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Heart of Now: What It Means To Three Springs Community, North Fork, California

Transformation: an act, process, or instance of transforming or being transformed. The formula that effects such a change; the operations of changing one configuration or expression into another.

 

The Heart of Now weekend at Three Springs became a reality after a couple of years of talking about and imagining such an event to happen and be shared by our group. Because of numerous circumstances making it difficult for our entire community to travel to a personal growth workshop, we were fortunate that Heart of Now was willing to bring the program to us, at Three Springs Community, to lead their workshop. The Heart of Now team of facilitators and assistants; Kim, Kaseja, Chris and Lisa, drove 13+ hours from Dexter, Oregon to our home in North Fork, California. Prior to the workshop, my only contact with Kim had been through emails and one telephone conversation, so our group was basically stepping into the workshop with faith and trust in the unknown. When our guests arrived, at 11pm, I met them in the parking lot and it was hard to see their faces. Yet, in this dimly lit environment, the immediate connection from hugging brought forth a welcomed warmth. I was excited to share more in the introductions once inside our community kitchen house. Some other Three Springs members were also waiting to meet our guests. After an hour or so, we all wandered off to bed. And so was to begin our Heart of Now workshop experience. Little did I know at the time that what was going to be experienced would be beyond anything I could have ever dreamed of or imagined to happen between a group of people.

On the following morning, we were initiated into the workshop with a lesson on breathing deeply. We were taught to use this involuntary life function to reveal the present moment, attune to body sensations, calm down, and discover the source of our feelings and thoughts. Following this exercise, we sat in a circle and used a “talking stick” to share our intentions for the weekend. My intention was to crack open my heart, and to further know truths about myself, so that I could be more loving and joyful towards others. I also wanted to learn how to better communicate my inner reality.

Next we were asked to find a partner and look into each other’s eyes. This was prefaced with the guidance to "just look, stay present, be here now." Also during the exercise, we were reminded to let go of any thoughts that came up about the other person. For me, to consciously stand before another, to look and be witnessed, initially felt very exposing and vulnerable. In time I calmed and started to soak in the other person’s presence. Even though I lived with this extended family of friends for 2-9 years, I felt like I was seeing something new about each one of them and myself. This exercise was done without talking and it felt really good.

The milling exercise brought our voices into play. In pairs, one person was asked to be the speaker and the other person had to simply listen and complete by saying, "thank you." This went on for a while so that most people paired up and spoke a heart felt thought to each other. I felt that having a history from living together for so long made this activity very potent. The content of people’s expressions reflected the personal relationship of knowing each other. I found myself speaking words of apology, praise, fear, love and hope.

As time passed, a new trust to express and be seen was being established. Later, we worked in pairs, taking turns, one-person asked questions and the other person answered. As the questioner, we were instructed to listen and be curious about each answer and then ask a relevant question to the answer just given. This went on for some time and the continual questioning was like a stepping-stone path. By being so attentive to following up on what was just said, information was disclosed from a deeper source. In my dyad, my partner was my boyfriend of 8 years. In time, the exercise brought us face to face with a mutual barrier of fear. Feeling too vulnerable, this brought our dialog to a standstill. When reconvening with the group, I shared my feeling of excruciating frustration. Some others also reached blockages. My communication breakdown felt like an old pattern that I wanted to look at more closely. An inner voice whispered…help. And I questioned, were there any structured communication skills that could ease this tension and release the blockages? I no longer want to shut down or irrationally emote.

We moved into a more formal style of teaching and were given a packet of printed material entitled Giving Constructive Feedback-what we used to think of as criticism. As a group, we read and discussed these guidelines that brought forth a common language that literally put us all on the same page. The focus of this new dialog style was to speak in the first person, using “I” statements, be specific about the behaviors one is reacting to, share what one is feeling, and clearly express the thoughts behind the arising reactions. With patience and persistence, we were learning how to speak to one another in a way that allowed for honest expression and mutual understanding. We formed groups that were observed by a teacher or assistant and we practiced, and practiced. Slowly we were dropping our guard, sharing our stories, and peeling off the layers of years and lifetimes of protective armor.

A safe foundation of trust and respect permeated the room. Volunteers were called forth and a married couple stepped forward, inviting us to witness them using this dialog format to work through tension in their relationship around feeling honored and appreciated. I felt compassion and empathy as they revealed their fears and tears. I felt my heart opening to the realization that we are not separate in our suffering and pain, and we need to touch the void within and delve into the darkness of this inner abyss. In there are the answers that will free our spirits to soar, if one is willing to seek and question.

As the exercises melded into one another, each potent day of deeply shared encounters blended into a continual energy of conscious present time power. I lost track of the separate days and the activities of each day. It seemed like the whole group was being transported into another realm of existence.

In a short time, my ability to attune to my feelings and speak honestly was expanding. We formed triads, small groups of three participants, and each one of us had to speak for 25 minutes. In the past I would have felt intimidated and vulnerable to be in the spotlight, however, the previous exercises formed a foundation of trust to share in a very intimate way. For me, I felt courage in speaking of long held resentments with members in my triad. I was heard, discussion flowed and a renewed connection to our relationships was established. In another triad, I witnessed my friend delve into his past, and breakdown in uncontrolled emotion and tears. I was so moved that I joined the assistants that supported him, by loving, holding and hugging him also. So far this was the most profound breakthrough that anyone in our group experienced. I felt the energy in the room shift as the transference of so much stored his-story coursed through my friend’s consciousness and slowly dissolved. The 12-year-old boy of the past finally had his voice spoken through this 44-year-old man. I was taken with the skills that the folks from Heart of Now brought forth to so gracefully guide my friend into his blocked memories. Though weary, coming back to present time reality, he appeared refreshed with a sense of peace and greater wholeness.

The power of this exercise stripped the layers of opacity between the people in our group, and further cleared space for our true spirits to more freely emerge. It was becoming obvious to me that though we were participating as individuals, the journey through this workshop was showing that we are linked together by numerous invisible threads of human conditioning. The false thoughts of our human separation were being transformed into expressions of our Heart of Now. For the remainder of our time, dispersed amongst home-cooked meals and improvisational dance sessions, we each had an opportunity to immerse into the poignant inner work of the “Platform”. We arranged the room so the group could witness an individual on a makeshift stage. Each one of us stepped forth to be in this vulnerable position, as the teachers guided the journey within. Noting that time was not a factor in the Platform, direction was given to breathe, make eye contact with everyone from the stages vantage point, breathe deeper, observe the bodies’ sensations, attune to core level feelings and notice the thoughts behind them. Having to speak these thoughts aloud triggered in many long held and buried memories. For some visual imagery appeared, for others parental and childhood influences surfaced from years ago, for most even deeper feelings of pain, craziness, struggle, numbness, and sorrow arose. Being reminded again to breathe deeper and describe the thoughts behind the feelings often caused anguished tears to flow and extremely humbling emotions to be vented.

During my turn, I initially focused on the sensations of what felt like a mask worn over my face for a very long time. This was associated with the idea that I have to maintain beauty and be vane about my body. This related to feelings of not looking acceptable when I was growing up. I carried thoughts that something must be wrong with me since I was being told to put on make-up, wear certain styles of clothing, and adorn jewelry. Going deeper, I confronted failure of not living up to my parent’s dreams and expectations for me, and then I recalled a deep seeded memory of knowing that my father did not want to marry and have children. My resentments surfaced and emotions swirled, and this was great, because I was now able to describe the pains that patterned my life. Next my attachment to these thoughts and habits needed letting go. The teachers suggested I use “role play”. It was here that I disclosed pent up feelings towards my father. What had previously gotten caught in my throat, whenever I tried talking to my dad flowed in a free, clear voice. What a release!

This radical vulnerability brought forth personal transformation, not only for the person going through the experience, but in the witnesses as well. We were being infused with empathy, compassion and endearment. The web of invisible threads that connected our human conditionings were now being woven into a blanket of open hearts and entwined soaring spirits. There is a way of being together as humans where love and connection, feeling safe and open can exist. It is not a dream or an imagining. It is real. I am living it now, more so than ever, and I am witnessing it in the members of my community. We now manifest, with great success, our intention of living together in right relationship and harmony since completing the Heart of Now workshop. I am deeply grateful to the visionaries that believe in this work and offer it to those willing to participate. I categorize this work in the realm of "making a difference" for humanity and the planet.