This is the third installment in the program, Who Am I? What was it like eating lunch with this tension between the story and no one?
Student: I forgot to do it.
Ken: You forgot to do it. Just a second. How many forgot to do it? Okay, now this is a very important point. Everybody says, meditation, good, etc., etc., and they get into their daily lives and it’s just gone. Right? You cannot remember. You cannot remember because you are caught up in the stream of things.
Just to give you a little analogy here. When you’re meditating, and you get caught up in a thought, can you remember to meditate? No, you can’t. It’s impossible. There’s nothing you can do because in a certain sense you’re not there at that point. The thought is having it’s own wonderful time, but you’re not there. Any sense of presence is not there. At some point the thought dissolves and then you go, “Oh, I meant to be meditating.” Now you can actually do something.
So many people want to try to remember, or want to remember. They think, “If I could just remember to do this. It is absolutely impossible, because when you are caught up in things, the only things that are accessible to you are in the world of thought or in the world of your story. This is why meditation practice is so very, very important. Because by practicing you make meditation part of your life, and so it may come to you even when you’re caught up in the story, but it will not come about just through remembering, because the intellect and conceptual mind is far too weak.
Toronto, many years ago, I gave a program on—I can’t remember what it was on—but it was a two-weekend program. One weekend, and then a break, then the other weekend. At the end of the first weekend I asked everybody to go through the rest of the week taking a breath whenever they opened a door. So my first question on the following Saturday was, ”Well, how were the doors?“ and people just sort of went ”Oh.“ Because everybody had forgotten, completely. Okay. So, any other comments on what this was like, the tension between…Cathy.
Cathy: Well, just as we went to lunch I, Linda and I drove together and we packed lunches so I asked Linda, I said, ”Hey we should trade lunches and see what it’s like, and pick on each other’s salads.“ And what we learned was how attached we were to the selection of our lunch. Okay? And she wasn’t about to give up that sandwich I’ll tell ya.
Ken: Okay, that’s great, I love it. Thank you very much. Anybody else? So the story rules. Is that right? Okay, any other comments from anybody? Roxanne.
Roxanne: So I think that if this were…if it had been an hour of silence, I would have remembered to do the exercise. But it wasn’t, and so it’s just choices between getting to know some other people, sharing stories about, you know, what have you, why we’re here, those different things. So it feels like a zero sum game kind of choice between that awareness and participating in what’s going on around me.
Ken: How many others feel like that? It’s a zero sum game. This or that. Okay, you’re not alone in this even though they’re saying, ”Mmm.“ Even though a lot of people may know up here it’s not a zero sum game, in here it feels like a zero sum game. Why? Because we don’t know how to do it. You don’t know how to carry on a conversation and be no one at the same time. We think we have to be…
Student: What would you talk about?
Ken: Well, actually the number of possible topics increases exponentially, inversely proportional to the sense of self that is operating. You know, what do we have in Hollywood? Enough of me talking about me, why don’t you talk about me, and there is only one topic of conversation. Cara.
Cara: It’s not enough about me. ”Now we’ve talked about me; let’s talk about my work.“ Sorry, my mom always says that. ”Enough about me; let’s talk about my work.“ I think if you can interact with people from a place of being no one, quote unquote, then it makes you an infinitely better listener.
Cara: And instead of thinking of the next thing you’re going to say to everyone, and how you can interject your own ego or whatever into the conversation, you can actually really respond to someone.
Ken: Very definitely, we’re going to go into this in the last part. Thank you. Okay, Sandy.
Sandy: Well, I guess what I found out—I was actually talking to Nancy—and what I found is I took, the ”Think of yourself as no one,“ as to…you know…to the nth extreme. That that meant that I didn’t exist at all, and therefore how could I be aware if I didn’t exist, which is why I couldn’t get there. But what I realized after hearing that is that one of my, whatever, my patterns or my issues is always being an overachiever. And so it was a very kind of enlightening moment for me that here, okay you give me this assignment, well I must do it a hundred and ten percent—so I didn’t even exist. So I found this really an enlightening moment for me.
Ken: I just have the one question.
Sandy: Who am I?
Ken: Who is talking to me?
Sandy: No one, I guess I’m just enjoying the sound of my own experience.
Ken: All right. The next section is Who Am I functionally? I’m not a hundred percent sure the best way to do this so we’ll try it in one or two different ways. First, this is on page 3. So might get out your pens and paper again. As you can see we’ve got three different takes on this. I think actually we’ll start with the third, which is family stuff.
Family conditioning is one of the deeper forms of conditioning in our lives. So I’d just like you to take a few moments and jot down some thoughts on how you act when you feel like a child. Okay? Now I know that all of us are mature adults so the frequency which we feel like a child is probably much less than it was a few years ago, but it still occurs from time to time.
And there are various situations in which we can feel like a child. One, of course, is when we’re visiting our parents. It kind of oozes back into that whole child thing, just like that. Of which I’ve had some very illuminating experiences of my own interactions, ”Huh, what’s going on?“ Another is when we are dealing with authority we will often feel like a child. Another is, either when we’re feeling scared or feeling very happy. In either of those cases we can move to feeling like a child.
So just with those in mind, just take a few moments and jot down a few points. And there are things like, ”How do I look at the world as a child, when I’m feeling like a child?“ ”How do I view myself?“ ”What are the ways that I will act?“ It doesn’t have to be a lot. [Pause] In all of these one can actually go much further: ”What is my relationship with art and creativity when I feel like a child?“ ”What is my relationship with body, exercise, movement?“ [Pause] ”How do I view parental or authority figures when I feel like a child?“ [Pause] So just take a couple of moments and do that. [Pause]
Okay. What I’d like you to do now is to just take a moment and read over everything that you wrote, taking it in. Of course you may think of other things and that’s fine. But the purpose of reading it over is to get a feel for it, and then I just want us to sit and actually feel that for a few minutes. Okay? This is who I am when I’m feeling like a child. We’re not going to do a long meditation, just a couple of minutes. It may be fun. Depends on your childhood I guess. Get a sense of how you feel in your body. How you think of yourself, and how you view the world and others. Those three things. Now I’d like you to do the same thing for sibling. Sibling. And if you have no siblings, well, pets are close enough.
Cara: My mom loves my cats more that she loves me.
Ken: I think that will do quite nicely Cara. ”My mom loves my cats more that she loves me,“ yeah, that’ll do. Okay, so when you’re in the sibling role. Notice how the energy in the room just shifted. Okay? This is very different. Oh, it’s going to get much better Cindy. Don’t just sit and shake your head, right. Okay, so this entrains a whole other set of reactions. It’s almost like you’re becoming another person. How do you view yourself in the sibling role? Well, there are three possibilities. I’m older than you, I’m younger than you, or I’m the same age. And so much flows just from those three. You’re sitting this one out are you Sandy?
Ken: Okay. How do you feel about others, notably one’s siblings? This is what Cinderella is actually about you know. The fairy tale of Cinderella. This young girl has this wonderful world. She has a mother and a father. Her father pays her wonderful attention, gets all kinds of nice things for her. Her mother takes great delight in her. And then her mother gets ill and dies, and her father remarries. And this new mother has two things with it: stepsisters. Now this is exactly the experience of a child when siblings come along. Mother gets pregnant, leaves, and now there’s this other thing in the house which is getting all this attention. My brother’s family—his daughter’s the oldest, and as my mother delicately put it, “Sometimes she just has to remind her younger brother of what he did to her life, and the only way she could do that is by hitting him.” [Laughter]
How you view yourself, how you view others. I didn’t expect it to bring up this much. Pardon? Definitely, I’ll have to remember that one. Okay. So just read over what you’ve written, or haven’t written as I noticed…and just feel it, and feel who you are in this situation. Just feel it for a moment, Roxanne. Stop writing. Just feel who you are. And that’s who you are in your body. It’s very different. How you view yourself; how you view others. Okay. Let all of that go.
Move into the third family role: parent. Now, some of you may not have been parents, but almost all of us have experienced being in a parental role at some point. If you’re a teacher, or you’ve been in a teaching situation you’ve been in somewhat of a parental role. One could argue that a managerial position is somewhat of a parental role. Lot of effective managers I know, who are women, just bring their child caring skills to work and it works very, very well.
So, what’s your sense of yourself when you’re in the parental role? I imagine it’s a little different from when you’re in the child role. What are your sense of your responsibilities? What do you pay attention to? What do you watch out for? What is your view of others? What’s your view of the world and your place in the world when you’re in a parental role?
In the scheme of things attention flows from parent to child. Lot of children get very screwed up when they’re required to be in attention with respect to their parents. Really messes kids up very, very badly. So just take a few notes there. Who are you when you’re in a parental role? Contrast to the child. We didn’t cover this with siblings. It was too hot. What is the sense of your artistic and creative skills. What is the sense of your body, your capabilities?
And so, just read that over and sit with that for a minute. Who am I in the parental role? Feel it in your body, sense of yourself. Who do you picture, imagine or describe yourself to be? How do you view others in the world? Okay. Let that go. Let’s hear from some of you about some of your reflections. Roxanne.
Roxanne: So in the child and sibling this…this story that I’ve been repeating like for years I couldn’t even distinguish between…all I had was that story…I really had a very hard time even actually remembering…it’s kind of like my story replaced my reality of those times maybe.
Roxanne: Very different in the parent role. I could really relate to that. That felt like me now, not because I’m a parent, but…coach, teacher, manager, whatever…that was all amazing, powerful, wonderful stuff I relate to in a way that has a physical part and an emotional part. But the sibling and child was like a train wreck. Just stories, stories, story, and really hard to get past that.
Ken: Okay, anybody else? I’m not even looking at you. Julia.
Julia: I was interested in the different sizes my body took on. When I was a child I was small and weak. When I was a sibling I was medium-sized and very tough. And when I was a parent I felt very vast, and very soft. I don’t think soft was quite the word.
Ken: So a very definite different perception of yourself physically.
Ken: I can connect with what you’re saying because several years ago I started studying martial arts. And actually went right through and got my black belt in that particular training. But about, I think it was around green or brown belt—I can’t remember—I was working out with one person who was a very senior instructor. Like he’s tenth level black belt. Way, way above me. He’s a short guy, maybe 5’4” or something like that. He threw a punch, and the next thing I knew he was on the mat. I said to him, “Larry, you gave me that one.” He said, “Ken, you know I don’t give anybody anything in this. You’re a big guy, you made the move, this is the result.”
And I felt something shift in me right there. Because I grew up, I was accelerated twice so I was smaller and younger than everybody and all the way through, through most of my adult life I had this idea that I was smaller than everybody else. Exactly what you’re talking about. But it was that moment that that physical self-image dropped. Oh, I am a big guy. Oh. I can really relate. Because we carry these things, they are stories as you say Roxanne, but they’re very, very powerful. Okay, anybody else? Susan.
Susan: When we were talking about the siblings or thinking about that, I had a vision of something that I’ve never thought of before although the struggle has been there—is that I came in the third child and a vision of having a table with only two legs and I came in and balanced it and that for most of my life I’ve kind of stayed there and felt responsible to do that, and at some point unscrewed and pulled out but they want to bring me back.
Ken: They want to bring you back?
Susan: Well, that’s my story. Okay. And that I’m fighting not to get pulled back into that, yet out here not in it I still feel responsible for balancing.
Ken: Yes. That says it very, very well. So stories about our lives we continue on. Okay. How many of you found that there were significant differences between who you feel like when you’re feeling like a child, who you feel like when you’re in a sibling role—we noticed that one was really different—and when you’re a parent? How many found they’re…okay. If we ask the question, “Who are you?” what’s the answer? Okay.
Now we’re going to move to the work environment. We’re going to do the same exercise. Okay. So let’s start off, when you are in a leadership role. Okay? Now, the world of leadership is the buck stops here. You don’t have anything to pass anything on to. If the store isn’t locked at night, that comes on to your thing…you know? It’s your store. So how do you view yourself? How do you view others? What does the world look like to you?
Student: Is there a way to separate that out…
Ken: There will be a certain overlap, because the parental leader…there will be, there are differences because ideally you don’t have all your family stuff running while you’re in the work environment. [Laughter] Well that’s, “Note to self, don’t have family stuff operating.” And you’re quite right. Because, I mean, there’s a HR consultant I’ve known, I’ve used this same line myself while I’m consulting in the business world. I often say, “Your boss is not your father. You can actually talk to him.” Okay, mother, same diff. Yes. Your boss is not your mother, she’s not going to take care of you forever. Randye, please.
Randye: We have a sign posted in our lunch room that says, “Your mother does not work here. Please clean up after yourself.”
Ken: The longer one works in the same company or in the same organization, the more and more family dynamics operate. Particularly if it’s a family business. Yes, that’s what makes family run businesses very interesting. A euphemistic word, interesting. Yeah. Okay. So you have a sense of yourself in the leadership role. So just read that over and feel that again. Just as you were doing before in “How does it feel in your body?” As one person says, “You know you’re in a leadership role if you don’t sleep at night and your palms are sweaty.” As Julia has suggested you may pay attention to your sense of your body when you’re in a leadership role. How do you view yourself? What’s the sense of your body? How do you view yourself? And how do you view others? Just get a sense of that. Sit for a minute with it all. [Pause] Okay, let that go.
Let’s move in to the worker role. And the world of the worker is very different. Pardon. Oh, we’re going to come back to the middle. I want to do it in this order. The world of the…whereas the world of the leader is a top role, is one of a lot of responsibility and accountability, the world of the worker is, you know you’ve got your work to do, but things happen to you. You know they shut plants down. That has a small effect on you. Doesn’t necessarily have an effect on the leaders, but it does have an effect on you.
You have a certain notion of responsibility, which is very, very different I suspect from the leaders responsibility…sense of responsibility. How do you feel in your body as a worker? That varies a lot from person to person. How do you view others? What’s your sense of power in this role?
How many of you know someone whose personality seemed to change when they were promoted or moved to another job? It’s quite frequent actually. They seem to become a different person. So read that over and take it in. And just sit with that for a minute or two. Again, the same three things. Your sense of yourself, your body as a worker. Your sense of yourself and your role in the organization in whatever you’re doing, and your sense of others. Let that go.
Then go to the third role: middles. You know, like middle management. Now the middle is defined as anybody who has somebody above them and somebody below them. And you have to take into account what the person above you is doing and you have to figure out what to do with the people below you. And often times what you’re getting from above, and what you’re getting from below, they don’t really match. You know what the real situation is, but your boss is telling you to do something which may work or may not work.
So what’s it feel like in that role? There are many, many places in life where we end up in this situation. In large corporate structures the division presidents are actually all middles because they’re managing their corporation and while at the head of it, they have the corporate above them and they behave much more like middles than they do like leaders. Sometimes they behave like workers or bottoms too.
Interestingly enough, teachers—Buddhist teachers like myself—we’re classic middles. We have one above us, the sense of tradition and the idea of awakening, and below us the students, and we’re mediating between the two. So when you’re in this middle role, what’s it like? This is somewhat like the sibling role. Interesting parallels there. You notice that?
It’s interesting because every one of these exercises there’s very different energy in the room, as soon as we switch it’s like everything changes. A lot more discomfort around this one. People were happy being leaders, they were happy being workers, but here they’re going, “Grrr.” So sense of your body, sense of yourself in terms of responsibilities and what you try to do etc. in that role. Sense of others? Do you see others as cooperative, uncooperative, helpful, unhelpful, threatening, or servile?
Okay. Everybody got a few notes here? So, just read it over and sit with this one for a moment. Just for a minute or two. Sensing your body in this middle role. Being in touch with your sense of self, and how you view others in the world. Just sit with the whole thing.
We have a fourth role in the work situation which I’ve called, I think, customer. Customer isn’t exactly the right word. Maybe some of you can think of a better word, but it is someone who is outside the particular corporation but needs to interact with it. So, obviously a customer, you know, you want to buy something from them. But you could also be a vendor, that is you’re going to sell something to them. You could also be a government agency. You’re trying to regulate them. Not that that happens much anymore but that’s another story. You could be a charity trying to get a donation. So this is a very different role. When you’re in the customer role, what is your sense of self?
Now, for me, and this is a mea culpa, you do not want to know me when I’m on a tech support call. I become a different person. I’ll be flat out about that. Every now and then I have a really good experience. But most of the time…okay? So whether you’re a vendor, or a customer, or an agency of some kind. You could be the environment, you know, like a citizen. Interacting with the corporation, not for any buying or selling anything but because there is an impact on the environment so you want to do something. What is it like interacting with that system? What is your experience there? What is your sense of your self in that role? What is your sense of others? Keep grounding in your body because there’s a lot of information there. Does this make sense to everybody? Not too abstract?
Nice experience and then a very bad experience with Hewlitt Packard. But the nice one outweighs it. I had this printer which I hadn’t used for a very long time, like several months. I came back from vacation and I turned it on and it wouldn’t turn on. I knew that my warranty was running out so a month before the warranty actually ran out I called them up and said, “I can’t turn my printer on.” They said, “Okay, fine.” I said, “Is it still under warranty?” They looked it up and said, “Actually, it is.” So they sent me a replacement printer. And it works. Then there is no holds. No hassles, it just went straight through. I won’t tell you about the second experience. That was the first one. I liked that one. But I have to say that my main response to that was surprise.
Ken: Okay. Well, we’ll be going into deeper debt. Maybe it will become illegible by the time we finish. No, actually before. Okay.
So just read over what you’ve written. Who are you when you’re interacting with an organization, an institution? You know, you could be a student applying for admission. What’s your experience? What’s your sense of self? Who are you in your body? How do you view others? Just sit with the whole thing for a minute. I’m sorry if you’re getting a stomachache. Let’s hear from some of you about your reflections on this. Nancy.
Nancy: Well, I felt pretty relaxed in my body as a worker. I think my experience as a worker has always been really good with quite a lot of freedom, but I was a middle manager for many years. I realized actually in doing this exercise that the tensions that I felt in that middle management job were patterns that I brought to it from my family. And they were mostly…the hardest thing for me was, because I wanted to be open and communicative with people that I was supervising they would bring their problems into the office and they would leave feeling pretty good and I would be sitting there with their problems. And even with a fair amount of therapy that never went away. And so it’s…
Ken: You’re a qualitatively different person in the worker role versus the…
Nancy: Yes, yes. And a much more relaxed person.
Ken: Okay, anybody else? Randye.
Randye: Unlike, what seemed like the rest of the room from the comments made earlier I actually liked the middle position best.
Ken: A lot of people do. You’re not the only one.
Randye: I’m comfortable in all three. I’ve been in all three, and at the bottom there’s little responsibility and there’s little challenge. At the top there’s a lot of responsibility and a lot of challenge. And in the middle there’s the problem solver and the mediator. And that’s a role that I enjoy and I do well in. So I think that’s why—
Ken: But you notice you become three different people in them.
Sandy: Oh yeah.
Ken: What about the customer?
Sandy: That I found harder because there’s so much variety. When I’m inside a company interacting with an external vendor to buy something I’m a very different person than I am as a customer going into and out there…so I had a hard time with that because it really encompasses all three of the roles.
Ken: Well, yeah. But it’s also different from all three so we should maybe break it up. When you’re trying to sell something you’re one person. When you’re trying to buy something you’re another person.
Sandy: And also I’m a different person as an individual customer, say walking into a shoe store than I am as a manager representing my company and buying a major contract.
Ken: Okay. And the point of this is actually to bring out how many different people we are. Roxanne did you have something?
Roxanne: What struck me was I saw the similarities. The customer role is actually the one that most related to my family roles, the sibling side. Because in the other three levels of work roles, although there are a range of different views of myself and experiences, I always turn it into something constructive, and find a way to be powerful and creative in that situation. But in the customer role I was thinking about like Time Warner and the customer experiences where I’m intolerant, demanding and feel like I’ve got no power to make it better. And it was those kind of negative customer experiences that more reminded me of the emotions that come up in the family side.
Ken: Jill, we haven’t heard from you.
Jill: It was interesting since I work in a family business. I’m not a part of the family, but the dynamics in terms of, you know, being at the bottom doing the work, it’s okay you know I just want to please everybody. And the middle management is like okay who do I make mad, or you know…who do I make happy, who do I upset? How do I, you know, come to a compromise. The top is just kind of a relief because I can decide and I can just make the decision which is unusual from my family pattern, so it’s all kind of tied in.
Ken: Anybody else? Frances. Microphone right here.
Frances: Like you said it’s about four different people but I think the roles that you see yourself—or at least I saw—were are all based on my past experience. And having worked at a very large entertainment company in Los Angeles, which I won’t mention, but most people know what it’s like to work there. I was a VP of marketing but I was within a division, within a division within like the top. It became…and I had like 25 people reporting to me. The word I think of is exhausting. Because I cannot please everybody. And trying to get a balance between management’s expectations—which are like off the charts—you know, they wanted a 20 percent increase in sales.
Ken: Every year.
Frances: Every year, and it just doesn’t happen that way. But then having a team of 25 people who I feel are working like a dog. And when it comes around to like bonus time they tell me there are no bonuses but yes we can give each person a .8 percent pay rise. It felt like…I realized I was taking on a parental responsibility because I felt like I couldn’t look after my children. And I’m the eldest of four so that’s part of the reason why. And so I found all of these not as…I think I’m trying the reverse of what I was in my family actually where I’m the parental role, but I had little control in my family. And I realize that in work I try and get that control in my professional life because it’s a lot easier to control than my personal life and relationships. So, at least that’s what I’ve found.
Ken: You notice we didn’t put relationships on this list.
Frances: And I find that as a customer I realize that—and I never realized this myself—how incredibly demanding I am of my vendors and suppliers. But that’s because I feel like that when I’ve been the vendor I’ve provided the best service. But there are situations where someone has come back to me and said, “You know that was a great meeting. You totally took the vendor apart.” I was like, I said, “I did?” I said, “All I did was ask them a few questions,” but in their mind I’d taken the vendor apart. Honestly I was like, “That’s not my style,” but apparently it is. And I never recognized it. But I’m incredibly demanding and I realize I’m very intolerant of mistakes from my vendors, and perhaps I need to ease up on them a bit.
Ken: Well, maybe. So again, here are four different roles in the workplace. And they’re kind of the—with the qualifications we put in earlier—the archetypical four roles. The tops, middles, bottoms, and customers. And we essentially are a different person in each of these roles.
Just to illustrate an aspect of this which you may find interesting. One of the things I wanted you to focus on was the sense of other. In the world of workers you’ll find that workers come together. When you have bad management, of course you get unions coming together because there’s a sense of, “They’re doing it to us again.”
Whereas, in the middle role it’s exactly the opposite. Because they each have their own areas where they’re mediating between top and bottom, they actually never see each other. There’s very, very little communication that takes place within middle managers.
There’s a workshop that I do which simulates this. And in every one of them…one of them I did down at one of the museums here, and the people who were in the middle management role, before the simulation started looked at each other, were going to talk to each other, right? But once the simulation started they literally never said a word to each other. It’s the nature of the space. It’s isolating.
And then you go to the top role. And this says a lot about what happens after revolutions. Okay? They fight. They’re fighting for turf. Because everybody want to get more control. So if you look at a successful revolution, people start off in a revolution in the bottom role. And if the revolution’s successful, they end up as the top. And what happens when a revolution is successful is you find all the top people who are now the leaders of the government fighting with each other over who’s going to do what. Happens every time. These people just change their personalities.
Okay. Now we go into the next thing, which is the top one. This is based on the six realms of course. When you find yourself in opposition, who are you?
Student: You mean like child, management…?
Ken: No, just now in your life. When you find yourself encountering opposition, or a teacher, who do you become when you are experiencing opposition? Are you a fighter? Are you an acquiescer? Do you try to negotiate? Pay very close attention to your body here, because it will tell you where you first go. So make a few notes about who you are in opposition. Again to refer to Peanuts, to take a page from Lucy: “the best defense is good offense and the best offense is total annihilation of the opposition.”
Ken: Is it? Okay. In thinking of yourself in terms of opposition it may bring up some uncomfortable, feelings I understand that. This is the hell realm where everything is opposition. How does your perception of the other change? Who do they become for you?
There is an account recently of how Bill Clinton was meeting with a bunch of super delegates, I think in northern California, and at the end of the meeting somebody made reference to Bill Richardson’s endorsement of Obama, and he just let loose in this tirade. I think he lost about 15 super delegates for Hillary right then and there. Just like that. Oops. Yes. Okay.
So just sit with that for a minute. Who am I in opposition? How do I feel in my body? How do I view myself? How do I view others? There’s explosion, is one possibility. Cold, calculating is another. “I don’t want to be here” is another. This isn’t happening. Just sit with all of that. Let that go.
And now, who are you when you need something? Who do you become when you need something?
I have a student who’s pretty good in terms of her practice, but she has a tendency to tell me what she needs from me as a teacher. I need you to be like this and like this. She’s got this very long and very, very precise list. The difference between when she’s being present and when she’s being needy is really quite remarkable. So what’s your sense of your body when you need something? Julia.
Julia: In these questions I’m finding myself going to both sides of the path. And instead of being one I’m being either a tyrant or a victim or a…do you see what I’m saying to you? When you’re saying, “Who am I?” when I’m in hell realm…
Ken: You find yourself flipping on each of these?
Ken: Okay, just take note of that. So it sounds like you have two distinct ways of reacting. So either, for instance with the hell realm, you either give up or you fight like hell. Okay? And needy, you either say, “No, I don’t need that” or you become desperate. Something like that? Okay, so just take note of that. That’s how it is. And please bring up that point in the fourth section because I have an interesting way of looking at that which maybe you’ll find helpful. Possibly. It’s a very different sense from opposition isn’t it? Not necessarily, okay.
Cara: I say “Not necessarily” because if there’s something you need and there’s opposition to you getting that you can—
Ken: Then you’re suddenly in hell.
Cara: Right, but…
Ken: But before there’s opposition. When you just need.
Cara: There’s a lot of fear.
Ken: There you go. So what’s your sense in your body? What’s your sense of self? What’s your sense of the world when you need something? There you are. It’s not there, right? I can’t get it. So you’ve written a few notes there. Let’s just sit with that for a moment. “I need something.” As Cara said, there’s some fear there. Maybe it’s the first fear, “I’m not going to get it.” How does that change how you see things, how you experience things? Let that go.
And now we look at the next one which can be characterized by the phrase, “I’m just trying to survive. Just paying the mortgage.” How many of you have seen, Thank You For Smoking? It’s a great movie and there’s several wonderful things in it. But one of the things that I really like is you have the person who’s playing this lobbyist for the tobacco…who when asked, “How can you do this? I’m just trying to pay the mortgage,” by the reporter. Of course then the reporter turns around and completely trashes him, “How can you do this? I’m just trying to pay the mortgage.”
This is pure animal realm just doing whatever you need to do to survive. Okay, so when you’re in that kind of survival mode in your life what is your sense of yourself? What’s your sense of your body? What’s your sense of the world and others? And you get right into Maslow’s hierarchy of needs here. Caribou: “It’s getting hot, we should go up.” “It’s getting cold, we should go down.” Caribou.
Ken: No. It’s not about the air conditioner. About elk and caribou. “It’s hot, we should go down. No. It’s hot, we should go up. It’s cold, we go down.” It’s very simple. Like a python. “Not hungry sleep. Hungry, eat.” That describes the life of a snake.
Student: That goes back to my question about awareness.
Ken: Is it one thing?
Student: No, but like we’re given this gift of self awareness so that we can actually like work towards enlightenment or waking up but we are not afforded the opportunity to just simply like live in harmony with our surroundings and adjust ourselves accordingly.
Ken: Well, from one perspective it’s very fortunate that we don’t live in harmony with our surroundings because if we did then we would have no urge for enlightenment.
Student: Absolutely. On the other hand…
Ken: Yeah, arguably it’s the only motivator in the end. Okay, so survival. Do you have a sense of yourselves as survivors? Okay, just sit with that for a moment. How does that feel? Doing something blindly because it’s the only way you know how to live. Okay.
Now, who are you when you want something? And there’s a difference between want and need. When you need something it’s because you feel it is essential to your survival. When you want something it’s because you want to enjoy it in some way. So that’s the very definite difference in quality and it brings out a very different personality.
Ken: That’s actually more…it can do that…that’s actually more in the next one, comparison. But there are some ways, personal goals. Goals that don’t involve recognition from others. I know we’re going through a long list here but the point is, are you getting the point? There’s a lot of different people in there. It’s worse than that: it’s a bureaucracy.
Student: Did you ever watch that show, Herman’s Head? It was on in like the nineties. The early nineties. It was like pre-Simpsons. It was a sitcom on Fox where this guy, like they had like his four like ego components like he would go through all of these situations and you would see them like in his head and it was just this big, you know…it looked like Pee Wee’s Playhouse. And the four of them lived there and one of them was like the bookworm and you know he was very like rigid and smart sort of like fatherly. Then you had like the frat boy. And then you had the motherly like feminine side and then you had like the childish one. And so, you know as he was like courting women or trying to get a promotion—
Ken: The four would come out.
Student: Well you could…they would like flash to his head and like what was going on and like that. I’ve never seen it on DVD available but it’s actually a really cool show.
Ken: And it’s right on target. Okay thanks, Herman’s Heads. Okay, Sandy.
Sandy: It’s interesting what I’m finding about me, assuming you’re getting at, who am I if I’m all these different people. But as I go through all the different things they all seem to end up with the same core of who I am.
Ken: And this core would be?
Sandy: Basically I think my sense of what I’ve tried to overcome from my childhood. That’s how it seems to manifest itself on each level. The qualities that I find myself feeling proud of, or want to cultivate are those that I’ve worked hard, and the ones that show up are the ones that haven’t been totally resolved from what came from my childhood. And I find they’re pretty much consistent throughout every realm. I don’t know if that’s unusual or not or if it really matters if it’s unusual or not. It’s just an observation.
Ken: Well, you’re quite right in that there are certain behaviors and ways that dominate and for that reason people say, “well, this is my core.” There are two things we should note about that: one is that core isn’t actually always in operation. There are circumstances we encounter where it isn’t present at all. When you’re enjoying yourself. Does that struggle to overcome your childhood operate? When you are enjoying yourself.
Sandy: When I’m at my absolute worst the good points that I’ve cultivated stay intact even when the other ones come through. And when I’m thoroughly enjoying myself there’s that small part of that unresolved issue that always feels present so they’re always present in greater or lesser degrees, but they all seem to be present at some point.
Ken: Okay. But you see they’re constantly changing. Okay? And that…from the point of view…perspective that I’m working with is that none of them are your core because they’re constantly changing. Roxanne.
Roxanne: So as I’m listening to Sandy I’m wondering what’s on everybody’s page in the room and thinking…
Ken: Did everybody hand in their notes to Roxanne? [Laughter]
Roxanne: You know I was thinking there are probably a lot of the same words, and so you know that whole range of different views of ourselves. If all of us cycle through an ever changing set of all that same stuff, it feels less tied to our own story. The power of it being, it’s because my mom said, “blah.” That’s just the human experience so it doesn’t have to be so tied to—
Ken: And “I do this because my mother said blah,” is also a story. Yeah. Maybe it’s because your mother said “blah,” maybe it’s something else. Okay, so: want. You got clear about that one. I’m just going to move through the next one.
The next one’s comparison. That’s the polite word. It leads to competitiveness. And again, this is very, very different from some of the other ones. How do you behave when you feel you are being compared or are comparing yourself with others? I found it took me a little while to realize this—connect with something that you said Frances—when you said that people say that you take the vendors apart. People always said, “whenever we play a game with you Ken, you get so serious.” And eventually I figured out that in our family we played games for blood. That’s what fun was. You know it was all out when we played games. So we got really serious about that, had fun the rest of the time. So this is all about comparison. And then the last one, who are you when you feel special? That can be especially good or especially bad, your choice, or both. But there’s another whole set of behaviors that come up when you feel special. You’re in a privileged position. How much effort goes into to preserving that privileged position? Etc. We have this wonderful doctrine which held sway for many, many centuries, that people who are in privileged positions were there because of the will of God. It’s called the Divine Right of Kings. It served to maintain power structures for several centuries, but eventually it was exposed as a story. Okay, so I’ve taken you through all of these things and I don’t think anybody here is in the dark about why. This is who we are from a functional point of view, and who we are from a functional point of view—even though there may be some persistent traits—really changes quite significantly from situation to situation. Yet how often do we say, “Oh, I’m a different person in this situation.” No, we actually go through life always feeling that we are the same person even though we may be exhibiting totally different behaviors, have totally different world views, have a totally different sense of our body in those different situations. So we’re very enamored at the idea that there is this self which doesn’t change. But whether we review—very quickly, I just wanted to set this up before we take our break—whether we view it from a functional point of view in which we have…sorry, a conventional point of view in which we have these stories, and we can pick and choose what story we tell. Whether we view it from an ultimate point of view in which we can’t actually find any thing which corresponds to this is who I am. Or whether we view it from a functional point of view. That is, there are all of these different ways we behave. Different personalities that come out according to the situation. The question, Who Am I? is either none of these or all of these, but you don’t get anything in between. Okay? So that’s the point of this. Go and enjoy your multiple selves for about ten minutes, we’ll come back and do the last bit.
And then the last one, who are you when you feel special? That can be especially good or especially bad, your choice, or both. But there’s another whole set of behaviors that come up when you feel special. You’re in a privileged position. How much effort goes into to preserving that privileged position? Etc. We have this wonderful doctrine which held sway for many, many centuries, that people who are in privileged positions were there because of the will of God. It’s called the Divine Right of Kings. It served to maintain power structures for several centuries, but eventually it was exposed as a story.
Okay, so I’ve taken you through all of these things and I don’t think anybody here is in the dark about why. This is who we are from a functional point of view, and who we are from a functional point of view—even though there may be some persistent traits—really changes quite significantly from situation to situation.
Yet how often do we say, “Oh, I’m a different person in this situation.” No, we actually go through life always feeling that we are the same person even though we may be exhibiting totally different behaviors, have totally different world views, have a totally different sense of our body in those different situations.
So we’re very enamored at the idea that there is this self which doesn’t change. But whether we review—very quickly, I just wanted to set this up before we take our break—whether we view it from a functional point of view in which we have…sorry, a conventional point of view in which we have these stories, and we can pick and choose what story we tell. Whether we view it from an ultimate point of view in which we can’t actually find any thing which corresponds to this is who I am. Or whether we view it from a functional point of view. That is, there are all of these different ways we behave. Different personalities that come out according to the situation.
The question, Who Am I? is either none of these or all of these, but you don’t get anything in between. Okay? So that’s the point of this. Go and enjoy your multiple selves for about ten minutes, we’ll come back and do the last bit.
|This transcript by Ken McLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. This transcript has been edited to make it more readable. There may be minor differences between the audio file and the transcript.|