Have you ever stared into a person’s eyes for a few minutes without speaking? Does the thought make you cringe? Do you long for deeper connection in your life? Is there a gap between how you feel about someone and your communication? What if I told you that when we tune into the space between us, without cluttering it with words, something magical happens. I spent a year exploring the “we space” by participating in a course called the Evolutionary Collective.
After thirty years in the New York City shrink offices, I believed that growth was all about me storming through my inner landscape with a flashlight and a microscope. Sometimes the work called for a toothbrush and other times a pickaxe.
Not a group person, I have always identified as a lone wolf. It’s ironic that AA saved my life because it’s a group setting. Dread is still my dominant default emotion before every developmental workshop I attend. Little did I know that my first workshop was the gold standard of GROUP.
After working with Jeff Carreira for two months, he suggested again that I attend an introduction to the course that he was teaching with Patricia Albere called the Evolutionary Collective. The name was weird, the location of the orientation was inconvenient, and I said yes because something had already started shifting internally after talking to Jeff regularly. I wanted more.
When I walked into the midtown west loft space on a Saturday afternoon, I freaked out. Men with facial hair sat chatting with middle-aged women in flowing clothes on brightly colored furniture. Everybody was enthusiastically greeting each other. I saw Jeff in a doorway that lead to another room and bee-lined over to him. He was talking to a tall, red-haired woman who stood inside the room. Jeff hugged me and introduced me to Patricia Albere. She held my hand as she shook it and stared into me with x-ray eye contact for an extended period. Pulling away first, I awkwardly asked if I could sit down inside what was set up like a classroom. I pretended to read something on my phone until the session began.
I learned later that Patricia was an original member of the EST organization (currently called Landmark Education) and was trained by Werner Erhard as a teacher. She became a teacher trainer in EST and Landmark. You don’t need to know a thing about her to realize that she is a force.
I can’t remember anything that Patricia and Jeff said that day because I spent the entire time in my head reviewing my comfort level and judging the people around me. What I do recall was a partner exercise with a man seated next to me. We were instructed to stare into each other’s eyes in silence for five minutes. Every minute dragged by as I self-consciously stared into this stranger’s eyes, my heart and mind racing.
Patricia rang a bell and then instructed us to share what was happening in the space between us. I had no idea what she was talking about and was relieved when my partner volunteered to start off. I will never forget what he said; “there was no space between us because you sat in your head the entire time.” He didn’t deliver those words sweetly either. Panicking because I was now a spiritual workshop failure, I felt like I was going to cry. I explained that this was my first time doing anything like this and I was uncomfortable. He said my fear and anxiety were my ego ‘s way of keeping me separate and asked me if this probably showed up in other areas of my life. Ouch.
After working with a few more partners that day, I became slightly more comfortable with the eye gazing exercise. Something in my body opened up, creating a softening in my heart space. I even hugged a group of women before I left.
When I arrived home, Daniel asked me how my “weirdo workshop” went as he stared at a Football game on the TV screen. He barely glanced over as he spoke and the communication felt hollow after what I had experienced. Wondering if this was a sample of all my relationships, I instantly responded that I was going back for the full weekend orientation in a few weeks.
I wasn’t sure about any of it, all I knew was that I wanted more in my life than casual glances. A week later, Daniel asked if he could come to the EC weekend with me. Noticing my surprise, he commented that something had been different about me the past few days and he wanted to experience for himself what caused it.
We both ended up joining the EC, as it’s referred to by its’ participants, for the following year. The commitment was three weekend-long retreats and bi-monthly Monday night calls. We also were assigned rotating partners to do a phone version of the eye-gazing practice. We did a lot more than stare into each other’s eyes over that beautiful year. I understood the power of commitment and intention. Getting out of my head and into my heart was gift enough. There were and still are many fascinating people in the EC. I met two mothers there who became soul sister friends. Almost six years later and I still have a monthly call with Jeff and a group of women from the original EC who live in Massachusetts.
The year spent exploring the “we space” changed me. I never realized that there is a dance of energy happening inside us and between us all the time. In every interaction, there is a space that opens up, be it two people, small groups or huge organizations. When we tune into serving that space and step away from self, love, we access the divine nature inside us all.
Patricia now runs the EC on her own; it’s bicoastal; here is the link: http://www.evolutionarycollective.com