by Vanessa Hawthorne, London, UK
I recently had the privilege of working in the kitchen to support the English retreat for Universal Medicine. It was a lot of fun, and a wonderful learning experience. I remember reading Victoria Lister’s experience being very similar to mine in the same kitchen at the last year’s retreat, where around 250 participants were catered for 3 meals a day.
Many a time has a practitioner said to me that they put their connection to themselves first, always. I kind of got this ‘idea’ but I couldn’t explain what that meant as it wasn’t something I had lived.
Well, working in the kitchen helped me to finally feel it for myself – and what a life changing learning it was and will continue to be. Firstly, to work in an environment where the quality of your presence is what is required – not how much you do or how hard you work – was incredible. It supported me to see that every time I became distracted and stepped away from conscious presence – the second I thought about something other than what I was doing, something would occur to show me I had lost myself; an egg shell would break into the eggs, I would bump into someone, I would drop something and it would stand out like a sore thumb because the environment was harmonious. It is in stark contrast to my normal day-to-day interactions at work. WHAT A GIFT!
So, on one morning I was preparing Cod for lunch. All was well until I realised there was another box to be prepared and cooked within the hour. I went into reaction and a ‘must get this done’ mode. I instantly burnt my arm on the oven door! So I stopped and reflected what was going on, clocked myself and realised I had put Cod before my connection to me and therefore with God. This made me laugh as I had been talking to someone that morning about bumper stickers and figured there is one in the making ‘God before Cod’, ‘you before cod = god’. This was profound!
I finally felt what the practitioner had been talking to me about for YEARS, as I could feel it in my body – the push to do totally took me away from myself and feeling my delicious sweetness. It was a great stop so I have been playing with it since – ME FIRST and then what needs to be done; me before getting to bed by 9pm, me before getting out the door by xyz, me before finding that piece of paper for the lawyer… This will be a lifelong practice, but wow! when you feel so good why would anything be before that?
Which led me onto my next learning. In the afternoon of the last day I didn’t have my usual break for a swim and then listening to the retreat for an hour. I worked through my break because both teams were working all day, and I decided that’s what needed to be done. Well, that worked out ‘well’….. for the first time I had really sore feet, became VERY tired and I lost it, which felt awful because I had been feeling so fantastic, my whole body was moving in a new way and up until that point I had been feeling brand new. So why did I give that feeling away for a final feast?
Recognition, for being there, being a team player, reliable, hardworking, you name the ideal and belief that was at play, and I was in it. Another great learning – ME before others’ opinions of me, or indeed what I interpret others expect from me. This was important – if I had honored my need for a proper break it would not have been a problem at all, but I had decided it was the task at hand that was the priority, not me. It was a good reality check – the subtle ideas of how we should be to be a good person overrode what I knew was a truth to honour my body, and that there is enough time to get done what needed to be done.
In summary of the day, when I had completely committed to being fully present without holding back expressing what I felt, the dishwashing of the morning breakfast was gorgeous – there was not even one moment of stress, just harmony and we completed the task a half hour earlier than any other day – without the dishwasher! In contrast, at the end of the last day I was anxious, tired and not living the glory I know I am, all because I wanted to be seen to be hard working… Now you can see why it is a privilege to work in the kitchen at the retreat – what I learned on that last day will support me for the rest of my life.
ME before Cod = living the full glory of my expression in and with GOD, which is just to be me, no great shakes, just me. Too long for a bumper sticker? But a great tag line for my life!