Return To Your Self


The 2014 Transformational Presence Global Summit in Vught, Holland

While in Holland I led a group through a segment of an exercise called The Dream Police. I created the exercise years ago with John Langs and Lisa Paulson – two master teachers and performing artists – while doing some work with young actors at PCPA Theatrefest. The original exercise is deeply rooted in ritual and communal transformation. The group in Holland was engaged in a more personal exploration so I only led them through the first part of the exercise.

It is surprisingly potent and I’ve learned to use it carefully. The first part of the exercise sounds simple but can be explosive: Write for 5 minutes as if, in 5 minutes, your memory will be wiped clean. All that you will know of your life, of your values, your relationships, your dreams, your identity… will be what you capture in those few moments of writing. After the writing, in a ritual act, the scribbles on the paper are left behind. Most often, people destroy the paper. They shred it. The writing is lost. The question becomes, “Who are you without your story?” It is intended to disorient so the participants might reorient to the essentials of their lives; it is a great exercise for cleaning the gunk. It can be freeing. It can be terrifying. It is always illuminating.

The reorientation process is impossible to do alone. Reorientation is communal. Until Holland I’d never left a group midway, I’d never let the exercise stop in the middle of the disorientation and had always before made sure the reorientation process was at least initiated. IN Holland, the exercise was interrupted. The disoriented community fragmented. Some left the exercise feeling liberated. Others were angry. Some were confused or frightened. All left by themselves. Disorientation makes lonely introverts of us all. Disorientation is an individual sport.

The ritual of coming back to yourself is always a ritual of returning to the community. Clarity is a boon that requires sharing with others. To come back to yourself is to come back to relationship. No one walks this earth alone. No one is capable of saying “This is me,” without the presence and assistance of others. The process can be volcanic. It can be quiet and intense. It always requires another question: “Will you tell me what you see?”

24 hours later we completed the exercise. The individuals returned. They gathered, reoriented and a new form of the community was born. I knew all was well when the newly reformed community asked, “What do we do now?” and the only available answer was, “We don’t know – but let’s find out together.”

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