09 March 2007

A Lesson in Empowerment

Per my last post, I would like to say a few things about UYO - Understanding Yourself and Others, the course I took a couple of weeks ago.
I first heard about the course while reading a woman's blog that I frequented before making aliyah. She is a new oleh herself (or was a newbie like me at some point - now a veteran relative to me) and described the course as 'the weekend that changed my life'. Okay, I was interested, although skeptical. Changing my life in one weekend? Hm....not so much.
I then read an article she had written about the course and was inspired that this might actually be something worthwhile. So, being the adventure-seeker that I am, I signed up for the course.
I arrived Wednesday evening nervous, afraid and self-conscious, with all of my well-developed defenses operating at full power. Our first order of business was an exercise centering around our attitudes and defense levels. The instructors began engaging individual students in simple conversations to determine whether the student was 'in learning' or 'in protection'. Learning, they explained, allows us to be open to an absorb any new information or ideas into our minds and hearts. Protection, you might imagine, does the opposite; it is an important mode of defense that we use to protect ourselves at key moments. Neither protection nor learning is better or worse than the other. There's really no need to put a value judgment on either of them. The point was to make sure that we were, first of all, aware of which mode we were operating in at any given moment, and, second of all, to make sure that we could be in learning at that moment, which was the best place to be in order to get the most we could out of the course - for ourselves.
The real purpose of the course was just what the title suggests, but much more - to peel off the layers of pain, rejection (my hold up) and mistaken beliefs that we have formulated about ourselves, the world and our place in it and to begin to see ourselves in all of our magnificence, power and potential so that we can better fulfill our vision for the world.
The course is structured so that it does not end until every student feels 'complete', like they have gotten out of the course what they came to get out of it. This was a different thing for everyone, but everyone left with a feeling of real personal empowerment and a real connection to themselevs and other people.
Without providing too much detail, I experienced and completed some real breakthroughs within myself in relation to my brother and myself, which had been real hold ups for me for as long as I can remember. The instructors created an intention for me: "Expect the best - you will create it". The hit home. I realized, first of all, that, although I consider myself a very intuitive and 'in touch' person, these people could intuit and see parts of me better than I could and, second of all that I really truly believed, with everything in me, that at some point these good things that were happening to me were going to fall apart. I believed that, eventually, no matter how good things were going, the bottom was going to fall out, that I was going to fail, that my life was going to blow up in a big mushroom cloud of nuclear destruction. Great outlook on life, huh?
The thing is, this belief that I had was not connected in any way to reality. I was helped to see that this was simply a mistaken belief that I had formulated when I was growing up, connected to some experience I had. the truth is, kids are great at feeling things and experiencing things but lousy at interpreting them. I had simply misinterpreted some experience that I had had and held on to that belief deep inside, whether it served me or not, or even whether I was conscious of it or not.
With this in mind, it was not revolutionary to figure out what to do next - find out where the belief came from and change it. What was revolutionary was actually changing it.
The instructors took one of my earliest memories, which, for the sake of your time and mine I will not go into here, and recreated it. It was painful; I allowed myself to go back there, to feel the pain that I had felt. I literally felt like I was back in that place. We recreated the experience with a role play, and then they did something I was not expecting. The instructors set up the same experience but simply tweaked the ending, which turned the experience from one of pain and rejection to one of love and acceptance and friendship. I was in shock. I literally felt as if I was back there again and that the situation was different. I really was loved; I really was accepted. It really is true. It is amazing.
All it took, honestly, was altering reality in my head. Yes, I know this sounds like a cult or something, but if you think about it it really makes sense. Every day, with every experience we have, we develop some belief about the world and where we stand in it. Could it be possible that we are creating an alternate reality in our heads that doesn't actually exist? What if we could create a happy reality in our heads? Just a thought.....
This was, at the surface level, the beginning of the jist of my UYO experience. Of course, there is so much more, especially stuff that I am still processing today. I am truly beginning to see my own magnificence. I never had any problem seeing the amazing qualities of my fellow human beings, but BELIEVING myself to be a brilliant, fabulous and powerful person...this is new. And I am loving it. I am loving that sweet, innocent, witty, gorgeous little girl that still lives passionately within me, the one with all the potential for changing the world. I am loving that this same sweet, beautiful girl is me.
I wish you all an excellent day and, for my jewish readers, a peaceful shabbat.

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