Friday, January 23, 2009

CFG 2009

I returned Sunday night from the annual gathering of certified Shadow Work facilitators, known as the CFG. Last year, the gathering felt like home by the time I left, and I wasn't the only one using the word "home" to describe the experience.

Despite that, this year, as for most previous years, I arrived terrified, and the 5 days there were a journey from fear to comfort. The shame I was feeling when I arrived told me I didn't belong there, that people would reject me and consider me too screwed up to be certified.

The gathering starts on Wednesday evening, and at 2 a.m. Thursday morning, I woke up with intense intestinal distress that became a hellish 2 hours of extreme diarrhea and nausea. I was too weak to join the group and slept until noon. It was apparently about having eaten too much soy ice cream on Tuesday night that my body couldn't digest, though a friend said it could also have been the okra we had for dinner on Wednesday night. But I think the coincidence is too great to dismiss that it may have had an emotional component about being at the CFG.

Regardless of the cause, it left me in a physically weakened condition and unable to eat much for several days, so it was hard to have energy for doing anything. I think I ate nothing but 2 bananas all day Thursday and similar on Friday, my stomach was really wary. It was hard even to drink water.

I rejoined the group for Thursday afternoon and mostly rested on the sidelines. The next day I was still rather weak but worked and facilitated during the afternoon. (After working, conked out and slept on the sidelines during the 2nd person's process, and felt really sad about being so tired because I'd wanted to support her.) My own work was about being worthy of support, and being weakened meant I was very vulnerable and getting a lot of support from people, so no accident there.

By Saturday I was getting back to normal and helped lead group discussions during the day. By Sunday I could eat almost anything again, though favorite foods like pineapple were still off-limits to my stomach. In my final checkout on Sunday, I said that I'd arrived with rough surfaces and now felt like a smooth stone with the water of the brook running over me -- a familiar feeling for me at the end of groups, and one I wish I could hold onto at the beginning of groups.

I've come to think of this annual journey of mine in terms of Enneagram subtypes and specifically about the subtype that I have most in shadow. I attended a workshop with Russ Hudson a few years ago, the author of The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

He believes the 3 subtypes are "instincts" inside all of us, and although I don't think it works to consider them instincts, I agree that we all have 3 learning styles, or centers of focus in us, and each of us generally has 1 of the 3 more in shadow than the other 2. For me, the social is what's more in shadow, and that's why it's so hard for me to attend the CFG, and most other groups for that matter. In fact, I think if Russ read Practically Shameless, he'd say, "This is a book about a woman with social instinct in her blind spot." (his term for shadow)

I was lucky enough to have a very compassionate roommate who is a very sound sleeper, so she never woke up from my troubles during the night.

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