Anyone who's read this blog knows that I have been attending Friends in Deed, an organization that helps people who have been dealing with life threatening illnesses, caregiving or grief. And last November, I did the Mastery there, a weekend workshop that has been around for over twenty years. The Mastery is, I guess, about self-actualization, feeling your feelings, looking at old patterns, letting go of "your story," forgiveness, opening yourself up, and working on making some changes in your life.
When I was in the Mastery as a participant last November, I was in a very different place than I am now. This time I participated as a volunteer, in the "back row." Everyone in the back row has done the Mastery and have been through the process and many have done the back row dozens of times. We help by making and serving meals, cleaning up, talking to people who are taking the Mastery, participating in a few exercises, and generally making the weekend flow smoothely.
Sally Fisher and Robert Levithan lead the Mastery and they are amazing group facilitators. I just love them both. I think that the first time I took it, I was so filled with grief, I just ate all the good meals, did the visualizatons, cried, felt all my feelings, tried to take down some notes about what they were talking about, and was held up emotionally with all the support in the room.
This time, I was able to be more present, to listen, to breathe, to have the honor of hearing people's stories. Out in the "real" world, we all have masks; we are what we do, we're part of families, organizations, we have labels. I'm a doctor, a teacher, a lawyer, a mother, a father, a caregiver, a whatever. And my story is, "I lost my mother when I was twelve, or I have been divorced, or my kid is a drug addict, or I'm depressed, or I wish I could quit my job and do something I love, or I should have had more loving parents, or I wish my husband would appreciate and listen to me, or why doesn't my mother accept me for who I am?" We all live with our stories and carry them around. In the Mastery, you are asked to drop the mask and the stories and just be you. Just let the walls down, open up and allow strangers to get to know the essence of who you are - be naked - knowing that you are totally safe and in a room of other people who are either naked with you or have been naked before and survived.
Robert said that when he was a young man, someone he was dating told him, "I would like to find someone strong enough to be vulnerable."
That was the line that most resonated with me this weekend. And to see how much I have changed, just since November. I'm no longer feeling intense grief, I'm feeling happiness and living in the moment more easily. Life feels good most of the time, even though it's February and once again I had to walk Lucy at five a.m. (at least this time I didn't get locked out.) When people allow you to see who they really are - you fall in love with most of them. I met so many exceptional people this weekend (including the one I kissed.)
I feel so grateful that my life is filled with wonderful people, so much love and compassion, so many friends. I know that I am lucky now and my greatest wish is to find ways to really give back for all that I have been blessed with.
The food was still delicious, but what most nourished me was the friends I have made at Friends in Deed, and the new friends I have met this weekend.