There is much talk about the state of the world at present. We all feel it. The discontent, the avoidance and the destruction. When we think about it, it generally brings up feelings of helplessness. We’re all exhausted to some degree or another. So, we either turn off or become activists.
This weekend I was taking a break from all this, along with 11 amazing people, when I graduated to become a Wizard. Sounds a little ridiculous, I know, particularly as I am a fully-paid up adult and was to be found nowhere near Hogwarts (although the setting was equally as amazing, in a beautiful village by the Thames).
Apparently, the title of the two year training, ‘The School for Wizards’, was always intended to be a little tongue-in-cheek, says Andrew Wallas, founder of this brand new way of what I now like to call a ‘User Guide To Being Human’. Some people’s eyes light up when I mention it, they think it sounds magical and are immediately inquisitive. Others just switch off. I guess it depends where you sit in life.
As Einstein once said: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle”.
I know where I’d
rather be, but it’s not always as easy as that.
The idea of a ‘User Guide to Being Human’ is not just borne out of
the teachings I’ve had from the training itself, but it’s also about the way
it’s opened up my thinking in everything I do, everything I think and everyone
I meet. There is no doubt it’s been a transformation, yet as someone said,
during a particularly powerful summing up of the past 2 years: “Nothing has
changed, yet everything has changed”.
You see, really, it’s all about our outlook. Which set of lenses will we each have on today? One day we can be flying high, seeing the tiniest frog in a pond and pondering upon the miracle of its life. Then the next, everything is fraught, the world is broken and we are all doomed to disconnection and multiple failures.
I have to say it’s been a true roller coaster ride for me these past few years. I enrolled because I was curious. Yet at my lowest points, prodding my psyche and analysing my character, I felt huge discontentment, failure, a lack of confidence and at times felt thoroughly miserable. I couldn’t shake from my head the most fundamental of all questions:
“What is the point of me, why am I here and what should I be doing to make a difference?”
And when you can’t come up with an answer to that question (try it), trust me, you’re heading for trouble.
On one weekend we were asked ‘Are you going to live a life of awareness or unawareness?’ If you’d asked me that question 2 years ago, I’m not entirely sure I’d have even understood the question, certainly not on a conscious level. What I have learnt is whilst you’re in ‘awareness training’, life can get quite tough and pretty confusing. It makes you ask questions such as ‘How am I going to live my life?’ and ‘Why am I doing this?’ and ‘Why am I behaving like this?’
Eventually it takes you out of the ‘me, me, me’ and into the space of being of help and service to others. Some people turn to therapy to help them out of a hole. Yet the problem with therapy is that it doesn’t teach efficiency. In most cases it doesn’t actually show you a way out of your story and your problems, it keeps you stuck in the ‘why’.
Awareness, on the other hand, shows us how to lick, heal and clear our emotional wounds so that we can move beyond them. It keeps you asking the questions to yourself until there is nothing left to ask, it all just ‘is’.
Yet, so often, we get stuck in our story — the world is made up of millions of people who are stuck in their stories. We do this to get attention and to get love, we do it to build up our identities. Awareness (which can take years of practice) is often a scary place to be, because when we drop all of the stories on what’s holding us back, what do we have left? Have you ever thought about that? It’s both frightening and liberating, depending on where you are in the process.
Yet these were just a few of the many questions raised during our time at Wizard School. It’s been a type of spiritual and psychological philosophy, or is it philosophical psychotherapy? Who knows, but whatever label I give it here, it all came down to one thing:
“When you change, everything changes”
And this is fundamental. Not just for an hour, or a day. But forever.I do believe that this is something we intrinsically know; yet on a more conscious level, most of us don’t have a clue how to get there. And that’s created in me a fascination with the idea that really, we aren’t taught how to live. I met an enlightened man last week called Sadhguru who talked about this very subject. He told us that before the occupation of India, when people were freer thinking and more liberated, all children were handed down these precious tools by their parents. But even they have lost their way. In the West, I’m not sure we’ve ever known it. We’re not taught about our emotions, how to really connect with others, how to find out what makes us truly happy and how to find a life that fulfills us. We’re not taught to know ourselves.
We’re taught to read and write, to do our sums, we’re taught to run around a hockey pitch, or ride a bike. But we’re not taught how to be. One discussion I found interesting at the weekend was the idea of children at public schools being schooled to within an inch of their life on how to have manners, how to get the best jobs, how to appear, how to present themselves. Yet with each lesson it takes them further and further away from their real selves. The word education is from the Latin ‘educare’ which means to ‘draw out’, yet we stuff it in. At school we get stuffed with historical facts, lessons on religion and war, which we’re then tested on. But we’re never taught how to be ourselves, how to know ourselves, how to listen to ourselves. For many people, life is a series of images and masks, each one keeping us from who we truly are and who we truly want to be in the world.
Can we ever possibly change all this?
Who knows, we cannot say and it is all down to each one of us to make the changes we want to see in the world. On graduating, along with some of the most fascinating people you’re ever likely to meet, we made a commitment to ourselves and to each other to continue this work, work which we’ve begun here. I think this quote says it all beautifully. For now, thank you to everyone involved, especially to the Wizard himself, who put so much of himself into this training. And whilst it feels like the end, it also feels so very much like the beginning, too, for all of us.