After hours on bumpy roads through Portugal, we arrived at our destination and home for the next 5 days, The Orada Center. It was already night and we were all pretty tired so we quickly found our way to our beds. When I awoke the next morning and walked out of my room, I was blown away by what I saw. The Orada Center was remarkably situated at the intersection of three incredibly beautiful valleys surrounded by green slopes and clear sightlines up each of the three valleys. The infrastructure of the place was similarly astounding, with beautiful lodging for 50. Light wood, big windows and beautiful Portuguese stonework wrapped large, open spaces with high ceilings and tremendous views
Over the course of the next several hours, the other course participants began to arrive: a small yet surprisingly diverse group, ranging in age from 24 to over 60, and coming from 5 countries. As the afternoon rolled around, we all assembled in the meeting room that would be our workshop space for the coming days. “Welcome to Expand the Box,” said a colorful and inviting piece of paper pinned up on the wall. I was filled with feelings of joy and fear, not knowing what was to come.
What happened over the course of these five days was so far beyond anything that I could have anticipated I’m still feeling the positive effects. It was an incredibly simple yet effective and powerful introduction and outline of a different way to see the world, to create meaning, take responsibility, feel feelings, make distinctions, and so much more. It wasn’t so much anything that was totally new but rather a sequence of very basic “Aha!” moments that steadily built into a new way of being. Better yet, each new “Thoughtware Upgrade Map” was accompanied by simple and powerful experiments where new maps were put into practice and participants were able to experience them in all four bodies (physical, mental, emotional, energetic).
(I’m not going to write too much about this training here because nothing I can say would do it justice. The transformation I experienced was so multi-layered, I don’t have words for it. If you want to know more, you can click the “Intro to Expand the Box” below to get a taste of what we went through.)
When we were leaving after the training, I suddenly realized that there was very little sadness in me. I have become pretty accustomed to goodbyes, but this was different. Despite having gone through some incredibly powerful experiences together and feeling really connected, there was no sense of ending or loss. It was as if everyone had learned to relate in a new way: in our centers, fully responsible, and all ready to walk back into the world as changed human beings. While my gremlin wants to say that I already knew a lot of this, what has been so incredibly powerful about this is the clear distinctions, thoughtmaps, and experiments I now have to better navigate my own life and share with others. I feel so grateful for the gift I received here and inspired to bring them back into the world.
Intro to Expand the Box: BEWARE!!! May Result in Liquid State.
A lot of this might very well not make sense, or might even bring up resistance. I’m not trying to convince you of anything, I am just offering some insight into what we covered in hopes that it MIGHT be of benefit to you. This resistance is just your box experiencing fear of entering the liquid state, where your previous rigid self identity is melted and is able to transform. If you are ready to take a plunge into unknown territory then keep on reading and see what lands. I provide experiments for each of the main “Thoughtware Upgrade Maps” as well because all of this takes on a new level of meaning when you try it for yourself. I HIGHLY encourage you to do so and to feel for yourself what I am talking about 🙂
Some basic distinctions:
- You have a box. You are not your box. Your box is a defense mechanism that tries to keep you safe by limiting your possibilities (what you think you can do.) Your box also believes it is always right. It’s main purpose is to preserve and protect. You have the power to expand your box by venturing outside of your own limitations and shifting your intention from being right to being in contact with.
- There are four basic feelings; anger, sadness, fear, and joy. All other feelings either fall under one of these four or are a mixture of feelings. Mixed feelings cannot be used constructively because they are unclear.
- There is no such thing as good and bad feelings. Feelings are feelings. They are neutral energies that when made conscious serve as helpful navigation tools for recognizing personal limitations and awaken possibilities.
- There are different levels of responsibility. Modern culture operates at a child level of responsibility, making huge messes with no intention of cleaning them up (nuclear waste, garbage islands, environmental degradation, etc.). Children make messes without taking the responsibility to clean them up. Adults clean up messes. To become an adult we must take responsibility and this means becoming conscious of our feelings, actions, and impacts.
The Map of Low Drama
Low drama is any action designed to avoid responsibility. Until we become conscious of it and take responsibility for ourselves, low drama is an endless cycle between three roles; the victim, the persecutor, and the rescuer. This cycle feeds another important part of ourselves to recognize: our gremlin. Gremlin is essentially another word for ego, the part in us that wants to win and is happy when others lose. If we are unconscious of gremlin, gremlin controls our lives.
Activity: Find two people.
Pick a situation where you felt attacked, overwhelmed etc.
You will reenact this situation. You are the victim.
Have the other two people choose roles. You need one rescuer and one persecutor.
Provide a brief introduction of the situation.
Reenact the situation for an agreed upon time (30-60 seconds.)
Switch roles and reenact a new situation until each person has played each role.
Rules: Do not hurt yourself or anyone else. Make sure everyone agrees to this rule. For all experiments, this is ALWAYS a rule.
DO NOT change roles (victim, rescuer, persecutor) until the agreed time is complete.
Often when we receive feedback (information on how we can do something better), we either reject it (What do you know anyway?) or use it to create a negative self-story (I suck at this.) When we do this, we fall into “the swamp.” We can get stuck in the swamp for a LONGGGGG time, maybe even forever, never trying something again. Good news: it’s easy to get out of and stay out of the swamp. When you receive feedback simply reply with “Thank you for the feedback.” and try again.
Activity: You can try this with the exercise above, giving each person feedback at the end of each reenactment. If someone switches roles, simply say “Beep,” tell them they have switched (from rescuer to persecutor for example), they say “Thank you for the feedback,” you say “Shift. Go.” and get right back to the exercise.
We have a physical center and an energetic center. Just like our box tries to keep us safe but limits our possibilities, we often give away our center to stay safe and this also limits our possibilities. Adaptive behavior is a sign of giving away our center. We give our center away as if to say “I am not a threat. I will get out of your way or do what you want.” Learning to keep our energetic center at our physical center opens up new possibilities for personal empowerment, being more able to stay in control when facing fears, creativity, choice, and authenticity.
Activity: You might not think you can do this but it was one of the most simple and most powerful exercises we did and everyone actually CAN do this. Have some people stand in a line (try for at least 5 so that there is less pressure on each person and more collective intelligence can arise). Their job is to watch you walk back and forth in front of them and give you feedback on where your center is. As they continue to offer feedback and coaching, you will eventually hit a point where everyone sees you in your center. First you will want to just focus on walking. Keep your eyes in front of you, on the horizon, and feel a sense of purpose in your walking. Your coaches might want to offer feedback on length of stride, ease of stride, speed, focus, keeping eyes up, feeling the ground, etc. Then you will want to go into contact (look over at) the people watching you. See them as your brothers and sisters, you are a king or queen blessing them with love and connection. This is your planet and these are your people! Don’t give your center away. Keep going. When you are walking fully centered, trust me, you will know. Maybe you won’t be able to feel the shift in your own center (I didn’t at first) but you will certainly feel the people watching you shift when you get it (this was super powerful).
Using Anger Consciously
Anger is a tool for setting boundaries, for either allowing something to continue or making it stop. The feeling of anger is not positive or negative. Anger can even be “I love this! Keep going!” (This very well might not make sense yet. Don’t worry about it. I wanted to share this distinction anyway because it was really powerful for me.)
Activity: This exercise can be a bit tricky at first, it was for me even during the workshop, but once you understand the purpose it’s easy. Stand across from a partner. Have them run at you, as if to strangle you. Yell “Stop” in such a way that it actually makes them stop running. Use rapid learning here where the person running at you offers feedback on how your “Stop” could be stronger, why it is or isn’t working for them. After you have gotten comfortable making the person stop, switch roles and do the same. (Next Step: Give your attacker instructions after you’ve made them stop. For example: “Stop! Take two steps backwards. Move forward slowly. Stop! Take 5 steps backwards. Move forward quickly. Stop!” This is an opportunity to experiment with your edge between anger and fear. Try to keep your center and stay in control.
Activity 2: Find a partner. Have them sit across from you and ask you for things o try to enter your space (For example: Can I have $5? I’m going to step on your foot now. I’m going to pat you on the head.) Practice saying “No.” Use feedback to get to a stronger “No.”
For anyone interested in learning more about any of this you can get started with Clinton’s book Directing the Power of Conscious Feelings: Living Your Own Truth which provides a much better introduction to the new territory of Expand The Box Training and Possibility Management.
If you made it this far, thank you for being willing to jump into the unknown 🙂 Here are some more “Thoughtware Upgrade Maps” that also probably won’t make much sense without more information/experience but just in case. Try the experiments and let me know how it goes! And if you want more check out Expand The Box