On Tuesday evening I celebrated the launch of my book with friends, colleagues and sangha – a real weave of my worlds across Buddhist-therapist-educator, and Helen as the thread that ran through. It was a joyous occasion. And that emotion itself was testimony to these past 10 years, much of the story told in the book. Just that afternoon I had been speaking to a colleague and she asked me how I felt about the coming celebration and being “fêted” – in that moment, realising I was excited rather than anxious…it said so much.
My hosts were Waterstones in Brighton, and their welcome was truly incroyable. They treated me like an “author” – they kept pointing out that I was one, “me, Helen?”* Sequential moments of being blown away; no-where to run, no-where to hide…this WAS, IS happening. I think it is finally sinking in.
Once prep for the launch was complete, the team at Waterstones left me to have some time alone. I sat looking around; my books on presentation stands alongside other authors, bestsellers….yes, this was the moment it all became real. I felt like a kid in a sweet shop. The little mischievous Helen appeared, putting my book alongside others (no honouring of the Dewey system tonight), giggling in this dream world.
Just before the party began, my wife arrived. We had a moment together, taking it all in. Brian, our dear friend and the photographer at our wedding was again there to record the event. In fact, the feeling I had that night was very much resonant with our wedding day. A day we felt truly celebrated…and loved. As each guest arrived, I had the excitement of seeing the top of their head bobbing up the stairs to the third floor and finally seeing who was coming into view. It was like a surprise gift being opened again and again** No other word for it than “love”.
Another word that came up in conversations throughout the evening was being “proud”. With each guests arrival, the question of “how does it feel?”; many offered “you must be proud”, and I squirmed and wriggled, not knowing if what I was feeling COULD be called that. “Pride” is an interesting experience for a Buddhist practitioner to work with – my loved ones are certainly not helping my project of egolessness! I honestly feel more in touch with appreciation and gratitude than pride per se. I can see the beauty of the end product, I can see its benefit…and, I know the personal effort that went into making it come to fruition. But to take personal possession of its content is to deny the together-ing of all that is in it. The parts, the relationships between parts – they are not mine to own.
Among the guests were past tutors, supervisors; and they have shared they are proud of me. They have witnessed the journey I document in the book, and they were the sparks that got the journey ignited and kindled the fire that kept it fuelled. And whilst I don’t feel that IS what I feel (for me, about me and this book), I do understand and indeed see why they feel proud of me and my achievements. From my side, these people are aspects of the parts that I came to collate. This book had more than one author; I think all stories do.
Many of my guests were supervisees; also fellow authors as we write this life together. I would probably feel something of a “pride-like” experience if and when they might author a book or another accomplishment. Mudita, the Buddhist teaching on sympathetic joy, is taking pleasure in the joy of others. THIS feels more in keeping, and I have had many experiences of that in watching trainees develop their craft and manifest in the brilliance of their own, human being.
I feel like I have been riding that wave of excitement-joy-love since Tuesday. It’s had me reflect upon how much our experiencing is rests upon attitude and the ‘glasses’ we wear. Feeling so complete and unobstructed sends out, and gathers back, openness: the quality of the reflection is governed by the cleanliness of the mirror. And so, in feeling this ease, I have felt the ease of others around. This felt particularly important as I worked with our new cohort of trainees on Thursday. Another round of setting out on the therapeutic training journey – as I did myself all those years ago. The ending of my book adventure has been ritualised with its launch, the beginning to ending that the book recounted, and now a transition into the beginning of another cycle. Round and round. I was excited sitting in the experiential workshop with these therapist wannabes, and I told them how I felt privileged to be a part of their beginning (as indeed, my tutors must have felt with me all those years ago).
*I later found out that “Alan Partridge” is doing a book signing at the Brighton branch a few weeks after my event!
**Known surprises are the BEST surprises for the enneagram Six