Noventa

It’s storming outside. As the rain mumbles loudly, we come together like sailors, rocking along with our ship in high waves. We are sitting on the floor, in a circle. It’s twenty of us in a room that feels too small, with a light too bright. There is dissonance between the beauty of our connection, and the subtle discomfort I experience in our physical space.

I am aware, maybe we all are, that each one of us is acting as an electric cable. We are responsible for maintaining a tension: through us passes something that is needed for this process, something beyond our rational comprehension. Over the last couple of hours each sentence has transformed from sound to needle; Marius’ voice is emotional acopuncture. And as the pressure reaches us, our bodies take turns softening and collapsing closer to the floor, melting and hardening in a quiet exploration of our consistency.

Right now, in the middle of the room there are two dark-wooden chairs facing each other. On the chair in front of me sits Noventa, the community ‘robot’.

Noventa came to life two days ago. Marie was released from any responsibility to desire, want, have opinions, and create. She became ‘Noventa’, a ninety’s Robot who follows basic orders. Each one of us has been triggered by this role-play: what does it mean to give orders? Does it make me a bad person if I engage with Noventa? Is this too rough of a pedagogy? Is she going to be fine?  We were encouraged to engage with her. Some asked her for a foot massage, others assigned her cleaning tasks – she even ended up being ‘ordered’ to dance on top of a table. I asked Noventa to make me a coffee; despite the discomfort I trusted the strategy.

I have known Marie for only a couple of weeks but through the thin layer of steel in her eyes I caught a glimpse of a new friend. Marie is a French engineer, bright and trained to be precise, to deliver. It worked well for her in the ‘real world’. It also brought her cycles of burn-out and disconnections. So, when Marie becomes robot ‘Noventa’, all of the mechanisms to follow orders are intensified and exaggerated.  I see Marie behind the shell of Noventa, waiting to break through into herself. Yet her inner robot needs to become visible, harden and crumble for Marie to step out. Or this seems to be the logic. As we are learning, before release comes discomfort, a sharp pain in seeing parts of ourselves die. So, as I watch her sitting on this wooden chair, I am connecting to the parts of me that I need to allow to die. I loosely sense them; I prepare my surrender, my mourning.

Marius asked Noventa to sit in one of the two chairs and stare towards the empty chair in front of her, imagining speaking with the Marie of the future, the one she wants to become. The one behind Noventa

Marie looks so much like a robot as she starts. She shakes her head lightly: I don’t see anything.

Marius reassures there isn’t anybody yet: I also still see an empty chair. Imagine it, create it. Marie seems blocked, so we are invited to stand up behind her, touch her shoulder and describe what we see.

The rain pours harder. I can barely hear each voice, but I do not need to hear. Sentence by sentence, on the empty chair appears Marie as a goddess. A loving being, with a strong body, fierce eyes, caring and sharp. There are falling stars and strange things happening, lights and movements I don’t fully understand. It’s a creative process that is held by this circle, and we are all loosely aware of it, holding ourselves more present than a moment before.

Eventually, Marie steps up, moves towards the empty chair, and with a different glow steps into the projection of her goddess self.

We are in reverence of this ritual. All illusions are suspended as they find breath in the presence required to hold space for Marie. For an instant, I am released from my own search for individuality, from my own desires, my own anger, my own impulses. And I am grateful because, as Marie evolves into a goddess, it becomes more obvious than the growth of others is also my own. I soften in the possibility of my own becoming: behind the layers of confusion and mud that I feel in my eyes, I catch a glimpse of the goddess that hides inside of me.

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