The mistake I made as a schoolboy

Going to school was weird for me. I avoided it, more or less, until I was 15 – but then I arrived at a secondary school in London, and it was the biggest shock to my system I’d ever known

I’d fashioned my life in my own image until then. I was in Romania soon after the fall of Ceaușescu and was stuck on the border for days, angry guns pointed in my direction. I’d camped out in a small village in Turkey. I’d baked bread for 200 kids in Stockholm and mucked out stables in Norfolk. Travelling around and being with different people taught me far more than books ever did. I was fiercely independent, unparentable and wild

But then something persuaded me to go to a normal school. In a way, it was the wildest thing I could think to do next because it went against all my ideas of myself. So suddenly I was sitting in a classroom reading the same Sylvia Plath poems as every other teenage outsider, and I couldn’t understand why this was supposed to be good for any of us

I think that’s why I came out as gay. I was so scared of becoming like the other kids, I had to do something different. I couldn’t bear to wear the uniform, either physically or mentally. And making a thing of my unusual sexuality was the best expression of otherness I could find at the time; the most rebellious badge I could think of to wear. “I may be here, but I’m queer!”

Looking back, it was the best way I knew to disrupt a system I saw as intrinsically bad for everyone involved in it. And more than that, it was the best way I knew to stop myself feeling so bored during class. Evoking chaos was the best way I knew to invoke peace

I have no regrets but I made a mistake back then that’s taken me years to recognise. When other boys teased me about fancying them, I denied it. I quipped that I was gay, not blind. And that defensive act of meanness shut most of them up, but it also shut me in. Because of course I fancied them. I fancied them very, very much

My friend Michael Neill runs an online coaching program called Creating The Impossible and I love the concept he explores with people. It’s when we take steps towards creating what we don’t think we can have that somehow we find what we really wanted all along. The form is rarely what we imagined it would be, but we always get what we truly want if we keep taking simple, spontaneous steps

I taught myself that it was wrong, dangerous and humiliating to even admit what I wanted if I didn’t think I could have it. The courageous act would have been to vulnerably express myself in the face of rejection and ridicule. But being too afraid, I hid inside a concept of being an outsider. I somehow projected myself as a gay who didn’t fancy any of the other boys around me. And what a ridiculous idea!

I see reflections of this everywhere. Many of my clients say they don’t want money, and really they would love to have money if they didn’t think they’d have to sell out to get it. Lots of people tell me they’re not interested in politics, when if they thought they could make a difference without compromising themselves then they’d be very, very interested

In my life, I’ve denied myself so much love and connection by living in my mind rather than being in the world. I imagined how I might feel like a virtual rapist if I enjoyed a glimpse of a ‘straight’ friend’s bum, so I didn’t share hotel rooms and went to the gym on my own. I hugged people in a ‘polite’ way, groin held slightly back just in case they got the wrong idea. Less eye contact, less touching, less spontaneity, just in case some secret desire was revealed

It’s amazing how life can change. When I run events now, I notice two things consistently. On the second day, people make far more eye contact with each other than they do on the first. And by day three the hugs are aligned in all the energy centres. It’s amazing how powerful this is to experience, and how inevitable it is when we’re really present together

At an event I spoke at recently, the young guy hosting it was very excited because “you got them all horny man, I can feel the heat coming from their pussies”. But this is not quite true. Being turned on isn’t the same as being horny; sexual energy isn’t only about sex

In magical terms, I like being in the centre of the circle. The purest hugs are neither personal or impersonal, sexual or unsexual, gay or straight. To be purely present with someone is to be before concepts. That’s pure aliveness, before the mind. And it is what it is; impossible to describe

When we return to the mind, the mind will try to explain what happened to make the world change. It will tell a story to ‘make sense’ of the new sensory data coming in. But every story is a lie; every insight is a forgery. The mind’s commentary is best ignored

These days I live naked a lot of the time and it seems very natural to hang out naked with friends. There’s still some thinking about it somewhere, but my attention is elsewhere. And the more my attention isn’t with thinking, the less thinking there seems to be. Which leaves more bandwidth for pure being. Pure aliveness. More simple, spontaneous steps towards what I really want my life to be about

To be shameless has negative connotations in our culture – but I’ve found tremendous joy in being shameless before all women and men. We are all aspects of each other: it’s only by being together wholeheartedly and shamelessly that we can experience our true nature

“I felt so accepted and safe when talking with Chris; I have never experienced an acceptance like that before. It was actually a great experience just to be present with him. At the end I experienced real peace and saw other people and the world in a different light.”Ben Liebich
“I’d loved the idea of performing stand-up comedy for over twenty years, but there always seemed to be things that held me back. After a few conversations with Chris, I changed the way I look at life and I’ve done several stand-up gigs since then and performed at the Edinburgh Fringe. Other parts of my life are brighter too – I enjoy more confidence, relationships are more fun and I am stepping up for more of the things I want to do in life. It is like I have finally arrived at my own party!”Vince Knight