Last year I attended a weeklong spiritual conference at Asilomar, a beautiful retreat facility south of Monterey on the coast of California. For many years, I heard about how fantastic an encounter Asilomar was, but attending always conflicted with other events. This year I created an attention to attend. And I did. What a magnificent experience it was.
Sometimes I just show up for a happening and walk away with whatever is my due. There’s always something to be gained if my mind and heart are open – no matter what. But more often than not, I take control of my experience. I go into the situation seeking an answer to a question I have. It is on those occasions that I experienced the most. I get what I need, and then some.
During the retreat, I had many chances to walk though my fear and be open to new and different ways of doing things. The most profound breakthroughs came in a combined physical and emotional form.
On the last day of the conference, we were told that we were going to break 1 inch plywood boards with our hands. Immediately my mind slammed shut at the thought of breaking a board. “They can’t make me do it,” I thought. While my mind said no, my body stayed put and I listened to what the workshop facilitator had to say. Then he quickly shifted from the topic of breaking boards to the idea of breaking through any problem we face, such as I’m walking through a feeling, being fully present during an experience, or seeking out a new opportunity, he also talked about breakthroughs in terms of things that block us from our own good. What I took away from his sharing was the following:
- Recognize the need for change. If there is no need for change, no breakthrough can occur.
- Be willing to break through. Yes, it’s hard, and it’s worth it.
- Stay focused on where you want to be, not on the obstacles that stand in your way. Keep the dream alive.
- Remain centered. When you are off balance – physically emotionally or mentally – it’s hard to break through.
- Get support. While you probably can do it alone, the stronger the support, the more rewarding the breakthrough.
I thought about the times in my life when I broke through a barrier. Each time I knew I needed to make a change, finally excepted it, and was willing to do the work. I focused on the goal, I used God to center to me, and I had the support of others. I got through school, I finally passed the Bar exam, I ran both marathons, I got published, I got sober, I lost weight – in every case the formula worked.
Reflecting back on that workshop, when it came time to break the board, surprisingly I was willing to try. I wasn’t able to break the board the first time because I focused on the obstacles. We were told to write the obstacle on one side of the board, and that’s where my attention was placed. I got locked into why I couldn’t do whatever it was the board represented. I couldn’t see past the problem to the solution. I was weaving nervously back and forth, unable to get centered.
On the second try, I broke through the plywood. It was a sweet success shared by my team, which was my support. What made the second attempt successful? I was centered, used my support system, and was focused on the board, but past it to where I want to be.
What breakthroughs are you leaving to experience?