Pretending to be Me

Liam Alex Heffron is an Irish born, award-winning entrepreneur, filmmaker and advocate and joined the Jumpstart programme in summer of 2014.

It was late night. We were spent. It had been a long three days with no coffee, alcohol or nicotine and eating meals that even the Elves of Rivendell would think pushed healthy eating too far. The initial giddy and nervous excitement of promised enlightenment in a Kent gentry house, had given way to hollow tiredness. We weren't sure the organizers had us awake for near 18 hours a day - doing some activity - to break our will. But it did. The week of "Jumpstart" couldn't come to an end quick enough and nerves were frayed. The evening class of Bodywork had claimed some teary causalities but most had got to the end of our stretches and were longingly eyeing the exit door to sleep beyond. But a firm hand on my shoulder stopped me. My fellow grumblers left and in that gloom, Sheila, the coordinator of the week asked me the simple question. "It must be desperately tiring for you Liam, trying so hard, in pretending to be you?" and I broke. Down. I gave it up. I no longer could keep up the act.

My thoughts have slipped now, like trying to hold the remnants of a vivid dream in the rays of a morning-curtained sun. But that is how I recollected the words that forced me to open and allow me to accept without judgment. The week wasn't the same after - as we all to a lesser of greater degree found our own questions answered. 

Jumpstart is a week long programme of the Concord Institute in London, one of many that they do, offering educational programmes and services that enable people to become more self-reliant in terms of assuming greater responsibility for their health and well-being. From cooking in a more resonant way with nature and our bodies, to bodywork sessions of meditations, stretches and postures and beautiful philosophy lectures with poetry, music and deep metaphysical theory, this is a full week. 

But that is only the husk, I actually cannot properly explain the enlightened moments that happen in between as we get to see ourselves as we really are. As characters in our own stories, desperately trying to survive with in a world largely of our own construct, guided by Sheila and her team of volunteers and David Norris. A man who in another time would have disciples begging for his views on life, death and how best to grow grapes on a hill full of hungry goats.

Here I had one of those defining moments of my life where I suddenly saw who I was. A terrified boy trapped in an adult's body but still trying to protect himself by pleasing people with flattery or humour. A boy afraid of the world finding out how scared and unworthy he really was. The more he searched to "know himself" and "be grounded" like all those friends he admired - the farther he was. Sheila was right of course; I was so soulfully tired of it all. Checking in with every scowl or tossed words to see if the person I cared about still cared. Adjusting my behaviour to suit. Dancing on eggshells and being all things to all men and loosing any sense of who I really was. Mind you, Sheila did say that by times we are all entertained by this interloper so he did have a great deflecting wit. But at what cost to him?

I came away from Jumpstart with my new friends - friends as only can be forged in such an intense week of soldiering at a battlefront. We may never see each other again but we have surely that shared enlightening that connects us all forever. But enlightenment if it is that, is a fragile vision which ebbs and flows in the days ahead. It is a flash of revelation that is soon lost when the conscious practical mind tries to understand, as we would try to understand a Van Gogh painting - rather than just experience it.  I personally came away with a new sense of who I am - knowing to see myself as being that character in my own story of life. I have learned it is enough to simply be and see, see that boy instinctively react when threatened with disfavour or when someone comes too close to his heart. See be with that boy, as that is enough to change everything. From truly seeing ourselves without judgment allows us to see others then too. 

Contact Concord for their unique programme of courses at the address below. Tell Sheila, the Irish Pretender sent you....