Maya-Lin’s Quest Personal Testimonial Dec 2014
Prior to QUEST, I knew who I was, but somewhere along the way I had forgotten.
Instead of seeing the beauty that I am I would often look into the mirror and count the flaws. My head is too wide, my nose too broad, my hair to short, or when it was long, too unruly. I was simultaneously too skinny and too fat depending on the areas of my body I was judging that day. I remember being teased a lot in middle school, the words of those girls would still ring in my ears, taunting me, reminding me of how ugly, slutty, and worthless I was. But now I didn’t need anyone to taunt me or tell me I wasn’t good enough, I, or I should say my mind, had become my number one enemy.
I spent years constantly comparing myself to other mothers. I gave birth to my beautiful, spirited little girl when I was just 16. Walking around the city in my catholic school uniform with my round belly jutting out I remember the judgmental and sometimes horrified stares that I got from strangers in the street. Looking back now, I see that they were only mirroring the judgment and shame I held inside. At 16, in many ways I thought that becoming pregnant would be my salvation. Finally, there would be a man in my life who had no choice but to stick around, to protect and love me. I didn’t know that I could do that for myself.
My childhood was filled with physical and sexual abuse, neglect, and pain and had destined me for a life of unworthiness. I had a pretty bleak outlook on life. I tried to drink it away, smoke it away, fuck it away-anything that I could do to escape the reality of being me. Of course nothing worked. The high would always wear off, the boy would always leave, and I would be stuck alone trying to glue the pieces back together. For many years I had sludged through this reality, doing the very best I could to hide it but there was no escaping me.
I took this limiting view of who I was into my adult life. I was always trying to ‘prove’ myself. I had to be the smartest. I needed to be the prettiest. Behind closed doors I had to be the sexiest and would pride myself every time a lover told me that I was the ‘best lover he ever had’. Never mind if I faked it the whole time or did not truly enjoy the sex or even knew how to communicate what I wanted. In relationships with women I would vacillate between being sweet and endearing to conniving and cut-throat. I felt I needed to protect myself. I had moments when I felt that I was truly connected, accepted and loved. But they were always a fleeting phenomenon that spontaneously happened that I never knew how to create that myself. Its like I had the magic, but I never knew how to conjure anything. For the most part I walked through life wishing, hoping that something or someone would add that spark that would act as the catalyst to ignite me from within. To the outside I could look happy, sublimely content, and achieving, or crazed, irrational and violent depending on the day. I was always a deep soul, very intuitive. I didn’t know how to listen to or trust that intuition consistently. No matter what ‘face’ I put on outside, inside my subconscious world was bleak and my outer experiences mirrored that.
Beautiful things, like a new job or relationship, would eventually end catastrophically. In many ways I was a walking, talking tick bomb for drama.
I was reaching this climax in my relationship with my partner, Peter, when I began QUEST. Things had gone from a fairytale to a nightmare. I was homeschooling my daughter in the morning, doing the best I could to play the role of the loving and attentive mother. In the evening I was insisting on an open relationship and grabbing any opportunity I found to drink, drug, party and fuck. I had fun, but there was always something missing. We began fighting all the time in between cycles of breaking up and getting back together. He didn’t understand me. He was trying to control me. He wanted to use me. He didn’t really love me. This was the story I was creating. I couldn’t see me in the midst of all of it and the ways that I was creating the dynamic we were having. I would find anything that I could to make him wrong. I couldn’t see it then, but I was scared of losing him. I wanted to push him away before he could betray me. I wanted to be in a relationship, I wanted to thrive, I wanted to live life passionately, in my purpose, a purpose that I defined and created for myself. It seemed like every attempt I made to do this would end up fucking up some way or another.
When I first met with Catherina and Gerry I felt like I was in a pretty solid place. I had recently begun ‘Journeying’; ingesting indigenous plant medicine in a group with the guidance of a trained Shaman as a way to facilitate opening and dropping into the heart. I was seeing and awknowledging the pain that I held inside clearly for the first time. I discovered many beliefs that I held about myself that up until that point I was blind to. Seeing this was eye opening, but seeing it wasn’t necessarily facilitating any healing. Once the medicine wore off I was still just pretending on the surface level. Trying to look present, trying to be loving yet filled with doubt and judgment. I would experience moments when I would drop down into the abyss that is internal silence, connection. But I would lose it and quickly return to the self-hate story when I did. I was trying the best that I could to keep loving myself, but it almost felt like I was trying to convince myself that I loved myself knowing that it wasn’t true.
Before we moved to sag harbor I would spend a lot of time in our beautiful sky rise apartment in Manhattan getting high trying to talk myself out of hating myself. I didn’t understand why I was surrounded by so much beauty and opportunity yet I still felt like shit at the end of the day.
Something shifted during my retreat with Catherina and Gerry. Even now as I write this I am trying to put into words what exactly happened because my logical mind still doesn’t quite understand it even though the evidence of my experience with them is reverberating throughout my body.
The message is simple yet profound; you are love, this is your truth. It is a message that I have heard over the years but somehow it felt very different.
When I was with Catherina and Gerry I wasn’t hearing that I needed to be present. I wasn’t hearing about ways to be loving. I wasn’t learning about how to be more accepting or more concious. I wasn’t being told to stop drinking or smoking weed (even though Catherina isvery clear that the true orgasmic bliss of being the juicy deliciousness that is you, that is love, is in-comparable to any drug). There were no meditation techniques or breathing exercises to memorize. There was no picking apart of every thought I had or thing I did and relating it to some past experience to discover the root of my trauma of where it all originated.
There was just love.
I woke up every morning feeling love and acceptance from Catherina and Gerry. I felt as if they genuinely enjoyed my presence and was thrilled to have me around. She told me many times that because we are one mind, one consciousness, my healing was their healing. I didn’t believe it was true, I felt it was true and their transparency surrounding their own process of re-remembering and connection validated this. I wasn’t treated as if there was anything wrong with me. In fact, Catherina and Gerry made it a point to tell me, in there own words, how uniquely exquisite I was every chance they had. They didn’t act as if anything was wrong with me, so I began wondering, why did I? Who was actually saying that I wasn’t good enough?
The message I have received from most ‘self-help’ courses or books is somewhere along the lines of ‘let me help fix you’. Already this message, while the authors or facilitators may have the best of intentions, is feeding the egoic idea that we are somehow intrinsically flawed in some way. I never felt that this retreat was about fixing me. Catherina and Gerry helped me to remember the truth, the only truth-I AM NOTHING BUT LOVE.
I felt no judgment. I felt no need to do anything differently. I felt only the sweetness seeing into myself more. I was guided to see the limiting beliefs that I had created about myself, without feeling bad or judging them, and the ways that these beliefs shaped and created the ‘problems’ (which in fact, Catherina reminded me where not problems at all but beautiful moments that I now had the opportunity to learn from, grow from, and love myself even more because of them) Catherina and Gerry empowered me to create new empowering beliefs that could replace the old limiting ones that I had developed, and showed me how easy it was to go from ‘I am not enough’ to ‘I AM…’ without any pressure to switch from one thought to another.
Catherina and Gerry guided me into seeing the difference between my true voice, which is the voice of love and acceptance, and the ego, which wants to separate. I re remembered the distinction between the voice of true love, which comes from within us, is us, and is always present, and the egoic voice pretending to be love that comes from a place of neediness, judgment, and expectations.
Catherina and Gerry reminded me that I am the most important, magnificent, beautiful and amazing person that I will ever encounter and how to accept that truth, as truth, in a voice of True Love, which recognizes that same truth lives within all of us, rather than a voice of ego which tries to make us better than or less than others. I was encouraged to drop ego whenever I went into a story fueled by judgment and separation, and to see the way that story related to the false stories I was creating about myself and then projecting onto others. I was then encouraged to love that part of me even more and allow whatever healing wanted to take place to take place. I felt simultaneously held and assisted yet completely empowered and responsible for my own healing and feelings of self-worth. And all this was done, seemingly effortlessly, mixed with a shit-load of laughter, dancing, and fun.
I have been to many workshops, I have read many books; nothing compares to this. In fact, I truly believe this model is the core of everything. I have gone into workshops, feeling as though I was not enough. I was given ‘tools’, I practiced them and still I could not measure up. I ended up feeling worse down the line. Worse because I ‘knew’ what to do but for whatever reason I was still not doing it.
This retreat was not about knowing anything. It was about remembering.
I remembered I don’t have to think so hard or try to figure out what is wrong with me or how I can be better, all I have to do is feel and remember the love that I am already. And when I forget, I can lovingly and tenderly forgive myself and return back to the truth-back to me! This is a beautiful dance and I am here to have fun with the moves, not to get them all ‘right’.
Since our retreat my communication with my partner, Peter, has made a huge turn!!! We have revisited conversations that in the past have ended with us screaming and cursing one another to really hearing one another, listening, and found deeper understanding, tears and intimacy! I am noticing when I want to beat myself up for not being a good enough mom, and reminding myself that thought ins’t real. I am seeing this thought now not as truth but as an opportunity to love myself more and share that love with Eva. I spend time taking care of and truly enjoying my own company and I have been truly enjoying the company of others in the process.
Catherina and Gerry never promised me that once I did this retreat Peter and I would never disagree again or that I would never have a limiting thought again in my life. This isn’t a ‘quick fix’. The only thing they gaureented me is that once I remember who I am, Love, I can choose to return to that knowing again and again and again. Not only will I return, but I can do so with play J Seeing each opportunity as a moment to discover more about myself, to see those parts of myself that want to remain hidden. Seeing each time I forget as a moment to practice compassion with myself, to lovingly remind myself of the truth of who I am, who we are, without judgment or criticism. As if by magic, the way I love myself, the way I show compassion for myself when I forget and become trapped in mind/ego, becomes the way that I show compassion and love for others when I see them doing the same thing. We are one mind, one consciousness. This was truly a beautiful fucking experience.