It’s almost twenty years ago since I did my first Insight seminar. And in between, I’ve done quite a few seminars. I’ve repeated Insight 1 more times than I remember and I’ve assisted, though not as often. I used to joke, I’m a slow learner (maybe it’s true) but the benefit I have got in learning how to live my life more fully, more joyfully and with greater awareness is worth every hour sat in a seminar room, every pound spent, every tear shed and every ounce of resistance I have had to fight through. And believe me my resistance has been high. I have had to fight myself, sometimes with the clout of a heavyweight boxer, to stay in the ring. Even yet, even this time, repeating Insight 3 which was held in Bulgaria during the second week of May, I found myself hesitant, if not reluctant to go.

The work of Insight, as anyone who has done it will know, is simple but it is not easy. It requires commitment and discipline and I now realise, twenty years on, that my laissez-faire attitude to those two pillars is why it’s taken me as long as it has to get to where I am now. Every seminar I have ever done, I would leave on a high that was higher than anything I experienced on drink or drugs. It was, as if, I saw the world (to use a cliché) through multi-coloured lenses. But over the weeks and months, the lenses got dirty. The colour faded and the so-called reality of life intruded. There was a shabbiness to what had been such a lovely feeling. That’s not to say, I hadn’t learnt something of value about myself and my life which I was sometimes able to put into practice but I felt I was simply chipping away at the edges. All those things I really wanted to change were still there, if in a different guise. And if I needed reminding, at times, that I was a work in progress, my husband, gently (and sometimes not so gently) let me know.

That said, each time I did, or assisted on, a seminar, I felt I climbed another step on the ladder of life. I, also, felt when I fell down, I did not fall as far and that I was in a different place. Slowly, I began to realise the key to successfully changing was not so much knowing and understanding the teachings of Insight (although that obviously helps) but (and this is, perhaps, also obvious) the practice of them in my daily life. I realised too, if I was to change, what I needed most was to step back, or detach. To stop trying to control certain aspects of my life. And though up to very recently, I had a vague idea of what that meant, I had no idea how the hell to achieve it.

This is where Insight 3 comes in. I did it before in Devon in 2001, yet the experience this time was so different, it could have been a different course. Of course, being held in Bulgaria and my being twenty years older and at a different stage in my life had something to do with it. But it’s more than that. And this for me is the magic of Insight. Because it is designed to be experiential, my experience and what I learn, no matter how many times I take a seminar, will be completely new. And not just my experience. Each person’s response to an exercise, a sharing, a meditation will be unique to them. So when people ask you what’s it about? What did you do? It’s almost impossible to explain.

What I got, this time, however, feels huge and fundamentally different. More of an attitudinal shift inside than a high. Yes, I felt good. I felt happy. But I had a deepened awareness that some of the dots, from many of the things I’ve learnt over the years, had finally joined together and that, at last, not only do I know and understand what it means to detach and live neutrally but I, now, know how to achieve it.

Living neutrally, Vasilio, the Greek facilitator and King of metaphors, told us, was ‘active participation without attachment to the outcome.’ It’s like running as fast as you can for the bus and if you miss it, being okay with that. But learning to be neutral is not a mental process, nor does neutrality mean, he warned, not feeling our emotions. ‘Because from a place of neutrality, we can really feel the emotions, the connection, the love, the harmony, the freedom.’ In that moment, I was struck by how my controlling behaviours, so much the cause of keeping me stuck, was precisely because of my attachment to the outcome. Whether it was getting my dream job, getting my thirteen years old daughter to go to bed at a reasonable hour on a school night, or catching a bus, I was totally, completely and undeniably attached to what happened. It might not overly matter if I caught the bus. But that job? And as for getting my daughter to do what I knew was good for her? And even if I was willing to try letting go, how could I possibly achieve it? ‘Observe,’ Vasilio said. ‘Observe how we observe things that take us away from neutrality, for example: by making things right and wrong; good and bad, we create feelings.’ Put simply, if we think horrible thoughts we are likely to feel bad and vice versa. If we, however, observe the judgements, observe the feelings, they eventually disappear. And what is so amazing is, it’s true! Whenever I did this, the pay-off was to experience an incredible sense of peace.

What I have described is a tiny part of my learning during Insight 3. I took away, much, much more. And now it’s about applying it. But since coming home, the difference in my relationship and connection with my husband and daughter is mind blowing. Suddenly, by coming from that small, still, place inside, the underlying tension and conflict, I have so often felt, even if I didn’t express it, has more or less gone. I realise, too, how other peoples’ responses / reactions to me is simply mirroring back how I am relating to them. So when I slip, my husband and daughter (who are always my best teachers) are quick to let me know. That said, I am, still, very hopeful for the future.

 


 

Mary Mckeone was a practising barrister for 25 years. For the first 10 years of her career she practised in London before moving to Manchester in late1999. She is married with one daughter and is currently pursuing her lifelong dream of writing as a career.