February 4th 2016 – Sedona Arizona
I felt like I was back in Japan being distinctly different from everyone else in this room. There are ninety women and approximately ten other men packed into a lecture hall at the Enchantment Resort in breathtaking Sedona, Arizona. I’m out of my element here for sure. Most of the participants in this three-day workshop are over the age of 55, and I’ll bet dollars to donuts I’m the only person here who has gotten paid to punch someone repeatedly in the face, or shown up to work and strapped on a pistol.
Eighteen years ago, while I was driving across the U.S., the book on tape “Anatomy of the Spirit” was my entertainment. It is written by Caroline Myss – a tough, no bullshit, Chicagoan who speaks and writes on spiritual matters and how they affect people’s physical health. That was almost two decades and close to four lifetimes ago for me.
Today began three straight days under Caroline’s tutelage. I’m not sure why I’m here other than fulfilling a promise I made to myself on that drive across country almost two decades ago. A promise that if I had the opportunity to learn from this woman in one of her intensive events, I would. During a break Caroline actually came up to me, presumably after noticing me sticking out a bit asked directly, “May I ask you what you’re doing here this weekend?” I got a bit star struck and stuttered back, “Um, I’m listening carefully and…um…taking lots of notes.” Smooth as silk.
Mystical Laws Govern the Universe
The subject matter for the weekend was “Understanding Mystical Laws.” Yes, the laws that govern us beyond the five senses and our concrete reality. In the last five years, I’ve taken courses on powerlifting, kettlebells, fitness program design, self defense, gymnastics, and now – mystical laws. There’s got to be a reason I’m here. I can feel it, although I can’t yet articulate it.
Before the laws were introduced, we were told about gravity. Yes, gravity. We were asked how many us believed a coffee cup dropped from chest height would hit the floor. All hands went up. The question was then posed, “Would the cup still drop if any of you didn’t believe in gravity? Is gravity dependent upon your beliefs? No? Good. Neither are the laws of the universe.” Point taken.
It had been a long time since I thought beyond the brick and mortar world. My life, especially the latest chapter of it consisted of down-to-earth concepts. Truly. Weights, times, speeds, human movement patterns, rents, marketing plans, and the like. For that entire chapter I pretty much shunned anything spiritual or mystical, even as an acupuncturist, even as a meditator. If it wasn’t going to help me lift more weight or choke people with more efficiency, I wasn’t interested and I can’t fully tell you why.
A Catholic school stint in Japan did a brilliant job of crushing any faith I had in any organized religion. The school molestation scandal that came out years later solidified my idea that those who yell the loudest about “truth” are often the ones living furthest from it.
You Are Not Special
“Now,” Caroline went on to say, “I have something extremely important to tell you. You are not special.”
Woah. Wait a minute here. I’m sure as shit special. My mom’s been saying so since day one. I have 9% body fat. I can deadlift over 400 pounds multiple times. I can speak Japanese and a bit of Spanish, and can count to ten in Korean. I’m thus almost quad-lingual and have my own blog – all about me. Hello? That’s uber special. I’m not sure who exactly in the audience she was referring to with her absurd blanket statement, but it couldn’t have been me. Yo soy especial.
Well, maybe I’m not. The lesson was in the deep truth behind the statement – none of us are above the laws of the universe. All of our choices have consequences. What we put out into the world we eventually get back. None of us are entitled to a great marriage. None of us are entitled to a disease-free life. None of us can avoid the laws of cause and effect.
I swallowed all of this down and let it wash over me. Here I was at a transition point in my life hearing that I wasn’t special. How much of my being in this transition was due to ignoring that critical understanding? Had my life toppled down around me because it was built on a foundation that didn’t include these laws? Maybe so.
Maybe I had lived without them, or while perpetually trying to outrun them. (I hate running, by the way.) Maybe I believed that if I was producing results in others, then what I had going on under my hood didn’t have to be running clean:
- If I could get someone to go from drinking four nights a week to drinking once a month, then why did it matter that I was drinking more than he was? I was producing results.
- If I could convince someone to go home and have an open, honest conversation with her husband about her needs and desires and how they weren’t being met, why did it matter that I couldn’t do the same in my own marriage? I was producing results.
- If I could get my patients to sleep through the night with only needles and meditation, what difference did it make that I needed a pharmacy to do the same myself? Again, I was producing results at a high level, wasn’t that enough?
Maybe health, success, and true happiness have less to do with doing and everything to do with being. Being congruent. Being authentic. Being open. Being vulnerable. Being honest.
Maybe I’m on this journey because the laws caught up with me. Maybe I had built a life on a house of cards and eventually that house had to come down. Maybe that was why I was there, to learn about building my new life on a solid structure. Maybe.
What You Breathe Into Comes Alive
Now that Caroline had clearly established that what she was going to teach us affected all of us no matter our age, color, creed, or station in life, it was time to get on to business.
Just like gravity is measured in the weight an object carried, she explained that “gravitas” was the measure of the amount of breath we infused into a story – regardless of whether that story was true or not. The story of our traumas. The story of our victories. And the story of our current situations.
Many of us in the room were there in search of healing some part of our lives. Many were battling debilitating injuries, or worse, histories so traumatic they couldn’t be spoken out loud. The human experience for so many is one of tragedy, pain, and heartbreak. Of children taken too soon, of dying spouses, and of parents and trusted adults that had crossed the un-crossable line. You put ninety women in a room and the unfortunate truth is that trauma is more the rule than the exception.
Many people had a story that was unspeakable, but that story was still being told and retold in their heads on a daily basis. Those stories had weight. And more weight was added each time it was told. That weight eventually gets carried by our cell tissue. It manifests as illnesses, neurosis, and mental, emotional, and spiritual crises. Call it what you want, people struggle in their physical lives due to the stories from their histories.
What we breathe into becomes weighted – I had to ponder that one deeply. Especially as someone who is not only breathing his story in conversations across the country but also solidifying them on this very website. A story unfortunately born out of trauma. Of heartbreak. Of tragedy beyond anything I’d experienced before.
Two Tales, One Story
Am I doing more harm than good by sharing my life? Was I doing more harm than good by telling my story and asking people for theirs? These questions hung heavy on me for the weekend, and to some degree still do.
To assuage this uneasiness about speaking and sharing, I ran a personal experiment. For the rest of the weekend when asked about my own history I answered in two markedly different manners.
- Answer 1 started with: “I woke up one Saturday morning in January a year after having a crushing miscarriage and out of nowhere my wife told me she’d be gone within the hour. I’m traveling to heal my heart before rebuilding my life from the ground up.”
- Answer 2 started with: “My marriage went into transition last January so I decided to take a year off to travel, do some soul searching, and write a kick ass book.”
Both of the above are true. Both lead people to understand where I am and what got me here. But that’s where things got interesting:
- When I gave Answer 1: I could do no wrong. I was awash in pity, understanding, and showered with love from my whomever I had just dropped that bomb on. It was a get-out-of-jail-free card for me for the rest of the conversation. Eyes lit up, hearts opened, and I was suddenly the son everyone wanted to protect. I could have lain my head on a number of bosoms. As an internationally acclaimed boob lover, I found this seductively tempting.
- When I gave Answer 2: People were intrigued and curious. They wanted to hear more about the adventure and the book. That was it. No boob offered. Interesting.
The truth of the Law of Gravitas was evident, though. Not esoterically, but viscerally. I felt the inherent power in being pitied. It was social currency. I could throw my wound onto the table and get something out of it by doing so.
When I told anyone Answer 1 though, I kept that wound alive. I could feel it in my stomach, and something didn’t sit well. It was a knowing that I wasn’t going to get past, beyond, and through my story by speaking of it that way. What happened had already happened. I didn’t need to breathe life into it any further. I want the wound healed so it stops dictating my life. I need that wound healed before I can become whole again. Breathing life into a wound just to get people to feel sorry for me was a recipe for a life of victimhood and keeping myself weak.
I made a decision that day not to speak of my story in that manner ever again without specific purpose. If someone asks, I can be truthful. If they are an intimate partner, they deserve all of my history unedited. But the world is not my intimate partner, and what I put out into the world comes back to me. This is law.
Choose Carefully The Story You Breathe
Changing the story of our pasts does not include dissociating from them. It does not mean we neglect to honor the traumas we’ve lived through and are thriving in spite of. What it does mean is that we have the option of being vigilant. Of understanding the power of our breath, and choosing when and where to breath into a version of a story that may not be necessary – but is necessarily disempowering. A version of our story that may give us temporary, ethereal benefits, but prevent us from healing not only our lives, but also the bodies that we live them with.
Caroline went through ten universal laws throughout the weekend. All of them applicable to living a life of amazement, a life guided by principles that included truth, the power of choice, and creating a deep relationship with the heavens above, or more aptly, the heaven within.
I took eight pages of notes that weekend, not nearly enough in hindsight as some subjects have to be heard and digested over and over before they integrate themselves in us. Outside of the classroom, I spent the vast majority of my time listening. Eating meals with women in their sixties and seventies was truly a blessing, a window into how people who live vastly different lives than mine think and feel. Despite our differences, I was touched over and over at how our similarities eclipsed our differences. Age, sex, sexual preference, history, none of it as important as the desire to find or maintain healthy love, build inspiring partnerships, and cultivate the strength to live life with full expression.
A big thank you to Caroline Myss for imparting her wisdom and to the ladies of the back table for including me and looking after me all weekend.