It’s incredible what can happen in a group when participants are willing to take down their guard, allow themselves to touch something deeper within, and just let the experience be whatever it is.

Hearts open. Truth is recognized. Compassion flows. Laughter is abundant. Respect grows. Given time and space, a profound sense of awe permeates the room as, one by one, members of the group come to rest in the powerful yet often silent presence of the soul.

Moment by unfolding moment, one person and then another steps beyond the stories they’ve been telling to themselves and to the world – stories about who they think they are, what they think they want, and what they think they need. Layers of protection and personality peel away, and people start to recognize themselves in others’ stories. It’s not that the stories are the same – actually they may be quite different – yet the human experience underneath the stories and the longing of the soul to be seen and heard is recognizable to all.

And so was our experience last week in Nic Askew’s “Soul Biographies” retreat. Nic, a filmmaker and poet, has developed a simple yet powerful process of sharing and witnessing the human experience through film.

We were a group of seven participants from across North America, plus a technical assistant, a fantastic cook, and Nic. One after another, each of us sat in the chair in front of the camera while Nic sat opposite us, just behind the camera. Simply sitting in the chair and looking into the camera lens already provided an opening for many. Add to that the disarming way that Nic held the space – a space of wholeness, liberation, non-judgment, and love.

Within minutes, any façade or pretense seemed to fall away. It was an experience of seeing and being seen. Ultimately, it was about seeing yourself by allowing yourself to say what wants to be said from your unguarded heart – discovering the power of your own authentic presence when you allow your soul to be front and center.

In essence, this is also the Transformational Presence experience. It’s an energy and experience that feels like “home” to me. Yet time and again, I witness myself as well as others “holding back” our full-on soul presence. It’s as if we’ve built a dam to hold back the powerful and expressive waters of the soul. We tell ourselves that if we take away the dam, the full-on soul presence will be too much – that we won’t be able to handle it. Or that it will be too much for the people around us.

Yet what if it’s only “too much” because we’ve held back and kept the soul contained for so long? What if we were to open the floodgates and let our full-on soul presence be fully expressed?

We each had our turn in front of Nic’s camera – about 45 minutes for each person. At some point during our filming sessions, tears came for every single one of us. Yet every time, they were tears of recognition, tears of relief, tears acknowledging truth being felt and spoken.

Never was the experience too much. Never was it overwhelming or overpowering. It was, in fact, often deeply moving – for all of us. For some, being in front of the camera was uncomfortable. Yet no one wanted to miss this opportunity. It was rich and pure and real. We were sitting in the real stuff of life and sharing that experience with one another. We created a space for one another from the heart of being. And nothing else mattered.

Do you keep your soul carefully contained? Are you hesitant to let your soul speak – to let it lead the way? Do you catch yourself being careful not to overwhelm others by your full-on soul presence? What if you didn’t? What if we didn’t?

During my time in front of Nic’s camera, I spoke of many things. Yet a theme throughout was the question: What would it mean to live and lead from the “heart of being?” Perhaps this four-minute excerpt will touch something in you.




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