Be the Seer, Not the Seen
There was a moment in one of my workshops in the woods at the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival this August when I stopped being the seer and became the seen, and in that shift I became weirdly self-conscious. It was a moment, and it passed quickly, but such a fascinating, completely unexpected moment that here I am writing about it. I believe it holds something for my readers, because it exemplifies becoming the seen (and it's a fun example).
It happened on the one day at Michfest when I didn't like my hair. You may wonder, Who thinks about hair while camping? To which I can only answer, You haven't been to Michfest. (Brief explanation: There's a whole fashion show happening there on so many levels I'd need another article to describe it. Let's call it a range between outrageous, campy costumes, many of which play with and exaggerate the butch-femme aspect of lesbian culture, and clothes that simply best express an individual's attractiveness, style, and/or sense of personal freedom, with ratios of skin to cloth that follow no rules, and with zeroes sometimes figuring in those ratios.) About my hair, I've set it up to be something I don't give much thought to; so I rarely give it much thought. I've also set up my presenting so I don't give much thought to anything about me. This, in fact, is why I'm able to present in the first place and why I present with such ease and so much fun.
When I started coaching, I got a great gift from a master coach and teacher out of Arizona named Steve Chandler before I ever gave my first presentation. In his MindShift audio series, he says that you can't freely speak in front of a group if you're concerned about how the people see you, what they're thinking of you, how you're being evaluated. (There, you're being the seen.) He recommends bringing what you're passionate about to the fore and keeping your focus on that. (This makes you the seer.) He also places the priority on relating to the people present, harping on a single, beautiful point: “Only connect.” Equipped with this simple philosophy, and feeling quite passionate about what I wanted to bring to groups, I was pretty fearless about entering the realm of public speaking. Ah, friendly Universe.
Back to hair. I got experimental this year and grew my hair out from its usual short, spiky look to a cropped cut with longer meshes in front. It was fun to change and fun to get a little frillier, and I mostly love it. Sometimes I pull the front meshes outward (which just feels weirdly capricious) and more often I direct them down and in—much more no-nonsense. But according to this scheme, they do need directing, as one side wants to go one way and the other flips the other. On the day of that particular workshop, the sides wouldn't synchronize. I made a valiant thirty-second effort to tame them then reached the end of my willingness to play with hair. I stepped into the world and into my workshop with hair I wasn't thrilled with, but I had no plan to give it a second (hmmm—by then surely third or fourth) thought. I was willing. I'm willing to be one more human being on the planet having a bad hair day. I'm willing not to be a victim of my hair by wrongly believing it could make the difference between connecting or not connecting or giving a good or bad program.
I was certainly passionate about my topic. This would be my third time at Michfest presenting my Personal Power Surge workshop, about increasing and managing your personal power—not power over, but power to be the biggest and best version of yourself. (I'll be offering a shorter version near Ithaca this month at Camp Earth Connection's Healing Hearts retreat for women.) A key point of the power theme is this: Be the seer, not the seen. When you're the seen, you become an object; you're no longer the subject of your life—never mind the hero of your own journey. You become self-conscious, looking at yourself from the outside through the eyes of others (and all the thoughts you invent that must be going through their heads). You're no longer able to be curious, engaged, present. Rather than living through your sensory perceptions and experiences, you're mentally at the mercy of how (you think) others perceive you. The seer watches, takes things in, is free to hold back or step in according to choice. The seen, at worst, gets paralyzed; the seen, at best, dances and contorts to win approval. It's no fun to be the seen, and it's a power zapper, to be sure.
Power zappers figured in the workshop as a whole exercise that most people loved (it did throw a few introverts off, but they had the option to sit it out). The exercise required participants to act out in mini-skits the various ways we lose our power, sometimes on a daily basis, so that the others present could guess the category. Two womyn (there are no women at Michfest) were enacting Making Comparisons, and the skit opened with one of them pointing across the way and saying something about someone's hair. I was the apparent someone she was pointing to, but my brain somehow translated this gesture as being directed to some fictitious, invisible person standing somewhere between the actors and me. Still, given the wiring between my brain and my hand, a finger pointing in my direction with the word hair attached caused the bizarre, instinctual flight of my own fingers to the unruly side of my hair. As I stood there caught in an uncomfortable hair-holding stance instantly followed by an uncomfortable and self-disapproving vision of myself, the next words in the skit made it clear that, oh fun, they were actually talking about me. I'd been incorporated into their skit. This second comment was about my glasses. In quick succession, they then went to my torn-jeans look and by then I'd let go of my hair, literally and mentally, and gave a little spin so that my jeans (the ones my sister had recently counseled me to throw away) could get a 360-degree viewing. At this point I was genuinely laughing, and I felt only a twinge embarrassed, not even close to the mortification my former self would have felt. (In my younger, unhealed days, I could easily raise a burning, crimson blush if even positive focus came my way.)
I stepped out of that moment by bringing my focus back to what needed to happen next in the workshop and giving my full attention to that. All told, the whole episode lasted two minutes tops, and no harm was done in any way. I had a brief experience of being the seen, not the seer, and I moved back into being the seer so I could do what I was there to do. I could have hugely sidetracked myself, and done some damage to my beautiful workshop, if I'd gotten caught up in evaluating the moment, internally apologizing or atoning for my lapse, wondering what others had seen and what they now thought of me, and so on. All of that did suggest itself (typical thoughts will typically run through the mind), but for nanoseconds. The point is—and this is the way to live in power—I stepped out of being the seen and moved back into being the seer.
I'd like to take a tiny side-trip to talk about now. What I also did was to simply step out of one moment and into the next. I had no belief the content of the prior moment would contaminate the next. It's possible, and very desirable, to make this a way of life. To achieve this, it helps a lot to practice ongoing self-forgiveness, to believe and trust that all of life loves and supports you, to rid yourself of any belief that you should be perfect or practice anything in some constant, sustained way (more on that below), and, finally, to be the seer, and not the seen.
Through that brief episode in that sweetly contained workshop grove surrounded by embracing trees, I inadvertently demonstrated another important principle to the group—though (hindsight!) I wish I'd spoken it out loud. It's a principle I love to include in this power topic: living in your power doesn't mean setting it up so you're always there. (Good luck.) As with everything, you will step or fall out of it, maybe fall right on your face, but you can simply step back in. Catch yourself kindly—no self-flagellation allowed, as this will keep you in a negative vision of yourself and likely deplete and defeat you. Catch yourself where you don't want to be—say, in the position of the seen—and step back into your intention—to live as the seer.
Now apply this concept of being the seer to public and private moments, to scenes involving multitudes or one other, to everything in your life. I was recently reminded by a client question that you can apply it to sex, because when you become the seen instead of the seer, you'll get caught up in ideas of performing and forgo all spontaneity and joy, forget to have your own sensory experience, lose track of connecting, and possibly literally stop performing. Finally, you can even apply it in solitary moments, because (crazy humans) we mentally bring in others and their supposed thoughts of us when no one's even there.
Get present, get curious, step into now and into your power: be the seer, not the seen.
Love & blessings, Jaya
Healing Hearts Fall Retreat for Women! September 13-15, 2013
Camp Earth Connections, about a 20-minute drive from Ithaca, is hosting its third annual fall retreat for women. You can come for the day or the weekend, camp there or leave for less rustic accom-modations. I'll be putting up my tent! Registration is still open through September 10.
The weekend offers many opportunities to join in on workshops on any number of topics led by local women and designed to connect you to yourself, the land, and others in a way that's healing, strengthening, and sustaining. There's also music, fun with art, good food, and time to walk in the woods or hang out by a fire. I'll be presenting here for the second time this year, this time offering my Personal Power Surge workshop. Susan Rausch, director of Camp Earth Connections and creator of this retreat, has a particular passion for diversity and welcomes women of all kinds to this event. The diversity in the women present was one thing I most loved about my experience at Healing Hearts last fall.
Did You Miss My August Mailing?
You and everyone else: it simply didn't happen. I let it go when I saw it would be forcing the very full river to crank that out too on top of all I was doing. You can go back to every other mailing I've ever produced through the Inspired Writings page on my website.
Free Exploration Sessions
30 minutes of my time, no strings attached, in person, by phone, or by Skype
The idea of offering an X-minute taste of coaching to get clients comes from many sectors, but I'm breaking the rules by having no stipulations around who can take me up on this. I find I get plenty of clients this way and I don't worry about how many come of it. I consider it a time tithe. I happen to love these sessions and get a lot out of them myself. It's a privilege and even a perk of this work that I get to hear the stories of amazing spirits moving with such courage through this human experience. I find it deeply gratifying to sit with people of all kinds and send them away with a new perspective on life, self, circumstances—whatever needs readjusting—so that they can do it differently, connect to all that supports them, find their own innocence, come closer to self-love, be inspired by all that's possible. The fact that I get to do this on an ongoing basis for 6 months at a time with some people never ceases to amaze me and fill me with joy and gratitude.
To get the free session, just fill out the contact form on my website.
Will I Ever Stop Plugging the Work of Tosha Silver?
Nope, I'm pretty sure I'm in love with the book Outrageous Openness. (She's now got a new poetry book out, too, that I haven't checked out yet.) Almost every time I tell a client about OO, they end up loving it and mentioning at some point in our work together some concept they gleaned from it that they delight in or find life-changing. Tosha's work is so supremely compatible with mine, and she's so adorable, I highly recommend that you check out what she's up to if you resonate with what I'm up to.
I also love to make much of the amazing, sensually delicious products from Kash Iraggi of Balance Aromatherapy. This inspired Ithaca woman grows her herbs with great care and love, turns them into healing, nurturing products, and beautifully packages them for sale. I gave a sampling of her peppermint-rosemary salt scrubs to my Get Over Her! intensive participants at Michfest so they could complete a clearing with a salt cleansing, allowing everything unwanted to wash away into the receptive, embracing earth. As I smelled these amazing salts putting them into little giveaway bags, I could hardly take in what a lovely, high-quality product I got to share with my workshop participants. One of them wrote me these words about the salt scrub: "I loved how it felt using it, how my skin felt afterward, what it symbolized, the way it smelled and felt, its delicious moisture-to-crystal ratio, and just everything about it."
Kash doesn't have an online store, but just write her and ask her to send something--she'll deliver, and you and your skin and entire being will be supremely satisfied. I'm a particular fan of her Luscious Body Cream (aptly named) and Lavender-Rosewood Face Cream (just as luscious).
Fun with Facebook
Here are my two most LIKED and most SHARED posts from August:
You cannot change from a place of intolerance toward the self. If you find something unacceptable, you won't be able to shake it. (Carl Jung put it this way: What you resist, persists.) Whatever you can't stand about yourself, seek first to accept it. Yes, it is acceptable to scream, shut down, judge, do whatever you do, because human beings do these things, and you're a human being. If you can bring the compassionate, dispassionate witness to your worst self, if you can love yourself even when you disappoint yourself, you'll be better equipped to set a firm intention to do it differently and heal whatever needs healing. Acceptance is the first step toward change.
About the thoughts you feel stuck with, the ones you identify with. The problem with them is that you believe them, even when they're obviously not true! You want to be clear of these thoughts; you want them to never show up again. Why wouldn't they come back? You've poured tea for them. You've plumped cushions for them. I'd keep coming around too. Don't expect those thoughts not to show up. Instead, say, Ah, here you are old friend. But you don't have to believe what such a thought tells you. You can in fact remind yourself of all the reasons it's not true. Go over it as many times as you need to. The thought will stop coming around when it's sure you're not holding a space for it.
A cool event on my Facebook page in August was guest-posting by Breana Cross-Hall of Brighter Focus Coaching while I was off with Amazons in the Michigan woods. I loved the posts she made in my absence. They were personal, honest, thoughtful, universally applicable, and infused with love. Here's my favorite Breana post:
Yesterday I noticed myself believing that another was judging me. I felt my heart close in defense. My response was to judge right back. If, as Byron Katie teaches, there are only 3 kinds of business: yours, mine, and God's, then all the speculating in the world about what the other is thinking will not help the situation. Where's my business? Right here, working on my own judgments. When I drop my story and look again, all I can see is the love this person has for me. Beneath it all is love.
Thank you, Breana!
Visit my Facebook page anytime for daily inspiration and reminders.