Before 8th of March 2014 I didn’t know, and in fact didn’t believe you could be fully present. How wrong I was…
Lets back up one day. I’m driving in my car from Lund towards Södertuna Slott (Castle) located just outside Gnesta, about an hour south-west from Stockholm. The weather is warm, the sun is out and you can feel the leaves could spring from the trees at any moment. As I sit in my car driving for 4 hours and still 2 hours to go I started wondering what the weekend would be like. As you might have guessed by now it isn’t a regular weekend and it wasn’t because it was in a castle but the workshop I would be attending. All I knew was that it was about waking up and living in the moment or “Dags att leva” (Time to live). I didn’t know what we would do, or what it would be like.
Some backstory… The previous year I had taken two personal development courses, although they helped me enormously—which I will cover in another post—I felt they lacked the spiritual side of living. Long story short I was recommended by a friend to take the “Dags att leva” workshop. So I did.
Arriving at the castle I was greeted by a fine round fountain in front of the main house—the ones you usually see in movies in front of mansions. I walked in and found myself at the reception and felt a bit lost not seeing anyone else. I walked out again and took a stroll around the house. I peered for the friend who had recommended this workshop but only a few other guests were visible. As I went in through the main door a second time I was greeted by my friend and a staff member and felt a sudden relief. After quick greeting I got my key and I stepped out once again and started walking to another smaller (read huge) house as the main house only had lounge, dining, and conference rooms. Once I my room I took off my shoes and threw myself onto the bed savoring every minute of rest I could get until the workshop would begin in 30 minutes, at 5:00pm. Once again I found myself wondering how the weekend would be like and what we would do. A quarter passed and my room mate, Tomas, for the weekend knocked on the door—I decided to share the room with another one from the workshop. His face was smiling warmly but there was a sense of hurry in it and he was off almost instantly mentioning that he was part of the team for the workshop.
The clock struck 4:50pm, I rise from the bed and started walking to the workshop. I entered conference room at the top floor and found that candles had been lit and placed both around the room and in the middle of the floor surrounded by 24 chairs, I found Tomas seated in one of the chairs opposite Tomas. I greeted him and sat down on the chair closest to what looked like the workshop leader, Johan—I have a habit on taking those seats I guess fewest would dare taking. Slowly the empty chairs filled up and Johan started to explain why and how this workshop had started and that it’s goal is to silence the monkey in our brain that keeps thinking, judging ourselves and others, and creates a barrier from being fully present in the moment. Everything was very relaxing and I started to relax until the dreaded moment arrived, the presentation round and of course I happened to be last. I was certain that nothing bad would happen and everything would be great, but even so my monkey started going over one way I could introduce myself for every presentation before me. As my turn arrived, I silently said “fuck it” to myself and started with “During the presentations I came up with 22 ways I could introduce myself…” (HUGE LAUGHS) to my astonishment everyone started laughing and all my tension was relieved, I continued “But I decided to go with the flow instead. I have a really loud monkey inside my head and I think extremely much and over analyze things all the time and I would really learn a way to silence it, maybe not for good, but at least for some time every now and then when it’s not needed.”
The rest of the day was focused on relaxing ourselves and not caring about what others though about us. One of the task were dancing while trying to move every part of us in line with the music. Although everyone had closed their eyes it took about 3-4 songs until I could relax myself fully. I admit that I peeked two or three times partly because I wanted to orient myself and where everyone was but mostly because I was wondering how the others were dancing. There were all sorts of dancing, small light movement staying mostly in place and those who jumped and stretched out everything and everyone looked more or less ridiculous 😛 This made me relax as I didn’t have to fear to look ridiculous as everyone looked ridiculous (in a good way), but also envy those that looked very relaxed as they could relax so easily.
The next day started of with revisiting dead people. Sadly I don’t remember this experience that well. What I do remember is that it was tearful, soothing and relaxing, and a new experience like nothing else. All these exercises were essentially a build up for the evening when everything changed. They helped me getting in line with myself and I doubt the next exercise would be successful if I wasn’t relaxed already. It started with everyone lying on the back on their own yoga mats. Everyone started breathing in very slowly and releasing the air in our lungs forcefully while only thinking on the breathing. Every now and then Johan reminded us to focus on the breathing. After what seemed like an eternity (about 20–30 minutes) Johan mentioned that some of us would be entering the second stage where hidden emotions would come rising up and that we could observe them, accepting them, and not trying to oppress them. I had a hard time focusing since it felt like my entire body had cramp and was getting restless and angry. I don’t know if the anger was from the experience of restlessness and cramped or from hidden emotions and honestly I didn’t care at the time and I’m not sure I care now either. All I really could think of then was “when will this be over”, “we’ve been going on for eternity, surely it must end soon”, “I don’t think this will work”, “I won’t make it to the third stage”. But stubborn as I am kept breathing and decided to give it my best try even though I didn’t think it would work. Finally after another 20–30 minutes we were allowed to start breathing slowly and I felt such a relief that the pain from the cramp would finally be over. After another 10 minutes we were allowed to open our eyes and slowly look around and finally rise from our yoga mats.
It was when I opened my eyes that I noticed something was different. Everything looked real. When I slowly sat up and looked around me I could see all the other people but also feel them, it was as I felt everything but at the same time not and everything was beautiful. It’s a weird sensation that I can’t explain, you have to experience it to get it. The best way I can describe the feeling is having an infinite amount of invisible arms and hands you can feel with and your eyes had a pair of glasses that made everything look extremely crisp and you could see the beauty in every structure, every branch in the trees outside, everything had a structure and for a reason. There was a sense of oneness in the feeling. The brain monkey was gone and only my own thoughts filled the brain every now and then, but mostly it was empty from any thought, only sensation filled the brain.
This changed a lot of things. For the first time I began thinking consciously about spirituality and that you could really live in the present and that I had the ability to do so and it wasn’t a hoax. It’s easier to enter a state of mind where I’m present—it doesn’t work all the time, often it doesn’t work, but sometimes it works as opposed to before when I never really had been present in the moment before. I could also say that I was a bit skeptical to all exercise, but most of them I could somewhat see why they would work and how it would help.
I’ve noticed that I’m more easily present in the moment when I’m feeling great and at ease with everything. I’m generally this when I accept myself and do what I love and don’t have any musts in my life, they have been converted to wants instead.
I have never done the exercise again, especially by myself since you can get lost if you don’t have another person to bring you back and I can understand why even though I don’t think I would get lost I believe on other words and won’t go with “this won’t happen to me”. I’ve also never been anywhere near the same sensation of being fully present since that exercise although I still feel I can be present. Currently I’m very present, but I neither feel like I have extra invisible arms nor do I have a pair of super glasses that makes everything crisp and beautiful. There’s no monkey at least 🙂