The final day of the Immersion was pretty much off the charts. We spent the first part of the morning sharing about the experience with Paul Muller-Ortega. After several people shared how much they liked the weekend, I invited people to share about what they found provocative and challenging about the weekend. See the thing is that teachers like Paul are not the easiest people to be around. They are super-intense and lots of stuff arises in their presence. Like I told the group my dad always says that a good minister "comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable." The fact that you might sit in a talk with Paul all weekend and feel extremely irritated, uncomfortable and challenged is not a sign that the process was not working, in my opinion. It is, in fact, a sign that he was doing his job well in a certain way. But that doesn't mean it is easy to be with it.
I feel very strongly that our trainings and classes and meetings not be a space where we feel like we have to adhere to some company line about how everything is great. I know how hard it is to be on the side of having to chew on irritation, disillusionment, disappointment and discomfort and not feel like it was okay to say something other than "this is great!" So my commitment to myself and to my students is to, as best I can, create and facilitate a forum where we can experience things differently and really, truly have a space that allows for the expression of full spectrum of experience . If we cannot do that, then all kinds of crap gets swept under the rug where it festers, rots and sours the other stuff that is so beautiful.
With all my heart I know and believe in the value of being disturbed in the company of spiritual teachers, in community settings and in chambers that are created for growth and transformation. I also know that it can be a very stressful thing. For that stress not to become dis-tress we have to talk about things, we have to learn how to mine the discomfort for its gold. The tantric principle that "Everything can be useful for sadhana" is true but it is only a nice idea if we, ourselves, cannot truly make use of what that everything might be in any moment!
It was fascinating to hear the variety of responses to the weekend- from "I found my spiritual teacher" to "I felt like running out the door the whole time!" In my opinion, Shyla pretty much nailed it on the head. She reminded us all that Paul himself gave a teaching about how, within sadhana, we need fire (agni) and nectar (soma). She said, "Wow, some of us really got the fire. Some of us really got the nectar." And not a person was unaffected. I was stunned, awed, amazed by the different things people were sharing, by each person's willingness to claim their own experience for what it was and as I saw the spectrum of experience laid out so fully among us, I knew that- without a doubt- Paul did his job most well in serving us as individuals and as a group to take the next step in our growth. It was quite a process.
We took a short break with some some partner stretches and then moved into the closing circle which went even deeper than I expected. Truthfully, I was blown away. Well, maybe just blown open because I felt very much there, not away at all. Person after person shared and called themselves to speak from the heart as a way to honor what they learned and to really tell each other what it meant to them to be part of this group for the last 5 months. It was as though no one wanted to sell each other out by sharing anything that was less than from-the-truth-of-their-heart. Watching people dig deep- to grapple with the words and the feelings and face themselves and one another with such raw vulnerability was nothing short of miraculous to me. Even as I write I am moved to tears as I remember the beauty.
So it was an amazing week. On so many levels and in so many ways and while words do not do it justice, I had to at least try to get some of it down.