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Putting Adam in the Picture

By Adam Murray

How I’m doing isn’t significant.  What I’m doing is totally significant.

I’ve always been a “quiet one”.  You know the type, you’ve seen them hanging around at the edge of whatever’s going on, observing everything, but not saying much – a bit aloof, not really engaging.  Well, that was me.

Other people, particularly girlfriends, had taken me to task about it before – usually because they felt embarrassed by my quietness.  It never made any difference.  I was convinced that I really had nothing to say and no amount of pleading or cajoling was going to change that.  If I had stuff to say, I’d say it.  I wasn’t going to try to force myself to speak and I wasn’t going to prepare beforehand.  I wasn’t really happy with the situation, but what could I do?

A couple of months ago Pete & Cynthia tackled me on the issue.  Their approach was different from the others; they weren’t trying to change my behaviour so that they felt better, they wanted to hear what I had to say so they could see more of who I really am.  They didn’t believe me when I said I had nothing to say.  They were quite sure that I had responses to whatever was going on around me and that I was suppressing them.

Move on a few weeks, during which I hadn’t really changed anything, and still believed that I had nothing to say.  Interesting conversations often start at breakfast time, and this was no exception. Cynthia asked if I’d like feedback about the massage I had given her the previous weekend.  The feedback started very positively, I was surprised and moved by what she said about how good, technically, the massage was.  Then she said that, despite the positive effects of the massage, at the time she found it almost unbearable.  The reason was  that I was not being free in my own being while I was giving the massage.  I was holding back.  Cynthia sensed this and found it impossible to relax throughout the whole thing.

It was another case of me having to be 100% right about what I was doing before I would dare to do it.  This is a deeply entrenched pattern of mine, and exposing entrenched patterns is a favourite pastime at Quinta da Mizarela!  They’re a barrier to consciousness, you see.  They’re a way of staying asleep.  So, that morning it was time to have another go at my holding back, my habit of suppressing my responses, my way of being more interested in how I’m doing than in what’s actually happening.  I know I’m not alone in this; I suspect many people have that constant voice in their head, “How am I doing?  Am I OK?”  The problem is that focusing on how I’m doing seriously gets in the way of doing anything of genuine worth.

In the case of giving a massage my desire to be caring was more important to me than the needs of the person I was supposed to be caring for.  That’s why I wasn’t free – I was too interested in whether or not I was doing a good job and not interested enough in what I had to give.  Cynthia put it very succinctly: “Care enough to risk it all going bad” she said.

Suddenly I saw that what we were talking about was the issue of significance that had come up in the Conscious Conversation group on the previous Monday night, and Pete wrote about in a recent blog post .  I had a flash of inspiration.  “How I’m doing isn’t significant.  What I’m doing is totally significant.”

When I’m concerned mostly about how I’m doing, how I’m measuring up, I’ll be playing safe, managing my responses and actions so I don’t mess up.  I might make a contribution of sorts, but at best it’s competent and lacklustre.  It’s drained of any vitality that would really give it value.  If I drop the egoic need to get it right and instead bring the whole of my being to my actions then I have so much more to give.

Returning to the issue of me speaking out – for example in the Monday night Conscious Conversation group.  A couple more weeks had passed and I still wasn’t saying much – still not convinced that I had anything to say.  Pete and Cynthia were having none of it, and this time they were even more direct in the way they challenged me.  The message was, “If you’re going to be here you can’t be complacent.  We won’t accept that.  This is not ok.”  For me that was the turning point.  I got that I wasn’t really bothered by my lack of engagement – at least not enough to actually do anything about it.  I was being complacent. I didn’t care that much and, left to myself, I wouldn’t try to change anything, and I’d go on being not very happy in the way I relate to other people. It was easier to go on doing that than to risk being in the picture.  To risk being seen.

The thing about not speaking is another example of the bigger thing of being more concerned about how I’m doing than what I’m giving.

After this I took it more seriously.  I watched myself.  I began to realise that I did indeed have responses to what people around me were saying, but rather than speaking them I would check them to make sure they were okay.  For every response I had I made up stories about what would happen if I said it aloud.  The stories were mostly unhappy tales in which I would appear stupid, get laughed at, make someone angry, or provoke some other undesirable reaction.  All of this happened incredibly quickly – a habitual reflex that was completely unconscious.  All I was aware of was a kind of uneasy feeling that something unpleasant might be about to happen.

As I brought more awareness to how I was managing my responses I saw that I had a choice.  I could either sit back and listen to the stories I was telling myself and continue to feel uneasy and untrusting, or I could lean forward into the present and engage with the world more fully.

Since I decided not to give attention to my stories I’ve been talking more in the groups.  None of the stories have come true – even when I’ve said things that others question.  I’m discovering that I do have something to contribute.  I feel freer – because I am freer. More free of that bit of my conditioning.  Every time I exercise my choice not to engage with the stories I am being free.

I really appreciate Pete and Cynthia, and how they don’t put up with crap.  They put a lot into supporting me in realising who I truly am.  And they do it with a lot of love and compassion.

This is how we can change the world.

Adam Murray

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