Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Breathing in Bellevue First Night (and Wellness Wednesday)

Well, I made it through the first night of the Art of Living First Course (Breathing Seminar). I wrote more about it yesterday, but that was before I really knew what it was.

I made it throught the first night. It was a true learning experience for me. This has to be the most challenging adn trying thing of this type I've ever done.

First of all, the group of participants consisted mainlyof men. Young Indian (as in from India) men. About 70%. Some Indian women and a few Causcasians, but mostly men. Boy what a great experience in seeing how people from other countries have to deal with life here in the US every day. It's one thing to know about it and another thing to actually go through it. Most of the lecture was done in English, but peppered with words of another language, which could have been Indian or Sanskrit, which might be the same thing. Sadly, I am totally ignorant of this culture. I didn't understand much at all, because the speaker had a thick accent.

The main speaker was a highly revered teacher from India, a very holy and respected man. He seemed to be entertaining and funny; unfortunately I didn't get the jokes. I memorized some key phrases that were important in the context of the seminar but let the rest blow right by me. I am proud and overjoyed just to have finished last night. There were some bonding exercises and crowd-pumping-up type things that you find in churches and cult groups and pep rallies. Mostly, though we were breathing, breathing, breathing. All different ways. Every way I've heard of breathing and more. 8 in, hold for 2, six out, hold for 4. In out. Hands level. Hands on your back. Hands on your belly. Count and hold. Again. Again. Again. This went on for over three hours. No breaks.

We were told we couldn't do a bunch of things. Like eat meat, drink coffee or tea, drink alcohol, sleep no more than 6-7 hours, go to the bathroom without a buddy, etc. (There are more!) I used to be a "follow the directions" type girl, and now I just take care of myself and take dictates like this with a grain of salt. You know, I'll do the ones that are generally healthy but if something doesn't serve my health I'm not going to stress about it. Like stopping all caffeine cold turkey, sleep deprivation (which for me is less than 8 hours), or going to the bathroom when I need to---whether or not my delightful young Indian buddy Venky is available to accompany me. It will be interesting to see how that works...a bathroom buddy.

I respect "holiness" in a teacher from any discipline, but I am a big fan of personal autonomy, and subjugating things I need for a group is hard enough for me to do just on this very limited basis. Like going and sitting on the floor in a room for certain hours in order to get a certain result. Especially when they start really late (as in beyond the agreed upon times) and end really, really late at night (again, an hour late). That's hard enough. And when they exert social pressure to get compliance. I just hate that (because of my cult background). Maybe I'm more "American" than I thought, but there it is.

So I got "permission" to wear a pair of "house shoes" instead of going barefoot, because of my foot issues. And I'm wearing earplugs because of a congenital ear problem I have that doesn't respond well to loud microphones in small spaces or people close to me shouting. And I am sitting against a wall (not on my knees and haunches, as required) since I have knee issues. Sounds like fun, eh? I'll be you wish you were here.

Seriously, even though it's definitely not fun, I am wanting to learn about breathing, and that's something I'm sure I'll be able to do. And I'm taking care of myself, which is the "Wellness Wednesday" part.

Today I'm looking forward to the rest of the day, during which I'll write and read and walk and work. And to tonight, when perhaps my attitude will change. If not, at least I have shoes, earplus, the wall, and the ability to think for myself. Hey, I didn't always have all of those things, and I'm grateful.

~Picture by Cute Overload


CrystalChick said...

From the post yesterday I wanted to say that you look to have your things organized very well. I have been very lacking in that way lately.
And I like your earrings! :)

Regarding the first evening, it does sound like a challenge but also an interesting experience. How terrific that you are there, because you want to learn the breathing, and managing to make the other not so fun things work out. I had gone to a day workshop one time where there was a long meditation at the end. It was hard to get comfy with all those people and I wished I had chosen a space at the back of the room nearer to a door that I could excuse myself after my tummy started acting up. I have a few medical problems in that area and never know when it'll flare up.

Hope you have a great week filled with much good information!

Rick Hamrick said...

O, you are doing such a great job of adapting the nuggets of gold available to you to become your own!

Isn't it powerful to arrive at that place in life when you can, without hesitation, blow off the restrictions which don't fit? Truth be told, at least half of that stuff is about gaining compliance from the class and asserting control.

You, having already asserted that you wish to learn from the teacher, are less in need of that sort of thing. And, let's be honest, here: there comes a time in life when experience dictates that we do what we need to do to accommodate, regardless of what the teacher says.

I was blown away by the sheer volume of information you had arrayed in your hotel room! It's good to hear you claim your eight hours of are going to need to be rested to study all of that material in a few days.

Enjoy your retreat, my friend!

Olivia said...

Yes, Mary, you're right that I can keep focusing on the positive and on what I'm here to do. I can feel uncomfortable and learn to deal with it. My theme for this seminar was "resilience", but I didn't expect to have the opportunity to...ummm...DO it! BE resilient!

My earrings were bought for me by LoveHubbie in Maui :)

Thank you for commenting, Mary...

Love and blessings,


Olivia said...

Rick, Yes yes yes...I'm glad you get that. I'm actually just now getting it myself really. That it's okay; that there is nothing wrong with me for not being a good little soldier. 33 years ago I went through est (now called Landmark Forum) and submitted to everything. It is cool to be old enough and smart enough to say "Take a hike!"

Last night the illustrious teacher asked us, "What do you hope to get from this seminar?" Many people answered various ways until someone said, "Nothing!". The teacher said, "Ah, yes..." That was the correct response. Nothing, my #&%$$! I paid good money to come here and I'm gonna get something out of it. I expect to and I will! Just observing the psychology behind all of this stuff is wild.

Oh, yes, I went crazy with my study projects. Today I fell walking up the stairs and had to get a knee brace and spent time doing things to care for myself, throwing off my study schedule, and just decided to stop hurrying and learn what I can.

First, to be present. Then learn and write about resilience. Third, to restart yoga. Work a little each day on my book. Forget the rest. That's still pretty ambitious. Ambitious enough.

It's nice to be "our age", isn't it?

Peace and love and conscious happy aging,


Patti said...

This takes me back to when I began meditation class run by my Yoga teacher. We would sit for an hour, either cross-legged or leaning against the wall or even lying down if that was what worked for us.

My discomfort was immense at my first class and I could barely keep still, and my back hurt and my ankles hurt and I just wanted to go to sleep - what I really wanted was to run away and escape!

But I made myself turn up each week and sit for that hour and breathe. I practiced when I could and now, years later, I am able to meditate with ease. I welcome it and look forward to it, and it (and Yoga) is the best thing I have ever learned. You just have to do it. It's that simple.

And you are doing it, so what I'm taking a long time to say is - I think you're great for staying with it and with such good humour!

Olivia said...

Patti, Your comment crossed with my publishing another post today about how I cut out. I surely did try though, as hard as I could. It's so funny you say that you really wanted to run away and escape...that's what I did! I don't regret it at all, though. Maybe it's something about my cult background; it makes it hard for me in extreme authoritarian environments, and boy when you couple that with physical pain, it's a double whammy.

I know that my buddy Venky is really going to get it but maybe he'll run, too, although I doubt it. He seemed very much into everything. Everyone did. If anyone showed less enthusiasm in a process, he'd urge us "100%, 100%, everything with excellence!" We did a lot of gesturing and shouting as a group...

Well, I'm wondering if you'll think the same thing after you read my later post, Patti :)

Thank you anyway for your encouragement. Much love, O

Jane said...

Oh wow, Olivia! It sounds so intense. I think it's a really awesome experience. For me, I don't do well with people who take rules to seriously. I want to learn, but I have to be gentle with myself. A few years ago, I did an Insight seminar (similar to The Forum). I remember our small group of 25 standing around out in the hallway with dread and fear at what they might make us do when we got back in. Once you're in there, you can't leave until the next break 3 hours later. It was an odd sensation. I can't help wonder why the bathroom buddies?

Olivia said...

Yeah, Jane, I wonder too. I wonder about the whole thing and cannot cannot cannot imagine these guys going into corporations (as they say on their web site) and doing these seminars.

Since you've done a seminar like this you know the tremendous social pressure they foster. I think I kept myself more or less okay by keeping a part of my mind as an observer of everything that was happening because it was so curious.

Well, onward...thank you for sharing and for your support, Jane. Peace and blessings and love, O