Celebrating another year of our country’s freedom once again brought the opportunity to work with a friend and colleague, Bob Bartlett, on another wonderful free forum at Phoenix Process Consultants. Last year’s focus was more around why we actually celebrate July 4th and what that freedom means to each of us. This year’s freedom topic focused on personal and spiritual freedom. I always get excited about these forums because I’ve found they create space where attendees are fully free to be themselves.
What’s preventing our freedom?
Bartlett started us out with a wonderful story he once heard from Fr. Edward Hays about a man wanting to get to heaven. He had to face a bunch of doors with metal detectors and through each, drop whatever he was dragging along. Being naked after finally passing the metal detectors, he was met on the shore of a lake by an angel that would take him to God. Shortly after leaving the shore, the boat started to sink and the angel asked what he was still carrying. It was at this point that the man realized he had to drop much more than “stuff” and start getting rid of his judgments, mistaken beliefs and anything else holding him back from pure love. In order to be truly free, we have to give up our useless baggage. We all carry heavy baggage.
Dropping our personal baggage
We visually and verbally worked on removing some of our personal baggage by leaving the room and metaphorically, crossing back through the “metal detector” after we figured out something we could “drop”. I’ve been working on one of my vices, over-planning, so this was an easy “bag” to choose. I tend to be thinking so much about the future and what might happen that I over plan and forget about what’s happening right now. In fact, when Bob and I met to plan the forum, I specifically emptied my brain out of any thoughts about how to do it and just let the conversation flow. Not only did that make for a more enjoyable planning session, I believe the evening turned out better than I could have planned anyway. Others were determined to drop things like pride, resentment, fear of the future and making assumptions about people and their motivations. We all have familiar “baggage”.
How does our baggage show up in our body?
We often forget to move from our heads to our bodies when dealing with our mental and emotional baggage. We allowed ourselves a brief silence to focus on our bodily reactions to two words; judgment and curiosity. I loved how one participant described feeling like they were stuck in a bog, dragging their legs and back through the heaviness when thinking about judgment. Judging showed up in others around the cheeks, in the middle of the gut or just the feeling of being small and circled up in a ball. The judgment shows up for me just like a bunch of bricks on my shoulders; heavy and solidly placed so I can’t move.
Lighten up the load with curiosity
Curiosity, on the other hand, either resulting in no strong sense at all or engaged all of the senses at once. Other words to describe curiosity was “a floating up” and “laser beam eyes” (when focused on learning and understanding). I feel light and the heavy bricks turn into light fizzy bubbles floating about.
If we notice how these appear in our body, the next time they appear, it will be easier for us to recognize them and make adjustments. If I sense my shoulders getting heavy I can ask myself about what my judgment is about. Most likely, I am just being over critical of myself or others. Moving past this sense requires you to question what your body is saying. If you are willing to sit quietly, your body will likely tell you what you need to do next.
Turning toward or away
John Gottman Ph.D., writer of more than a dozen books on relationships tells us that he can spot a successful or unsuccessful relationship in about 15 minutes when placing couples in a stressful situation. Those who turn toward each other have a high (like 80%) likelihood of success. The rates go down significantly if one of pair turns away in conflict. As you can imagine, there is little chance of success if both are turning away.
When we judge ourselves or each other, we are closed off from hearing, seeing or sensing reality. We are stuck in self-interest and blocked from collaboration, the key to relationship bond. When we can be curious under stress, our curiosity will help us uncover feelings and hurt, perhaps even from childhood, potentially playing a current and useless role now.
As a final activity for the evening, we used a makeshift clothesline to put more of our “baggage” out to dry. We want to “unpack” and let go of:
- Being right
- Body image
- Worst case thinking
- Critical self-judgment
- The need to please others
- Not worthy of another’s time
- Assuming I am always the problem in a conflict
What other baggage could you remove from your life to make you feel freer to be uniquely YOU?
Enneagram and Freedom
I admit I’ve become a little obsessed with the Enneagram – it’s helped me in my personal growth and freedom so much I want to share that freedom with others. For this forum, I created a table that shows movement towards freedom for your “type”.
If you are unfamiliar with the Enneagram, feel free to contact me at email@example.com. I use the Enneagram as part of my personal coaching and conduct workshops to teach you how to use the system for personal (and even team) growth. The Enneagram is one of many tools I use to help people become free from their personal judgments and make choices to be in more free and in life-giving relationships with significant others, family and teammates and coworkers. I would love to help you.
To be more FREE – Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a 30 minute, no cost, consultation.