Daily Courage #One The Time When I... Tried Radical Honesty
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Daily Courage #1 The Time When I… Tried Radical Honesty
It’s day 2 of Portugal Spirit Festival in sun-kissed Cascais. I wake up in my cramped hostel bed with a fuzzy head from the emotional demands of the day before. Yesterday was a whirlwind of kundalini yoga, chanting, Taketina rhythm and dance workshops, live music, a cacao ceremony with trance dance and ended with kissing a beautiful french girl goodnight. I’m way out of my depth. I want to take the day to just wander around and process all the newness. But I know that it’s the last day of the festival and I want.. more.
I drag myself out of the hostel and walk along the beautiful coastal walkway to the venue. The sun is blazing and it’s only 10am. I head to the outdoor courtyard with sweeping sea views and boldly put a yoga mat down on the floor for the next session - Power Yoga. The instructor is a ninja Capoeira dancer from the Yoga Barn in Bali. No messing around. There’s no shade at all, and all I can think about is frying my untanned London skin and dehydration. I last 5 minutes and that’s enough. I politely excuse myself and leave for shadier spots. I wander through to the gardens at the back and collapse on the grass. Much better.
I lie there for a while just breathing and looking up at the blue skies above. The next session is Radical Honesty. I’m scared. I don’t really want to do it, but I won’t forgive myself if I skip it. I flip flop in my head between “just do it” and “just leave it”. But 11am arrives and I bite the bullet. I’m going. “Let’s see what this radical honesty is all about. Screw it. I’m down. I have nothing to hide. Let’s do this!” I wander into the workshop with a false sense of confidence at the ready.
The room is packed with bright eyes and expectant energy. It appears that I’m not the only one interested in exploring what radical honesty is all about. The instructor rolls in and takes the stage. He opens up the space with warm excitement. “Hi everyone, welcome to radical honesty”. We are all too apprehensive to say much. What are we going to discover about ourselves? And do we really want to go there? I don’t know any of these people.
The first exercise sounds simple enough. We walk around the room holding eye contact with passers by, until we settle on a partner with whom we feel drawn to for whatever reason. The subconscious works in mysterious ways. “For this first exercise”, our instructor Michael explains with a playful smile, “we’re going to stand in front of each other and share what we feel, our feelings, what is going on in our body, our bodily sensations, just say it out loud and share it as you feel it”. Shit. My heart pounds in expectation. Are we really doing this? Yep.
I’m standing toe to toe with a good looking European guy, I assume French or German, I have no idea, with piercing blue eyes, and a big mane of dark hair pulled back in a ponytail. Not the sort of guy I would usually share my intimate feelings with. Here goes nothing. “I’m feeling weird and uncomfortable, standing in front of you, sharing my feelings”. My face heats up with the embarrassment of it all. To my surprise he is outwardly calm but shares his own feelings of insecurity as he says with a soft European accent and considered words - “I feel scared to stand in front of you and share, like I am not good enough or not worthy or something”. Woah. Okay, this is new territory. It’s scary but exhilarating to share and be vulnerable like this. We keep going.
In the next exercise, we pick a new partner with the same wandering and eye gazing. I’m standing with a women, maybe in her 40s I don’t know, and we are both unsure of what’s up next. “Now I want you to practice this idea of sharing both positive and negative thoughts that run through your head” says Michael. “This idea that we shouldn’t be so afraid of conflict or what someone else thinks or cares about our judgement of them… So tell your partner something you don’t like about them!”
Shit. Okay, the first exercise wasn’t so bad so let’s just keep going. As I’m thinking of something that I feel is “appropriately rude” to share, she dives straight in. “I don’t like your t-shirt” she says “it has no colour and is dull and boring”. I take that to mean I am dull and boring. Which I don’t think I am. But I tend to agree on the t-shirt. Hmmm. I’m a bit stung but carry on. “I don’t like your body language” I blurt out, “You have your arms crossed, and facing away to the side, it doesn’t feel open, it feels like you are closed off”. She looks at me stunned. Then explains that she is a shy person and feels defensive so that maybe why. Wow. I feel bad, but at least the ice is well and truly broken. We say things, then get over it, and learn. It’s progress.
Everyone is getting into the flow of it. We’ve opened up the honesty box so let’s roll around in there and see what else we find. For the third exercise we switch partners again. I’m face to face with a humble smiley German guy, I forget his name, who has dark hair and soft eyes and a very welcoming vibe. I like him straight away, I feel comfortable. “Okay, this time we are distinguishing between I Notice and I Imagine” Michael explains to the group of honesty explorers. “Say something that you notice about your partner, something that you can see and observe, and then something that you imagine in your head, in your imagination”.
He demonstrates with a girl from the group and it gets pretty flirty pretty quickly. Okay. Over to us. I go first “I notice your eyes, I imagine you are a kind person”. He smiles. “I notice your face has no wrinkles, I imagine you are a calm person”. Not always, I think to myself. “I notice your hair, I imagine you have been travelling and outdoors a lot”. He nods in acceptance. “I notice your cheeks, I imagine squishing them like PLAYDO” he says and we roar with laughter. I share another and then he shares again, “I notice your eyes looking sort of expectantly at me for something and, and, I imagine your biggest fear is shame”. We end on that bombshell.
For the final exercise we have a new partner again. “This time have a dig around inside, and share something that you don’t want to share. Something that you don’t normally share. Something that makes you uncomfortable, if you want. Just say it”. Shit. I do what I’m told and have a dig around inside. I ping a few ideas through my head and see how my body reacts. I’m standing in front of a kind American girl who is warm and open, and wearing a big hat. I’m nervous. “I like your hat” I say to diffuse the tension. “I like your necklace” she replies.
Okay. No way to avoid the inevitable. I dive in, unsure exactly what I’m about to share. “I had my heart broken years ago, I don’t know if I’ll ever get over it, and I can’t believe that I’m still not over it, I don’t know how to move past that.” Woah. Wasn’t expecting that one from my self. “Thank you for sharing” she says. She pauses. Her eyes fill up with tears. I feel weird for sharing and bad for making her cry. We keep going. “I just broke up with my boyfriend, because he wasn’t the right one for me, and I feel awful that I’ve hurt him”. I take a moment to receive this. “Thank you for sharing” I say. We share a hug.
The radical honesty odyssea is over. There’s a group wrap up with some thoughtful questions about when and how to use this in everyday life. What if people can’t handle it or don’t want it. Michael explains thoughtfully that it’s a practice, and has to be done with boundaries, willingness, communication between all the people involved, whether that’s personal or professional. I’m intrigued to learn more. But I’m also drained from all the emotions and want to be alone to collect my thoughts and process what just happened. I thank the people I had interactions with and glide off into the garden again. I lie on the grass, just breathing and looking up at the blue skies above.
There you have it! A head-first dive into the world of radical honesty, where the boundaries between internal experience and external sharing were blown wide open for an hour or so. I hope you enjoyed the ride. I found it a powerful experience to break free of social norms, build trust and share some feelings that I had buried inside. Thank you to Michael and the beautiful people who were courageous enough to be vulnerable and share their experiences! :) Josh
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The Courage Adventure - 13-19 October 2019