Before I started an OM practice, I just wasn’t very present. I don’t know how to describe it other than to say I wasn’t really there.
At work, my boss would stop by my desk for the fifth time that day. “Daren! Any progress?” I’d just look at her apathetically. “Nope.”
Or dancing. I do a lot of swing dancing, and a female dance partner of mine actually told me, “If you’re going to dance with me again, you’re going to need to smile.” I hadn’t realized it, but I’d been completely straight-faced while dancing for years. Just a furrowed brow of concentration, trying to make sure I do all the steps correctly, don’t run into this table or those dancers, and so on. Just check, check, checking the boxes.
Or I’d be out at a movie with my older brother, and I would spend the entire time being annoyed with him, wishing he would at least offer to share some of his popcorn. Wishing our relationship was something other than what it is.
I was having coffee with a friend of mine when she brought up OM. She’d been practicing for a long time and told me about the transformation she had witnessed in others through the practice. “You’re always up in your head, Daren,” she told me. “You’re not doing that well socially or in your career. I think it would be good for you.” I decided to try it.
My first OM was with a very nice, open-minded woman. We arranged to meet at her place, where she felt a little more comfortable. At first, I was worried I was doing it wrong because she was making so many adjustments. At least once a minute, she would adjust me. I started sweating, getting really flustered. I felt myself drifting away. Then, I remembered something they had taught us in class: an adjustment is something of a gift. She’s taking her time to say, ‘Hey, we’re in this together, and I would like you to know this about my body and what’s happening to me now.’ With that renewed perspective, instead of shutting down, I focused in.
My brother and I grew up in a happy home in New York State. We were well off. We would spend time camping and vacationing together and were on the swim team together. But I never felt like we were as close as I wanted. Not emotionally. I don’t think he’s ever been diagnosed, but I wouldn’t be surprised if my brother has Asperger syndrome. The rare times he would actually talk to me, we would fight a lot. He was always so stubborn. And it tore at me that we were never close. The one person who I was supposed to be close to, I just wasn’t. I sort of gave up on close relationships altogether from an early age.
As I got these adjustments, and started receiving them as a gift, and focusing in, the OM started to go so much better. The same happened in my next OM. And I started realizing a couple of things. One is that relationships are work. You need to ask for things, just like you would ask for an OM. And as importantly, you need to be able to adjust without running from the present. The other is that acceptance doesn’t mean apathy. I guess that’s sort of the same thing, but it’s a really important distinction. I can try hard at my job and still accept that I’ll sometimes struggle. I can go dancing and do well without it just being about checking every box, doing every move right. And I can spend time in the company of my brother, accept what our relationship is, and work to find more enjoyment within that relationship.
I’ve lost 25 pounds since starting to OM, and it’s the same sort of thing. I still enjoy food, but I’m eating more purposefully, realizing it’s to nourish my body. And I’m more aware of and proud of my body, partly because I can draw courage from these women who are willing to be in the nest and place themselves in such a vulnerable position.
My favorite part of OM has always been the final grounding stage. At that point, my partner and I have both felt all sorts of different sensations and emotions, and they haven’t been communicated yet through frames. They’re just crackling in the air. And we just acknowledge that what we’ve shared has come to an end, that things are wrapping up.
But as I’ve entered myself more into the present, I’ve started to enjoy something at OM’s very beginning. When your partner is taking off her pants, that’s where the theoretical OM becomes practical. I used to not look, or be embarrassed. Now, instead, that’s just another moment to take in, and it can have meaning. I can savor every moment, and it’s not embarrassing. It connects us both.