I have just been in an amazing dream from the future! In the dream I was with 23 people at a retreat led by Charles Eisenstein and arranged by Brad and Sasha through Pure Immersions. Our hearts were wide open with love and connection, laughter and tears, flow and transformation. I must say that the dream was so real that I actually believed every minute of it! And it still lingers with me even though we have all left the dream to return to the current reality in our own worlds.
So funny that I find myself writing about the retreat with Charles in this way. At times it actually felt like a dream world. In fact more than once I felt like I was in the film Avatar with all the beauty and connection of the other world and I even found myself remembering the destruction of this beauty when the Mother-Tree was destroyed. I felt it real and my heart was filled with grief.
I think that the dream aspect of the retreat is a good metaphor because we came to understand that we must “dream” into reality a New Story that is based on a different understanding of the whole than we have today. I know how hard it is to dream a new story. I remember when I came to Norway thirty years ago and fell in love with the place. I wanted to stay there but everyone told me it was impossible because the government had cracked down on allowing foreigners to stay. I remember how at the time I had been working with visioning the future and began to doubt that I could use this approach in the face of the Norwegian government especially when everyone told me it wouldn’t work. But I held my dream of working and living there anyway despite the apparent impossibility of it. Little by little, small miracles happened and here I am thirty years later, looking back on a successful career and life in Norway. I did it. I created a new world.
Charles helped me to remember how “dreaming” works and I got my “faith” back even though it now seems impossible in our world today that a different “dream” could actually be manifested. This is the main message Charles brings to us and I already feel it working in me. From the moment I arrived in Bali everything seemed magical – the start of a new dream. Let me tell you a little about my Bali dream!
Before I left Thailand I decided with the help of friends that the most important thing I could bring to the Bali retreat was an exquisite Presence, with no expectations or preconceptions of what I would experience there. Perhaps this is the first step of creating a new dream. As I look back upon the week I am amazed at the magic and flow that followed me from the moment I arrived. The first step for me was to take a leap into the unknown and travel on my own from Thailand to Bali. At the time this seemed like a big step and I was surprised when I discovered that another participant was traveling on the same flight. She was traveling from Tokyo to Bangkok where we met at the gate. This was a delight to me and I was thrilled that Betty and I became quick friends with so much in common.
Arriving at Ubud, we separated to go to different hotels. My hotel, Hotel Tjampuham, turned out to be a stunning “jungle hotel” where peace and beauty reigned and here my adventure began. On my own, I easily struck up conversations with various staff members. The head of the reception and I had a long talk when he asked how long I would be at the hotel. I told him about the retreat and its purpose and he was totally interested. He told me how he works with his staff to help them maintain the old traditions of Bali that are full of respect and contact with the earth and all beings as they move into in more modern life. “Eyes, heart and hands”, he said, was key to making everything work! I loved that expression and we both got a lot out of sharing with each other. What an unexpected surprise. Then I went to the hotel restaurant for dinner and sure enough ended up in a deep conversation with restaurant manager who also wanted to know why I was in Bali. His story was that he is the one in his village who organizes the ecological aspects of living well with the land! He wondered if I could come and talk to the village to help them understand new approaches to recycling! This definitely must be a dream – I thought.
The next day in the evening Charles was to speak at a local café in Ubud before the retreat started. I had the day to myself so I went to the pool at the hotel to relax. A young woman was the only one at the pool and she was busy intensely reading a book and taking notes. This got my attention. After a few comments and a refreshing swim, I felt compelled to ask her what she was reading. She showed me her book which was something like Divine Guidance by Diane Fortune. OK! That led us to a long exciting conversation and in the end I invited her to Charles’s talk that evening. She was thrilled to come and felt like she had been given a huge gift as it was her last night there and she needed some guidance on some big decisions she had to make. I felt like we had know each other for ever and loved her company at the lecture. Gifting seemed to be the theme so far!
About the lecture – who would imagine that anyone would come to hear Charles Eisenstein speak in a little village of Ubud. Well another surprise. Two hundred people showed up – mostly westerners many of them living in Bali. Ubud has turned into the Yoga center of the world. And people gather from all countries to find like-minded people. I had definitely landed in heaven. But before you think this is all about the westerners. I must mention the conversation I had with my Bali taxi driver in our hour long ride back to the airport at the end of the retreat. This lovely man had studied mystical thinking for twenty years and was currently training in Reiki healing with a master in Bali. He was in the third year of training which was all conducted in the Indonesian language and to make it even more interesting he told me that over 10,000 people attend the program! What! I told you it was a dream.
Now let me get to the main part of the dream that was preceded and closed by all these conversations. For five days we gathered in a circle and practiced recognizing our deeply engrained “habits of separation” that keep The Old Story in place in our world today. Understanding how separate we are from the earth, from each other and from ourselves, helped us to see how deeply this paradigm affects all aspects of life. The New Story is the ability to recognize and live the truth that all things are interconnected and whole. Charles led us in his humble and deeply authentic way giving us gems of understanding and fun enlightening exercises to reveal how blind we are to the pervasiveness of the myth of separation in our world today. There is no way I can transmit all of his teachings – and it isn’t necessary – as his writing is so forceful and insightful that it is best to just recommend his newest book The More Beautiful World... or any of his other extremely insightful and deeply holistic books that will open your eyes wide to what is right in front of us but can’t be seen because of our current paradigm!
Instead let me say that he put our focus on clarifying the New Story that wants to be born and illuminating the limited beliefs that stand in the way of our manifesting it. The New Story is one of “Reunion” and of “Interbeing”, of “The Ecological Age” and “The World of the Gift”. He helped us to recognize how deeply “separation” is programmed into each of us as a feeling of lack and scarcity – of everything from money to love. Charles puts a big emphasis on the word “Gift” and “Gifting”. I was surprised to discover that he takes no money for his talks or retreats but ask that people “gift” him if they feel that they have gotten something worthwhile. He also shared with us the process he has been through to allow himself to do this in clarity and honesty. This is probably what I appreciate most about Charles – his deep authenticity, honesty and vulnerability. Using fun exercises he helped us find our gifts and at the same time recognize how we block them with our limited beliefs. We also put words on our individual habits of separation and scarcity, as well as our pain and our joy. Little by little we worked our way into our own vision of a new world and played with that in the same way I used to do when helping leaders imagine a new organization that seemed impossible – but which they eventually managed to manifest. Very strange to be doing just this work on such a huge scale with such enormous implications. But it is the same process. And little by little we actually began to imagine that it is possible. In fact we could feel ourselves actually living it together as love sprouted and our new Group Being was born through our deep interaction of joy and pain.
Charles called this retreat “Living Life as an Offering. An offering is a gift with perhaps some sacrifice attached to it but given freely and with love. In order to gift we need deep and meaningful relationships and connections. My life as a gift is seeing the part of me that I can share with another. All my qualities and capabiliites are the gifts that I was given by Life. When I use them to give back to Life it actually touches and includes all Beings human and otherwise. It is this that makes me live my life as an offering. During the retreat I began to both experience and understand that humanity is supposed to fully join the “tribe” of all life on Earth. We came to recognize that purpose, consciousness and intelligence are the innate properties of all matter, the universe and the Life Force. When we really understand this, we know that we are in the flow of a purpose beyond our own small self yet each and every act that we perform is part of that life force and affects the whole. These are the gifts that Charles brings to the people who have ears to hear.
These teachings are not new to me. What was new was experiencing them as so real as we shared our living with open windows to all of nature. To experience myself as a giant among the ants and to recognize how clumsily and thoughtlessly I disregarded their role in life. Every action is important to strengthen the new field – I tried to remember this. We learned about turning from force and manipulation, a key principal in The Age of Separation, to flowing with what is emerging, a principle of the New Story. But it was surprising to see how force and control can also be a key element in our own desire for personal growth. We discovered that monitoring and judging ourself as well as habits of scarcity and envy can cause us to try to manipulate both life and ourselves. It doesn’t help to try to get rid of these habits – this only leads to using more force, a subtle kind of instrumental materialism – to use Charles’ words. Instead we learn to observe ourself in these habits and actually accept that the habits are a deep part of us. Self-compassion is a key to helping us do this. Even though I teach this myself, it is not always easy to notice myself falling into the same bad habits. We need others to help us see. This is why community is such a big part of The New Story.
If we want to be effective change agents we must offer a new story that contradicts the old story. We need to develop an attitude of humility which is a natural outgrowth of seeing another being as just like us. When we accept that everything has consciousness we must give up being lords and masters of nature or trying to interfere with nature. The best thing we can do in this time of dissolution is to see everything as a mirror of the self. Knowing that who you are is a totality of all your relationships. And learning to trust a deeper guidance system within us and then the magic unfolds. Then miracles start to happen.
One of the exercises we did together was to tell stories of anything that we had ever experienced that felt like a miracle. The stories went on for hours. How difficult it is for us to believe in miracles – even when they happen to us! How easily we dismiss them with alternative explanations. Yet I do know that some things just can’t be explained and when I allow miracles into my life – more of them happened. Haven’t you said at least once that for the world to transform now we need a miracle! Well perhaps that is exactly what is true. Will I choose to believe that miracles are possible and hold that dream until it comes true?
Some people say that Charles is preaching to the choir. He says this is true because we need to know that we are not alone in believing in miracles. We need each other to dare to think a new story into being. We are the mutants who carry a new gene forward so that something new can be born. Are you a mutant too?