A number of years ago, I owned a spiritual retreat centre business called the Ecology Retreat Centre. It’s still near Orangeville in a beautiful rural area of Southern Ontario. There are a few cabins, a beautiful lodge, a dining hall and meeting spaces for groups that want to run their own retreats and seminars. Many of these groups run ecology, spiritual, artistic or psychotherapy programs. The centre had a rustic flavour to it with most buildings, like the lodge, being very modern, however it certainly wasn’t like the Hilton.
The Man with the Lexus
One day, a well-dressed man drove up the driveway in his white Lexus and asked if he could rent a cabin. I immediately thought that he had made a mistake and driven up the wrong driveway. One kilometer down the road was a very posh resort where all a lot of wealthy people would go. When I asked him if he was looking for that resort, he assured me that he had wanted a cabin at my centre. He never told me his real name, but for the sake of the story I’ll call him Steve.
So I drove with him up to a cabin in the woods, got some linens and towels and set him up for the 3-night stay he requested. He paid me in advance.
As I was talking with him I could tell that he was deeply troubled. There was something that was eating him up inside and he seemed close to tears. I was concerned for him but also suspicious.
What was a very rich man doing renting a humble cabin like this when just down the road was accommodation more suitable to man of his wealth? I was wondering if he was planning to commit suicide. I told him to contact me if he needed anything and I decided I would check up on him from time to time.
The next day, I knocked on his door and he answered. I could see that he had been crying but he tried to cover it up by saying he had a cold. He told me he was fine and appreciated me checking up on him.
I left and saw him go for walks in the forest a few times but he generally stayed in his cabin. I never saw him use his cell-phone or his computer. He really was retreating. I checked in a few more times that day letting him know I was concerned about him. He started to open up a little bit, talking about how his marriage was in trouble, how he was quite confused about his life and how he had lost his motivation.
I just stayed present, listened and thanked him for sharing. When he felt complete, I said good-bye and left, letting him know I was available at anytime to listen.
The next morning I knocked on the door. He opened the door and I was taken aback. The man that I saw the day before in intense emotional suffering was gone. I saw a person who was happy, alive, refreshed and totally glowing. I was dumbfounded. I sat down and talked with him and he related to me a profound realization he had during the night.
He told me that all his life he had been obsessed with materialistic matters: property holdings, investments, profits, bottom lines, securities, etc, and he had become very wealthy but increasingly unhappy. In spite of all the trainings and courses he had taken to learn the strategies of success, his life had become meaningless.
The pain of it all was unbearable and he had to get away to ask himself without any distraction of business what was really missing in his life.
So I asked him “Well what did you find?” He replied: “Well, I kept looking on the outside for what was absent. Maybe it was something in my career, more hobbies, more money...maybe it was my wife who needed to change, my son who was misbehaving, etc. The more time I spent trying to find what was missing on the outside, the emptier I felt on the inside.
After a while it occurred to me that most of my life I’d been trying to prove myself to my parents that I was worthwhile. I wanted them to be proud of me so I tried to be as financially successful as possible. I realized that I had been trying to define my personal value by my monetary value. It occurred to me that there was no mathematical equation here...none whatsoever.
I congratulated him on his discovery but I knew there was more so I asked him to continue. He told me that he proceeded to ask the obvious question: “What was it that defined me?”
I looked at my accomplishments, my investments, my actions, my beliefs, my house, and realized that there was something deeper inside of me that defined everything.” There was a pause and I asked: “So what was that?” He paused again and pointedly said “It’s not a “what” it’s a “who” as a big smile lit up face. “You won’t believe this because it was so obvious...It’s me! I’m the one that’s been missing in my life.
I’ve not been centered here, not ever in my life. There has been some phony person living my life, some person that I made up to please my parents ...a person I inflated to impress others and get others to think I was some big-shot. And now that the real me is back I can’t believe the feeling. I feel like I’ve come home after being lost all these years. I feel really alive, like I’ve been re-born!”
“And you know another funny thing, this real me has been here all along. It’s just been covered up under all this bull-shit way I have been taught to be. I was trying to be somebody else thinking that’s who I was supposed to be. The more I tried to be that person the further away I got from myself. The person I was meant to be has been here all along. It’s just...just me!”
We both laughed uproariously at the obvious simplicity of his experience. I knew by the shift in his state of being that he had awakened to his true self. I had witnessed this direct experience many times before with others on my retreats.
He thanked me profusely for my help. When I told him that I had really done nothing he said that was exactly what was helpful. “Just you being there in your listening presence without saying much, deeply listening and knowing you were there if I needed you, was so incredibly helpful. Had I shared any of this with my parents they would have judged me and told me I was out to lunch. You accepted me as I was”
After the laughter died down, he whispered to me from the depth of his being. “I know now what I need to do in my life”. He got up, put his jacket on, went to his car and drove down the driveway.
Three hours later he returned and his wife and young son were with him. They spent that evening and the next day together. I saw them walking in the forest together hand-in-hand, as happy as can be.
Not only did he get his life back but his wife and son got a husband and father back. There was no doubt in my mind that his existence was permanently changed for the better.
He was now engaged in the new project of creating a new life living authentically starting with his wife and son! He had now answered the call to be who he was truly meant to be in his life... His true self!
His life was now about living from that deeper space in himself.
The Most Important Factor
This story points out a number of things:
The first is this: He faced his crisis by himself but he didn’t do it alone. He didn’t look for the answers outside. He didn’t read a lot of self-help books or find his answers in a religion. He did it independently but not alone.
I was there a number of times to give my silent support, to deeply listen and let him be exactly the way he was. This allowed him to go through what he needed to go through without interference.
The second thing this story points out is the most obvious and overlooked factor in personal growth programs.
There are thousands of personal growth books, seminars and programs that promise that if you change your belief system, adapt a different philosophy, practice a set of techniques, declare a given list of affirmations, you will achieve phenomenal results...and they do. People get results but they still do not find real happiness.
Many of these modalities fail to produce real fulfillment in life because they concentrate only on changing the mind’s belief systems and altering behavioral strategies. They do not go deep enough.
They miss the most important factor of all, the operator of the mind: your real self.
If the operator of the mind is not fully involved and is not fully accessing his or her own power then success is limited. Just as an engine works more powerfully when it has full access to fuel, so too do growth techniques when you, the source of the “inner fuel”, the one using the techniques, is fully engaged and present...because the source of anything that makes life work is you.
When you are more deeply connected to your real self you also have greater access to all the factors that influence your success in life: energy, drive, motivation, inner peace, self-acceptance, inner strength, and more.
As the man with the Lexus found out, when he got himself back, he got his life back.
“There is in a man an upwelling spring of life, energy, love, whatever you like to call it. If a course is not cut for it, it turns the ground round it into a swamp.”
– Mark Rutherford (William Hale White), More Pages from a Journal, 1910
To learn more about awakening go to: What is Awakening?
To check out an awakening retreat go to: The Coming Home Retreat