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Learning, working and being with U

My new book is progressing well. The first 5 chapters are almost done. Still 3 or 4 to go. I will share my insights of the past years of  the U process. I am experimenting with the form of the book: in between a novel and a management book. Easy to read, many dialogues that sometimes have taken place and sometimes could have taken place. It’s fun to write and gives me more clarity what the essential ingredients are in learning, working and being with U. I hope to finish the first draft in in a month. But then it needs to be edited, revised, given a proper lay out etc.

Here you find the first part of the second chapter in the section ‘Learning with U’

1.2 Journey

‘Okay, I will coach you if you come next month to Brazil,’ Walter tells me. ‘I will give a weekend workshop for Global Brazilian leaders and you can join if you want to. Afterwards we can take an extra day to dive deeper into your questions and explore what you are looking for.’

I met Walter the first day of the Foundation Course Theory U. It’s clear to me that he understands ‘Presencing’ better than the rest of us. This is a wonderful opportunity to start to understand that ‘Presencing phase’ better. But does it make sense to go there for just three or four days? I know nobody there, will it be of any value to me? Does he really have the time when I am there? A ticket is expensive at such short notice. Will I be good enough for these leaders from Brazil? All kind of inner voices are distracting me. My wife helps me to overcome them: ‘You just go, it won’t hurt you. You’re already looking for such a long time for a coach. Last time I hardly recognized you when you came back from Boston. You changed for the better, I mean.’ My inner voices of judgment, cynicism and fear are shut down and the doubt is gone for the moment. Let’s go.

So now I am 45 minutes out of the airport of Rio de Janeiro in the jungle. The workshop is supposed to start. With a few people I am sitting in a room upstairs. Several of the Brazilians are late. It annoys me. I come all the way from Holland to this place and now we need to wait for a few people. Maybe I was wrong and should have stayed in The Netherlands. Some hardly speak English. What am I doing here?

‘We can wait for the others or we can do something differently,’ Walter says. ‘If we wait, we start to annoy ourselves. We question ourselves why they are not here and why they don’t have the discipline of being in time just as we have. But will this help us?’

‘That is a bit of a leading question,’ I think for myself. Let’s start and then next time they might be in time.

‘What we could do instead is to become present,’ Walter shares with us. ‘Let’s take notice how we sit. Feel the floor under you and hear the sounds. The sounds of the waterfall in the back, the birds closer by, the fan above us. Do you smell the cooking downstairs? Do you feel the breeze from the window? Notice the insects as well.’

I listen to his words. A deep feeling of gratitude comes over me. I sink in the moment. Gratitude that I am able to be here. I am sitting in February in the middle of the jungle of Brazil. The weather is beautiful and the nature is astonishing. The breakfast was great this morning and now I am sitting here. A huge load falls off my shoulders while the last people enter the room. They sit down in appreciation that we ‘waited’ for them. I feel alive in my jet lag, full of appreciation.

‘As you may have noticed: Presence is always close by,’ Walter says. ‘We are often distracted by our thoughts and are living in our own bubble. Not noticing what there is. We are prisoners of our mind. We get annoyed because we think that people should be in time for a meeting. We become judgmental about them. At the same time we don’t realize how privileged we are to be where we are. See how beautiful this place is. We can enjoy ‘Presence’ every time during the day…’ And he pauses. We are silent for a few minutes. ‘But we don’t have to make it ourselves too difficult,’ he continues: ‘Shall we say at what time we start and everybody will be there in time? I know that this is not important to Brazilians but we Westerners appreciate it a lot. For us from the West it’s still difficult to enjoy the moment and let it guide us,’ he chuckles. I am going to remember this moment the rest of my life. Maybe I should write about it.

‘Okay let’s start with an exercise to get to know each other a little better. Find somebody in the room and sit opposite of him or her. Make yourself comfortable. Sense yourself and relax in the moment. Now look each other in the eyes. Don’t stare, just look at the other person without saying anything. What do you see? How do you feel? You don’t have to say anything. Just notice yourself. If it is too much, look away or close your eyes for some time. And then return again to the other person and see him or her.’

For several minutes I look in the eyes of a man. He is the former CEO of a multinational here in Brazil. I’ve never looked this long into the eyes of anybody, even not my wife. I feel stressed. My cheeks are tight and I don’t know where to look. Since I am a male I should be able to look in his eyes. So I manage. His eyes are beautiful and reassuring. He seems to be relaxed. I see his pupils and the brown with yellow sparks in his irises. He hardly blinks and seems to be at total peace. I realize: This is a beautiful human being. I am struck with the love that I feel. For him and for myself. It’s silent for a few more minutes. I notice that I relax. It’s new to me to be so intimate with a total stranger who doesn’t feel like a stranger. It is as if I know him already for a long time.

‘And now the person with the shorter hair shares what is going through him,’ Walter says.

‘Lucky me, that’s him,’ I am thinking. I can’t share the intimacy that I am feeling.

Walter adds: ‘The other person sits and keeps looking. You don’t have a dialogue, you just listen for a few minutes to what the other person is sharing.’

‘I feel very happy to be here,’ Helio says with his sonorous voice. I realize that I didn’t hear his voice until now. He continues: ‘I look into the eyes of a wise man. A man who has travelled from far to be here with us. You have beautiful grey eyes with a lot of depth in it. It’s a joy to look into. I feel comfortable to be with you. It’s nice to be with myself and with you at the same time. It feels as if I know you already for a long time. Maybe in our past lives we met. It’s new to me to look into a man’s eyes for such a long time. It’s strange that I don’t do that more often. Usually when I am speaking I forget who is in front of me. I have less attention. I realize in this moment that I am less aware. Words often don’t bring more connection. They distract and bring me back in my own bubble. Even now it takes me away…’ He’s silent again for some time. I feel being seen. ‘I deeply appreciate it that you came all the way from Europe to us. It’s a gift to me and to all of us. You have gifts that you are in the middle of discovering,’ he continues.

Because of his words it’s even easier for me to see him. To sit at peace and just be with him and myself. When it’s my turn to tell what I am experiencing, I feel no inhibition anymore and share what there is. Including the intimacy and the love.

It’s late evening and I am in bed. Let me journal a bit: So what did I learn about ‘Presence’ and ‘Presencing’? It has to do with being in the moment. Letting go of your fears and diving into your emotions in the here and now. Be aware what there is without being those emotions. It has to do with connection. And with intimacy and love. Let’s go sleeping.

The next day we gather -in time- in the same room upstairs. We start with a short meditation to appreciate where we are. Walter leads us into the next practice: ‘Within 20 minutes we will gather next to the waterfall. There is a small field of grass where we will sit in pairs. One of you will lie down on his back. The other one will sit next to him. The one lying on his back will pay attention to his breathing. The other one will be sitting next to him for one and a half hours with all of his presence. After one and a half hours we take a short break and you will change roles.’

‘What is he saying? We will sit next to each other breathing for 90 minutes and that is all? Pay attention to our breathing?’ Nobody objects and a new feeling of wondering comes over me. ‘Okay, let’s see how this works out.’ I team up with a Brazilian Buddhist Monk and walk to the waterfall. I lie down and hear the water next to me. My monk sits next to me at the height of my chest. He is invited by Walter to place one hand on my belly and the other one of my chest. I feel him only a little bit. It’s almost as if he isn’t there. Strange. I relax in the breathing and sense myself. My feet and hands are warm. After half an hour Walter comes sitting next to my head. ‘So Hein, do you have any sensations? Scan your body and please you tell me what you are feeling.’ His presence increases the warmth in my hands and feet: ‘I feel warmth in my hands and feet,’ I reply.

‘Wonderful, feel it well…’ and it’s silent for some time. ‘And what are you feeling now?’ he asks.

‘The warmth is spreading from my hands and feet to my body.’

‘Okay, just feel it…,’ he tells me. ‘… What can you tell me about the warmth…? What feelings are there…?’

‘I feel comfortable… at ease… relaxed… And there is some annoyance.’

‘Wonderful. Feel it all. The warmth, the ease, the annoyance. It is all there. You can feel this all at the same time.’

‘Yes,’ I realize in surprise: ‘Opposing feelings can be felt at the same time. They are both there.’ My monk is still sitting next to me in silence. His hands are not anymore on my chest and belly.

‘Maybe you can share with me what age you are right now?’

‘Huh? What age I am?’

‘Yes. I know that you are around 40, but if you sense yourself in this moment with these opposing feelings. What age do you feel you are?’

‘I am 10,’ I hear myself telling him.

‘Okay, feel into that… what are you feeling now?’

‘I feel being loved.’

‘You feel being loved. Breath gently into that. Let your breath caress the feeling of love… Can you tell a bit more about the love?’

 

Isn’t this a nice cliffhanger? More to follow soon!

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