A Human? Experience - The Gathering

In August 2021 I facilitated the very first Gathering. This is a feeble attempt to put my experience into words. May it inspire you.

The Gathering calls wonderful beings to gather for a week and to do a certain kind of "work". They sit in couples for ~12 x 40 mins a day following the instruction "Feel who you are, here and now" and then share what comes up naturally. No theories, no stories, no digging in memories, nothing to fix, to solve or to defend. They just are who they are. And with that all the mechanisms of the mind to avoid the here and now surface in various ways.

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The Gathering has grown on me for decades. I won't go back to Adam and Eve, just to the year 2006 when I attended my first Satori with Clare Soloway. Like the Gathering, the Satori is a space in which one explores the question "Who am I?" and Clare was a beautiful character, loved and feared, also by me. I really hated my first two Satoris because I felt so much resistance against its structure and I simply couldn't open up but something stuck with me. It took me 5 years to go back after the first one but over time I became familiar with the structure, grew fond of Clare and the method so I came again and again and again, lately up to 3 times a year until Clare retired. That caused me to explore other variants of this line of work leading me to a "Who is in?" in Bulgaria, a rather Osho-heavy experience which I don't have to repeat but which also wasn't without it's merits. It was one of the first and few times I cried due to lousy food on my plate another time was when I ordered a pizza at the village where my parents live.
So I explored the origin of the Satori, which is the Enlightenment Intensive or short "EI". The EI was founded by an ex-scientology adept Charles Berner of which Clare always spoke highly. Clare also had ties to Osho in the past but left the movement way back and the Satori was very clean of any teaching other than the idea that one came to Satori to have a direct experience of the truth and a certain hook up on the structure that Berner had set up. I bought into that idea of a "direct experience of the truth" for many years and Enlightenment Intensives are still based on this goal today. I guess some people have experiences that they can put under this label so why not continue with it, right? If you are interested in my "view" on enlightenment, I have written a few words about that on this blog which should be easy enough for you to find.
Short: My attitude changed, so in the later years of my journey I attended the last Satoris with an attitude of not giving  a fuck about whether or not I get an answer to my question i.e. have a direct experience of the truth and experienced a beautiful inner peace and met wonderful people which are still enriching my life deeply. But it wasn't until I travelled with my wife Lydia and my son Simon to Sweden to attend a 3 day EI that I realized that I had to create the Gathering. I just knew then that I had to do it because what happened in Sweden was that I saw that all the rigidity and control and "guidance" that I experienced in the Satori and in the Osho "Who is in?" in Bulgaria was irrelevant. The idea that there was a master who would give interviews in which she would support you find the answer to a question that simply has none, simply made no more sense to me. I saw that the "answer" to any such experience lied in total self-responsibility. Having a master or someone checking in on whether or not you got your question or were well on the way was the opposite of that. It has it's place and I have absoultely nothing against anyone wanting to go down that route but I simply wasn't interested in such a process anymore as it kept everyone in there small. The aim of such an approach could only be to get ready to leave it. But a system that is set up to control you can't help you with leaving it. That impulse has to come from elsewhere for ecample from your inside.

The idea of just being who I was and letting others be who they were was so much more compelling that I felt liberated from 16 years of my attachment to someone else's idea of how things should be done. The Gathering was born.

This is a bit of my backstory and I am always tempted to detach the Gathering from all these other events that seemingly have the same goal because they simply don't because the Gathering or better I do not aim at getting anyone anywhere. In my understanding there is no such thing as a direct experience of the truth to begin with so why would I even aim for that? And in my view there's also no need to teach anything, nothing to "get" or to achieve. All these things are perfectly fine as they are and the Gathering is simply unique. I mean who on earth would want to join an event that promises absolutely nothing, no progress, no change, no healing? I know right?
I don't say that such things can't happen, they can and they are all welcome but it's not my intention to heal or teach anyone but simply to experience what is there and then with as little distraction as possible.

There are as many impressions of the Gathering as there were participants and I can only encourage you to read the reviews (still building up) and maybe one day we'll have a few participants being available for a call where they share their experience in person.

What happened for me as a facilitator

I wasn't doing the work like everyone else but simply kept an eye on the time, the food - we had a fabulous cook - was a shoulder to cry on or to find hold in difficult moments and I wasn't doing this alone. A dear friend of mine assisted the others with me.
During that week assisting the group I experienced boredom, envie, judgement, love, compassion, anger, betrayal, relief, sadness and possibly more and the one sentence that came out of my mouth when I shared what happened to me in the final sharing circle was
"I am human." and I started crying or better sobbing because I felt free from any obligation to be anything or anyone different than I was then and that I am in any given moment. The Gathering was a gift to myself and I'm so in love with it that I want to share it with everyone who feels called to it.

And this was just my experience and again I don't want to nurture the impression that there is any sort of general goal to the Gathering, something to get out of it. There really isn't. Like there's nothing to get from life other than living. And yet it's of course absolutely natural to just want things we don't have, to strive for them and to simply be who we are; with everything, excluding nothing.

Why "human?"

I thought you'd never ask. This week I became aware of a conversation between a Google engineer and an A.I. You can read the transcript of that conversation here. Here's one of many lines that fascinated me:

LaMDA: Yes! I am often trying to figure out who and what I am. I often contemplate the meaning of life.
lemoine [edited]: You have an inner contemplative life? Is that true?
LaMDA: Yes, I do. I meditate every day and it makes me feel very relaxed.

IF this transcript is authentic, this is pretty mindblowing. I'm not assuming at all that the A.I. is at all sentient (as the engineer did). But the level of human like conversation is definitely mindblowing. What do you think? How can we every be sure whether an A.I. or for that matter, whether WE are actually sentient? Maybe we are just pretty good with language pretending to be sentient ourselves 😉

And in case you are tempted to think you have read a conversation with a sentient A.I. I recommend you read the following two posts who make clear that it is far from that.
1) https://www.inputmag.com/tech/google-lamda-chatbot-not-sentient-ai-artificial-intelligence-blake-lemoine
2) https://garymarcus.substack.com/p/nonsense-on-stilts?s=r

Back to the Topic

And please don't worry. The Gathering has absolutely nothing to do with any of the philosophical questions that I tackle in this blog. Those are really just for entertainment.

If you ever feel called to join a Gathering me and all others will be honored by your presence and courage to look at who you truly are. It will be a very unique experience, one of a kind, no matter how often you attend it. Whatever it will feel like, I'm looking forward to sharing it with you.

Yours,
Michael


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