When we offered Cultivating Freedom earlier this year, we interviewed Shelly Cooper. Shelly is one of our expert coaches and course designers, with decades of experience creating innovative courses. She shared her story about how and why this unique course came into being, and what participants stand to gain from it. The first part of her remarks are shared below, with more to follow next week.
WHY CULTIVATING FREEDOM?
I grew up with parents that started having a family very young, 15 and 16 years old. So there was not much structure, and they didn’t know how to create it. I found myself one day very angry after an incident with my father. I ran to my room and started just screaming “I hate you!” over and over and over. And as I was throwing that fit, I became aware that what I was saying wasn't the truth. I actually heard another voice within say “Yeah, but do you though?”
I'll never forget that moment. I became aware that I actually had a choice. I was either going to choose to hate my father, and that would be the trajectory of my life with him, or I was going to choose love and forgiveness. Let me be clear, I was deeply angry and enraged by the situation and rightly so. This was not going to be a casual choice. The truth was though, I loved him. This moment in time was a turning point for me. It began my journey of transformation.
Typically, we're not developed or trained to think like that and we don't necessarily have practices for making life changing choices when the moment arrives. Those moments happen all the time, and we just haven’t cultivated the awareness to make a different choice. The alternative is to fall into the reaction, and to live your life from that story–which isn’t the truth. As human beings, without awareness, we do that all the time. Our thoughts and feelings primarily come from the past–unless you’ve cultivated practices of awareness. We live our lives from the thoughts and feelings that make up the story of the incident from the past, and call that our life. Then, we wonder why we’re not happy, or joyful. We think something’s wrong and go to the doctor for medication, or we self-medicate.
Cultivating Freedom is a journey of practice, discovery, and building awareness so that you can notice that you're in a particular thought and feeling stream, a false belief, a historical conversation, or habit. These thoughts and feelings start to generate the rules that we live our life by. Had I chosen anger, the rules that would have emerged from hate could have been something like ‘men are bad’, or ‘I can't trust anyone’. There are so many things we can make up out of an incident or moment, that then becomes a rule we live our life by.
I designed this course from a realization that when we create those beliefs and rules, then we are reacting to the past versus generating from the future we really want. In the times that we live in today, the speed with which things are moving, we frankly don't have the time to work through the drama that comes from everybody reacting in a way that shuts down relationships, from past old beliefs and rules that produce negativity. Because if I can't trust people, I can't trust the world, there’s no future in that. We have to risk intimacy, risk being known and risk being hurt. We have to learn to quickly let go, allow the emotion to move through us in the moment and then choose to be more committed to the truth or our ideal vision of what we want it to be… to co-creation and collaboration with one another, generosity, love and forgiveness if we want to honor our humanity and experience happiness and joy. That is what we mean by Cultivating Freedom.
When a particular situation from our life history has us create a rule, it's now running us. It's an automatic response, versus a creative response in the moment. We're not authentically ourselves. And we don't even know it, we're asleep. You can usually see this easily in other people. You learn just a little about them and say “Of course you're the way you are”. They're in a repetitive behavioral pattern, responding to things based on a rule they made up at some point in their history. When we bump into those people and they irritate us, how do we then play on a team together? How do we collaborate when all we can notice is that people are in a pattern?
Cultivating Freedom helps you begin to learn how to do that. It helps you practice waking up, and putting in your own checks and balances to ensure you stay awake instead of just running your own pattern in reaction. It builds your ability to be present and have access to choice. The reality is that there are unlimited ways we can respond to anything at any given moment in time. When we're pulled into a mood or a historical pattern, we don't believe that. We start telling ourselves “Oh, you did this to me so therefore I now have a right to respond in this way”. Then we get locked into that pattern and don’t see any way to choose something different and create a possibility for understanding each other.
Cultivating Freedom starts again on September 8. If you're interested in participating, learn more here. If you'd like to learn more about the course, use the form below and a coach will reach out to you for a conversation.