Featured in the September / October 2009 issue of Kindred Spirit Magazine, the UK's leading mind, body and spirit publication.

In spring of 2009 I was sitting in a room with about a hundred other people from across the world who had come to Hamburg, Germany to immerse themselves in Instantaneous Transformation with Ariel and Shya Kane. The workshop was entitled Excellence, Well-Being and Satisfaction, the Art of Being Yourself, and a number of the participants, myself included, have been working with the Kanes for some time. I first came with my husband six prior, when we were on the brink of divorce. We'd married very quickly and very young, and loved each other very much, but had little idea how to relate to each other honestly and without fighting, and seldom treated ourselves or each other, with kindness and compassion. Our interactions were full of manipulation, both intended and unintended, criticisms and cruelties. And, after five years of that, we still loved but didn't trust each other very much any more. So, in a make or break bid to save our relationship, or at least ourselves, we hopped on a plane and flew from London to Hamburg, Germany to meet the Kanes.

The first thing that struck me about Ariel & Shya was how incredibly loving their relationship clearly was. I'd never seen anything like it before. And, while I knew I wanted a happier relationship, the way they interacted together was entirely outside my reality. They were so kind to each other, thoughtful, sweet, considerate, so very loving. And it obviously wasn't an effort or affectation, indeed quite the opposite; their way of being was effortless and easy. I hardly dared believe it was possible for my husband and I to have such a marriage but, for a moment, my heart was hit with such a force of hope, I could barely breathe with excitement. I knew that if I could ever learn to love like that, these were the people to teach me. I can't really remember what happened that first weekend, but I do remember that the impact on our marriage was so incredible that after a single day, we signed up for their upcoming week long immersion course in transformation in Costa Rica. We were in love again, kind and intimate in a way we'd never been before. And now, many workshops and several years later, we haven't looked back. Our marriage is now something I never dreamt it could be. We're no longer two people fighting to get our needs met, but a partnership, supporting and loving each other in all moments: both mundane and magical. And it wasn't just our relationship that transformed, it was our whole lives! The same April my husband fulfilled his life-long dream of opening his own catering business, and I've fulfilled my own life-long dream and published my first novel!

But I digress. The Kanes talk a lot about listening. They say that enlightenment can occur simply through the act of listening itself. The first time I heard this, I couldn't believe it. It seemed so simple. Nothing like all the efforts I'd endured in the past. Also, I thought I was a perfectly fine listener! But, I've since realized that, before their workshops, I really wasn't. As they say, true listening is hearing another person from their point of view, not listening to your commentary on their words, not agreeing or disagreeing with what they say. It's letting go of what you have to say, letting go of what comes next, simply being there with the other person and participating in their experience of life.

When I tried this I was absolutely stunned by what happened. That sunny Saturday afternoon I sat on a bench in Hamburg, sharing lunch with someone I had just met in the weekend seminar. I was chatting away, telling her about myself, and then asked her to tell me about herself. When she began, I tried to listen. I tried to let go of my thoughts about what she was saying, about what I had just said, but I just kept thinking things like: "perhaps I shouldn't have told her about that, she might think I'm an idiot, or what if she thinks I'm arrogant? I wish I had said something about else, so she thinks I'm a nice person..."

Of course, while this commentary was going on I wasn't listening to the poor woman at all! And then, suddenly, what the Kanes had been talking about that morning clicked and I just began listening. Word by word, sentence by sentence. At first the commentary in my head was speeding like a freight train alongside everything she said. But gradually, as I kept bringing my attention to her words, my own slowly subsided and soon my own mind was completely empty and I no longer had that roll call of personal defects, nothing needed fixing or changing. And then I was sitting on a bench in the sunshine with a stranger and feeling such levels of love and joy I was stunned. It was a whole new world, so elusive when I'd always been focusing on myself and musing on my own thoughts, but so easy when I really listened to someone else. I'd thought the road to pure happiness was going to be a long and complex one, full of painful experiences of fixing myself, mending all that was broken in me. But in fact it had been mind-blowingly simple and absolutely pain free.

The other magical thing I experienced as a result of true listening is that I began to hear my own thoughts. Really hear them. As thoughts, products of a mechanical mind, rather than genuine truths that came from my heart. Usually I don't notice them. I have a thought: "I'm shy" or "I hate speaking in front of big groups" and I simply believe it, believe that it's expressing a truth I feel. Of course, why wouldn't I? I hear it in my head, speaking in my voice. So I think it accurately represents what I feel. I don't even question it. I don't have time. My thoughts are like hundreds of tiny electric shocks that I barely feel but that my body responds to. So I have the thought: "I'm inadequate", and suddenly I feel sad. But I don't notice that I had the thought first. I don't notice that the sadness isn't real, that it is just triggered by that thought. And so, as I'm having dinner with my husband Artur, and other workshop participants on Saturday night, listening to them and having an amazing time, I suddenly hear a thought that says: "I'm bored. I'm bored of this, I want to go home." Now, by this point, my mind has quieted enough for me to really hear this thought, to notice it as clearly as you would an elephant on an empty beach. And I knew, in the same moment, that I wasn't at all bored, that I was having a wonderful time and certainly didn't want to leave. My thoughts were telling me one thing, but I was having an entirely different experience.

The Kanes call themselves anthropologists, not psychologists, although, in my opinion, they are as insightful as any therapist, if not more so. But their approach to life and enlightenment is not to analyze the heck out of it, not to worry about the "hows" and "whys"; instead their view is based in what they call a "non-judgemental seeing", observing yourself with compassion, and simply noticing your behavior. And, in their workshops, I have learned this type of "awareness". I hear my thoughts, often critical of myself and others, and as I notice them they lose their power over me. It's an incredibly magical and extraordinary experience. After only two or three days immersed in myself, I feel like I've taken a bath in healing waters and emerge feeling bright, beautiful and brilliant. Together Ariel & Shya Kane have created a revolutionary experience, a community of compassion, awareness and non-judgment that they live and take with them wherever they go, recreating anew with every workshop.

For me, and for all of us, trying to survive in societies that are as quick to judge as they are slow to forgive, spending time with these two people is an experience of great joy and enormous relief! To be among so many gorgeous, courageous people, who stand up and share their hearts, to watch them blossom and shine, and discover their greatness, while in the presence of Ariel & Shya, is a gift. Over and over again I find myself: who I truly am, not who I think I am. Each shift I've had truly has happened moment-by-moment, in an instant, and the effects are also cumulative. This is the magic of Instantaneous Transformation!

Author's Bio: 

Menna van Praag is a freelance writer and journalist. She is the author of Men, Money & Chocolate and Happier Than She's Ever Been, both published by Hay House, and The House at the End of Hope Street, to be published by Penguin in 2013. She meet Ariel & Shya Kane seven years ago and has been attending their workshops ever since. She now lives happily in Cambridge with Artur, her husband of 14 years.

Since 1987, internationally acclaimed authors, seminar leaders, and business consultants Ariel and Shya Kane have taught individuals, couples and organizations across the globe how to live in the moment and unwire the knee-jerk behaviors that get in the way of living life with ease. Together for 30 years and counting, people still ask Ariel and Shya if they are on their honeymoon. To find out more about the Kanes, their books, videos & seminars, visit: www.TransformationMadeEasy.com.

The Kanes' newest book "How to Have A Match Made in Heaven: A Transformational Approach to Dating, Relating and Marriage" has won numerous awards, including the Mom's Choice Award Gold Medal, and is now available in English, Spanish and German. Learn more at www.MatchMadeinHeavenBook.com