My name is Drew Mahler and I am a workshopaholic. Or at least, I used to be. For several years I went through a period of near addiction to doing self-development workshops. I went to healing workshops, retreats, courses and coaching; getting all sorts of certificates, knowledge and training. However, the day after one of these workshops I found myself thinking about what I was going to do next. Which new modality could I learn? What other teacher could I listen to to deepen my knowledge of myself and the world around me? And then it struck me, I had just spent the previous four days learning how to be a more grounded and balanced human being yet I was looking to rush off and read the next book or do the next course to try and learn how to be a more balanced human being. I had developed a pattern of frantically looking for external fixes to my internal need to feel calmer, happier and more at peace whilst denying myself the opportunity to do so! This is like a hungry man sellotaping sandwiches to himself. This will never sate his hunger until he learns to internalize and transform this for himself, otherwise he will be eternally hungry. I had been running around collecting a lot of knowledge without taking the time to reflect and transform this in to wisdom. The ability to stop, breath and create space for our minds is essential to this process and meditation can help hugely with this.
Sogyal Rinpoche once told a story of staying at a friend’s house that had a huge library of books (I suppose it wouldn’t be a library of anything else). Many famous titles on healing, spirituality, love and so on. He wondered why someone would need so many books, as it implied that there was a lot of knowledge but not necessarily much wisdom. He then told us it is like a tomato, knowledge teaches us that it is a fruit while wisdom teaches us never to put it in a fruit salad. My take on this is that unless we transform this knowledge it is of little practical use to us. Many of us have books on spirituality or positive thinking or law of attraction or have been to courses on the same. But why so many? If we really embodied what was being taught and took the effort to use this we probably wouldn’t need more than one book, or to do one course. And this is where a problem arises for many of us because, if we are truthful with ourselves, the effort of changing ourselves is more than the effort of looking for another book/course in the hope that it will do the work for us. Sellotaping more sandwiches. It is the difference between knowing it in your head and embracing it in your heart.
Ironically it was on a workshop where this all really crystallized for me. I was doing a coaching workshop with a wonderful man called Marcus McKeown (link here), an inspiring teacher and generally awesome guy. The first thing he told us was “I will teach you nothing you don’t already know”. He taught us how to listen compassionately and pointed out it was something we could all already do. It is just about parking your own stuff rather than barely listening to someone while you wait for your turn to speak, be present and trust intuition. These lessons really sank in, along with some other powerful realizations, and I have really tried to embody these changes.
Workshops and books offer an amazing opportunity for awakening, awareness and personal growth. The paradox is that until you have read the books or done the workshops and really brought in to your way of being, that you realize you didn’t need the book or workshop in the first place. It was something you knew inside anyway, maybe the path to get there needed a bit of illuminating by someone who has trodden those steps before.
The workshops and books are the means to an end, however, not the end itself. Not that there is an end of course, life is a kick and a kiss, a hit and a hug and a constant shifting maelstrom of thoughts and emotion that will continually challenge us to reach new levels of awareness. We may as well enjoy the ride but bring a good book with you just in case.