I’m determined to write about myself in a way that isn’t self-pitying. Getting out of self-pity has been an important part of my work in recent years, and it’s something that I really learned from OM.
Still, I need to start by saying I’ve always been a highly sensitive person. Since I was a little boy, as far back as I can remember, I’ve been overwhelmed by stimuli. When there’s too much noise, or the lights are too bright, I panic. And when I panic, I can get very reactive and angry. My sensitivity has given me a Jekyll and Hyde personality; I can be very loving, friendly, and kind one minute and then – if something hits me the wrong way – I can be filled with anger. Most of the time, though, I’m in between rage and love, stuck in shyness.
I know my trauma stems from my relationship with my mother. She’s a strong woman, a powerful person, but she was completely unavailable to me when I was a child. She ignored me when I cried, she left me alone for hours on end, and often seemed indifferent to me when she was with me. I was kept clean, and I was fed – I wasn’t abused in the physical sense, but I was deprived of love and affection. It left me fearful and jumpy, and it made it almost impossible for me to have healthy relationships with women.
I came to OM through men’s work. I was part of an amazing program for a while, and they helped a great deal. One day, a man I trusted took me aside and told me that he was sure that OM could help me. I was nervous, but also intrigued. I believed this man knew enough about me to know it would be good for me. I signed up.
I almost walked out of my first workshop. I saw people laughing together, hugging each other, and showing each other so much affection. Immediately, my self-pity kicked in. I can never have this. No one will ever love me. No one will want me the way the people in this room want each other. I wanted to run away. Somehow, the rational side of me kicked in and I found the strength to stay.
My first OM was physically awkward. My leg kept falling asleep, even when I shifted positions, and it actually became painful. What I was able to realize was that my body was trying to shift my focus to my own discomfort and away from what the OM itself could produce. Gradually, I was able to shift my attention to what the woman I was with was feeling and how my inner core was responding to her.
When the OMs ended, and after we had shared our frames and said goodbye, I felt abandoned. The closeness of the OM was so intense that it seemed like a bit of a betrayal that I couldn’t stay with this woman and keep feeling it. I talked about it with the leaders as well as with my therapist, and I realized that I was projecting mother issues on to the women I was OMing with. Here was this incredibly good thing I was experiencing, and it was bringing up all my feelings of abandonment. Slowly, I learned to let go without feeling any traumatic loss at the end of an OM.
The biggest lesson I’ve taken from OM is a much greater compassion for the feminine. My self-pity was tied up with a lot of anger at women for rejecting me. In OM, I was able to connect with women’s pain and pleasure, and accept that so many of the women I met were working through their own struggles. They had their own issues, as valid and agonizing as mine. Before OM, I couldn’t imagine genuinely empathizing with a woman, as I was much too focused on the harm I imagined they had inflicted on me. OM shifted that. It brought me out of myself just enough to be able to connect with another person’s hurt. For someone as wrapped up in his own wound as I am, that’s huge.
OM is not a magic wand. I am still struggling in many ways. The practice didn’t turn my life in a completely different direction. I still need therapy, still am overwhelmed with doubts, still long for the perfect relationship with a woman that always seems to elude me. But the thing is, progress doesn’t always require a magic wand. I am a little bit happier, a little bit more centered, and quite a bit more compassionate towards other people – even my own mother. That’s more than reason enough to be so glad I did this work.