Who Am I?
If you ever come across a group like this, take it! Do it! (A group of people working together to expand themselves - done within a group setting.)
Here is how it works:
This is a group activity which usually should have at least 15-16 people in it or, better, about 30 people. I did it with 30 people.
The group lasts 7 days. You have to arrange all personal matters of any kind before you start this group because you agree that there will be no outside interruptions at all… none. No phone calls from Merrill Lynch about your portfolio, no calls from family about the kids. No interruptions… none.
Everyone in the group sleeps in the same room on futons. There is no sex, no attempts at sex, no jerking off, nothing. You sleep in a room with 30 other people and there is no sex… none. No physical contact, no hugs, no comforting anyone for any reason whatsoever. No touching.
You wake up every day at 5:30 am and the first thing you do is sit on the floor face to face, knees almost but not touching, with one of the other people, and one of you starts to speak and what you speak about is:
You perform the work to: “Tell me who you are.”
The other person sits there, listens and never says anything to you at all. They bear witness to your speaking about: “Tell me who you are.” They are not to nod, or agree, or show approval or disapproval of any kind. They merely sit there, maintain eye contact with the speaker and the speaker maintains eye contact with the listener, and listen. That’s it.
In 10 minutes, a bong sounds, you switch with your listener and they speak about “Tell me who you are.” You both must maintain eye contact, eye to eye, all the time. You may not “escape” into reciting something like your thesis you wrote. You and the other person must focus solely on speaking about: “Tell me who you are.” You may not “get bored” and attempt to fill your time up with seminars, attempts at one sided lectures on some topic, or responses to the listener’s accidentally showing some facial approval or disapproval of some sort or other… it can happen but it is dropped and you continue with: “Tell me who you are.”
After a half hour of this, everyone can take a pee and wash their face. It is now 6:00 am.
For the duration of this group you are with this group of people and ONLY this group of people. There are no outside activities of any kind… none.
And, you are in silence except when you are not in “Tell me who you are” turn at speaking. Otherwise, you are in total silence… no exceptions… none.
You wear a button saying “Silence” and were you to come across anyone else during the brief breaks, you are not to speak to them for any reason whatsoever… none. If you need a personal pee break, then you take it and do just that and return to the group immediately. Often the group leader will go with you. No wandering around or attempting to take a break away from this group and its purpose of: “Tell me who you are.”
The day lasts until 7:00 pm with brief pee breaks every 2 hours, and three meals of hot brown rice, hot tea and no other food of any kind. The group lasts 7 days. Ten minutes on when you speak “Tell me who you are” and then stop, maintain eye contact, and listen to your partner answer the “Tell me who you are” work. That is 5:30 am to 7:00 pm every day for 7 days with brief breaks for bathroom, food, and lights out at 9:00 pm and everyone goes to sleep then. No TV of course, no radio, no head phones, no iPod, no activities of any kind except to “Tell me who you are” when it is your turn.
Every 45 minutes or so, you switch partners so that during your time in this group you will have partnered with every other person quite a few times. They listen to you and you listen to them. How interested are you in other people's shticks? Well, not much actually. It is sort of like how interested we are when someone else insists on telling us about a dream they had last night... yawn!
You sign an agreement to do this. You agree to do it with no outside interruptions of any kind. You agree to complete the group and agree not to attempt to escape for some ”urgent” reason… none. You agree to remain focused on “Tell me who you are” and not evade that focus with wandering off into other stuff… none.
The work of the group leader is to keep everyone on target, on focus, on the topic of speaking about: “Tell me who you are.”
Everyone will attempt, often, to escape into some verbal filler-stuff to avoid having to speak about: “Tell me who you are.” You would be amazed at how tricky people get to avoid continuing with this work. The group leader’s work is to keep everyone focused and on point and not allow any wandering off into other stuff. You sign an agreement not to do this and to follow the instructions of the group leader. You agree to this beforehand. It is all by agreement.
Got it? This is not difficult to understand and I can assure you it will be one of the most difficult things you will have ever done.
Why would you do this?
Well, only if you are interested in the answer to: “Who are you?”
I can tell you about how this usually plays out.
First, everyone will do their past and their titles, degrees, business deals, authorities gained, term papers, theses, PhDs, kids, family, family history, husband’s job, wife’s job, money, portfolio, power, size of house, swimming pool, professional awards, possessions, and on and on.
Past and possessions and approvals and awards and titles. There is room for you to tell one or some of your war stories about some huge success you attained way back when, or, better still, a war story about some huge defeat and humiliation and some failure which was… not your fault! (and it is unfair if anyone says otherwise)… or, maybe it was your fault… or maybe not or maybe so. This can be worth explaining in some detail to suit yourself. Your partner is sitting there, eye to eye contact being maintained, and not approving nor disapproving… just listening for 10 minutes.
Then the bong goes off, and you switch who does the talking for 10 minutes, and then the bong goes off and you switch who does the talking for 10 minutes and then the bong goes off and you switch.
The past and possessions and approvals and awards and titles lasts for most people for about a day or two. And you run out of steam and REALLY want to go home! But, you only have 5 days left. So now what?
Slowly you venture away from the past and possessions and approvals and awards and titles and slide into emotions. Now the lid starts to come off and you realize that how you feel and your emotions are way the hell more important and impactful to you than the past and possessions and approvals and awards and titles.
Tears come and go. There can be huge, great emotional releasing and crying and blowing your nose and wiping your eyes of the tears. And then the bong goes off and you switch and the other person does the: “Tell me who you are” thing. And then the bong goes off and you speak and then the bong goes off and they speak and then the bong goes off and you speak… for what seems to be an eternity. And, it is only the third day.
And if you run out of what to say, you can repeat your yesterday’s topics and speak about the past and possessions and approvals and awards and titles and cry and wail and moan if you want. You have been switching partners every 45 minutes so you can repeat your performances with new listeners for a while if you want. It does not take long, though, before everyone has heard your shtick and you theirs.
And then it begins to set in: your shtick is really, really boring… and… as you realize how boring your shtick is, listening to other people’s shtick is REALLY boring. It is just awful. You can see through their shtick in 5 seconds and there you are having to listen to it and not say anything.
You can repeat, add new material, cry, shout, cover the same ground again and again until you are tired of it. There is no getting up, though. You have to sit there. There are exercise breaks every few hours with no talking and no breaking your attention and no food other than warm brown rice, no soy sauce, hot tea with no sugar and scheduled pee breaks every two hours and no escaping and then to sleep at 9:00 pm, no sex, no hugs, no comforting someone who is crying, no hand holding, and up at 5:30 am the next day to do it again.
There is no approval nor disapproval from your listening partners and you can get away with whatever you want to get away with as long as you are Ok with it. You can lie, be deceitful, tell stories about yourself that are total lies and that is Ok. You do that until you get tired of it. I promise you that you will get tired of it.
Somewhere in the third or fourth day you have worn out your history, your exaggerations, your lies, your manipulations, your possessions, awards, approvals, titles and college grade-point-averages.
It is not that there is anything wrong with them. We all have them. We all do them. But, you just get worn out with them. Listening to yourself lie about stuff gets awful and it has nothing to do with anyone else. You just get worn out with it yourself.
You may have noticed that this is actually not talk therapy even though it is talking a lot. In fact you MUST talk when it is your turn. There is no sitting there in silence when it is your turn to talk. So, you listen to the other person do their stuff and you listen to you doing your stuff and you keep doing your stuff until you can’t bear to hear it again. That is the big “let go.”
No one is calling your bluff. No one is commenting nor approving nor agreeing nor accepting nor buying into your stuff. It slowing becomes a matter of your listening to your speaking to you answering the question: “Tell me who you are.”
Soon sex rears its head. Not doing it, but telling about it. And, of course, there is the initial lies and bravado stuff, but, that does not last too long because you have run out of steam for your listening to your own lies and bravado. This is not judgment stuff. It is merely you hearing you tell your lies and deceits until you get tired of it. No one is calling you on this. It is all you. No judgment, just exhaustion. Enough with lying, exaggerating, deceiving, and deception. No one is judging you. You merely get tired of doing it. Then something else happens.
It starts getting to be highly interesting to hear yourself speak the truth.
It takes a while to get there. It’s like plowing through a stony field with horse and wooden plow to get through your being entertained with your own lies and bravados and exaggerations and awards and approvals and kids and houses and jewelry and cars and arguments and history and all that.
That is phase two. You find your honesty to be interesting and wonderful.
“Phase Two!? What do you mean ‘Phase Two’? How many phases are there? This is day 4 or 5 and I think we’re done now. I have found some honesty and I actually like it. This is nice. I am done now. Good workshop, time to go.”
Well, ah, no. We have 3 days to go yet.
The bong goes off and you switch partners and “Tell me who you are” and you are “on” again.
The being honest part is a nice discovery.
It is even fun. Frankly you may come to realize that you can be honest with yourself, say the truth, and enjoy it, like it. I don’t want to make a big deal out of this, but, it is a big deal. Most people spend an entire lifetime not ever getting to this point.
All of a sudden, you are fired up to continue the group and as you move around the room with different partners you may even then correct all the lies and exaggerations and manipulations with honesty and honest statements about the truth and what is real and meaningful and honest… to you.
This is a part of you that you had forgotten about: the part that knows the truth.
And, then there is another part and that is the part that says the truth too. Know it and say it.
One can get into a whole new field of self-delight because the truth is fun and you have this side to you that you just never realized was there. Knowing and saying the truth gets to be wonderful.
It was just a day or two ago and you wanted to kill the group leader and find that agreement you signed, rip it up, get the hell out of this ridiculous waste of time new age group junk shit and get on with the real world, make money and shout at the kids to clean up their room.
Now here you are smiling with glee at a new found honesty where you can both know and say the truth. Wow!
“Ok, Ok, I can say the truth for another day or two.”
And the bong goes off and you switch partners and you: “Tell me who you are” again and again and again and again.
So, the truth is great fun. As a matter of fact, you can correct all the lies and exaggerations and misdirections, diversions, deceptions and deceits you engaged in a few days ago. Tell the truth! It’s fun. And it IS fun, by the way… for a while until you realize that you are talking to YOU and telling yourself the truth is not the same thing as telling someone else the truth. Do that, and you could get a punch in the nose.
Wow. This is wonderful to know and say the truth.
In fact, come to think of it, I have always known the truth. Isn’t that odd? I’ve been thinking others know it and all along I have known it.
And the bong goes off and you switch partners and “Tell me who you are” is still on the table.
“Well, now what?”
“I’ve told the truth about what I really thought about all those approvals, and awards and degrees and titles and possessions and kids and wife (and husband) and house and car and stuff.”
“I don’t really love all that stuff at all.”
Well, that is a topic I have avoided all along. And now I have to say the truth because I have bored myself to death with my lies and deceits. So, the truth about love. Am I loving? I wonder if anyone else thinks I am loving? Well, my teenaged kids hate me so they are off the table, but, ah, hmm…
And the bong goes off and you switch partners and “Tell me who you are.”
Have I ever loved anyone at all? Have I ever loved me? I guess I had better start with me.
Tears come to my eyes. Am I loving at all even? I can’t hide now. I am a truth knower and truth sayer so I do know and I can say it.
Now I have to see something else about who I am: Love, loving, being loved, oh my.
And the bong goes off and you switch partners and “Tell me who you are.”
And then the group leader announces that because the group is going so well he has gotten approval to add another 2 days to the group. He is delighted and says this as though we have all been awarded something.
TWO MORE DAYS!!!
“Tell me who you are” is getting real old now.
Is there more? Can there be more?
Well, ah, the topic seems to switch and everyone around the room is now talking about spirituality and God and all that but it has to be in the context of “Tell me who you are” and not lectures on the scriptures. All in the context of “Tell me who you are.”
Odd that this topic rears its head after the being truthful part has already been covered.
Hmm, I think, perhaps I already know the truth and merely have to say it.