BeingOne — A Spiritual Mantra Or Excuse for Inaction?

The BeingOne Forum was supposed to the largest self-development event in Europe. Except that it was chaos, highlighting the best and worst of the new spiritual movement.

May 12–14 were the dates scheduled to include international speakers like Robin Sharma, Neale Donald Walsch, Gregg Braden and many more. I mention these as I imagine they were the ´expensive´ speakers. This is relevant. Bear with me.

The original location for the conference was the Madrid Arena, used for major events and concerts. This, together with the international speakers gave the conference credibility. It was a rare chance to see them all in Spain. This was going to be a gathering of thousands of like minds instead of a small group of happy clappers.

Except that two days before the event the organisers sent an email saying they had to change the location to La Cubierta in Leganes, 20km outside of the city centre. That sent alarm bells ringing. What other reason would Madrid Arena have for not allowing you to hold an event except for lack of payment?

Despite that, I and thousands of others still went to Madrid. After all, the tickets, accommodation and transport were all paid for. This was an opportunity to see these speakers up close and in person. It was worth the risk.

When my train stopped in the middle of the tracks 30 minutes outside of Madrid due to serious infrastructure problems, I was worried about arriving late. I was also grateful it was not the train that had serious mechanical problems. When the train then had to reverse for 30 minutes to get on a different track, I began to wonder if this was a sign of things to come.

This was confirmed when I got the new arena, which turned out to be a converted bullring, leaking, freezing and far removed from the glitzy brochure. But hey, I try and be positive and looked forward to hearing the speakers. Who needs comfort to be inspired? Not me.

However, sitting on the concrete steps, sorry seats, that were cold enough to give anyone haemorrhoids, my upbeat nature started to wither. I gave thanks I had been sitting on the warm comfortable train that morning. Everyone else suffered a delay of four hours in the cold, waiting for the conference to start.

When Gregg Braden came onstage his enthusiasm was addictive, until I couldn´t hear him properly because the sound was SO bad. The echo in the bullring and the simultaneous translator making it take twice as long with half the content you expected.

“Positive, must be positive, at least you made it. At least you are here. Didn´t come all this way not to get something out of it. Tomorrow will be better….” #selftalk

The following day I woke up having forgiven the organisers for the chaos of the previous day, based on the belief that the second day would be better. They had done well to move an event to a new location in such a short space of time, had time to iron out the wrinkles from the first day etc.

When I arrived there were what looked like hundreds of people waiting to get in. I stayed out of the queue and waited on the sidelines. My plan was to let everyone get in first, rather than shuffling along for hours with what were apparently thousands, not hundreds of people.

We waited. Waited some more. Nothing. No opening of the gates, no announcements and no sign of the organisers. Not a good sign. Then the rumours started flying. The security company had not been paid and refused to let anyone in. The production people had not been paid either. The police had been called. Even the volunteers helping at the event said they had no idea what was happening.

The BeingOne website was blank. Not even a message saying the event was delayed or cancelled. It was as if they hadn´t even paid for the domain or hosting!

When Robin Sharma appeared in the crowd it was clear even he did not know what going on. He turned up to speak at 10am and was as surprised as everyone else. To his credit, he stayed and spoke to people, taking pictures with them and would have given a talk right there if the crowd could have heard him. He tried but between the lack of sound system and the cheering from the masses it was impossible.

By this time there were very distinct groups appearing in the crowd.

There were those who were angry they had been swindled out of their money. They felt that even if the conference managed to continue later that day, the whole thing was not even close to what had been promised.

Then there were the positive people who saw all of this as a test and that the whole weekend was about exactly this. How you react to difficult situations, how you overcome them and how you should release negativity and anger before it consumes you.

Except that some people had spent thousands to attend. People flew from Mexico and other distant countries just for this event. If you come from Madrid or nearby, if you have money to spare, then it´s not such a big deal. If you have travelled thousands of miles and spent thousands of euros, then the mistakes become harder to accept.

The different groups started the seesaw discussions on Facebook, on whether we should show sympathy for the organiser or send him to prison for fraud.

What I found interesting is that what I heard from the positive posse sounded very similar to the Catholic attitude I heard as a child.

  • Forgive him
  • Turn the other cheek
  • Learn from this
  • It´s a test from the universe

It´s just like a new version of religion, without a specific guru and with more accountability for your own life. Which is great, except that the same problem remains. If you only live from a place of peace, love and forgiveness, you give space for the psychopaths to take over and run the world while you are busy thinking positive thoughts.

Those of us who want the world to be different have the uncomfortable task of working in the world as it is, not just the world as we want it to be.

It is a fact of life that the power hungry, money focused individuals have the drive and determination to take over. More spiritual people have little interest in that. They are happy with less, they are more interested in the pursuit of happiness than in the pursuit of power and wealth.

Except that our pursuit of happiness is directly affected by their greed. You may not see it because it is such a gradual infiltration in your life. Look at the poor quality of your food, the poor quality of your environment, your health. How can we have working poor in our modern and advanced society? It is all directly related to the obsession with profit and power over people.

I am not saying that we should all take up arms, but we do need to start pushing back.

Back to the conference. For me it was a small snapshot of what is happening worldwide. There is a need for more of us to join together in a celebration of different ways of thinking, of understanding that we need to change our attitude to improve our world.

I imagine there were many people who, like me, were there not just to listen to the speakers, but to join with like-minded individuals in a weekend of positive education. I don´t need to see these speakers in person to know what they are teaching. I can read their books and watch their videos.

What I can´t do is buy the feeling of being with thousands of other people who are upbeat and interested in more than watching shite TV, consuming toxic food and focusing on buying more, more, more.

I like to spend money on experiences rather than things I don´t need. That is why I went to the BeingOne conference. I am sure there were a lot of people who got exactly what they needed from it, who enjoyed the camaraderie in the face of chaos and practised patience and forgiveness.

I just hope all that goodwill and positive momentum is not lost on the larger picture. It is not enough to avoid the mainstream negative thinking, we have to push back as well. As Marianne Williamson commented on the current state of American democracy:

Hitler said the only thing that could have stopped the Nazis is if powerful reaction against them had occurred early, swiftly, and hard. At this point, all of us need to do whatever we can do on any given day. If there is a meeting, attend it. If there is a hearing, watch it. If there is an article, read it. If there is something to post, post it. If there is a march, march in it. If there is something to say, say it. Pace yourself, obviously, but see this as the crisis that it is and act accordingly. The future continuance of freedoms that all of us just take for granted are at stake… from the right to protest to the right to speak freely to the right to justice to the right to a government that even represents us.

You might be thinking “I thought she was talking about some self-development conference not politics, what is she rambling on about?” It is true, but I see life in stories. I see the same stories played out in different groups, different generations and in different countries. At some level it is all connected.

This weekend was about BeingOne in Madrid. The question being debated is whether to forgive the less than perfect conditions and just be grateful for what was achieved and received, or hold the organiser responsible for everything.

I think the answer for the conference and for the world is a little of both. Good intentions are not enough when you have responsibility for others, make promises you can´t keep and fail to deliver on those promises. We all have to be held accountable for the decisions we make and the actions we take.

For those on the receiving end of those decisions, of course we should make the most of the situation we find ourselves in and show gratitude for what we have. However, that is in no way incompatible with expecting a certain level of service, demanding justice, advocating change for the better.

It is not enough to learn lessons and be positive, we need to push back by making different choices.

  • Make different food choices to improve your health.
  • Make different purchasing choices to improve your environment.
  • Don´t allow people to disrespect you.
  • Demand better from those in government.
  • Join the conversation in groups that take action, not just have a one-way conversation with your television.

In the end the conference continued after attendees had to put their hands in their pocket again to help pay the service providers. Some people are happy with what they got from the conference, others have reported the organisers to the police.

Whatever your point of view, BeingOne, being positive, being spiritual, should not only be about taking whatever life throws at you. Be positive, be grateful, but expect more. More value and more respect at home, at work, and from life in general.

“Do no harm, but take no sh*t.”