking it personally if someone comments on my demeanor. This time I was able to accept and acknowledge someone telling me that they saw a positive shift instead of falling down the shame spiral of what the hell did I look like before? Is she telling me I was a total bitch to start with and now I’m ok? This is a big shift for me to feel kind of comfortable in my own skin, and to be able to accept compliments! HUGE! So, I’m happy I went, and I’ll be looking into more of the Soul Speaks training. Who knew I’d end up being so open to the hippy-dippy? Not me, that’s for damn sure.
And the vulnerability hangover? It never came…"