Bali Spirit Festival: Transforming Shadows with Jamie Catto

27 Mar

When I first met Jamie Catto, several years ago, he told me to “stop fucking apologising all the time!”

Jamie Catto 2

I was shocked. This guy had come to teach one of those touchy feely workshops, or so I thought.
It turns out the very things that shocked me about Jamie have become the things I most admire: his refusal to stand on ceremony, his directness and his honesty have all helped me have major breakthroughs.

Jamie was one of the founding members of UK band Faithless and has collaborated with dozens of musicians: Michael Stipe, k.d. lang, Gita Mehta and Michael Franti to name but a few. He’s currently working on a project with Ram Das. He also formed the double-Grammy nominated, global music and film project 1 Giant Leap and its sequel What About Me? with Duncan Bridgeman. It was during Q & A sessions for the films that Jamie would be asked countless questions about his personal philosophies and what he had learned travelling to 50 countries and interviewing some of the world’s greatest thinkers and leaders.

The results are these workshops: explorations of creativity and exercises to spark personal breakthroughs.

This workshop encouraged us to examine our discomfort. Jamie certainly doesn’t mince words and I could see eyes widen when he challenged people. This is not handholding and playing nice: “Stop being so f*cking appropriate!”

Jamie has a bone to pick with spiritual practice that encourages people to only look towards light or happiness. His argument is that everyone has devils AND angels inside them and that to deny one or the other is to deny our very humanity.

“If you try and amputate the dark parts because they were the only bits that got love and approval and inclusion, those other parts of ourselves, if they don’t get oxygen, they’re going to find their food somehow, somewhere – and it’s usually in a self destructive, sabotaging kind of way if we’re in constant suppression and denial.”

“But if we’re on a journey of accepting other people’s darkness and light, they’re forced to accept their own darkness and light and everything can be felt, everything can be included in safe ways.”

The workshop shows us some of those safe ways. Over the course of three hours, we connect deeply with other members of the group, examine our discomfort at doing so and take a good, hard look at our inner critic.

JamieCatto 1

I’ve taken Jamie’s workshops many times now and I’m shocked every time at what emerges during his sessions. My favourite part of the work is the examination of the mirror. The old adage that what you hate in other people is something that lives in you is something many of us resist. It’s almost comforting  to have the permission to accept these parts of ourselves. After all: they are already there.

“All the darker ways and darker appetites, they’ve got to be experienced in ways that don’t harm us and other people. So playing, creativity is a great way, writing a punk rock song, characters in literature, stories, fun sexual, consensual practices. Find ways to play games with the children, being a clown… There are many ways you can allow the darkness in that aren’t harmful, but it has to have some kind of base in our lives, even if it’s really weird thrillers and watching horror movies. Whatever is your thing. But it has to have some sort of expression, otherwise it’s going to find it’s expression in a way that you don’t choose.”

And, as Jamie says, it’s healthier to examine our shadows.

“Every part of ourselves we bury and hide away and try and disown and try to amputate turns into illness. It has to find expression somewhere. All parts of ourselves are alive and if you try and cut off life it just grows moss and mushrooms and it just becomes ill life. Cancer is a form of thriving life, it’s just negative, buried, disowned in the darkness, mushroomey kind of life instead of free flowing life.”

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