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September 3, 2016

When we think we’re Done Growing, it’s Time to Dig Deep.

Matt Evan/Unsplash

Do you ever have that feeling that you are “complete?” The feeling that you have reached the endpoint in your personal growth, where everything is just as it should be? Where you are what you are supposed to be?

Not too long ago, I thought I had reached that point. I thought I didn’t need to grow anymore.

But then last summer came. For years, I’d been spending my summer volunteering during vacation weeks for people with a mental disability. It was hard work, but worth it for the loving appreciation I got in return…until this summer.

I ended up leaving a little earlier than planned, and said goodbye to the organization. Back home, I mourned the loss of something I had loved to do for so many years—something which had become part of my identity. I felt slightly lost.

I hopped on the internet, trying to find something else to do during the week I had been scheduled to work, and I came across a spiritual center I had been keeping an eye on for years. One course they offered appealed to me. It runs twice a year, and thus far, I had never been able to make it.

And there it was! As if the universe had planned it this way, the course began on the exact day I had expected to start the volunteer work and lasted for the week. I felt a strong force, pushing me toward the registration form.

So, I hesitated.

I mailed the center with some questions, subconsciously hoping the answer would give me an excuse to not sign up. The answers came, but they didn’t offer an excuse. I signed up.

The course combined inner child work, tantric meditation, massage and all kinds of stuff I had never heard of.

I was nervous. I couldn’t sleep the night before, nor the first night. But I participated in all the exercises. I excavated my deepest negative assumptions holding me back from being myself. I helped others find theirs. Many times, I felt old pains come up. I became vulnerable and helpless—and I found help and support.

For the first time in years, I experienced support from others, given with the purest form of love. When I confessed my vulnerabilities, they’d look me in the eye with understanding. When I shed a tear, they’d move closer for a hug. When I felt afraid, they held and cherished me. There was no judgement.

There was no shunning. And in the collective vulnerability, I learned that all of us had so much in common. None of us were alone in our fears or shames.

I learned that my biggest subconscious fear is being left behind. Not being good enough.

I thought I was alone in that fear, but I wasn’t. With some degrees of variation, we all shared it. In seeing this fear, in recognizing our fears in one another, we learned to look beyond superficial appearance and connect to one another’s deeper layers. To connect at the level of the soul.

It was like sitting in a warm bath of delightfully-scented water. It was…paradise.

And then the course ended. Time for goodbyes and farewells. The participants all went their separate ways. Back into the world. Exposed again to real life.

I was slightly afraid to go back.

Everybody had changed.

The week after the course turned out to be intense. Because the world had changed.

In the supermarket, I found myself making eye-contact and exchanging smiles with the (always grumpy) cashier. In a restaurant, I made a suggestion to the manager and quickly realized this went beyond the usual customer-staff interaction. I met friends, close friends, and we both felt a connection deeper than anything we had experienced before.

Everything—everybody—seemed to be full of love.

People now respond to me in a new way. Gone are the formalities. Gone is the defensive behavior.

Last week, something happened. The world changed. It turned from a hostile environment—where every day was a struggle and every encounter a potential prelude to a fight—into a place of contact. A place of love. A place where human beings could meet other human beings and look them in the eye. In this place, we see that we have so many things in common—not the least of which our fears, our hopes and our insatiable desire to connect with others.

The world changed last week.

Or…did I?

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Author: Jeroen Langendam

Image: Matt Evan/Unsplash

Editor: Toby Israel

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