Workshop veteran Rose Rouse tries out a self-development course with one-to-one support for all who take part and finds that this level of care, combined with the group process environment, makes for a powerful experience
Last year, I signed myself up for an emotional and spiritual MOT, undertaking a seven-day intensive group process called the Path of Love (POL).
It may have a saccharine name, but I found it one of the most challenging workshops around. We spent a lot of time in silence, reflecting, meditating or writing, and even meals were in silence. But there were also many periods of searingly honest sharing; that was the difficult part. However, I knew the deeper I went with it, the more I would get out of it.
Amazingly, there were 35 participants and 35 staff, who were a combination of trained facilitators and therapists, and previous participants who had come back to give one-to-one care to those taking the course. This is POL’s unique selling point: no other course of this nature has this level of support on offer. It’s also inclusive – you can be a beginner or a veteran in the world of personal development.
“You start the day with an active meditation which gets you into your feelings, energy and body,” says co-founder Rafia Morgan. “Then after breakfast, you join with a group of others for personal exploration work. You are often prompted by a question or a theme, and then encouraged to be as courageous as possible in revealing your feelings, thoughts, vulnerabilities, fears and passion about whatever the theme is. For example, you might have never talked about a shameful event in your past that has made you afraid and is therefore crippling your creativity. Here you get the opportunity to declare it and feel it fully.”
The Path of Love has been in existence for 18 years and takes place in countries as diverse as Italy and Australia. Its founders, Rafia Morgan from the US and Turiya Hanover from Germany, are both followers of Osho – a controversial Indian philosopher who used to be known as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh – and created the course after he died in 1990, but it has only recently arrived in the UK.
“It is successful all over the world and now we’d like people in Britain to get the opportunity to experience it,” says Morgan. “Sometimes it seems there is some resistance or suspicion or perhaps embarrassment in the UK around the word ‘love’ in the title. Perhaps because the UK tends to be more of an intellectual culture than a feeling culture.
“POL gives participants the opportunity to go into their personal issues very deeply with extraordinary loving care from our staff.”
Does this group process environment accelerate personal growth? “There are many elements in POL which make it a fast track to transformation,” believes Morgan. “People find immense inner resources of courage, strength, steadfastness, compassion, playfulness, honesty and love of the truth, which creates a very deep space of trust in the group room.
“In that trust people find the possibility to do deep work with aspects of our self that have been denied, repressed, rejected or split off. Awareness and acceptance of shadow aspects are important keys to being a much more conscious and authentic human being and have an especially positive effect on all the areas of life which have a relational basis – from work to marriage to friendship.”
An important aspect of the process is the balance between having time in silence and contemplation and other parts where you are expressive. We were often given questions to reflect upon and invited to share what feelings were evoked, such as: If you died next week, how would you feel about your life? Questions like this put participants in touch with a sense of urgency, passion and longing to realise their potential. It is connecting to this longing that leads you to then confront in yourself whatever it is that may be getting in the way of living your life to the full, the organisers believe.
At its core, POL is about helping you to open your heart and supporting you to reside in that place for much longer and more deeply than is the social norm.
“POL embraces and is connected to spiritual lineages such as Sufism, Baul Mysticism and to the messages of love from Kabir, Rumi, Hafiz and Jesus,” says Morgan. “In this workshop, we find an inner place of open-hearted compassionate communion with the divine that naturally is expressed as profound humanness and contact with others.”
I had decided to use this seven-day period to address, despite my contentment, the lack of a partner in my life. I have done many different workshops – from a year’s group therapy 15 years ago, to tantra workshops, but I recognised that a week is a substantial amount of time, which means you can really allow yourself to go into a place of deep transformation. I also tend to be more of a ‘head’ than a ‘heart’ person, so this was an opportunity for me to really dwell in that place of sweetness, and then hopefully take something out from that experience to benefit others.
I was familiar with the methodology of the course: expose your vulnerabilities, express the feelings that are evoked and then move into a place of peaceful release, but I’d never experienced such exquisite one-to-one aftercare. It left me in a state of blissful nurture; I felt totally loved in all my unlovable places as well as the more lovable ones.
And, for me, there followed a life-changing shift: soon after, at last, I met the right kind of man for me.
The next Path of Love course takes place from 31 October to 7 November at Buckland Hall in Wales, and a day workshop will run in London in October 2013.