Ever take a look at the program running you? You know, the one reading this writing. It has to be asked sooner, or later, who is reading this stuff?
Program you say?
Yes, we call them expectations and assumptions. These are the pre-conceived, unconscious parameters that define what we experience. For the most part it’s not a problem. These assumptions save time and energy.
However, these assumptions do become a problem when we are doing anything but repeating patterns. Think of it this way. All of our experience points in the direction we are going in. The routine and monotony of daily life is so insidious it’s hard to even be aware of it taking over.
I had a good taste of it this weekend.
I was in Seattle for a seminar. I took the family so they could have some city time while I worked. My daughter and I woke up early to find a bakery in Pike Place Market. I also wanted to grab a coffee.
As we walked out of our condo we hit the streets and I was suddenly. . . Uncomfortable. There was dirt. Noise everywhere. People. Did I mention the people, in various states of disarray? From the walk of shame (singles staggering towards home after an unplanned sleep over) to the people who call the streets their home. Busses. So loud. Like shrieking banshees calling out for blood in the dimly lit and stinking streets.
Did I mention I am not a city person?
I went to University 15 miles outside of Washington D.C. At night I would look up at the orange sky stained from far too many lights. At times I couldn’t take it. I would hop into my car and drive into the Shenandoah mountains. I would drive until my eyes couldn’t focus. Pull off on a dirt road and then throw my sleeping bag down at the ground. I remember my eyes being so tired and the air cold. The feeling of my tears streaming down my cheeks as I looked up at the stars and the Milky Way. I recall, working my mouth into words as shooting stars carried my prayers with them on their nocturnal journeys.
What was that?
Oh yeah, people yelling at each other in an alley. We are moving quickly. We find that French Bakery right outside Pike Place Market. Order some baked goods and then head back to our condo.
As we are crossing the street a homeless person is talking to me. I turn my head forward, pretending he is not there. He stops walking. I am now looking at him. Tensing. Getting ready. I’m sinking into my knees, breathing deeply. This is all automatic. I don’t even think about it.
He’s now pointing to his wrist where his watch should be. The sound cuts in, “can you tell me the time?”
I blink my eyes a few times. Stare at my clock. The numbers aren’t adding up. Quickly I look up at him, “8:15.”
“Kid he says,” talking to my daughter, “Stay in school don’t end up like me. Listen to your Dad.”
He walks up the hill. I think about what he has said. I slow my pace. Take in the city.
My daughter looks up at me.
“Did he make you nervous baby?”
“No, papa. I’m glad we slowed down enough to help him.”
“What do you mean?”
“What do you mean,” she says jumping high into the air. “We’ve been running, pant, pant, ever since we left the condo. I’m out of breath. Pant. Pant.”
We hold hands walking up the street. I’m moving slower now. Checking things out. I eject the CD playing in my head: Cities are corruption in physical form. Listen to your Dad, I think. What have I been telling her on this walk?
The danger of our automatic responses is that they dehumanize us. When we act automatically, we are actually dehumanized. Not the rest of the world. The rest of the world is a living, breathing, growing thing spreading itself across time.
Take a moment today to check yourself. See if you are reacting or responding to your environment. Take yourself out of auto-pilot. Plug into real time. See what is actually happening, not what you think is happening.
What better way to celebrate the coming Holiday Season than with a new way to look at life?
See you all in 2014 and we thank you for your support this year.