So today, I am 37 years young.
I celebrated my birthday a little early–last weekend at the Tony Robbins seminar, Unleash the Power Within, in San Jose, California. Now, that is a birthday people. And yeah, I’m dead serious.
(And yes, in case you were wondering, I have been waiting for several decades to write that blog post title. (Any Claire Danes fan gets that one.))
Anyway, I flew out to San Jose totally solo, and on a mission. “Oh you’re so lucky to go on a ‘vacation’ for your birthday.”
Yes, I am totally lucky. I am. However, this was not even close to a ‘vacation.’ I will explain.
If you have seen the Netflix documentary, I Am Not Your Guru, then you might be wondering if I have gone off the deep end. (If you haven’t seen it, totally watch it.) And no, off the deep end I am not (at least not because of this). My mom said, “I watched that documentary you recommended and that man said the ‘F’ word so many times I couldn’t even take it.” Indeed. Lots of F words.
Some of you might be wondering, who in the heck IS Tony Robbins? And why do I care?
You may not care. And that’s okay too. And yes, he’s totally the guy from QVC and infomercials in the 80’s with his “tapes.”
But Tony Robbins (to me) is a pretty interesting and charismatic and motivational giant–in stature and in life. I mean, if someone can survive QVC in the 80s to go on to host events with 10,000 people, he’s obviously got something. And he does. He’s also an incredible philanthropist, though the media often fails to highlight the good someone does.
To call him a “motivational speaker” would be like calling Michael Phelps “The Little Mermaid.” Robbins is and embodies energy, motivation, power, speed, thundering words, methods and the like, all wrapped up in a giant-man body (all 6’7″ of him) that seems to have been doused in crack, fried in caffeine and dusted with sugar.
The man is A LOT, to say the least—a LOT is actually an understatement. He’s also one of the most successful entrepreneur-billionaires in history, and has to be number one in his craft. I would assume. So, he’s got A LOT also figured out.
Tony has said, and this is what snagged me a few months ago to read his stuff and ultimately, attend this seminar: “Leadership is the ability to create immediate impact and compel lasting, positive change in others. It’s understanding what motivates people and how to harness the power of influence in yourself and others to achieve a greater vision for mankind at every level. Ultimately, a leader is a master of their own psychology. Because the first person you need to influence is you. Leaders master the art of influence within themselves and with others so that they can act as a force for good and serve something that’s larger than themselves – creating permanent and lasting change around them.” Source
Yep. I am on board with ALL. OF. THAT. High five and a hug!
Next off, to call Unleash the Power Within a “seminar” is also likening something big to something small.
I’ll spare you my analogy. Okay, no I won’t.
UPW, as it is called, is akin to a four-person yoga retreat crashing head-on into 5,000 Gremlins eating tons of chicken after midnight, whereby they are then dipped in water, covered in cocaine, No-Doz and launched from a Red Bull rocket.
Like Tony, UPW is pretty amazing in its own right. The event is a rock concert, prayer vigil, motivational cleansing, meditative gathering, neurological-linguistic re-programming, total cult-like at times, deep-cleansing, touchy-feely, ass-kicking, physical butt-shaking workshop–an event so loud, so vibrant, and so exhausting that I am still not sure which way is up–even days later. (I am sure the cross-country flight didn’t help.)
So. Much like its ring leader, is A LOT—the seminar the man puts out—-well, it’s A LOT too.
Sound like too much?
Perhaps. But I sort of think that everyone should go to one of these events in their life. If not for anything other than to see that there IS something out there weirder, sweatier, hungrier and more emotionally taxing than an Ironman.
Well, Meredith, what is so freaking “taxing” about a SEMINAR?
- Well, this Seminar on Crack is actually a four-day long exercise of looking into our SOULS and dealing with SHAME and FEAR and DOUBT and the swampy, stinky, thorn-covered, blood-curdling mess and horror show that sometimes our insides have turned into
- UPW is about asking ourselves terrifying questions and ripping apart those core beliefs that sprouted their ugly gray heads when we were eight years-old when someone called us fat/dumb/stupid on the playground, a result of which we spent the next, I don’t know, THIRTY EFFING YEARS hating our bodies/minds/souls
- The event is about identifying and destroying those core beliefs that, as an adult, we know better—but they have morphed into bona fide ingrained beliefs which are literally causing us extreme pain, failures in work and relationships, and pretty much sucking shit and poisoning our lives
- UPW is about standing in an arena (a literal arena, yes; and arguably a gladiator-type arena, while we are holding hands with Brene Brown, Theodore Roosevelt, and freaking, Susan B. Anthony and Rosa Parks while we’re at it), bonding with 10,000 of our closest friends who have similar (and worse, and better) life and soul and relationship baggage; bonding with these people while crying audibly as we envision our lives in 10, 20 years without changing all the bad things that are in our hearts, psyches and heads
- If you think that isn’t enough, this whole storm is going down while the theme from “Braveheart” blares over hundreds of speakers, which then bursts into loud, jumping cheers from the massive crowd combined with the new bass of “Radioactive” booming, as the ringleader is banging his drum sticks, and everyone commences chanting, “Yes. Yes. Yes.”
- Oh, and don’t forget that on the very first night, you get to storm barefoot across a bed of hot coals
Now THAT is an endurance event, people.
So that is the high level shock-effect summary of the Tony Robbins UPW event–which is precisely part of the draw.
However, on my 37th birthday, I could have just gone to a rock concert if I was in it “just”for the show. Trust me, a Metallica concert would have been much easier than the soul-stabbing needlepoint life work of UPW. (Those attending, however, quickly realize that the “show” actually serves a real purpose–to keep humans engaged, entertained–and hell, after 13 hours? Awake.)
The deeper analysis of UPW is this:
If you arrive with an open heart and mind, it’s an experience that will change your life forever in many unexpected and wonderful ways. And I don’t take the monetary and time investment lightly–it was extremely heavy on both ends–especially if you “Drink the Kool Aid” and want to go to another event…which is, I’ll tell you, hard to resist when you are on the Tony Robbins event “high”.
But, in life, there are some things worth the investment, no matter how you can sacrifice to make them. I will say, that on my very short list of “in life this was worth it” list, this event was one of them… a close fourth or fifth to a first triathlon, Lasik surgery, a Tempur-pedic mattress, and the birth of your firstborn. (Yes, really.)
I went to UPW with certain expectations and things I wanted to “get out” of it.
Like most people, I had some demons that needed exorcising—things that I had been carrying for years, yet couldn’t seem to shake, no matter how many miles I ran, or how many self-help books I had read.
And here’s the thing: I came home with none of my expectations met.
But yet, I had a million more ways to see more clearly, and understand that my expectations were just stupid. Interestingly, the “demons” I knew I had were just symptoms of much deeper-rooted and older beliefs that I hadn’t even considered. That was eye-opening.
Well, name one, Meredith.
Okay, so here’s an example that hit me like a ton of bricks, right out of left-field:
So I learned a thing or two from one intervention he did with a woman, who appeared about my age, but was clearly much more “successful” (And yes, I say this a little tongue-in-cheek, because its begs the obvious question: What IS success? How do we define success, and how does that shape our beliefs? What does someone look like, who is successful? Ha. You get my drift. Anyway…)
So, she began talking about her childhood, and her relationship with her father, and how he always pushed the point of “never depending on anyone” and “standing on your own two feet”–from a very young age. My ears perked up. My dad always imparted the same sort of belief into me–to make sure that I always could “stand on my own.”
And it’s something that I (and he) have been really proud of.
But then the intervention took a turn for me.
Tony was asking this woman question after question, and then he went this way:
“So you have always been super strong, and ‘successful’ and able to conquer anything, right? If someone said, ‘no you can’t,’ then you would set out to prove them wrong, right?”
She nods. (I nod, too. Soul sisters! Fist bump. Yeah!)
“And you believe that this has led directly to the success you know in life?”
She nods. (I nod.)
“And because of this, you know that you can stand on your own, and you don’t need anyone, right?”
She nods. (Uh-oh, I think.)
“Therefore, success to you means that you can’t or won’t allow yourself to need, be vulnerable or deeply love someone–for fear that it might be a sign of dependence, weakness or lead to a path of destruction and non-success? Is that a fair statement?”
She stares, her eyes wide. (Oh no… this is going to get worse, I think).
“Do you feel that you are exhibiting overly-masculine, traditionally masculine (without getting into gender roles) traits?”
“And do you feel that this is a good thing, in some regards–and you can point it directly to your success? That you know that you can handle any situation, any meeting, any event with the exact same power, efficiency, determination as any man, right? ”
Eyes wider, “Yes.” (Oh, sh*t.)
“And by the way, you can. I am not making a commentary on gender roles. BUT consider this” —I can see her gulp— “While you are strong and unbreakable in many ways, do you feel that your ability to act feminine, feel attractive, and accept love was affected by this belief? Do you feel that because you are strong and powerful, that you don’t need anyone, ever, and that you can always stand on your own two feet? That you are not beautiful or feminine because you have to be strong, and that because you are strong, you will not be, or cannot make room or tolerate LOVE, which feels weak?”
SMACK. SLAP. WA-POW!
Why was Tony talking about me??? Where are the hidden cameras?
Things like this kept me nodding all weekend. Little tweaks. Little uncover here, little uncover there.
No one to blame. Just things… as they are, or were.
Little things to consider about maybe why I do the things I do, why I have formed certain patterns and beliefs. Some of them great—I mean, having strength and success is fantastic, right? But at the same time I could see that I had been seeking certainty and significance in my life (both human needs)–to the detriment of love (another human need). That I was holding on to certain (detrimental) beliefs out of perceived necessity–to meet certain needs that I valued higher than the others.
The question was: how were those beliefs shaping my life–in negative ways–and how could I eradicate those negative impacting beliefs and replace them with good ones? (Whew. Okay, now THAT was a lot.)
So now, I am going to share my one of my previously held core beliefs.
And what in the world I “did” about it.
But first, what are core beliefs?
Well, they are things that we, in our subconscious mind, believe to be true–deep down. Some of them may be so buried, so deep that we don’t even realize they exist. However, these beliefs shape many of our decisions, our habits, our actions—as Tony says, “”the why we do the things we do.” Maybe these beliefs were formed at a young age. Maybe they stem from abuse, or bad relationships, or addiction. (“My boyfriend beat me, and therefore all men are abusers.” “I was told I was fat as a kid, and therefore, I AM fat.” –that type of thing.)
So I am sharing one of my previously held, destructive core beliefs, not for show or shock effect.
I have been writing this post for five days now. And I don’t share them lightly. These are three concrete examples of how light and fluffy things might appear on Instagram, but how scary and muddy things may be inside. 🙂 And like I always say, if I can share something that may make me look stupid, weak or whatever–but it helps someone, then it’s worth it.
My Core Belief #1: Love means control.
To me, I have often felt that in order to love or be loved, that I had to own the other person I loved—or more accurately, that I had to also allow myself to be owned. That if someone loved me, it meant that I respected all of their will–that I was told who to be, what to be, when to be, etc. They were the boss of me (theoretically), and in turn, I also controlled them.
So, I am sure you can imagine how fun it has been being married to me. As this makes no sense whatsoever. But here it is, in summary:
I love you = I control you. You love me = You control me (only not really because I will then resent you for it, and yet, I still want to control you.)
If I was to be loved, in exchange I was promising to always be the best I could, take no prisoners, be a self-sacrificing contributor for the rules, adhering (always) to the rules. It meant that I didn’t get to speak my mind, have my own opinions or beliefs—or, I could speak my mind, but it would mean that I would be shamed. That opinions and beliefs were not “right,” I should most definitely aim to keep them quiet–that was preferred.
In light of all of this, why in the hell would I want love? Exactly.
And if I acted this way, WHO would really (really) love me? Ummmm. [And by the way, I can totally see how ‘terrible’ and ‘stupid’ and destructive this is. That’s the point. We all have something like this in our belief system. Something crazy. Just ask yourself what yours might be.]
So after realizing this one–and sitting there sort of shocked about it–Tony asked us to create the real truth, the absolute truth–and put that into our system, our minds, our hearts… to uncover the facts (much like the lizard, actually, now that I think about it). All fear related. Huh.
The truth. Okay. I can do that. So, what is the opposite of control?
Think think think.
Okay, I’ve got it!
New Core Belief: Love means freedom.
Okay, great! Let’s believe.
(Oh… Not that simple.)
Okay, great! Let’s realllllly believe.
So off we went, at UPW, in small steps. Through a process of visual, emotional, auditory and physical re-programming type exercises to strip away the old “belief” and integrate this new one.
(Not easy, sort of long, kind of painful… but it was something.)
Long story short… through the immersion weekend, I won’t say that I feel “cured” of all my worries, awful beliefs and thoughts.
BUT. I will say that I walked away from the weekend no longer believing deep in my heart that love meant control. I also feel a sense, an supposition inside of me that love means freedom.
That love does not mean oppression.
That loving someone and being loved does not mean giving up everything.
It means that together–with love–we are all stronger.
Love, in all its ways–family, marriage, friendship, connection, internet friends. 🙂
More love = More free.
Because only with love–can we truly see the truth.
When we act with love, we have gratitude.
Only with love can we be seen.
And being seen, there is truth.
And the truth–shall set you?
And that is, truly, a huge win. Thank you Tony/Brene. A nice combo FTW, there.
“And, without question, putting ourselves out there means there’s a far greater risk of feeling hurt. But… I can honestly say that nothing is as uncomfortable, dangerous, and hurtful as believing that I’m standing on the outside of my life looking in and wondering what it would be like if I had the courage to show up and let myself be seen.” – from “Daring Greatly,” Brene Brown
Regardless of the logistics, I left San Jose with a desire to close my eyes with gratitude and say “thank you” for my life.
Knowing that I can be seen–and that is okay. And if someone doesn’t like me, for being me. Who cares.
Not only that, but I came home with shiny new pair of glasses—glasses that enabled me to strip away the bullshit from my beliefs, see the grace in my life, feel the gratitude in my heart, and understand that I am, truly and unashamedly, limitless.
From the little moments of joy, to practical tools to use on a daily basis, to meditative and breathing techniques that feel actually sustainable for someone “like me” who has blown off meditation for as long as possible, I feel that the value-added from UPW was well done.
If I had one final thing to share on my birthday from this UPW event, it can be summed up in one quote from the Giant Motivator, the GM, if you will:
“Trade your expectations for appreciation and your whole world changes in an instant.”
The GM’s wise words: we can’t be grateful and angry.
We can’t be grateful and bitter.
We can’t be grateful and depressed at the same time.
Gratitude is the antithesis of all our bad, negative and unworthy emotions.
With a truly grateful heart and soul, so much of the other things are wiped away. And it’s that quick and simple–to shift our mindset from anger and fear–to gratitude.
Focusing on the gratitude can literally wipe away the other things weighing us down.
You don’t think so? Okay. You’re on.
Next time you are really pissed off at someone or something, try this little exercise:
See how your mood and perspective has changed. Then get back to me and the Tony on it.
Summary: so much truth and guidance in gratitude.
I could not think about anger or resentment or frustration when I put myself in a place of gratitude like that. It’s impossible. And I found that one exercise so very helpful for me, in this place in my life, but also as a practice to use going forward. I am appreciative of the GM’s event for showing me a path to true gratitude–which is something that I, unfortunately, have had a hard time practicing for many years.
Finally, I am closing out my long birthday post with a clip of my notes from the event:
Life is happening FOR me, not TO me.
Find the grace in each day. The Worst Day is the Best Day – because while it may not “feel” that way, those types of events and days are precisely when we are built, when we find out strengths. Every second is a lesson or something to remember.
Today, I am five days home from the event.
I have used the tools learned several times each day, in a multitude of situations. I was able to share my experiences at a meeting this morning. It’s been a huge blessing, in a short time. I have woken up each day and taken 10 minutes to breathe, to mediate, to count my blessings. I do this now, because I put it into practice over the weekend. I hope to continue it.
Correction: it’s all in MY POWER to continue it. And that is a huge revelation.
In life, the meaning we give each situation is up to us.
Life is happening FOR us, not TO us.
Life is happening FOR us, not TO us.
Life is happening FOR us, not TO us.
Life is happening FOR us, not TO us.
Life is happening FOR us, not TO us.
Life is happening FOR us, not TO us.
Life is happening FOR us, not TO us.
We can take every single situation and think: What can I learn? What can I do? What can I control? What meaning am I going to give this moment/experience/situation/tragedy?
I can thank Tony for pointing that out to me. For slapping me over the head with it, pulling me across fire with it–whatever.
From the event, I have increased my gratitude for my life exponentially–especially in the mornings when I have needed it the most. And like any muscles, I have to work them–so I am not calling UPW a “cure-all” – don’t get me wrong.
However, with willingness to change, the weekend great place to get a jump-start–on “the next thing,” on working through some beliefs, on gaining motivation, energy… and working on the exorcism of demons on crack (of course).
I am thankful, as I roll into my 37th year for many things. I am most thankful for my family, for my sobriety (almost one year!), and for the opportunity to take my voice, as long and as loud (or quietly) as I can, and put it down on this blog.
Sometimes my message is heard and received, other times it’s like a good, old-fashioned fart in the wind… but either way, I am thankful for the community that exists because of this little internet space.
A final disclaimer I will mention about the whole weekend:
Tony Robbins–the man, the machine and the event–is a very well-oiled, smartly done, commercial enterprise. Therefore, moments pitching the next seminar, the next product certainly existed over the course of a 50 hour long weekend “seminar”. But looking past that, the actual value for the four days was massive. And how much time was spent “pitching” other products over 50 hours? Maybe 5? 7? 45 hours of value and 5 or 7 hours of not-so-much? And how many hours of the weekend was really just not “for me”? I don’t know. But worst case and for the sake of argument, let’s say that I “only got” half of that—only 20 hours of outstanding “for me” content. So at $700 a ticket for even “the nosebleed” tickets, I wanted to fall out of my chair when I first looked into attending. WHAT?!!? $700? But each day was 12-14 hours of content. Even at $700, that’s around $15 an hour. Even if I think I received “only” 20 hours of “great” content for the whole weekend–that breaks down to totally worth it and a helluva a lot cheaper and time-saving than therapy—try that one on for size. The value was enormous at the end, when I look back and consider the time and energy, as well as entertainment of the event. I also like that Tony Robbins lives his principles–you can literally touch his products, see his drive and hard work. It’s right there in the arena. Something to say for that, no matter who ya are.
Finally, at this point in my life, I knew it might take a 6’7″ giant man with a booming voice, in an arena of 10,000 people to shake some of my negative core beliefs out of my heart and soul. The things I gained from this trip—with myself, with the exercises—stripping away, chipping away at many of my issues—was money and time well spent. And even if you can’t possibly understand me, don’t care to, or can’t possibly see it that way? I get it and that’s cool too.
But as for me, I choose gratitude. And I am grateful for my experience.
And also for you. Thank you for reading.