There is much to say about the Phase 2 players retreat that took place in March 2010 at the Chaminade in Santa Cruz. This is first of several posts I will be making about the topic.
So let’s talk about separation.
Separation is very good. It allows for the structure of day and night, sound and silence, and you and me. The idea of “you and me” allows for us to have roles wherein you know something I don’t, or vice versa.
I began the weekend by recreating a very familiar Phase 1 role for myself: the student. As, the me who “doesn’t know,” I enter a room set up with round tables and office chairs, business stationary and bottles of water. Everything about the environment screams for me “lets workshop this!”, whatever this is. But I roll with it (especially cause there are rolly chairs!) And it feels comfortable. Most of the time if a Phase 1 pattern is comfortable, it means it’s time to get real uncomfortable.
I meet Robert in the very first moments of being at the retreat. Instead of feeling like an equal, like we actually are, I feel like a very special student allowed to be in the presence of a guru. The student/teacher paradigm is wonderfully intact. He gives me a hug. Ok, so maybe he’s a new agey guru, but a guru nonetheless. My perception of him before this was as an anal-retentive, logic-minded, straight shooting businessman. Yet in this moment, confronted with his unique separate entity, I see cracks in that perception already beginning to emerge.
For one thing, he’s incredibly laid back. For another he has almost no plan for this entire three day retreat.
“We’re going to start with introductions,” he says. Seems right. I should get to know all these strange people who all separately felt compelled to be here this weekend.
(I’m paraphrasing here) “Tell us as little (ha) or as much about yourself. Your name, where you’re from, and how you discovered the busting loose work.”
Simple right? Of a 3 day retreat, the introductions took almost 2 full days.
Each day lasted about 10 hours (9am-7pm) with maybe 2 hours of breaks each day (give or take.) The “introductions” were then 8 hours the first day, and about 6 hours the second. Or 14 hours, or watching the extended versions of Lord of the Rings with ample snack and bathroom breaks. What I’m trying to say is that they were epic.
And not just epic in length, they were epic in emotion, in intimacy, in meaning, in transformation.
One by one people laid bare their souls in the form of their storylines about money, rejection, their search for meaning in life, and imagined octopus’ clinging to their heads.
That last one wasn’t a joke.
While I listened to stories about visions quests, law of attraction, and losing everything, I started to really get something.
Firstly, I started to get that the introductions were not really introductions, but one of the main points of the entire retreat. As I said before Robert hadn’t planned this, but If these were introductions, your entire life is a prologue.
Having my expectations for this retreat completely dashed, I started to let the truth of it seep in – that listening to these sometimes completely irrelevant and rambling personal biographies held many nuggets of direct experience.
Furthermore, that every one of these people were me, and everyone was telling the same story. You who are reading this, are living the same story. You can’t not, because you came here to do exactly that.
Sure, the details are different, but slowly distinct patterns begin to emerge.
- You comes across the book in an inconsequential manner – a friend recommends it to you, or you idly picked it up from a bookstore one day.
- If it is meaningful, you most likely learn the wrong thing from it first, especially if you’re steeped in the more more more, bigger bigger bigger, mindset (which you can’t not be in Phase 1)
- The book in many of your stories sits on a desk for months, unread.
- You eventually read it, and sure enough, your life as you know it falls apart.
Some were telling this from the perspective of the initial “falling apart” and some were telling it from the new expanded perspective that inevitably comes like a rebirth from the ashes of their old life. But as the hours passed equal parts boring and riveting, mundane and completely fantastical, I realized I was watching my story in a hundred different permutations.
Like a prism of truth with colors in infinite varieties.
During “break times” I had the privelege of talking to myself dressed up as old wise women, fit and ambitious men, gorgeous younger women, clueless and depressed older men, and every other kind of person you can imagine. I met myself as a porn star, an energy healer, a lawyer, a disillusioned wanderer, and as a guru.
If you’ve been playing in Phase 2 for a while, you know (or atleast you try to understand intellectually) that everyone is you. Yet, most of the time this fact does not stay in my awareness. An absolute gift of this retreat was that I allowed my persona to see the truth more easily in everyone else. As it went on the truth felt more and more obvious.
That is one of the reasons I highly recommend a retreat like this – if nothing else than to be in a room with a hundred other people who hold a significant piece of truth. The feeling of expansion happens tenfold in this environment.
For the first time ever, I felt home. Not the home in the story where my parents raised me and I lived (though ironically Santa Cruz where the retreat took place is that.) The home outside the story, where nothing is seperate, and where we each play dress up for the fun of it.
Though I met many people for the first time, I felt like I’d known them all my life. And Robert too, played a role for me to support the cast and crew of the story I want to play. He was obviously in on that understanding, since when someone asked if they would sign his book, he replied “you should sign it too.”
The Feeling of Separation
Yet this was all the details of my particular story.
Not everyone in my hologram had this same feeling. Some were frustrated, some pained. Some were absolutely delighted, and some were quietly contemplative. Many left the meeting room because they didn’t see the point if Robert wasn’t going to do Q&A (which he eventually did quite a bit of.) This was not a bad thing by the way, as it was established we could come and go as we pleased.
Separation is necessary so that coming back to your natural state of infinite abundance feels like a journey. In reality there is nowhere to go, no one else to be, and no knowledge to gain. You just pretend you aren’t there, you aren’t them, and you don’t have “it.” Many people at the retreat did wonderful jobs of pretending these exact things.
So a curious thing happened. It became obvious in my story that there were those who saw the separation for the game it was and those who didn’t – both as beautiful as those who watch the movie and those who made the movie. Both ideas must exist for this human game to be played.
And though I’m the only thing that is real, as I sat amongst a myriad of other beautiful stories, I couldn’t imagine playing this game in an empty room.
If you came to the retreat I would love to hear your story. What did you think of the “introductions”? What “new knowledge” did you “gain”?
If you didn’t go, what is your story now? Are you “in the know”? Do you want to be?
I realized during a Q&A session that though I’d been waiting for years to be in the presence of a spiritual leader or someone “in the know” (where the know is the answer to life the universe and everything) that now that I was here, I had no questions left that I couldn’t answer myself. I was witnessing the breakdown of the teacher-student paradigm.