Because of that, I lay stress on the experiential, without forsaking the intellectual. To move our knowledge up from being merely ideas to being shared experiences.
I want to share an experience I had at Cold Mountain Institute during a three-month resident fellowship in 1975-76.
Cold Mountain is a growth center like Esalen, located in rural BC (now called Hollyhock).
We did workshops for three months – much of it encounter, but also awareness, meditation, sexuality, art therapy, and communication workshops.
All of it was conducted at the experiential level and I had several realizations, nothing major, although they were the first I’d ever had and so they were major for me.
But the experience I wanted to share with you was of watching a man stand up in the dining room and hold forth for perhaps ten minutes.
And all he said was how he felt. He went through nervousness, shame, and whatever lay on the other side. I remember sadness as well. He’d repeat how he felt over and over and over again and it would change. “I feel nervous.” x10 “I feel shame.” x10
Why was this magical for us?
We so valued him baring his soul. And we had another reason for valuing it.
We were there to increase our emotional acuity or awareness. Regarding ourselves for sure but also regarding others.
We paid attention to how each other was feeling but on few occasions did we get confirmation that we were accurate or off base in our estimations of what those feelings might be.
For sure people would share how they were feeling, but I mean more on a minute-by-minute basis – watching the flow of feeling.
Now here was Sathyam revealing himself in this way, being the feeling and naming it at the same time. It allowed us to validate our ability to perceive others’ emotional states or not. We could set our compasses on what Sathyam was saying.
So it was not only moving but also supremely helpful.
That whole environment was experientially savvy. We’d do ourselves an injustice if we thought that generation was somehow behind us. In many ways, they were ahead.
I’d like to see us up-level our knowledge from the merely intellectual to the experiential as well. Fundamentally that would involve being or becoming aware of how we and others feel.
When we asked, “How are you feeling today?” it wasn’t an invitation to reply in just one word. It was an invitation to share all that we’d seen and noticed since last we talked.