The Fatal Vortex

by Ingrid Dean

It seems like only yesterday when I was sent to a house alarm call that could have resulted in fatalities. Typically most calls are false alarms. Whether the wind blows open a shutter or a resident accidentally sets off the alarm—usually house alarms are harmless. I believe that only by Divine grace am I alive today to share this story . . .

I pull into the driveway at the same time the key holder arrives. The key holder is the person an alarm company calls when a house alarm goes off. In this case, it is the homeowner’s thirty-year-old son.

I tell the man to stay by his car until I secure the area. He says, “I know my mother is home and everything’s cool, but I don’t know what is going on.”

I check the doors, windows, and garage entranceway for any possible forced entry, but everything looks secure. I say, “Go ahead and open the garage door.” I remind him to stay by his car
while I check the inside of the house.

I enter the dimly lit garage and walk to the door that leads into the house. I knock on the door and announce, “State Police!” and push open the door.

At that moment, a white-haired elderly woman steps out of nowhere and slowly points a .20 gauge shotgun directly in my face!

Even though I have turned on the garage light, she doesn’t seem to notice I am a uniformed trooper. In my attempt to escape the “fatal vortex” and un-holster my weapon, I stumble backward but do not fall. The fatal vortex is that hypothetical space we’re taught about in school; that space shaped like a funnel that you never want to be caught in.

I was definitely at the tip of that funnel. I had no safety zone and no spatial advantage.

As I try not to lose my balance, I hear CLICK. The old lady has actually pulled the trigger! Not only does this sound signify my life may instantly be over, but it also means she means to shoot!

Somehow I know this woman is the resident and not an intruder. I wonder why I didn’t draw my weapon before I stepped into the garage, which is what we are taught to do as a precaution. I am grateful I didn’t because I might have shot her if my gun had been in my hand. I yell at her repeatedly, “I’m a police officer! I’m a police officer! Don’t shoot! Look at my uniform! I’m a police officer!”

The woman’s son starts yelling at her, too. Who knows what this woman is thinking? How can she not see my uniform? It takes both of us to convince her I am the police and not there to hurt her. It is a miracle she does not kill me.

After I settled her down, I asked, “What were you thinking? Didn’t you hear me knocking at the door? Didn’t you hear me say ‘state police’? Why didn’t you call 911? They would have told you who was knocking! When you press the panic button for the alarm, police are supposed to come and help you, right?” (According to the alarm company, she had pressed the panic button.)

As I’m scolding her and trying to regain my composure, I open the double-barrel action to make the weapon safe. Out pops a shotgun shell! I can see that shell moving in slow motion . . . jumping out of the chamber into the air . . . spiraling . . . twirling . . . dancing . . . and then finally hitting the floor with a THUNK and rolling to its final resting place between my two feet. I didn’t have to pick it up to know it was a heavy unspent round and that by the grace of God the gun hadn’t fired.

It humbled me to realize how close I had come to death. And, to make matters worse, I found out she was the widow of a state trooper. I could have killed a fellow trooper’s wife!

I shot the gun outdoors. There was nothing wrong with it! The woman pulled the trigger—I should have been killed.

There are some things that have happened to me in this job that I just don’t talk about. This is one of them. I don’t know why I didn’t shoot that woman, especially after she pulled the trigger. How did I know she was really a “good guy?” Whatever you want to call it—intuition, a sixth sense, or an angel—I depended on it—and we are both alive.

More like this and some of Ingrid’s other work can be found at www.spiritofthebadge.com.

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The Root of Fear

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by DCH Park

The root chakra is associated with safety and security. The dark or shadow face of the root chakra is fear. Lack of security is experienced in the body as fear. Accordingly, it has been said that fear is rooted in a sense of insecurity or threat in the world – that the world is an unsafe place.

This is a very basic emotion. It is hard to do or focus on anything else when I am in fear for my life, health, or well-being or that of those whom I love. In fact, this is exactly why so much political and economic advertising appeals to fear. Since it is so basic, it is simultaneously easily evoked and once evoked, very powerful. The first thing that any rational person whose life is threatened would do is eliminate the threat, or at least, that’s the expectation of fear-mongering advertisers.

There is a lovely poem by David Budbill that captures the essence of fear and vulnerability in the world. It is called “Into The Winter Woods.” (From Happy Life © Copper Canyon Press, 2011. Reprinted with permission.)

Long-johns top and bottom, heavy socks, flannel shirt, overalls,
steel-toed work boots, sweater, canvas coat, toque, mittens: on.

Out past grape arbor and garden shed, into the woods.
Sun just coming through the trees. There really is such a thing

as Homer’s rosy-fingered dawn. And here it is, this morning.
Down hill, across brook, up hill, and into the stand of white pine

and red maple where I’m cutting firewood. Open up workbox,
take out chain saw, gas, bar oil, kneel down, gas up saw, add

bar oil to the reservoir, stand up, mittens off, strap on and buckle
chaps from waist to toe, hard hat helmet: on. Ear protectors: down,

face screen: down, push in compression release, pull out choke,
pull on starter cord, once, twice, go. Stall. Pull out choke, pull on

starter cord, once, twice, go. Push in choke. Mittens: back on.
Cloud of two-cycle exhaust smoke wafting into the morning air

and I, looking like a medieval Japanese warrior, wade through
blue smoke, knee-deep snow, revving the chain saw as I go,

headed for that doomed, unknowing maple tree.

For many people, the world seems as capricious and threatening as it is for the unknowing maple. Not only is the world dangerous, but it is not known ahead of time when or how it is dangerous. It is this sense of vulnerability to pain or death, especially that there might be a way in which I am vulnerable of which I am unaware, that is frightening.

In essence, the fear turns on the belief that something or someone in the world may decide to intrude upon my life – even to take my life – for its own reasons. These reasons may have nothing at all to do with me personally, so there is very little I could do to mollify the threat even if I knew what it was.

This is another reason that the fear card has been used so often. It provides an easy way to manipulate people into doing, buying, or destroying something they would probably otherwise have no opinion about. All that is necessary is to evoke fear, give it a focus – in other words, identify a threat, and provide a solution.

Politicians and advertisers have become quite adept at feeding public mindsets that reinforce fear and inflate it to frenzied proportions. In this orchestrated firestorm of fear, the “rational” person naturally applies the offered solution to eliminate the proffered threat.

But does such behavior, whether manipulated by someone else or not, really produce any security? What is security? Would $10 Million in the bank provide security? How about filtered air and water to prevent disease? Even if I could prevent all contact with germs and viri, there are still many autoimmune and other diseases that aren’t caused by infectious agents. And none of this will provide protection from public embarrassment, a broken heart, or a shattered dream.

Life is, it would seem, full of potential threats. Adopting a stance of resisting threats in order to feel secure and free from fear actually limits my options and removes me from life. Rather than freeing myself from fear, I make myself its prisoner.

If shielding myself from threats or actively resisting them merely plays into fear, what can be done to eliminate fear/increase security? Notice that trying to increase security by directly eliminating or shielding myself from threats does not work. This approach is a variation of the ego-drama of fighting to utterly crush my nemesis. Since it draws me into the depths of the drama and invites me to lose myself in it, it seduces me into enlarging the drama and with it, the nemesis.

How did I overcome fears in the past? How does any child learn to overcome fears? She meets them directly. She embraces them. A fear is best met directly, whether it is of the dark, heights, or jelly beans. In boldly and consciously embracing fear, we are able to witness ourselves having the fearful experience and through witness consciousness, transcend it.

By letting go of the debilitating “big picture” focus on how things could be, should be, were in the past, or might be in the future, I can free myself to be fully present in the moment. In the moment, whatever else may be true, it is undeniable that I am still alive. The thing that I fear has not changed that fact.

Practicing witness consciousness not only makes letting go of “big picture” focus easier, it makes realization of the fact that I am surviving my fear in the moment more immediate. As moment after moment passes, it gradually becomes clear that I am not going to die any time soon, in spite of embracing my fear head-on. My experience of the fear shifts.

The threat hasn’t changed, but I have. I have begun to experience that I am stronger and have more resources than I supposed I had. The fear recedes because I experience myself more deeply and clearly. In this clarity I see that I have more options than I thought I had. With this realization of choice, comes an exhilarating sense of expanded freedom.

This is how, even under conditions of extreme privation, as endured by concentration camp internees, for example, after having been stripped of all of the worldly accoutrements usually associated with security, it is possible to have an unassailable sense of equanimity, grace, and joy. The source of these qualities lies outside the reach of any worldly intrusion, so no loss or curtailment of worldly conditions can intrude upon my sense of personal power, beauty, or freedom. (It is also outside of the reach of any spiritual intrusion, but that is a topic for a different discussion.)

As fear diminishes, increased security and safety are felt, but they are not the focus. They are characteristic of the deepest self, but provide a backdrop, setting the stage for freedom and choice to take center stage. Excitement over the possibilities rushes in and a feeling of aliveness informs life.

At one time, this was the natural state for everyone, before the child “grows up” and lets fear block the feeling of aliveness. Releasing fear opens the way to re-embody that aliveness. Holding on to fear or kowtowing to it diminishes aliveness, whether it is fear of death, fear of being misunderstood or hated, fear of loss, or fear of jelly beans.

© 2013, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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Proof In the Pudding

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by DCH Park

The proof, as the saying goes, is in the pudding. In other words, it makes sense to suspend judgment of methods and decide whether a given procedure has value by the results it produces. It doesn’t matter in the end what kind of crazy method you use to make pudding as long as the pudding you make is good.

This makes sense, but what if you are not trying to make pudding?

Leaving desserts aside for a moment, I sometimes speak with people who try to test how well they are doing in their spiritual evolution by comparing their incomes, bank balances, love lives, or some other external factor with others’ or by looking at their own track records with these things over time. Their underlying assumption is that worldly success equates to worldly happiness and that success and happiness are good proxies for personal enlightenment.

It is true that greater happiness leads to greater success, but is it fair or useful to judge happiness by the level of worldly success? If A causes B, does the appearance of B prove the existence of A? What if some other factor, C, also causes B independently of A?

After all, what is the goal of personal evolution? Is it wealth or marriage or some other worldly possession, achievement, status, or experience? Is even happiness the goal of personal evolution or are these things side effects – worldly reflections of something much deeper and more meaningful?

Sages from many traditions have taught that the miracles they perform are not important. They are merely amusing attention-getters. They are devices useful in demonstrating to the uninitiated that there is more to the universe than what they readily see and know. In themselves, however, such gimmicks are of little value. Once the gimmick does its job by getting you intrigued, possibly excited, and seeking answers, it is hoped that the practice of seeking and open-minded inquiry will grow strong and support realization of a continually deepening connection with sublime truth and beauty.

As this connection grows in strength and immediacy, the state of grace of being present with such truth and beauty becomes the norm. It becomes as familiar and welcoming as coming home. At home, you feel at ease – completely welcome to be yourself. There is no need to pretend or hide. In the home you find in the presence of truth and beauty, you are free to release the masks and stories that you have used to conceal and protect your true self. As you come back to embrace your true self, happiness and flow arise effortlessly. They don’t have to be cultivated or pursued. They are natural aspects of your true self. They are inevitable.

Similarly, from the state of connection and flow, choosing between wealth and ease on one hand and poverty and (a different sense of) ease on the other can become a simple matter. At a certain point, we become conscious enough of our choices in each moment that we become clear that the only thing separating any one condition or experience in the “real” world from any other is choice. At this point, simple choice can produce effects that appear miraculous to the uninitiated.

However, continued focus on the apparent miracle – the flashy gimmick – much past the initial excitement generating, mind opening phase can lead to further difficulties. Worldly success and happiness are not the ultimate goals of personal evolution. They are inconsequential choices or at best side effects of enlightenment. If your goal is material success, it is possible to achieve significant worldly success without the additional bother of self examination, honesty, healing, and growth. People have been doing it for hundreds of generations.

Confusing worldly success with personal growth can also be problematic for personal growth. It can be likened to trying to find the North Pole with a compass. If you start out at the equator, the compass will probably be very useful. However as you proceed, it will become less and less useful and will ultimately lead you to the wrong place. The compass will take you to the magnetic North Pole, which not only differs from the actual North Pole, it moves. By the same token, focusing on worldly success or happiness can be useful proxies for personal enlightenment up to a point, but only up to that point.

Continuing to embrace them the same way after that point can tie you to the illusion they stem from. Being a worldly illusion, continued pursuit of them will draw you away from connection with truth and beauty after a certain point, just as following a compass will lead you away from the North Pole once you get above 82° N latitude. It does no good to taste the pudding if your true goal is pot roast.

If your goal is personal enlightenment, then embrace enlightenment as your goal. Be aware of your connection with truth and beauty. Notice the flow, the joy, and the love that vibrate in each moment of peace and connection. Make that quiet celebration your “home state” and determine your progress by the quality and continuity of that “pudding.”

© 2012, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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Distinguishing Ego From Essence

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by DCH Park

As we considered in a recent article here, sometimes an ego will self-identify as your higher self. When this happens, the masquerading ego will usually offer guidance of questionable soundness. However it is not necessary for the ego in question to present itself as your higher self. Simply posing a question to your High Self and maintaining an open attitude to receive an answer can provide an opportunity for ego to slip in.

It can be helpful at such times to be aware of differences between answers that come from ego and ones that flow through your High Self. There is a different quality to the latter. They are never insistent but always present. Awareness of them emerges gradually, with stately grace, like a rising sun. From one moment to the next, little seems to change, but in short order the whole world is transformed from dark to light.

No two sunrises are exactly alike. In each moment, vistas of surprising beauty can be revealed and then completely transformed in the next moment. It unfolds with its own rhythm.

In contrast, answers that come from ego are like turning on a light switch. They are quick and familiar. They provide instant gratification but never reveal anything truly new. And their scope is very limited. No light bulb ever conceived can even come close to illuminating the whole world.

These differences also go to personal experiences of these two sources. Whereas wisdom that flows through your divine self is often surprising and delightful, answers from ego are recognizable because they derive from the patterns of striving and struggle so familiar from your daily drama. Divine wisdom may feel right although there may be no discernable logical reason to support it. Ego based answers typically make logical sense but will often feel wrong, small, or limiting.

Answers that spring from ego tend to lead you back into the same drama or pattern that you already know. You may welcome the return as safe and familiar or you may despair in the sameness of it, but the ego’s answers will never take you to anything outside of the drama. The closest to taking you out of drama that ego will lead you to is another drama. Responses that spring from divine wisdom on the other hand are often startlingly simple and powerful. They often lead to shifts in perspective that lead to new levels of understanding and greater freedom.

As an example, one person recently shared an experience that she had while doing an exercise to develop connection with her High Self. She posed a question asking what the value and importance of relationships was. The first response she received was immediate, chatty, and uninteresting. It involved a list of hot-button attributes, such as respect, support, companionship, trust, sharing, etc.

She let this first answer wash over and past her and sat with her inner silence. Into this silence, a completely different and unexpected answer manifested. It was “mirroring.” The second answer, which had a completely different feeling tone than the first, not only felt deeply resonant, it immediately began to open new perspectives on how she could understand and approach other people and how she could be in relationship.

The first answer was confining. It had implicit rules about what she should and should not do or expect in terms of fairness, quid pro quo, and safety. It was familiar and burdensome. It reflected the struggles and compromise that she already knew intimately.

The second answer was illuminating and liberating. It suggested new possibilities and was immediately transformative. It took her out of the “business as usual” patterns and paradigms and completely transformed her experience with nothing more than a change in perspective. That may sound simple and small, but it is in fact one of, perhaps the most, powerful thing of all.

© 2012, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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Villains and Heroes

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by DCH Park

Links for more information:
http://www.npr.org/2011/07/04/137531649/evil-scientist-wants-to-teach-people-to-do-good
http://www.democracynow.org/2007/3/30/understanding_how_good_people_turn_evil
http://heroicimagination.org/

I recently came across a report about the Heroic Imagination Project. This is a nonprofit training organization founded by Phillip Zimbardo, the psychology professor, now retired, who became famous for conducting the Stanford Prison Study. In fact, his latest project on heroic imagination is apparently motivated, at least in part, by his desire to do some notable good and reform his popular image.

Although a well-respected psychologist who has made numerous positive contributions to society, to many, Dr. Zimbardo is an “evil scientist” who demonstrated that people will not only allow evil to exist, but actively cooperate in evil acts. His 1971 prison study at Stanford University has been cited in attempts to make sense of observations that otherwise moral and upstanding citizens will nonetheless commit terrible acts under the right conditions. It has been used to explain atrocities committed by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in World War II and by Americans on the Trail of Tears and at Abu Ghraib.

In the study, Zimbardo recruited a group of college students and randomly assigned to each participant either the role of guard or prisoner. Surprisingly, even though the participants had been deliberately selected for optimal emotional and psychological health and roles were assigned randomly, participants began to behave in accordance with their assigned roles. Prisoners’ mental and emotional health and well-being rapidly deteriorated and ultimately broke down for most. Guards became strict, sadistic, and brutal. The degree of immersion into the roles and the resulting level of violence was shocking. Zimbardo ended the study prematurely, after only six days.

The psychological dynamic in the mock prison was deliberately made as realistic as possible. It was focused tightly on power – maximizing the guards’ power while minimizing the prisoners’. Much of the violence and torture inflicted by the guards was intended to crush prisoners spirits to further cement the guards’ power. The guards were sadistic and brutal because they saw those behaviors as appropriate for their role. Likewise, prisoners behaved appropriately for their assigned role. From this, most conclude that people will tend to behave in accordance with expectations based on the ostensible role they have.

This effect extended beyond observable behavior. The attitudes of participants came to reflect their respective roles as well, as illustrated in a clip from a videotaped discussion between a mock guard and a mock prisoner two months after the conclusion of the experiment. To Prof. Zimbardo, these results point to the power and importance of the social situation in determining what constitutes acceptable or moral behavior in any given situation or instance. In a 2007 interview with Democracy Now, Zimbardo states in part:

… what I [was] able to say [to the study participants afterward] was, all of you did some bad things, and all of you saw each other doing some bad things. But it’s not diagnostic of any pathology in you because we picked people who are the most normal and healthy on all psychological measures. It’s really diagnostic of the power of the situation…

We followed these kids up two weeks after, … [and] a month later, [and] I am still in contact, 35 years later, with many of the former prisoners and guards. And of course, once you take them out of that situation, and once you take them out of their costumes, …and put them back in their street clothes, they bounce back to the healthy, base rate that they had earlier. So there were not…any lasting negative effects…

This situational interpretation also informs Zimbardo’s Heroic Imagination Project. He is trying to demonstrate that the same phenomena can be made to produce positive results. By designing a course of study celebrating heroism and doing the right thing, he aims to move the social set point for the students to produce heroic behavior and attitudes. However, as described in the NPR report whose link appears above, early results are not encouraging.

I have personally always found suggestions that there is no internal constancy and that behavior and personality are derived from nothing more than externally defined roles and expectations unsatisfying. Perhaps there is another factor that has been largely overlooked. The tendency to evaluate experiences and define things, even one’s own identity, in terms of external factors is characteristic of ego. It makes sense that since the ego suffers from loss of connection to source, it lacks a durable internal compass or sense of truth. The habit of looking to external social situations to define what is “right” and “wrong” implies that at best, the ego has only a conditional moral compass that is inferred from the social context.

It’s as if one believed a sundial was present although the pointer that casts the shadow had never been seen or found and instead, one used whatever shadows that happened to be on the ground to project back to where the pointer must be without ever actually seeing the dial. The sundial might not actually exist at all. In such a situation, as the shadows on the ground shift and change, the inferred position and shape of the pointer would shift, too.

Similarly, as the external milieu shifts, the ego’s sense of what is right and wrong, acceptable and appropriate, naturally shifts as well. Its imagined internal compass shifts with the changing external situation, just as the projected pointer in the imaginary sundial shifts with the position of the sun.

One way out of this quandary is to foster your awareness of your divine nature. This is the part of you, regardless of how you call it, that transcends the ego. It is that part of you that is in direct connection with divine grace, wisdom, and love. Through it, you have direct access to all that it is and has to offer. In honoring it in your life, you become, by degrees, a truly unique and original expression of God on earth. Eventually, no threat or punishment will dissuade you from honoring the Truth you find within yourself. This is the core of true strength and heroism.

Out of this clarity, peace, joy, and true strength flow effortlessly and undeniably. This is the strength that allows monks to withstand horrific tortures for years or decades without breaking or feeling hatred, or any animosity toward their guards. If the participants in the Stanford Prison Study had developed their own individual connections to and expressions of divinity, would the study results have been different? If the soldiers at Abu Ghraib had had such inner clarity and awareness would those atrocities have been committed?

Growing toward such strength and clarity is not hard, but it does require conscious choice and diligence. It begins with a simple practice of being aware of your own thoughts without criticism, apology, or judgment. It continues through diligent practice of being open to becoming aware of anything that may come into your experience and any attachments you may have to outcomes, meanings, or valuations, which are all games the ego plays. It leads to open awareness of more and more opportunities to exercise choice in every single moment, which is another way to experience and understand personal empowerment.

© 2012, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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Heart-Centered Communication

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by DCH Park

How many communications do you receive or engage in each day? Hundreds? Thousands? There are primarily two modes of communication in modern society – one-way communications in which a message is essentially broadcast to an audience, whose primary role is to receive the message, and exchanges in which there is at least the opportunity to participate in a back-and-forth of some kind – a conversation.

Most media communications fall into the first group. In general, broadcasts are intended to get the receivers of the broadcast message to feel, think, or do something. Even new, so-called interactive media are severely limited in the level of interaction they support between people. These limitations are most likely imposed by limits inherent in the technology. No technological interface or conduit as yet has been able to even come close to matching the richness and subtlety of genuine contact.

Much of the “intelligence” that makes the user experience seem robust is actually no more than clever programming. Interface designers have made certain assumptions about your behavior and your expectations based on what they understand as the normal or average user behavior and they program their systems to deliver what they believe you will expect. The system itself is pretty dumb.

For example, as anyone who has investigated online advertising knows, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the art of increasing the search engine visibility of a website so that it appears high in the results list returned by search sites. It involves understanding the quirks of how search engines work so that you can tweak your site to get better results.

However, suppose that you wanted to learn about the design approach that Google uses in creating its search engine or the basic research that Google’s approach is based on. If you went to Google and searched for “search engine optimization,” a perfectly reasonable starting point, you will be rewarded with a plethora of links for sites explaining or selling online advertising services but nothing about how search engines are optimized at all.

The Google design is making an assumption about what you mean and returning results based on its assumptions, not necessarily what you intend.

Their assumptions are pretty good, which is why they are so successful, but they aren’t perfect and their system is not truly interactive. Even sites that connect you with live people have built-in assumptions about what you might want to (or should) do in your interactions. These assumptions can be enabling as long as you conform with their model of user behavior. But as soon as you step outside of the model, you are severely limited or stopped. Any interaction beyond the model is not supported.

This is not true for a true conversation. A true conversation is owned by both participants. Not only are you free to converse about any subject you like, you are free to converse in whatever manner you like. In a face-to-face interaction, you don’t even have to use words in order to be felt and understood. In fact, some of the most powerful parts of a conversation take place through silence, as discussed in these pages previously.

Sadly, though, it seems that so many of the communications that we have on a daily basis are either traditional broadcasts or shaped by them and system designers’ assumptions, that one-way communication has become the norm. Consequently, even when we have opportunities for genuine conversation, we often exploit them as windows for telling someone else what to do, think, or feel or for telling them what we do, think, or feel.

When you talk with someone, how often do you take time to really connect rather than thinking about the next meeting or item on your to-do list? How often do you fully listen to what the other person is saying rather than splitting your attention between that and what you want to say next? How much energy do you spend trying to take or keep the floor or noticing how your arguments have been received or who likes you or finds you attractive?

How often do you recognize, let alone capitalize, on opportunities to slow down and genuinely connect with another human being? Dare to be different. Take time to really notice your interaction with the next person you speak with. Breathe into silence and be present. Be open and receptive to whatever the conversation will be. Allow space for emptiness to enter and appreciate its grace.

© 2012, David Park. All Rights Reserved.

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Your Greatest Teacher

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by DCH Park

I have heard it said many times that the things and people who set you off the most are your greatest teachers. Is this true? How is that possible? Can the jerk who just cut you off really be a teacher? Doesn’t he just need an attitude adjustment? What about the idiot boss who never appreciates or even notices all of the hard work you do? She just criticizes. Is she a teacher?

In a similar vein, there are those who seem to take the saying that “the world is a reflection” as literal truth. In the past, I found it extremely annoying when someone would ask (smugly, as it often seemed to me) how I was doing the same thing that so annoyed me about others.

But what if those people and situations really are chances to learn and grow – to become better people, to enjoy life and love more – to be more ourselves? If there is even a tiny chance that this might be true, don’t we owe it to ourselves to consider the possibility? There’s a line from an old movie called Punchline in which Tom Hanks is coaching Sally Field as a comedienne. He says, “Everyone’s life is funny. We’re God’s animated cartoons.”

The cosmic joke is that we don’t see how we create our own reality. We play this joke on ourselves. We become embroiled in the drama of being cheated or wronged and outraged at the injustice of it all and never see ourselves from the outside. If we did see ourselves from the outside, we would recognize in ourselves the same frustrations of the coyote hunting the roadrunner and Elmer hunting the rabbit.

We really are God’s animated cartoons, but we don’t have to stay that way. The thing that traps Elmer and Daffy in their animated cartoon perspective is inability or unwillingness to step outside of the box that frames their world. If they did, their perspective would widen and they would have a chance to heal and transcend their limitations. They are stuck inside of their dramas. They lack perspective. Ironically and mercifully, as long as a wider perspective is maintained, the route to healing the wounds that plague us can be found through the very things that annoy us the most. There is great truth and wisdom in this, not to mention more than a little humor.

When we adopt a point of view or accept a wound as part of who we are, it gives rise to recurring experiences in life that remind us of the original wound, just as the soft spot on your gum after losing a tooth draws the tongue. There is a natural tendency to revisit pain associated with unhealed wounds. There is a curious sense of satisfaction that comes from repeating the pain of open wounds.

When this repeating pattern leads to re-injury, the wound can’t heal. The pattern repeats endlessly. In fact, it can get more severe with time, especially when the wound is emotional or spiritual in nature.

This gives rise to the observation that when we don’t learn and grow from the pains and annoyances that life brings, the universe patiently repeats the lesson, each time with more volume. Perhaps the challenge starts as a minor annoyance, but if it is ignored for long enough, it grows to staggering dimensions. What may start as a gentle tap on the shoulder will become a tug on the sleeve if we continue to ignore it. Eventually, it’ll become a two-by-four to the back of the head. All offered with love and grace.

It is interesting that we are free to think of this in different ways. Some speak of lessons and growth. Others speak of healing and growth. In either paradigm, the patterns of frustration, annoyance, and so on are nothing more than repeated occurrences of opportunities to learn and heal.

We are free to choose our responses to those opportunities. We can continue to ignore them and dive into the associated story, becoming lost like Elmer and Daffy, and obsess on how the other person or the whole world really needs to change. This route leads to greater and greater suffering as the volume is turned up and our emotional reactions grow. We can eventually immerse ourselves so completely in the emotional reaction that we no longer have a separate sense of who we are. All we know of ourselves is the anger, fear, pain, etc.

Alternatively, we can be aware that there is a path to healing and learning in the suffering and open to it. The truth at the heart of the suffering is liberating. Amazingly (and laughingly), the emotional upset that we feel is both the tip off that there’s something there for us and the means to track it back to the foundational lesson or wound.

How can we do this? The first step is to recognize that a lesson is presenting itself. Witness consciousness can open this door.

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“Your Greatest Teacher” by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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Thoughts Are Things

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by DCH Park

One of the fundamental concepts or realizations found in the success literature can be summed up by saying that “Thoughts are Things”. It may seem strange at first, but it is nonetheless true that everything created in life begins with a thought.

This is true for technical designers as well as architects who both must carefully think through and plan every detail of a new device or building. A moment’s reflection will make it clear that this is also true whenever we make a decision to do something, move something, or create something new.

So much of what we do on a daily basis is so familiar that we can easily gloss over the complexity of what we are doing. Even the deceptively simple task of walking across the room to open or close the window is actually composed of hundreds or thousands of smaller, intricately orchestrated movements and changes of posture. We don’t notice them simply because we’re very good at them. But as anyone who is learning a new skill (like skiing, tennis, typing, etc.) can attest, they are very complicated and getting to the point of unconscious ease and grace takes a lot of practice.

The single most important part of the process of creating something new is the original thought or idea of the new thing. In military parlance this is called the “commander’ s intent”. In business strategy, it is called the “vision” or “vision statement”. In art or science, it is called the “creative insight” or even the “spark of genius”. In all of these cases, the creative thought, intent, or vision, clearly sets out the ultimate goal or target. Without a clear statement of the ultimate goal, forward progress is very difficult or impossible.

As noted in the title, another way to understand this principle is summed up by the statement “Like Attracts Like”. Clearly, the original vision or creative thought describes the new creation or situation and in that way can be seen to “attract” the real life equivalent. In fact, the phrase “Like Attracts Like” is used heavily by Esther and Jerry Hicks and others when describing the Law of Attraction.

Viewed in this way, two very important subtleties are revealed. The first is that the statement that defines the creation should ideally be clear and succinct. The more clear and to the point that statement can be, the more effective it will be. Long, complex statements that are hard to understand and convey will be less effective.

Perhaps due to popular movies and stories involving tricky, wish-granting genies and leprechauns, many people make the mistake of trying to “cover all bases” when they state their vision. The resulting statement resembles nothing more than a complex legal document or contract that is designed to protect you from imagined problems more than anything else.

Such a document designed to protect you from imagined fears, is likely to focus more on the imagined fears than the intended creation. Reading, reciting, or hearing it will evoke many more images of unwanted outcomes than of wanted creations. Since Like Attracts Like, you are more likely to realize your fears than your creation this way.

The second subtlety is actually related to the first. It recognizes that statements that are exciting and fun are much more powerful than statements that are dull and boring. The level of excitement and joy that any thought or creation inspires is directly proportional to the power and speed with which the creation is brought to reality.

Clearly, statements that are clear and to the point will also tend to be more powerful emotionally. For better or for worse, marketers and advertising agencies have known this for a long time. Marketing experts routinely say that it’s important to convey your greatest benefit in seven words or less.

Doing this successfully will not only make your message succinct and clear, it will also bring out the emotional appeal of your product or service. Your message will be more powerful and more memorable because it is clear and exciting.

In fact, the whole of marketing and advertising can be seen as nothing more than a practical application of the principle of success attraction.

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Walking In the Rain

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by David Park

dog-425067_1920It was wet out. They had a break in the rain but a fine mist hovered in the air and kept the ground wet. Whether the mist splashed up from the ground or fell from the sky was anyone’s guess. Maybe it was a little of both. Unconcerned with the wetness, Doggie Chi trotted along, stubby tail bouncing back and forth, happily sniffing the air this way and that. His little legs didn’t look quite coordinated. They were reminiscent somehow of a toy dog, but they didn’t quite seem artificial in their movement either. Whatever the movement was, it did its job – it carried him forward and it even managed to convey a jaunty sense of fun and possibility.

The jaunty one’s official name was Fitzwilly. At least that was his given name but he thought of himself as Doggie Chi. That is, he thought of himself that way when he thought of himself at all. He wasn’t always Doggie Chi. Sometimes he lost himself. When that happened, he forgot to notice himself feeling his emotions at all. All that he was aware at those times were his emotions. He wasn’t aware of himself at all.

But that wasn’t what was going on now. For now, he was aware and in the moment. He was also aware of the other dog and the person walking with him. It had rained earlier and clouds hung low and turned the sky grey but for the moment, the rain had stopped. The whole city seemed different because of the rain. It wasn’t just that everything seemed washed clean and sparkled in its wetness. There was a palpable difference to the city. It was almost as if it had a tangible reality that got washed out in bright sunlight. It smelled different. Things were richer, deeper.

He could smell the lushness of the grass and shrubs and other growing things he walked by. He could smell the earth. He didn’t even have to leave the sidewalk. He didn’t have to push his nose into everything the way he usually did. It was as if the smells came to him. He didn’t have to seek them out. It was like the soul of the city was rising up to meet him.

He trotted along, feeling the wetness of the concrete. He felt how cool it was and how it soaked his toes. He relished the wetness of his fur, perhaps because it was limited to the surface. He was still puffed out and dry underneath but his collar was wet. So was the leash that connected him to his person, the one walking him this morning. There were three of them but this one seemed to take a special pride in walking the dogs. Or maybe it was joy. Maybe he enjoyed it.

Whatever it was, his person didn’t enjoy it this morning. It was early enough that he had only been partially awake when they’d left on their walk. He’d sort of stumbled along at the end of the leashes, letting the dogs lead the way. That is, he’d stumbled along until the wetness had soaked through his clothing and hit his skin.

Then he was awake and grumbling under his breath. Not like other, drier times. Unbidden, Doggie Chi remembered some of those other times. He had made great efforts to train his people properly. They were better than they had been but they still objected sometimes when he wanted to jump up onto the bed or couch.

Nevertheless, they seemed to enjoy holding him. They seemed particularly fond of holding him against the side of the chest when they were laying down. He’d even taken to folding his legs beneath him and laying his head on their shoulder while they snuggled him. It was particularly nice to lay there and be held. He could feel their warmth at such times.

Of course, warmth wasn’t appropriate when it was hot, but it was at least tolerated most of the rest of the time and it was really appreciated in the cold weather. He remembered the cold. It seemed like an infinite gulf separated the summer warmth all around him from the biting cold of winter but the sight of the school as they rounded the corner reminded him of fall and winter. Little kids gathered in the school during the cold months. It was summer now and the place was empty but in the present moment, the school loomed ever larger.

It was good that the school was silent. Little kids didn’t seem to understand. They saw his fur and diminutive size and cooed over him. Inevitably someone would step forward, wanting to pick him up – a thoroughly undignified thing. No doubt, the child imagined squeezing him and nuzzling his neck fur and the fur on his head.

Almost in spite of himself, Fitzwilly growled softly. His imagination was filled with awful things, like being petted and cuddled, being held and shown off and generally treated like a dog instead of the being of insight and discernment that he was.

None of these things had actually happened but that didn’t matter. He lost himself in his emotions. His imagination was much worse than anything in real life and he was consumed with such projections now. His imagination was filled with what-ifs. It didn’t matter that those things were completely unreal. His emotional response was one of fear and anger. The fear and anger were real. So was the growl.

He flashed on his mother and litter-mates when they were very young. It wasn’t like he never saw his mother after that. They saw each other all the time at family picnics and on holidays. They would run after each other and chase balls, imaginary rats, and other things together. Or they would sit or lie down together, simply taking the afternoon in.

They could sit together that way for hours and let the quiet overtake them. Those times were especially powerful for Doggie Chi. Other dogs were there, too, of course. He would play with them, but it was never quite the same. He supposed that every dog is different.

Regardless of which dog or dogs he played with, however, at the end of the day he would go home with his humans. It was a big responsibility to raise and take care of a whole family of humans but he was up to the challenge. He accepted them into his life with joy and dignity.

He thought about his mother and the times they’d shared as he walked through wetness. If he could, he would have smiled. He’d gone through many things in his life. Some turns were right, many things that seemed right were actually wrong. Others seemed wrong at first but provided opportunities to learn and grow, so what seemed to be wrong at first turned out to be exactly right.

In every case, it came down to an awareness of what was right in front of him. In fact, stubbornly ignoring the facts and insisting on what was expected always led to trouble and the solution always revolved around correcting that fact.

What was he ignoring now?

Something was missing in what he felt. Then he realized in a rush what it was. He noticed that he felt the emotions of fear and anger but he wasn’t aware of himself feeling them. He knew from experience that those emotions would point to the center. But without a sense of self, you lost yourself. It was like being lost in a storm and going around and around endlessly without getting any closer to the eye. The trick, of course, was finding that center.

He wasn’t Doggie Chi while he chased his tail around the center. He didn’t embody the wisdom of Doggie Chi. He was just Fitzwilly. Alone.

He walked on, noticing again the sights and smells of the city and how they had changed. At the top of the hill, they could easily see over the school. Ahead, the treetops got lower as the ground descended. In the distance, he could see downtown Pittsburgh. He could make out windows in the buildings. It definitely seemed walkable but he wouldn’t want to walk there. It had to be miles and miles away.

He did his business in the grass and his person picked it up and was just finishing tying the bag shut when it started to rain quite a bit harder. Big drops fell from the sky and soon a river appeared where the road had been. The sky crackled, which Fitzwilly didn’t particularly like, but which Charley Girl positively hated. What had been a general dampness that soaked slowly through fur and clothing became a dripping mess as wet spots merged and all pretenses of keeping even private areas dry were lost.

There was no refuge from the downpour. Doggie Chi followed his person’s lead and walked with grace and dignity through the rain, even though, now soaked to the skin, he resembled a half-drowned rat more than a dog of distinction. His person laughed out loud. It was a boisterous sound which might have been intrusive if not for the sound of the rain, the rushing water, and the wind all around them. As it was, it fit.

“At least,” his person was speaking. “At least it’s warm.”

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”Walking In the Rain” at StoriesToEntertain.com by DCH Park is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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