Finally on my way to yes
I bump into
all the places
where I said no
to my life
all the untended wounds
the red and purple scars
those hieroglyphs of pain
carved into my skin
those coded messages
that send me down
the wrong street
again and again
where I find them
the old wounds
the old misdirections
and I lift them
one by one
close to my heart
and I say holy
—Pesha Joyce Gertler, The Healing Time
It ends on Valentine’s Day, which is cosmically appropriate.
I find myself between two giants. One stout as the trunk of a gentle redwood and one wiry, brimming with a wild energy. I hug both goodbye with a little desperation.
I’d just shared nine days with these two, and 42 others, in the most utterly vulnerable and healing experience of my life. We are the last to leave, and goodbyes are hard. Maybe we are the last because it’s less painful to say farewell to a few at a time. This is certainly my truth.
Then another makes a surprise return as I head to my car. Love beams from this one, matching the neon-yellow glow of his shirt. I like to think he is the herald of my departure, his presence transforming my melancholy into a bittersweetness. It’s mostly sweet.
With eyes leaking for the bazillionth time I hug him and say, “I love you, motherfucker.”
In the rearview mirror they shrink, shrink, shrink as I drive away.
I surrendered at the doorstep of the Hoffman Institute with a fried brain, a heart running off fumes, and clothes smoldering from trials of fire.
This was it. My last throw.
On day one, my Intellect didn’t feel challenged much. It had figured out most of the dynamics of my past and their influence on the present.
Yeah, yeah, I get it.
Then they said I could give it space to rest. They said there were others who had roles.
Others? What others?
They said I had an Emotional Self. They said it was stunted, caged, neglected.
Well, duh. I’ve got emotions. But they are under control. Usually.
They said another was the Body. They said not only was it the vehicle, but that it stored a wisdom of its own too.
Again, duh. But I don’t know about that wisdom part. That’s my job.
And then they said there was this part of me called Spirit. They said this was my guide in life, the holder of eternal wisdom.
Intellect stopped resting with this announcement.
Wait, what? I drive this vehicle. I’ve ALWAYS driven this vehicle. It’s my damn job. I’m not giving it up to some woo-woo invisible dude.
This is when the teachers bombarded me with so much emotional and physical expression it blew Intellect’s mind.
Holy shit. I can’t keep up with this.
Every day built me up and tore me down. Over and over. But I never had a sense of insecurity. I was safe. Accepted. I was loved.
Loved? What in the hell is this place?
I accepted everything they told me. Whatever they asked of me, I did. I did all of it with senseless abandon. To hell with ego! I told myself I came to get down, not fuck around.
And in this way I began to heal.
The weather was gorgeous. Spring had made its announcement: I was going to bloom whether I thought I could or not. Arriving “tight in the bud” meant I’d spend most of my time during the Hoffman Process with a dog-paddling mind, sore muscles, and a less-than-sexy rasp of a voice.
Of course this was by design.
The group came from all over the world. New Zealand. Dubai. Paris. Berlin. Monaco. This was something I hadn’t expected. They came from all walks of life. A few were retirees. The majority of us were somewhere on either side of forty, but there were a handful in their early thirties. This made me jealous. If I’d only come here when I was 23.
Ah, living in the past. It’s a negative pattern in my life. One of my favorites. Turns out I have a shit-ton of negative patterns. Thanks, Mr. Hoffman.
The writer in me read my classmates as we all sat in a big “U” listening to the teachers. It’s an affliction that I can’t turn off. Some of their stories were written plainly on their faces. Some their bodies. Some of them gave up their pages in the way they spoke. Some were mirrors.
I instantly loved every one of them.
During this, another adored pattern clambered forth and screamed to be heard like the ping of a goddamn radar. The Caretaker. The Rescuer. Women, especially if I found them attractive, were this pattern’s mythical sirens….
SAVE US, COMFORT US, FOR THE LOVE OF THE HONKY-GOD LOSE YOURSELF IN US SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO DEAL WITH YOUR DEMONS.
I literally had to imagine myself with eyes tightly closed and fingers shoved into both ears while yelling LALALALALALALA. I had to visualize this a lot. It probably didn’t help that I’d stopped masturbating about a month beforehand. Perhaps that act was a little overzealous. Did I mention that extreme acts are a personal pattern?
ALL THE FUCKING PATTERNS.
I didn’t do any personal writing during the process. It was impossible. Oh, but there was writing. Every day. The funny thing was, the writing that I scrawled as part of the process was kid-like. It’s hard to put words together when your intellect is sitting in the corner, rocking itself for comfort. When my kid-self was angry, he was prolific. The words just gushed out like raging flu vomit.
Adult-me was jealous of that little punk. HELLO, PATTERN.
And then there were personal revelations that came like a sucker punch. POW. Often this happened in some kind of spooky synchronicity with someone else’s dawning recognition. Better yet, the things I was still in denial about refused to be avoided. Every damn time I made a conscious decision to avoid an uncomfortable truth or situation, I’d be foiled by circumstance.
The weirdness of it all was inexplicable.
Throughout the week classmates, one after another, thanked me. They said I’d helped by just being near them. I didn’t know how to feel about that. I wanted to discount their appreciation—in other words, I wanted to PLAY OUT ANOTHER PATTERN.
Instead, a voice in my head responded that I was being of service. It felt like a bell rang inside my heart. It felt like a call. A gift unused?
Whether any of us recognized it or not, we carried each other along towards enlightenment and healing. Does the Universe find pleasure in such shenanigans? If I were the Universe, I would. Is that a pattern?
Day one became day nine and we had to say goodbye. Where did the time go? We were told that we’d probably never see each other again. My head was still swimming, unable to comprehend the gravity of change I’d undertaken. I was a seed when I arrived. Now I was a tree. How could this be?
I don’t do goodbyes well…I’ve had so much grief and loss in my life. My insides squealed like a piglet being pulled off his mother’s teat. My eyes leaked like crazy. I felt like I was seven years old.
Don’t you dare ask if that’s a pattern.
Sad songs were not allowed to play while I drove home.
I started to wonder how I’d share my experience back in the “real” world. Should I explain everything in detail? Should I recommend the Process to others? I still had so much work to do.
I’d certainly not been “saved” like some holy roller. I couldn’t spontaneously levitate. I still hated math. The challenges I’d left during the retreat would be there to greet me with open arms when I got home.
But there was one thing. I loved myself. Completely. On motherfucking Valentine’s Day.
I now know I’ll love myself for the rest of the days I’m allowed to live.
I’ll let my actions speak for my profound experience.
Some of my new family are returning home as I write this, crossing continents and oceans. I know they are feeling just like I am.
They aren’t “doing good.”
They aren’t “fine.”
They are happy,
A bit lonely, maybe.
We gave ourselves permission to be vulnerable. Authentic. Raw. We cried in front of each other with snot running down our faces. Screamed in rage. Shared our grief.
Reveled in joy.
And in that our hearts bonded.
I miss them. Terribly.