Day 1 of Culturistan kicks off, and my concerns about my daily life back at home are starting to escape me. The location and setting where this deep dive into the world of authenticity takes place really add an extra layer of introspection to my state of consciousness. The Chateau de Grillemont is a 45-minute drive from the closest train station, which is hours from Paris. As a rather non-committal adventurous type who identifies as the hermit/social butterfly, this is a challenge for me. I tend to walk away from being a part of a group for too long. I’m not sure if it’s because I believe that all groups conform if they spend time together long enough or if I’m just someone who likes being on my own a lot. Even more to the point – not having access to a car or a car sharing service is a further challenge for me as I don’t have the freedom to take off and explore on my own. To travel from San Francisco into the French countryside takes a mental and emotional adjustment.
In the West, we have so many easy ways to “escape” from our feelings of discomfort and pause. Not interested in doing something? One can find a million ways to numb out or disconnect from turning inwards. The external world is calling and it’s asking for your attention.
But one thing I’ve realized since being here is that I am slowly chipping away at having a fully booked professional and social diary. While there are a lot of discussions throughout the day, there is far more free time, and nowhere to go except out into nature and sit with the trees and the plants and the fresh air. I spent some time walking by myself today in the forest surrounding the Chateau and felt so filled with presence, which was a beautiful reminder that where I am is the perfect moment.
Today we read articles from “My Soul Has a Hat”, “Letters from a Poet” by Rilke, and “Shooting an Elephant” by George Orwell. All of these articles had a very distinct resonance after reading and discussing them. In short, I walked away with the idea that social conditioning and social conformity makes it difficult to be authentic and go against the group and turn inwards and stay true to oneself. In order to stay true to oneself, one has to question existing social programming and negative beliefs, and dive into the solitude of one’s own mind and heart.