This week I celebrate my 39th birthday, and it seems like the perfect time to tell you a story that I've been wanting to share. I think it's great one for describing my journey of self-realization.
Unity was my first experience of church when my Mom discovered it, I was about nine then. I loved the community and the message that God was an energy that is ever-present and always accessible. When I was in high school I became part of Unity's Youth group, Youth Of Unity. It was here that I first experienced spiritual intimacy- learning to speak honestly, practicing active listening, participating in and leading meditations, organizing and facilitating weekend-long heart-opening events, appreciating silence ( no easy feat for a teenager) I am certainly where I am today because of that access to spiritual awareness and the space to practice with trusted peers.
I stepped out into a couple leadership roles within YOU, and there was usually a retreat just for the leaders to bond and do some planning for upcoming events. On one such retreat, a husband-and-wife motivational speaking team were hired to lead the group of 6 or so of us through some exercises. My then boyfriend was in the group that weekend. They intended to lead us through these practices by playing a series of tapes for us to sit and listen to together, then to try out what the tapes described. Remember being a teenager and finding lecture-style teaching tedious? How about when the instruction was coming from a tape? Yep, the couple's role was to hand out worksheets and pens and then usher us through a series of taped lectures. It was insufferably dry. We were a pretty small group, and one guy among us asked if they would allow him to rig up the boom box to play on High Speed Dub, so we could listen to what they wanted us to hear but faster. Thank goodness they agreed, I think cutting their losses and wanting to be rid of us meddlesome kids as fast as they could. We wanted to get on to the exercises where we could get up and move around. What we forgot was that all the set-up was in the recordings, which we'd now listened to at twice their regular speed.
The super-fast tape voice asked us to write down a list of things we really wanted, then whittle it down through certain instructions (given fast) to your top five. I may not have followed along so well. When it was time to work with the top goal that we were to have carefully selected through this process, likely meant to be our deepest passion, what was left on my list was "have a surprise party thrown for me" I know what you're thinking, and I don't know! I honestly cannot imagine what the writing prompt was that inspired this except that maybe I was just trying to fill space on my paper, like maybe I was supposed to fill 20 blanks and I was seriously slowing down by 10... From there I somehow continued to flounder until all that was left was this sad little wrinkled balloon of a goal. We were then instructed to write down three reasons we couldn't possibly achieve this goal. Too late to go back I chortled through. Then they told us that we were going to go for our goals together! Right now! Are you PUMPED??
In sort of American Gladiator style, we were going to act out being the obstacles that our peers had imagined for themselves in the exercise while they would actively work to reach their goal, their deepest passion, that was waiting for them, written on poster board on a chair at the end of the conference room. The entire exercise was to be carried out while Irene Cara's What a Feeling played on the very same boom box (sitting on another chair at the starting line end of the conference room). The time was coming when I'd have to write in big letters that what I wanted most in the world, my deepest passion, was to be given a surprise party. It was as awkward as you imagine. To this day, when What A Feeling comes on the radio I squirm.
But guess what? 3 weeks later, on my birthday, my deepest passion was realized when those guys showed up in town and surprised me with a big ol' party. The boyfriend didn't come though, too tricky to get there from Canada in time. I swear he was from Canada, and also that I had no idea that having "a boyfriend from Canada" was a standard cover for not actually having a boyfriend at all. That's another post.