At this point, I should say that any 'personal development' I'd experienced was purely accidental and within a few minutes of being in the room, it hit me squarely between the eyes that I wasn't in Kansas anymore.
We all had our turn in the spotlight, our chance to talk, spill, share and the opportunity to do some work on ourselves. Weirdly, on the Thursday, I'd woken up angry. I thought I was chugging along nicely, but apparently my body had other ideas - it was pissed off about something and I was feeling restless and aggravated. And of course when you share that kind of information in a group like that, there are consequences…
There was a mattress at the side of the room and Ari suggested I hit it with a pillow. (No, no, no, no, no! How EMBARRASSING! No way! No.)
But one thing you should know about me is that I'm an 'In for a penny' kind of girl. So I stood up, picked up the pillow and looked at all the faces around me. They seemed OK about it. They looked concerned, supportive… but above all, I thought, expectant. (shit)
Then I spent about five minutes pacing up and down with my pillow feeling stupid. I could have just refused to do it. I could have just sat down. But for some reason, I wasn't going to do that. Finally, I swung the pillow over my head and landed it on the mattress. It was deeply disappointing.
"It's not hard enough," I said. It felt like fending off a mugger with marshmallows. So Ari suggested a carpet beater - one of those old-fashioned ornate cane ones. "Try that." So I did.
The noise it made was spot on, but more important it gave me something to rail against. The hitting took on a rhythm as I put all my strength and effort into it. And then, suddenly, I burst into tears like a dam breaking. (And you're now CRYING in front of all these people too??)
A part of me was fighting the experience tooth and nail, but another part, much larger, louder and stronger, needed to let go. So I cried, bent double with the emotional pain of something I couldn't name. And I felt all the pent-up emotion inside me start to move and flow and come unstuck.
Midway through the process, possibly to save the mattress, Ari asked me one very simple question: "Who are you hitting?"
Was it my boyfriend who wasn't right for me, my boss from the job that I was lost in, my parents who got divorced when I was little - after all, they're the people who push all the buttons, right? No.
"Olivia, who are you hitting?"
"Me. It's me." I was beating myself up.
And I suddenly knew that it was the way that I was being with all those challenges in my life that was causing the problems. Those other people were just being themselves; I had the choice about how I dealt with that - and I was making choices that weren't working for me.
I stopped hitting the mattress.
Afterwards, lying on cushions at the side of the room, safely out of the spotlight, I felt amazing. Like silk. Cat-like. Sensual. Peaceful. Energised. And free, free, free.
So that is a little bit of what surrender means to me - letting go. Giving in to the wisdom of my body, a body that knows what I need and how I feel, even when I resist it or simply fail to notice. My amazing body understands more about what's going on with Olivia than my mind ever could, even though that ego loves to believe it knows best...
I have to say, even though I know I had some rock-solid support in that room, the thought of standing up in front of all those people and beating a mattress until my hands bled still makes me wince a little tiny bit inside. I'm a nice, polite English girl after all - I don't do mess or embarrassment. But I can't deny the fact that I wore the plasters on my hands with pride, like medals - and also that life has never been quite the same since.