Canoe water tunnel

“You have put so much energy into building a prison for yourself. Now spend as much on demolishing it. In fact, demolition is easy, for the false dissolves when it is discovered.”
― Nisargadatta Maharaj

A singular moment changed my life; in 2005 I walked into a BreakThrough class. Beforehand all I had encountered were platitudes about “changing beliefs,” which was, to me, counter-intuitive. I did not want to change my beliefs; I was seeking a way out of the mind’s hold on me entirely. As I listened to the lecture and watched someone be led through BreakThrough’s Seven Steps, I thought to myself “this is it.” I still was not completely sure of what I had stumbled upon but the powerful feeling of relief from the chaos of my mind was enough. I was hooked.

As I recall my mind back then: a torture chamber filled with thoughts of how I should be or should not be. Even though all I wanted was to be free, I defended the beliefs that limited my actions. Each rule I had adjudicated my behaviour, my feelings, and who I thought I was. The worst of my battles was, if I defended myself I remained in conflict and if I resigned myself I was still in conflict. There had to be a better way! During class I felt an enthusiasm rise that I had not experienced in years. I left class seeking out anyone who would lead me through Steps. Like an asthmatic struggling for breath I wanted to do the work. With each Steps I could feel my lungs open up, space come into where there was no space. I could feel the mind-forged manacles falling to the wayside, my life was changing at the same time. This was all happening at lightening speed.

Of course, I did not stop there—experiencing freedom was more intoxicating than a sunrise. Forty days later I was back in BreakThough, this time with Esther. I had no idea what to expect but I was going to take it all in. As I sat in the front of the class Esther began to speak, her words were like manna from heaven. All I could do was cry tears of joy. I was tired of dealing with paradoxical beliefs and defensiveness, mine or anyone else’s. As a teenager I asked my friends to play a game with me. I would tell them a Story and they would have to spot my lie. I thought if they could spot my self-deception I would free myself. Alas, they made a judgement call. Repeated efforts to ask someone to see my deception led me to conclusions about myself, possibly I was on the wrong track. Maybe I was completely mistaken. But I had read Krishnamurti, and he asked those pointed questions that made me center and walk the razor’s edge between the tension of opposites. I desperately needed someone to ignore my defensive rhetoric that vied for attention; and pay attention to what was hidden, the little girl beyond the defensive mind. I saw in Esther and her work a bravery I had not seen in anyone. Standing up for the tiny child and not falling prey to defensiveness. I was freeing myself. The little girl that had been hidden behind do’s and don’ts, right and wrong, good and bad was being freed chain by chain. So I cried and cried.

At every break during class I looked to find someone to do Steps. I started to notice others were moving away from me. That hardly deterred my enthusiasm, I was unravelling. At one point Esther came by and asked, “What are you doing?” I replied, “I am doing Steps.” She just sounded, “hummmm” with a slight smile. I said nothing as she walked off. Now bear in mind Esther had asked during class that we do not interrupt her during her break, as she needed that time for herself. It may be strange to you reading this but this was one of the most profound experiences of my life. This was unheard of in my Greek, people-pleasing background. With one sentence Esther struck a door and it opened into a new dimension. I had not heretofore even been aware that I was living in a “Greek, people-pleasing box!” Once I saw it even more began to crumble. Thank goodness for those triggers—breadcrumbs that kept leading me to freedom and still do.

As another day wore on Esther happened by as I worked with the Steps. More students gathered around. My beliefs about myself flooded into my mind. I cannot do this, my enthusiasm went straight into a box and I was frozen. I said almost inaudibly, “I don’t know what to do.” Esther said, “You are doing fine.” She came from such a tender place, so gentle. Esther’s gentleness juxtaposed against the harsh thoughts of my mind was too much for my defences. Her gentleness tripped up my defences and it felt as though I slipped back into my childlike self that had no preconceptions. Once again I could breathe, my mind empty, and I was back into the work.

On a final occasion Esther walked up to me during break and asked, “What are you doing?” I remember not quite being in the room, and I babbled, “I am doing steps … mumbling something … I have to do steps.” I looked up at her standing beside me. I remember seeing her face, so open, clear and she said, “Would you like to be an Instructor?” I heard the words and I might have been salivating. I mean every BreakThrough was shifting my brain, I could no longer think in old ways. I was experiencing from a very different place. Before BreakThrough my mind was a disparaging reporter adjudicating everything I did, said, and everything I looked like. But at this very moment my mind was empty. I had to focus to hear the question. “Do you want to be an instructor?” I repeated to myself. So I said, “Yes.” Of course I had no idea what teaching BreakThrough entailed, my only thought was I would be doing this work for the rest of my life.