My Journey from Head to Heart
By Keri Clarke
I walked into the room, suddenly feeling self-conscious and very out of my comfort zone. Since I hadn’t been told anything about what I was about to experience, I had no idea what to expect. I looked down at the floor and quietly found my seat, trying to keep to myself. Most of the others in the room were doing the same.
My coach, who had already helped me change my life phenomenally, had recommended the Hoffman Process. When he recommends anything, I sit up and listen. Despite it requiring flights from New Zealand to Utah (where my parents could look after my one-year-old daughter) and then back to California, I knew participating in the Hoffman Process would be an important part of my path.
Leaving Old Values
My journey to the Process had started a couple years earlier. I had recently left my childhood religion, as it no longer aligned with my values. This caused a lot of personal and familial anguish, but it would be against my integrity to remain. Trying to stay and put on a happy face had been tearing me apart inside. To leave my religion was the scariest and most difficult thing I have ever done. I felt as if my foundation had been shot to pieces – I didn’t know how to show up in the world anymore, let alone have a spiritual connection with God. By leaving this institution, I no longer had the strong community I had relied upon for support. I felt lost and alone, tossed about in the waves of my own fear and loss of meaning.
The day I finally told my mom about this was so difficult. I had always been extremely dedicated to the church; she knew I had questions, but I hadn’t let her know how serious it had become. I’d just been at a retreat with my coach, sobbing because the last thing I wanted to do was hurt my family, but the years of trying to please them and deny my personal integrity were taking a heavy toll.
One day my mom and I went on a walk, and I found myself pouring out all the doubts and frustrations I had. I was desperate for her to understand, but there was no way she could. It broke both of our hearts.
A few days later, I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. It was planned, but gave me quite a bit of cognitive dissonance – how could I nurture a little one now that I felt so unmoored? I had a challenging pregnancy and newborn phase, and I felt as if I was going in circles in my life – I could feel something greater calling me but I didn’t know how to connect to it.
A year later, I’m at the Hoffman Process, completely out of my comfort zone but committed to whatever lay before me. I dove in and never looked back.
At one point during the Process, I was doing some difficult but very healing work around parental influence, and dealing with anger that came up. A significant way into this work, I suddenly realised that the Church had functioned as a surrogate parent in my life – in fact, a surrogate parent to my parents as well. We had all, in some way, deferred our power and leadership to the church and its requirements – keeping us in a semi child-like state. We had been taught (and believed) that the leader of the church had a closer connection to God than we did, and that the rules and guidelines were meant to be followed over our own intuition or connection with the divine.
As you can imagine, this realisation and perspective was incredibly freeing for me. Having already left the church and now being able to see that influence and all the damage it had done was profound. It allowed me to understand some of the reasons I had always doubted my own intuition and worth. Was I worthy? Had I ‘done’ enough to return to heaven? If I made a mistake or took a different path, would I ever see my family again in the afterlife? No wonder I had lived so much of my life from a place of fear!
A Deeper Journey
I had the privilege of meeting new friends at the Hoffman Institute, whom I believe will be lifelong. We don’t speak often, but the experience of doing the Process together was incredibly powerful, and we have such a love and strong bond. I admire and respect these people so much – what a wonderful experience to find more of my tribe by going deep into the abyss of my fear and anger, and coming out the other side – free, open and able to connect on a truly authentic level. Since then I’ve made friends on that level so much more easily. I know now that this is the greatest gift I’ve been given – to lose a community that was beloved, but to gain a community that is truly my tribe, built not on obedience and submission but on integrity and love.
The contrast at the end of the Process vs. at the beginning was profound – we began the week meekly finding our seats, and by the end of the week we were all standing up straight, feeling vibrant, open and joyful. We were making eye contact and embracing one another.
The Hoffman Process was profoundly transformational for me. I had many epiphanies and rich learning experiences, and I can now spot the patterns I’m tempted to slip into when I’m afraid, or in order to avoid feeling uncomfortable. Even habits I had always thought of as only positive, such as reading and people pleasing, I now know can be used to numb, avoid reality, or, in the case of people pleasing, ‘love-buying’ (diminishing myself to please other people, and do so in order to belong, which is not the basis for authentic relationships).
I also know, on a visceral level, how to deeply listen to myself, to understand that everyone is struggling and doing their best, and so many of us are carrying around fears and stories that have been passed down to us, generation to generation. There’s a saying at Hoffman,“Everyone is guilty, but no one is to blame.”
The effects of the Process have been lasting and powerful. It’s helped me trust my own journey, have a deep compassion for all people who are suffering, and a greater understanding as to why they do what they do. It has also helped me re-build my spirituality and relationship with God, in addition to connect more fully to my personal power. It’s helped me on the path to a new career as a personal coach. I will always be grateful for the opportunity and gift that is the Hoffman Process.
Keri is a personal coach. Nothing gets her more excited than helping people create the lives they’re meant for. Her previous professions have included Equine Science, Balloon-Animal Tying, Design, Branding, Business, Copywriting and Podcasting, and earning an MBA (although not in that order). She loves the smell of wood smoke in winter, the sound of hoofbeats on pine needles, and being enveloped in the wonder of a redwood grove.
To find out more about Keri, check out her website: www.kericlarke.com