It is difficult to describe how it felt to spend the day with Elizabeth Gilbert and Rob Bell at a Creativity Workshop in a small theatre in Brooklyn. Particularly as I didn’t quite feel myself at the time. It was in the days after the US Presidential Election and although I was keen to attend the event, I couldn’t deny that I was still in shock from the results. I felt personally affected by the decision of the American people. Echoing back to the days following BREXIT here in the UK, I felt the impact of being an immigrant, mixed-race, female, and I felt vulnerable.
I didn’t know if they would mention the Election – even with it being in New York, the audience could still be divided – but they dove right in, facing it head on, naming the “elephant in the room”. And I was so glad they did. They named the debilitating disorientation I had been feeling over the last few days – the shock, the fear, the paralysis. But rather than hide from the world, they encouraged us to “dance in the flames”. To think about what we can create now, in the devastation, not when everything is good and perfect.
Rob spoke of the impact of experiencing a painful disruption, and how it gives you a choice: you can reject others, bury yourself in hate, dig your heels in self-righteously, or you can allow it to break you to make you better, and use it as a chance for introspective reflection in order to find out how this happened in the first place. He advised us that every eviction we experience is an invitation to a more honest life, if we choose to accept it.
Liz spoke of the messiness of compassion, and the difficulty of communicating with those we do not agree with. She reminded us that we can push away anyone who ever makes us uncomfortable, but another will simply rise in their place. So if we can find people we love who also push our buttons, then that could be a good place to begin practicing this type of open communication – to find the common threads that bind us, rather than the differences.
Rob guided us through an exercise to show us how connected we all our – how our internal organs and systems of cells impact our health, in just the same was our external environment does. Ignoring the bad cells in our body can be just as toxic as ignoring the harm being caused to others around the world. If there is pain the body; we will feel it. If there is pain in the world; it will affect us.
Liz shared her thoughts on the way women need to develop their powers for the future; embracing the Sacred Feminine, or Divine Femininity, and all its power and grace. She spoke of the Profane Masculine, with all its rage and abuse of power, and how great speakers of the past aimed to provide their touch of Divinity – Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela – all urged a more peaceful form of being; the Divine Masculine. And yet how toxic it is for women to absorb this guidance literally, as they are already in tune to a more peaceful approach, and exaggerating this only makes them to become meek, damaged, victims. Whereas the Sacred Feminine is neither vengeful nor meek; she is a Goddess Fire, a force of compassionate strength. She is that voice that says “I love you too much to put up with this for another minute” and “I love this too much to allow it to be abused anymore”.
She spoke of the anxiety that women carry around with them on a daily basis – “to be a woman is to be anxious”, and wouldn’t it be revolutionary to become a relaxed woman? She gave us two practical means to achieve this:
- Airtight boundaries – knowing who we are, and where others begin, and
- Faith – believing in ourselves and trusting that “everything will be alright”
Imagine feeling relaxed, with clear boundaries, and confidence in your abilities – how safe and secure would that be? How much more clearly would you see the world? Rather than being terrified or panicked, you would get the privilege of feeling “concerned”. You could sift through everything that comes your way – this is my business, and this is yours – with a clear level head, rather than jumping into ‘fight or flight’ mode. She reminded us that using our time for worry is misspending our sacred energies, and that “true health is stepping into a situation and being able to hold on to yourself”, rather than diffusing our energies wildly. The President-Elect’s entire campaign has been based on distracting energies towards fear; the best response is to not give him ours.
More to follow in Part 2 (if and when I get the time and energy to share it!).