Summer 2001 Archive
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A good opportunity to learn more about the awareness game. Posted by John on August 15, 2001 at 22:18:41:
In Reply to: Re: An open letter posted by Sally on August 14, 2001 at 18:40:30:
Obviously, there are still some bitter unresolved issues between Douglas and Sally.
We see here—sad to me—how these movies of painful engagements tend to keep repeating in life. This is a lesson for every one of us here! As I've
said before, when there are painful engagements between people and their feelings have been hurt, unless it has been fully resolved, they keep being
drawn back into the same kinds of painful engagement with each other, over and over again.
In the gestalt community, they call this "unfinished business." It is well recognized that unless two people who have "had a fight" use awareness and
their learned skills to resolve the matter fully, the syndrome will go on "haunting them" and keep coming back. This is because the patterns of their
ego-driven personalities keep drawing them back into the same scenarios and the same conflicts over and over again. This happens, not only
repeatedly with the same people, but with new people that one meets along the way as well. So it's a good idea to take a stand at some point and
learn the way out of this kind of entanglement somewhere along the way.
Sally's posting caught me completely by surprise here. I thought she'd "gotten over reacting to it," so to speak (and all my personal concerns were
being directed to Douglas). And Sally just posted her best and most mindful warriorlike contribution to our class ever the other day—purely loving
and caring as far as I could see. So I was not expecting this unrestrained outburst of violence from you, Sally. But that's what has happened. We are
only humans—each and every one of us. And that's just how life is. I think I understand. I even think I can explain at least some of what is going on.
We can all look at this together.
I claim that a mindful warrior will learn to see that when you start off working on any big project (Fourth Grade in our class here is an example), the
next thing that happens is that problems start coming up. That's because human people with their ordinary ego-driven personalities keep getting into
conflicted engagements off and on. We cannot be protected from having that happen here, because we are only human people, doing our best to find
our way. But there is something that we can do about it, being a class of mindfulness practitioners. We can study it. We can try to understand it.
We can study it calmly, and attempt to be as objective as we can.
Again, I was thinking I was going to be talking with Rakesh today, but . . . . . a problem has come up. This is, suddenly, more important to me in the
now. And that's how life is. Things keep happening—sometimes, as here, the same problems happen over and over again. I'm glad we are getting to
see this together. It is like a generic model of all of our lives! This course is about learning to quickly adapt to whatever way life is being in the
present, learning to be centered and deal with *everything* that life serves up. And there is kind of a priority in playing the awareness game, to deal
with "the source of intensity" first. We focus on intensity to *deal with it*. And another priority in this game is to keep coming back to the now, and
to work outward in time from the now.
So this is a game that is played with the intensity of life, as you keep coming back here to the now. It is a game for playing the intensity out of life,
playing the intensity out of life, on and on as you go along . . . . . and of enjoying the peaceful and harmonious times in between.
The field of the awareness game is the space that we are living in, both within our bodies and around our bodies. We and the others we relate with
are in this field of space. We can see each other in this field (usually), and watch how we move around in it, and actually feel the impacts of the things
that are being said. Is it intense? Is it impactful? Or is it peaceful and harmonious instead?
Again, in playing the awareness game, there is a general coaching tip to put your awareness where the greatest intensity is in the field, pay attention to
where there is tension in the space. And we can call whatever the source that is generating that intensity or tension "stuff." So if there is stuff in the
field that is generating intensity, that is the stuff to be keeping your eye on when you are playing this game. First you may find this tense stuff in the
other person's space. But you may also find it in your own inner space. Try to keep track of the tension that is in the field, both in the other, and in
And you can say that the object of this game is to play all of the stuff out of the field. And, again, remember, of course, that some of that stuff is in the
inner space within your own body. And some of that stuff is outside and around.
We might call this stuff that comes up at different times in each of us the "funny stuff" in life. And the motto of this school, as old-timers may
remember, is: "We oughta stop doin' all that funny stuff, and just love." (A quotation of Paul McCartney.) So . . . . let's rock 'n' roll, Folks!
I'm taking a little break here.
I hope to be getting to some long responses to all the things you've been sharing so well, Rakesh. You certainly seem to have caught on to the spirit of
this game, as I intend coaching it. Thanks, Jeff, for doing some able co-coaching there. Rakesh, did you notice? There's a sophisticated tip in what Jeff
told you there, when he's suggesting that you just watch the things you're beginning to see for awhile, instead of being in such a hurry to change
everything all at once.
I see that, apparently, by your accustomed nature, you are joining a select group of your fellow students in this class, that I can nickname "The good
men in a big hurry." Eon, Tim, Lou . . . are a few of your fellows here who share that trait with you. And as they might guess, my first general
coaching tip to you is that you seem to need to learn how to slow down some (slow down, and yet, get to all your reporting assignments on time!). I'll
be getting to that later this week if I can. So here you can begin studying awarely, if you'd like, what the experience of being slowed down (by one of
those "red lights" in life) is like. Ask: How do I feel about being put-off by the Coach until later this week? What do I experience inwardly about
In this semester, I will try to teach you and your fellow speedsters about patience, Rakesh, and how to learn to awarely slow down in what you are
doing when it is appropriate to slow down (keeping that speed for when it's really necessary). That is, if you will let me coach you about that, I'd be
glad to do so. Reflect on this, please, and see if that idea seems appropriate or not to you. I mean that. I could be wrong. They'll all tell you I've
made mistakes around here. Ask: Is this something that would be good for me to learn about? Does it really "fit" with my sense of me? Would I
really like to learn about slowing the pace of my life down? Or, not. Let me know about this, please.
So, here I was, about to joyously get the Fourth Grade going at last with some enthusiastic banter with Rakesh, who's definitely off to a good start,
and . . . . . . wham!
>how about this....fuck you
That, of course, is what I call a stinger, Sally. Heh-heh. Rather, it's two stingers, a Dictator-stinger ("Take this! Pow!" "You're in my control now.")
and a Rebel-stinger ("I reject you." "Get out of my life."). I think you recognize those as two types that have been playing an observeable part in your
life. I've been wondering if we would ever discover the third type that most likely rounds out your personality formation. I've been trying to catch
on to that for two years now, and I'm starting to have some new hunches about that now. What about Healer/Kind Helper? Do you notice any of
that? Do you have a lot of those traits in your life?
What makes a stinger a stinger is that it is designed to hurt the other person or frustrate the other person to do what the stinging person wants.
Stingers are wounding words. The awareness game recommends learning to find ways to express what you have to say without using wounding
words. But still, it happens.
For a stinger doesn't happen "out of nowhere," even if it seems to be "off the wall." A stinger happens in a continuum of events, in the ongoing
process of the relating of two people. In this case the exchange of stingers has gone on before between these two—bitter and deeply wounding
stingers have been exchanged (although the parties may not have really known experientially how much they were being wounded while this process
has been going on).
But, it's obvious, isn't it? Saying this, Sally's got to be pretty wound up. You can just feel all the intensity in it. You can sense the bound up emotional
feelings that have been being stuffed up in there in her body for her to come blasting forth now like this.
In the awareness game, we use what I've called "the phenomenological scoreboard." I call it that because it doesn't measure the score by numbers.
The score is measured by waking up and *sensing it* awarely, sensing the tension and intensity that's there. You can all sense this here can't you?
>how about this....fuck you
Can you feel the relative intensity in this? I would say here that Sally has obviously got a lot of score on her scoreboard. And the object of the
awareness game is to take score off the scoreboard, play the score down to nothing. Nothing to nothing is a winning game in the awareness game.
Here, there's obviously "something there" on the scoreboard. Using the criteria I mentioned the other day, it 1) seems to be reacting, rather than
responding; 2) it definitely appears to be a stinger; and 3) it is aggressive rather than merely being assertive. It is behavior intended for a certain
purpose that "goes too far." That is another criterion of those ego-driven personality behaviors in our lives that invite us to do some transformative
work on them. Personality is when you are going too far.
All around the wheel, that which is called "personality" is seen when the strengths and qualities of the essence are taken too far. Here, the power and
boldness of the Can-Do-Person/Dictator is taken too far. Hence, essence becomes personality. Also, the artistic sensitivity to "the beauty of it" of the
Artist/Rebel goes too far, and the beauty of essence becomes the flame of violent rejection.
It is aggressive rather than just active and assertive because it goes too far. It isn't necessary to go that far in saying the real heart of what you have
to say. One can be assertive of everything that is appropriate without having to be aggressive. In your paper on depression, you are being active and
assertive—powerfully, and expertly so. There is no aggressiveness about it at all. You made the effort of writing that paper, in part at least, and
probably mainly as an effort to give some healing help to "your old friend Douglas," that you really do care about. Heh-heh. Isn't it ironic? And in
the next breath, "Bam!"
We all fall asleep again, and we drift right back into ego-driven personality—falling right out of the harmony and mastery of essence. We all do that.
Even I, the Coach, do that, although less now than in earlier years from my ongoing practice with this.
It reminds me of Gurdjieff telling his class that an ordinary man will give you the shirt off his back with one hand, and then rip it right off your back
again later. This is the Fate of all of us, as we relate with loved ones, our children, friends, and close colleagues. With one hand we give, and with the
other we rip away. This is because we are asleep, and we have ego-driven personalities that pop up automatically and get in our way. In order for
this to change, each one of us has to be alert enough to start in somewhere and actually begin working on some small changes.
Now, we've yet to find out if there is score on Douglas's scoreboard now or not. We may possibly get to find that out by waking up and checking
out the scoreboard when he speaks again, and feeling the presence or absence of intensity in it.
There was not much intensity in Douglas's posting "Open Letter," which Sally is replying to here. But there were some almost unnoticeable stingers in
there, cleverly put, like firing me and disbanding the class. Heh-heh. I would say that Sally's reply is a "reaction" to that, rather than a "response."
With that kind of tension and intensity, it's a reaction all right. And since her reply is made eleven days after the original posting, we have a sense that
this tension has been hanging around in her body for some time now (I'm talking pent-up emotional feelings here), and perhaps building off some new
impact that has come into Sally's life or another at this later time. And—bam!—a knee-jerk reaction finally happens. The person "blows up," as we say,
and those wounding stingers happen. Ain't it remarkable? It's an amazing set-up, this ordinary human condition.
For all your sophisticated researching and teaching abilities, Sally—and those abilities are great—you sometimes come across as more "primitive" than I
usually give you credit for. You really can growl all right if you want to, is what I mean. You can be "a wild one" at times, can you not? Is it fair to
say that you are sometimes "a dangerous woman?" You may sometimes be recklessly dangerous with other people, and with me and this school. But
what concerns me the most is that you may be being recklessly dangerous to you, dangerous to your own most heartfelt wishes and aims in life, a
reckless danger to undermining the natural promise of your very own life.
This combination of *powerful* Can-Do-Woman/Dictator and *flaming* (to use a modern term so often associated with Internet conversations) Artist/
Rebel can be awesome! It's so interesting. Even as I often look to you for leadership among your classmates here—and you've proved you've got it in
you to deliver!—there are these times that come along when this "Psycho-Sal;-)"stuff, as you, on your own, have dubbed this habitual pattern in your
behavior, comes bursting forth onto the scene. Even periodic indulgences in this colorful pattern can have harmful effects on your personal and
working relationships with others. How long will you keep letting this get in your way? That's my challenge to you, Sally.
What I claim, as Coach, is that there would be much, much more can-do from the Can-Do-Woman of your life, and even more beautiful art from your
Artist, if you can learn to wake up and recognize and have the presence of mind to step aside from this Psycho-Sal;-) pattern when this mighty, flaming
knee-jerk-reaction is about to go off. Personality just stands in the way of the accomplishments and realizations of essence, is what I say. Or, so I
Are you willing to do some no-bullshit warrior work on this?
In the awareness game, Douglas, faced by this situation, would be coached to . . . . . . . Come on, students! You all ought to know this by now. He'd
be coached to say nothing.
Or else, the coaching would be to reply with a "non-committal response," such as: "Oh." "I see." I hear you." And nothing else!
But in most people's lives, when they are stung like this in the grocery, at the office, at school, in the kitchen, etc., they will, of course, retort, like a
knee-jerk reaction, hurling an equally intense barrage of stingers back, and then some, perhaps. And so arguments, estrangements, and fights break
out, again and again, in the course of life between ordinary good people around the world. What we see happening for so long between the Israelis
and the Palestinians is a perfect example of this—one stinger after another, back and forth. As we know, the same thing is going on in many places all
around the world. It is not an easy thing to stop it. It isn't easy to change. Yet this is a training in learning how to stop these wars, at least in the field
of the people that each of us here relate with and know.
And just giving a non-committal reply when you have been stung by someone, instead of putting the usual patterned knee-jerk personality reactions
that we usually have into the space . . . that is *already* a change! Keeping silent, or speaking non-committally changes the whole Universe in that
instant. It is a powerful and worthy gesture of stopping these cycles upon cycles of human conflict and wars.
Rakesh, today's example is much more intense than the examples you are giving from your household, yet the operative principles are the same. And
when your wife says, "Here's your coffee, Honey," and you say "What??? Coffee again??? Bring me tea, darn it," or something like that (I'm really
exaggerating unfairly to make my point), that can be a stinger for your dear wife. Do you see what I mean? What you would be doing then would
be rejecting her. That would have some impact on her. And even if she is "long-suffering," as they say, and loves you very much, unless she has great
presence of mind at that moment—being a good woman but human, after all—there is liable to be some reaction within her to that impact. Innocently,
unknowingly, perhaps unperceived by either of you, there is liable to be some reaction *against you*. Maybe the stinger you're going to get back will
come later, after dinner, say, when you aren't expecting it. That's the human condition. We are all "wired up" to keep reacting back and forth to each
other like that. It's the ordinary human condition. And without some training in recognizing this and dealing with it, these cycles of conflict and
wounding go on happening in most households all over the earth.
So . . . . . what if you'd rather have tea??? Well, wake up and be sensitive to the other's position, and find a way to say what you'd like without
rejecting them, without any stingers. For instance, "Thanks for the coffee, dear. I've been thinking I'd like to try tea again one of these days. How
do you feel about that?" Of course, that's one of thousands of ways to relate "I and Thou" with one's spouse, rather than "I and It." Make up your
own ways that take into account the other one being alive in there, too. Go ahead and express what you prefer, and at the same time be sensitive to
the other person's humanness and their sensitivity to rejection.
Making that kind of adjustment in addressing others isn't hard. It's just a question of waking up, and instead of merely having automatic knee-jerk
reactions in what you do, realizing you can consciously exercise your Will to treat others as fellow human beings on purpose! And, if it's appropriate,
you can say everything you have to get across to the other person as well. Stingers are something extra, something unnecessary, something
superfluous, coming from the vain belief that we can hurt or frustrate other people into doing what we want them to do. That just doesn't work very
well, even if you think it does, not in the long-run. It just keeps the cycles of violence going over time.
How do we know that it doesn't work? We keep seeing these painful cycles repeating. We all have this happening in our lives. Yet it is something
that all of us can work on.
So, after being stung, and you say, "I hear you," where does one go from there? Well, perhaps we'll see. I'll save the next steps for another class.
And, after stinging someone woundingly, and the other one says, "Oh." or "I see," where does one go from there? I'll save that for another class, too,
when the time comes around.
I do love you, Sally. I do love you, Douglas. I do love all of you here. What has made me so sad about this event is knowing that the two of you are
still being so uptight and suffering over each other. Ironically though, it has been a blessing as far as our class is concerned. And we all should be
thankful for it, because it has provided an opportunity for me to coach all these things that are relevant to every one of us that is here.
I am trying to get all of you in this class to see the same thing in your own patterns of behavior—with greater or lesser intensity, unrestrained
aggression like this happens in all of us! We each act-out unrestrained aggression (or, at other times, ungoverned passivity) on the people we relate
with in our lives. Each according to the different personality make-up we have, we each do this to others in our recognizeably characteristic ways. In
this class, we are attempting to recognize how this happens and learn how to step aside from letting this automatic conditioning go on and on, over
and over again, in the same pre-programmed ways.
It takes two to tangle. Upsets like this that haven't been resolved will keep bursting forth in life again and again. What is needed to heal a situation
like this is for each one to have a really thorough sensitivity to the other one's feelings, and real feelings of honest contrition about their own
contributions to the entanglement.
This can only be worked on with mindfulness and a devotion to and *acceptance of* what is real. But, much as I wish you each well, I don't know if
both of you are up to actively disentangling this painful situation that both of you have innocently and inadvertently gotten your suffering Selves into
with each other. If you'd like me to, I'll do the best I can to help coach you through it.
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