Without Words: Language Immersion as Meditation

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Who are you without your words? Recently I attended the North American Summer Course (NASK) in North Carolina. NASK is a yearly Esperanto instruction course. It is held in different locations and brings Esperantists from all over the globe together for 8 days of instruction and immersion. This year was my second year to attend NASK and I loved, loved, loved the experience.

Before I go into this year’s insights, here is a bit about last year’s experience. Last year was my first long experience with Esperanto, a language my husband has been speaking for 14 years now. I signed up to learn the language because I’ve always wanted to be bilingual, however NASK offered me more than I bargained for. Do you know how hard it is not to communicate through language? It seems that most of us, outside of vacation to foreign places, don’t purposely put ourselves in a position to live amongst people we don’t know and who don’t speak our language. I had no idea how tough it would be for me not to express myself with words. I had to connect with people using gestures and body language and this was tough. I felt isolated and confused.

But after surviving last year’s beginner course, I knew what to expect this year. Bring it on, I thought! But I found landing in North Carolina both exciting and terrifying. I knew I hadn’t studied enough to speak the language well and I joked with my husband about being a “flight risk”. I kept telling myself it would be easier this year because I had a dictionary in my head and I could understand more of the language. But I am not going to lie, I realized just before boarding the flight from Houston to Raleigh that I still had a problem understanding the Esperanto spoken word. I asked my guides for assistance and decided it was too late to turn back. Ready or not, I was going into a 10 day language immersion experience, (we arrived two days early). Yikes! To calm my nerves, I told myself, “Stretch goals, stretch goals. They are the most rewarding. I can do this!” (Flex muscles here.)

NASK classroom

The first days were rough but I was right, it was a bit easier than the previous year. I understood more of the spoken word and it seemed that if I didn’t understand all of what was being said to me, I knew enough to comprehend what they wanted me to do. But after a few conversations and getting settled in my dorm room, I felt a bit overwhelmed again. That’s when I decided to do something different. I decided to do something out of my comfort zone. I was going to put myself fully in every experience, just like I do in my client sessions. And instead of “hiding” I was going to talk as much as I could and engage in conversations with people. I was going to be everywhere and focus on connection. 🙂

Now what it takes to achieve this task are three things: a willingness to be imperfect, an extreme case of beginner’s mind (curiosity) and loss of outcome. This is not easy. I tried it last year to the detriment of my ego. My ego was bruised and battered for most of my time at NASK in 2014. I “broke” myself several times in learning the language, mainly because I was so used to sharing my “mind” with others which meant I “felt” more feelings than I could handle last year. It was intense, but looking back now it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my life.

Like last year, the rewards were plentiful. But unlike last year, the rewards were more obvious in the moment. What happened? Well, after several days of speaking, I began to speak the language more fluently. Yay! While this was my primary goal for NASK, it wasn’t nearly as rewarding as the “side-effects”:

  • I made new friends
  • I gave a 40 minute presentation (with hypnosis induction) in Esperanto!
  • I was featured in a short film (with a speaking part)
  • I gained new clients
  • I integrated my personal growth work

Film at NASKBut the best thing of all, I felt (FELT) confident, connected and supported by the universe. There is something magical that happens to us when we allow ourselves to feel our way through experiences rather than think through our next moves. I didn’t plan to star in a movie, get new clients or gain new friends. Looking back on the experience, it seems magical but I’ve learned that what looks like magic to us is simply a side effect of mind and feeling working in harmony. Here are some other things I learned about language immersion as meditation:

Language immersion is a resource state. When you don’t know a language and you immerse yourself in the confusion it causes, you bypass your thinking mind and you get back to a “being” person in the world. I believe language immersion can serve as a long confusion state and this can be very good for us. Confusion states are powerful ways to gain clarity because they bring us out of our well-rehearsed thought patterns into deep exploration of the present moment. This is why many practitioners use confusion as a break state, trance or resource state for healing.

Speaking comes from the body. What I’ve found most surprising in learning this language is that speaking comes from the body, not the mind. Like with any new thing, once you embody the experience, you have become one with the experience. Did I study? Yes. Did I learn with my mind? Yes. Did I use my mind to speak? Yes. But in order to speak fluently and comfortably, I had to feel the language. And this is true with everything we want to do in our lives. This is why my work includes an element of helping people feel again. It makes sense to me because the times I have been the most stuck in my life were caused by my “overthinking” habit. This is true for many of my clients.

Are you stuck? Here are some questions to help you explore your mind/feeling balance (without going through language immersion):

  • Am I feeling or thinking my way through life?
  • Do I feel too much?
  • Do I think too much?
  • Do I feel too little?
  • Am I scared to feel?

As always, I am here to help you fine tune your “being” for success. 🙂 Paco kaj Lumo, Janis

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