Personal Growth - A TIME FOR CATHARSIS
by Suma Varughese
In Meera Kotak and Anand Tendolkar's two-day workshop 'Journey Within Success', participants are encouraged to face their worst fears and release them. They emerge cleansed of their mental blocks and ready to take on life. A first person account
Seated in Anand Tendolkar's spacious drawing room were six women and a man looking somewhat warily at each other. We were here to participate in a two-day workshop Anand and his partner, Meera Kotak, were holding. Called 'Journey Within Success' Level II, the workshop was being held under the aegis of their The Energy Center. As always, the beginning of a personal growth workshop signaled some trepidation. How much of ourselves would we have to bare? What terrible things about ourselves would we have to confront? As it happened, we had good reason to worry. Anand and Meera play hard ball. They encourage you to share and to look within yourself. Their own strong and compassionate presence contains the turmoil such revelations release and allows you space to come to terms with what you have run away from thus far. I was able to look at what it meant to be the sixth daughter of parents longing for a son. Another was able to experience what it meant to be an unwanted child. A third was able to confront her fears of the pattern of anger and aggression within her natal family.
It was a good workshop. Insights were wrested and experiences gained. Friendships too were developed. At the end of it, you felt that you had a more realistic picture of where you were in the whole grand project of self-knowledge and awareness.
With a vast array of techniques and skills including reiki, kinesiology, Qi Gong, Melchizedek Method, siddha healing and tarot reading under their belts, it is easy for the duo to dip into a ragbag of methods to further us along the journey. Our first exercise on both the days of the workshop was to pick up an angel card and to meditate on what it says. Angel cards are a pack of cards with upbeat, positive, generally applicable suggestions, so one need not be surprised to find it applying to their present situation. Mine said I was to acknowledge how far I had traveled and not think about how far I had to go. True, I have a proclivity to kick myself at the slightest provocation but so, I think, does the majority of humanity. Anand, however, is quite emphatic that angel cards are uncannily right.
Meera then asked us to identify the animals we most loved and hated. One of us waxed lyrical about the eagle, its panoramic perspective, majesty and alertness. Another had the piquant problem of having to choose from a whole menagerie of animals she had in her Goan house. Eventually, she settled upon the steadfast dog. Mine was easy. I have a pet cat, so cat it was. The animals we most hated ranged from the ubiquitous cockroach to the lizard, the snake, and in my case, the rat. Meera then divulged that the good qualities in the animal we loved stood for the good qualities we possessed. The qualities in the animal we hated, on the other hand, stood for qualities about ourselves that we shied away from. That called for soul searching as we examined within for evidence of possessing the good qualities and for checking out what were the hated qualities we had squirreled away from awareness. I realized with a jolt that my antipathy for the inoffensive rat probably stemmed from my school nickname, 'Mouse', with its connotations of timidity and inconspicuousness.
At our next exercise, we were required to choose a partner, sit opposite them with our hands joined and gaze locked. We were to take turns, asking each other: 'Who are you?' I had drawn the only male in the group for that exercise and it wasn't easy to embark upon instant intimacy. It was, however, a powerful experience, as we learnt to go beyond our usual labels and admit even those parts of ourselves that we normally hide from others. The other participants in the group went much further and identified themselves with aspects of the universe including stars and flowers. Many later admitted that doing so had actually expanded their consciousness.
In the afternoon, we went into the meaty part of this journey within, which is to identify the key issues behind emotions such as anger, fear, and self-doubt. The pamphlets given to us listed various types of fear, such as fear of God, of authority, of failure, among others. There were similar lists of anger and self-doubt too. We were supposed to list out our three biggest issues in each area. This was a subject rich with revelation. Meera and Anand grappled with us as we spoke out hesitantly of some of our issues and enabled us to reach a level of self-acceptance. At all times the two shared their own blocks and issues, Meera's resistance to paternal authority, for instance.
At the end of this rather intense session, we were taken through a guided meditation exercise to heal the inner child. Every part of the body was relaxed as we entered the alpha stage of consciousness. We were then asked to go down our time line and meet ourselves as infants. They invited us to explore a whole range of fears arising from the times when we felt unloved and uncared and to correct it by becoming our own nurturer, that is, giving ourselves the love and attention earlier denied. Slowly, we moved through time and healed ourselves of any sense of lack before finally touching base in the present. This was powerful and all of us emerged charged and ready for the second day of the workshop.
Day Two continued to focus on emotions, specifically anger and self-doubt. Meera and Anand tried to get us to see how we get stuck when we attempt to find answers to the question 'why'. This question blocks acceptance and it was suggested that we shift to 'how' and 'what' instead. They also urged us to drop the 'shoulds' in life. "Cut the wood of 'should' and build the door of 'could'," said Anand cleverly. Intensive sharing took the floor as we examined, among other issues, the hurt, rage and anguish that comes out of being taken for granted in a joint family, or of having a marriage fall apart, or of being cruelly neglected as a child. It isn't always easy to contain the turbulent emotions that such sharing unleashes, but to their credit, both handled the issues very well, not allowing the participant to get away from confronting the issue but always retaining a basic sensitivity and compassion.
By now emotions were overflowing and a catharsis was called for. And this is what we got by the spadeful. We were blindfolded, made to sit on the floor and given cushions. A jungle drum began to pulse and pretty soon, the room was filled with wild music. Get out all your anger, the duo urged us as they walked around the room uttering jungle cries and whoops of rage. Tell your mother what you think of her, or give your boss a piece of your mind, they said. Yell, scream, cry, do what you want. Strangely, many of us were unable to get to that primal level. We were constrained perhaps by upbringing, or by our own inhibitions. I, for one, felt quite detached from the process and could hardly work up any anger. Some, though, had taken advantage of the process and had had a hearty cry. Catharsis over, mending was begun. Having chosen a partner, we had to address whoever we had an anger issue with, tell them what we felt about the whole thing and finally offer them our forgiveness, ask them to forgive us and, most moving of all, tell them that we loved them. This too was a powerful experience and many of us looked and felt visibly relieved at the end of it. Post-lunch there were meditations, but work could no longer be postponed and I left at that juncture.
There was gratitude in my heart to Meera and Anand shop. And I had a quiet understanding in my own head about many of my attitudes and behavior patterns. I knew myself a little better and I liked myself a little better. I was at peace with myself. At least for now.