Welcome to The QuestConflab. What is a Conflab? It’s pretty simple really, Conflab is another term for an ‘informal discussion’.
Every fortnight, Ade and Darren, founders of The Quest, discuss and explore a different theme. The theme of this Conflab is – Gay Men Living Their Best Lives
Ade: So, it’s the beginning of the year and many people are thinking ‘new year – new start’, for some this means living their best life. I guess its therefore apt that our theme should be ‘Gay Men Living their Best Lives’ – when you think of that statement, what comes up for you?
Darren: For me ‘best’ equates to ‘true’ – so when I am being and acting my truth, I have the greatest experience of life. When I am dishonoring my truth, problems and dissatisfaction set in. What does it bring up for you?
Ade: For me it means being my authentic self and not letting old emotional wounds or fears get in the way of how I move through the various aspects of my life – in the relationship with my partner, family, friends, colleagues, strangers and most of all, myself. When I think of the statement, I think for many it’s an aspiration, and many also fail to recognise that in order to ‘act our truth and have the greatest experience of life’, the inner work must be done.
Darren: Yes, living my truth is not as simple as it sounds. I have to challenge myself, make uncomfortable decisions sometimes and have conversations that scare me. I have to listen to something deep within me that tells me what I want or how I feel. I suppose this is what you mean by inner work- processing what’s getting in the way, what beliefs are sometimes running my life, what my negative inner voice is saying to me.
Ade: Yes, by the inner work I certainly mean visiting those places deep within us and confronting those limiting beliefs, myths and tales that get in the way of expressing our authentic self. For many years, I equated living my best life with career success, international travel, pecs and a six-pack, eating in nice restaurants, best seats at the theatre, a nice bank balance, and I spent ages chasing them. When I got them, I still felt dissatisfied and unfulfilled which indicated to me that I was not living my best life and simply creating an ‘illusion of the best life’. I decided to consciously start exploring what lay beneath the surface of the things that I had been chasing and this led me deeper into the domain of the inner work. I remember quitting my ‘high paid’ job at the end of 2009 and diving into the exploration … I find its a challenging journey, because its not instant release and its easy to give up…. especially when those negative voices that you mention start screaming very loudly!
Darren: It’s hard to know then what a ‘best life’ may look like. When we realise it’s not what we thought it was it can leave us perplexed or despondent. I remember when I was beginning to look at my life I wrote – ‘it all seems to be about stopping doing things and removing things from my life. When will it be about starting and adding?’ In those moments I had to trust that something new would emerge that I would love and give me a greater experience of life. It took me quite a few years before that different life started emerging- and it still is. Now it’s exciting and I think ‘Wow! There is so much available to me and so many adventures to go on!’
Ade: Yes, I think living our best life is an unfolding process. And when I reflect on this, I think of the journey undertaken by the butterfly. The caterpillar needs to been in the cocoon and dissolve (the inner work) before emerging as the butterfly. Part of the journey to living our best life therefore involves stopping to reflect and then cultivating an idea of what ‘best life’ looks like – and exploring what lies beneath the surface of our definition. From there, we can then start exploring where we are in relation to that vision. That process – like the butterfly going through metamorphosis – is the inner work; the stopping and removing, that you reference – starting with an acknowledgement and recognition of what’s no longer serving us.
Darren: I love the butterfly analogy! I think when I was ‘dissolving’ as you put it, I needed to keep myself curious in order to carry on. I had to be prepared to go out and seek new things and try them out. I had to create new friendships, read new books and do different activities. It was an interesting time – I got a dog, I went on self development courses, I started going to bed early and getting up early, I started juicing (don’t know why!) and I had every type of massage you can imagine! I no longer have my lovely dog (single parent dog rearing is challenging) but I still have lots of massages. How do you keep going when it gets tough?
Ade: Yes, I did many of those things too – apart from getting the dog!! I think its important to have anchors of support, those people to help ground us when the going gets tough. For me, I had a couple of good friends that I could talk to and who would not collude with me, but who simply motivated and reminded me of the journey I was on. I also journaled a lot and simply wrote down thoughts and emotions, triggers and hooks, this formed a great release. I also did and still do a morning reflective practice to help me welcome and set my intention for the day. And I also learnt self-compassion – to be kind to myself when I slipped up, rather than go down a pattern of self-criticism and judgment.
Darren: Wow I love what you describe there and I may have to start a morning reflective practice, as that sounds like a great way to start the day. I have just started another new thing that I’m really excited by – 5 rhythms class. I’ve known about it for a while and been meaning to participate in it and last week I took the chance to have a go. It was amazing. I moved around with the energy of a 16 year old and the sense of freedom of a 6 year old- it was incredible and I’m going to do it weekly from now on. So I’m finding new things all the time that are bringing joy into my life. I think the workshops we are delivering at The Quest are part of a whole tapestry of new and exciting opportunities for gay men to discover things about themselves and connect with others in a wonderful way.
Ade: I tried 5-rhythyms a few years ago and found it really releasing too. Yes, I think underpinning the workshops at The Quest is the creation of platforms that facilitate the process of gay men living their best lives – ‘best lives’ being identified and defined by each person. And more specifically, our workshop in a few weeks time is on the theme of ‘Unleashing Your Best Life’, so I’m sure we will be visiting a number of the areas we have explored in our conflab. Any final words?
Darren: Yes! I invite everyone who is curious to register for our workshop on 19th January… To explore and experience their ‘best life’!
Ade: Yes, and to remember that doing the inner work is an unfolding journey and the ultimate Quest. To live our best Life we cannot bypass the work – there are no shortcuts!