Some time ago I was a participant at an interesting workshop. The last day, we were asked to role up our sleeves. We were curious what the exercise is about, when we heard: “Each of you will have to grab a key that is hidden in a pit of snakes, you cannot see it.” You can imagine what was the response of more than 200 people in that room: fear, excitement, curiosity, …
The first thought that came to my mind: “Are they poisonous?”. I didn’t feel scared, as the lady beside me. Just noticing that, I start wondering what I would I get from this experience.
We split in a few groups, waiting in line to get our turn. And here I am, looking at the pit of snakes. They didn’t move too much. I found a place between the snakes, and gently direct my hand toward that place. The snakes were sitting on sawdust, so to find your key you had to move around your hand through the sawdust. I found one, grabbed it happily… and dropped it on the way out! I looked again at the snakes; they moved gently like they didn’t care. I calmed myself down, wait few seconds, and grabbed the key again… this time for good! “YEEEEYYY!!!!!”
I came back to my chair, wondering: What was that, why I wasn’t able to hold the key? I realized that this is a pattern that showed up in my life several times: I had no problem to focus on achieving something, I put all my energy into getting it … and soon after I drop it… or doesn’t interest me anymore…. or I don’t have energy to continue.
I wrote in my journal: “What do I have to do to break this pattern?”. I looked around, and talked with other people about their experience. A friend told me she was so scared, that she didn’t want to do the exercise, she cried! Noticing that other people went through this experience, she got the courage to try too. Still crying, she was able to get her key. She was so happy after, that she went back and touched the snakes to see if she’s still afraid of them… she wasn’t anymore!
The answer to my question hit me two days after, when I was driving on the highway! 😉 I realized I had that pattern because I focused too much on what I want to achieve, neglecting other important things in my life, like taking care of myself (sometimes I was so caught in what I was doing that I forgot to eat or get enough sleep). No wonder why, after I achieved what I want, my physical body reached his limits asking for more self-care! That’s why I couldn’t continue in the same rhythm or lost the interest. Now I finally understood what was missing: I shouldn’t neglect myself, no matter how important it is what I want to achieve or how passionate I am about achieving it! I might not even get there if I would continue that way!
That was a good lesson, and I apply it in my life since. What did you learn from your own life experiences?
Gabriela Casineanu, Thoughts Designer
While attending a three days workshop in San Diego in 2007, I had a very interesting experience as a homeless in downtown San Diego for three hours. The experience was part of the workshop and we all agreed to go through it, even we didn’t know what it is about (before it started). We were more than 150 people at that event and each of us had his own experience as homeless. When we got together at the end, we noticed how much we learned from it … all of us!
But let me start from the beginning: that day the workshop started very early in the morning and around 12:30 pm we were all hungry… waiting for the lunch break. The workshop leader asked us to choose from the cloths lying beside the stage (ripped shirts, T-shirts, skirts, pants, jackets, etc.), go back to our room, change our own cloths with these ones, remove any make-up, watches, jewellery … and lock everything of value (money, debit and credit cards, jewellery, watches, etc.) in the room’s safe.
When we came back in the meeting room, they put some makeup on our faces and gel in our hair to look like we were very dirty, with stuffed and ruffled hair … then we were embarked in a few buses. Everybody else looked funny, without really knowing how you looked like. We didn’t know what’s next, until the buses stopped in downtown San Diego.
We were told to resist as a homeless there… for three hours: alone, if you’re hungry or thirsty you have to manage the situation somehow, if you need restrooms find them, if you see another participants drop your eyes and pretend that you don’t know them, and you have to be at a certain place and time to catch the bus back. All we had with us was a small piece of paper with the place name and time regarding the bus and an emergency phone number!
I was amused by the idea of wandering in downtown San Diego; I didn’t have the chance before and I was curious to explore it.
I didn’t care how I looked. I knew that I am more than what other people see (homeless cloths and makeup), so I start walking on streets. I passed an outdoor skating ring (17 degrees Celsius!), a nice Christmas tree and I entered in the mall. Being thirsty, I stopped at Starbucks and ask for some water: “With ice or no ice?” she asked. “No ice” I’ve answered with a smile on my face, thinking that even a homeless could be treated honourable. I took a few brown sugar bags on my way out (to satisfy my hunger) and I continue my walk in the mall. I noticed people so busy with their own thoughts and what they want to do, that they made you feel… invisible! 🙂
I step out of the mall and walked in an antiquity store near by. Noticing that I’m looking at the furniture, a young man approached me. I asked questions about the piece on my left (more 19,000$), about the store and he answered very polite, like a connoisseur. When I turned to leave, he told me that I have a hole on the back side of my sweater, “Do you know?” he asked. “Oh ya…” I answered smiling, and he continued: “I hope you didn’t get heart!”. It was interesting to notice how he talked to me, I didn’t expect so much respect.
I continued my walk on streets, and a real homeless ask me for 20$! While responding “No” I start laughing… and walked away. Since the gathering place was near the mall, I came back to it. Almost two hours passed, I started feeling tired … and suddenly I saw the Restrooms sign. Oups, I really needed it! While washing my hands I noticed my face in the mirror: red eyes caused by tiredness, stuffed hair, dirty face … pretty much like a homeless. The more I looked at my face, the more I felt overwhelmed by the situation. Suddenly I started hearing music… Jingle Bells… Jingle Bells… I started dancing, smiling and… a happy feeling showed up.
My visit to the mall continued to a luxurious store with a jewellery department. Smiling, the shop girl said “Hello” and start asking me questions (how I’m doing, where I’m from,…). When she mentioned that they have jewellery of 19,000$ she really picked my attention! 🙂 “Can I see them?”… “Sure!” … and she took the key to open the glass lid of the table with the diamond jewellery. “You don’t have to… I just want to see them”, but she insisted to open it. Showing me a 10,000 $ diamond ring, she insisted I try it. With a shy smile on my face… I accepted. “Try this one too, it’s only 6000$… but the fun is when you try them!” 🙂 I thanked her and went away. I paid attention to what I felt while trying those diamond rings, was it anything special?! I didn’t notice anything. Maybe … when rich people buy them, it’s more about their moral value?! It’s like “I can afford this if I want” (the power of having money) or “look how much he appreciates me” (if it’s a gift), instead of a special feeling of wearing a diamond ring?!
On my way back it started raining… heavily. I knew that I don’t have a good resistance at cold, at rain even less, but if it’s a game… let’s play it! I was wearing a lace pattern sweater (with a hole on my back)… walking in the rain … while my attention shift from the cold and raindrops to the other side of the road. I passed by a man staring at me with pity, another one with curiosity, another that grabbed eagerly his pizza while staring at me … I didn’t care. I asked people about the time and they responded politely. I didn’t even feel the cold anymore. Approaching the gathering place I saw other participants crouched down and looking down too.
Finally, the bus came and we return to our hotel. We had 5 minutes to change the cloths in our rooms, then back to the event room to share what we learned from this experience.
Someone was so shamed of his look that he avoided the other people, the stores… he was even sent away in the street (from the hotel stairs) when he tried to protect himself from the rain.
A participant asked for money and she received, so she was able to buy a sandwich: ask and you will receive! Another one didn’t accepted when someone wanted to give her money… she realized later that receiving/ accepting is another way of acknowledging ones kindness, who gives you with open heart!
Listening what other participants had to say, I gain some courage to stand up and ask for the microphone: “I realized that cloths and makeup do not count so much, it’s about how you show up in front of other people… your attitude!”… and I gave the example with the diamond rings. “You look surprised ” said the leader, “What did you learn from this?”. A thought came into my mind and I expressed it loudly:” That I value more than I think I am.” “You were!” comes his comment. Thinking at the glass of water from Starbacks I continued: “Ask and you shall receive!” I learned how useful is to ask, you just have to find the courage! A young woman beside me said:” And they didn’t charge you for the plastic cup? I can’t believe it!?” I couldn’t pay for it anyway! 🙂 I learned also, but I didn’t tell them, that you receive what you need at the right moment: Jingle Bells when I needed to refresh, the Restrooms, the horologe when I needed to ask what’s the time.
The more you pay attention to what’s happening in the present moment and you shift your attention to something else if you don’t like how you feel (cold for example)… the more you help yourself out of the descendent spiral that drags your moral down… and the others will react accordingly (as a mirror of your own behaviour/attitude).
This was the description of my own experience and what I’ve learned from it. As you noticed, other participants had different experiences and learning.
It’s also interesting how people reacted differently to this story, since I sent it by email and posted it on a forum of discussions:
– some people noticed how the outside world reacted (the shop girl for example) and tried to explain why
– others paid attention to the inside world, my behaviour or how they would react in such experience
– for some, the experience was not perfect (different reasons); others found it interesting
– someone (with a religious background) said that angels protected me from something even worse when I heard Jingle Bells
– there are people that assumed something and sustained vehemently their opinions, without even verifying with the narrator if what they believe it’s true (for example, they assumed that it was a training for coaches or to learn about homeless behaviour – it was something else, even the experience could be helpful in such cases too)
– some people tried to learn something from this story, others tried to find flaws
– a friend with a journalism and philosophy background told me that the most valuable phrase from this story is “others will react accordingly (as a mirror of your own behaviour/attitude)”
– a sociologist told to my sister: “Excellent! Your sister is sociologist? I’m asking this because she has great skills as a participating observer in a sociological research!”
– someone said that entering dressed like that in a luxurious store was “CRAZY!”; she also had experiences when God gave her what she needed in that moment.
In fact, everybody is right from his own perspective! We tend to react and judge things based on our own perception regarding the external or internal world. However, how many times we pay attention if our own way of thinking – talking – acting or reacting at one moment in time … really helps us?! Is it useful for us to learn and grow … or weakens us even more?
Gabriela Casineanu, Thoughts Designer
Participating in a five days workshop in States in July 2008 was a life-changing experience for me. And I’m not the only one who says that!
Can you believe that a rebar of 1.6 m can be bended by two people pushing with the softest part of their throat, without using their hands? Yes, it is possible!!!
It was possible not only for two people, but for more than 200 participants at that workshop. For those of you who don’t know, a rebar is the metal bar used in constructions to sustain the resistance structure of a building.
Sounds like science fiction, isn’t it?! And yet, it happened under my eyes and I was part of the experience too. I didn’t properly read the workshop participant’s guide before going there, so I didn’t expect this experience. It happened during the second evening of the workshop. The first night we danced around the fire, drumming… it was fun! The second night, after the proper environment was created and we danced again on the drums rhythm, I realized what we’re supposed to do: each pair of two people should bend the rebar of 1.6m by pushing it with the softest part of their throats! Some fear showed up in my throat, right away, while I was listening to the instructions. I asked a young lady around my size and height to be my partner. I had a feeling that she’s more scarred than me, so I tried to find another partner, but I couldn’t. The instructions were pretty clear: “After the support team will set the bar between your throats, put your hands above the bar without touching it and look the other person in the eyes. Connect with him/her and push forward to give the other person a hug! You will feel the pain, but continue to push and the rebar will bend”. Doesn’t seem not so difficult, does it?! But if you try to band the rebar with bare hands, you can’t!
Waiting for our turn, we watched other people bending the rebar, one pair after another. Some had a few trials before bending it, some backed out, some were able to do it from the first trial. I tried to talk with my partner, telling her the instructions I heard from other groups, like: “The energy between you too is bigger than the energy of the bar.” She didn’t want to listen: “Don’t tell me anything; we will make it!”
And here we are, our turn: we wait for the support team to fix the rebar between our throats, looked in each other eyes and start pushing. A few seconds after, my partner closed her eyes, focusing only on her pain in the throat. She stopped and backed off. We tried again.. same thing. Third time .. the bar start bending a little, but I lost my balance and had to stop. Fourth time, my partner focused again on her pain instead of looking at me and she backed off again. We took a break, leaving the place for others to try. I looked for my partner and find her few meters away.
That day I heard a metaphor that I like a lot, it’s about the GPS. When the driver misses a turn, the GPS is talking to him with a warm woman voice: “It’s ok.. keep going.. recalculating..”, and soon he receives the information for the next turn. Nobody shouts to the driver about how stupid he is he missed the turn, nor the driver blames himself anymore.. the GPS is there to help him! I used this metaphor when I found my partner: “It’s ok”, I said, “don’t worry.. recalculating..”. Soon she felt better and we’re back. This time we had the assistance of the instructor, repeating the instructions, then telling us: “You have only one shot, use it!!!” So we tried again.. and she backed off again! Then she left.
Another young lady came to be my partner, but you could see on her face how scared she was! She tried once and backed out.
Noticing how many times I tried, and knowing how painful it is, a friend from another workshop offered to be my partner (she already bended the rebar with her partner). We tried once, it didn’t work. She came to try a second time, but changed her mind. The support team asked me: “Do you want to continue?” “Yes”, I answer, feeling the pain in my throat even without the rebar. The second girl came again to try, but she didn’t resist more than a few seconds.
Then a handsome guy came to help me, as my partner. Ouch! He is two heads taller than me and much stronger. “Will this work?!”, I asked myself, but soon I set aside this thought, getting ready to try again. First time .. he lost his balance, and we stopped. I heard again: “Do you want to continue?” “Yes, but I just need to take a small break”. Few minutes after, I’m ready again. The support team put the bar between our throats, we take our position, look into each other eyes and start pushing.. and pushing.. and pushing… I arrive to a point when I think I cannot push anymore.. but I try to see if I can push a little bit more. In that moment, the bar start bending.. people around us start cheering.. encouraging us to push even more.. and more.. I rich out to hug my partner while the rebar continue to bend, and dropped down right in the moment I touched my partner! Yeyyyyy.. we made it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wowwww! We hugged, yelled .. everybody around us celebrating our victory! They were there all the time, to encourage and support us.
I went to my room, a little disappointed that it took me so many partners and trials to bend the rebar, while others did it from the first trial. I start thinking about this experience: Why was it so difficult for me? What can I learn from it? What was my contribution to this experience? I wrote down all the answers I’ve got and went to bed. Next morning, when the instructor allowed us to ask questions, I was between the first people who stood up. I was curious how he will explain my experience, what’s his perspective on this. When is my turn to speak, I start: ” Last night I had what we could call a difficult experience. I had four partners: three women, and I was able to bend the bar only with a man, taller and stronger than me. I tried around ten times…”
“Four partners?!”, the instructor stopped me, “since I’m doing this workshop, nobody was able to resist to so many partners and trials!!!” He turned to the rest of the room: “Give her a round of applause!” My disappointment changed suddenly into surprise, and I thank everyone in the room. I didn’t expect that reaction. I continue: “I would like to hear your opinion about this experience. I had a few ideas, but I’m curious to see it from your perspective. I would also like to thank all my partners; I learned a lot from each experience. I think one of the reasons of having this difficult experience was my intention for this week: to get rid of all my limitations. I guess my unconscious mind tried to see how determined I am. I always believed that life is not easy, but I can make it (that’s what I did last night too, but with what price!).” “Yes, he said, it seams that it is a pattern that showed up in your life several times, including last night. You were able to continue with all those partners and finally bend the rebar, because you didn’t blame any of them.” I continue: “I learned also the Power of Unconditional Love!!! Is there anything else?” “It’s enough for now”, and he encouraged the audience to applaud again.
Wow… I really learned a lot from this experience! A new thought came in my mind: for the first time in my life I was able to stand up in front of a handsome, unknown man.. I didn’t give up to what I want! Wowwww.. I love that!!! 🙂
During the break, I met my last partner and thank him again. “You’re a strong woman”, he said, “the first time I lost my balance because you pushed too hard!” I finally realized the power of my mind!
Soon after, I met the person who backed out before him: “I’m sorry”, she said, “I saw such a fear in your eyes, so I told myself that we will not be able to bend it, so I gave up. But at least I understood why I was able to bend it the first time with my partner.”
I assumed the responsibility: “Maybe I had some fear, after all those trials that didn’t work. Thanks anyway for trying to help me”. Few minutes after, I went to her again and asked with curiosity: “Did you ever had moments, before backing out from difficult situations, when you believed that you are not able to succeed? Maybe the fear you saw in my eyes was a reflection of your own fear, after you saw that I couldn’t bend the bar several times”. “I’ll think about it”, she replies.
I remember the moment when the rebar start bending: it seems that when you feel that you cannot go further, it takes just a little bit of extra effort to win! And you need to trust your partner too, to succeed together.. as a team!
The rest of the week we had a few other experiences, interesting experiences, but nothing seemed difficult after the bending rebar.
By sharing my experience with the other participants, I gained a lot: unknown people gave me hugs or start talking with me during the breaks; one even told me that I am his hero for that week. I understood better my experience, just by sharing it and hearing others opinion.
And again, another lesson: all my life I kept my feelings and thoughts inside, and look how much I’ve got just by sharing them with the people around me. That’s how people get to know you better, and can understand who you are.
The fact that most of the participants bended the rebar, shows us how much power we have within, we just have to know how to access it and to be willing to do tap into it. Anybody can do that, if one doesn’t hide behind his fear. A 13 years girl was with us, and she was able to bend the rebar with her father. Do not underestimate the power of a simple hug! The power of unconditional love!
If you are curious to find out what helped me to resist to all that pressure on my throat during the ten trials, without giving up or get heart, I look forward to seeing you at one of my workshops. You could find out at that moment how I was able to walk on fire (in the same workshop) without getting burned.
Gabriela Casineanu, Thoughts Designer