The 12 Comparisons

Simple Truths for Intelligent Living

Wayne C. Allen, M.Th.

© 2006 Wayne C. Allen, M.Th.
The Phoenix Centre Press
55 Northfield Drive, Suite 324
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada 2K 3T6

Allen, Wayne Charles, 1951 -

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Wayne C. Allen was born in Buffalo, New York in January of
His interest in psychology and religion led him to Elmhurst
Illinois, where he completed a B. A. in both areas (1973). He
immigrated to Ontario, Canada in 1975.
In 1981, Wayne received a Masters of Divinity (M.Div) from the
University of Toronto (Knox College.) graduated with a Masters
in Pastoral Counselling (M.Th) in 1983.
Since 1983, Wayne has been in Private Practice in Ontario,
Canada. His interest in Zen, coupled with his fervent belief in
self-responsibility, has led him to develop a style of counselling
he calls "Zen Bodywork Psychotherapy." Combining Body and
Breathwork, dialog and teaching, Wayne's approach allows his clients the optimum
opportunity for personal growth and insight.
Wayne has worked with executives and whole departments of major Canadian
corporations. His aptitude for teaching conflict resolution, clear communication, and
personal self-responsibility has won him kudos from all involved.
Wayne is known for being able to quickly and effortlessly cut to the heart of the matter,
bringing both encouragement and challenge to his audience.
Wayne's expertise in Bodywork and Breathwork has led to public teaching events and
media attention. Wayne was recently featured on "Body + Health," teaching breathing
techniques for stress reduction.
Wayne is the author of three books, the latest (2005) being This Endless Moment, a
book rooted in Zen-based approaches to self-responsibility.
Wayne is a gifted and multi-faceted speaker, teacher and presenter. He regularly receives
consistently high marks for his insight, knowledge, and compassion.
This Endless Moment - Wayne's excellent Zen-ish book on self-responsibility
Bodywork Training CD-R - a teaching tool that runs on your computer. Learn Bodywork
and Breathwork for an expert.
Into the Centre - our twice monthly e-zine - teaching you excellent communication,
focus, and self-responsibility.

Table of Contents
1. Mindful as compared to Mindless ................................................... - 1 -
2. Responsible as compared to blaming.............................................. - 4 -
3. Flexible as compared to blocked .................................................... - 7 -
4. Self-actualized as compared to self-absorbed.................................- 10 -
5. Honest as compared to indirect ....................................................- 13 -
6. Truthful as compared to devious...................................................- 17 -
7. Self-centered as compared to selfish.............................................- 23 -
8. Masterful as compared to knowledgeable.......................................- 28 -
9. Present as compared to absent ....................................................- 34 -
10. Responsive as compared to reactive............................................- 39 -
11. Focused as compared to scattered ..............................................- 43 -
12. Passionate as compared to charged.............................................- 48 -
The 12 Comparisons
- 1 -
I. MlndIul ux cnmpured tn Mlndlexx
I´m going to use these terms in a slightly different way than Taoists or
Buddhists use them. I am using
"being alert to the workings of both the world and the mind¨ to define
mindfulness, and
"operating on inattentive auto-pilot¨
to define mindlessness.
In Eastern thought, mindfulness is a meditative state where the person
attempts simply to allow thoughts to pass by, without attaching to the thought. In
contrast, the above definition indicates that we are interested in understanding the
interplay between what the mind thinks and what is actually happening. The
greater the correlation between the two, the more mindfulness is present. On the
other hand, having the mind go one way and "life¨ another is classic mindlessness.
A couple of examples:
I was on a tear yesterday, trying to do too much in too little time. I made a
bank deposit, and then decided to withdraw 20 bucks from the bank machine. I
use the machine so much that I don´t even have to look at it, let alone pay
attention. I punched in 20 bucks, removed my card when told to, and took my
receipt when directed, and turned and walked out of the bank. (This would fit my
normal pattern - I seldom have much cash on me). Later (much later.), at a
restaurant, I noticed that I hadn´t taken the $20 out of the machine. I briefly
wondered where my $20 was. I hope someone who needed it was next in line.
Classic mindlessness.
Notice, however, that I was not "zoned out.¨ I ran the bank machine
flawlessly, right up until the last item. Between the point of entering the $20 (I
had a thought that I would like the machine to give me one, obviously) to turning
on my heel and leaving - somewhere in there, I went mindless. This is the pattern
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for most of us.
Few of us are totally incompetent, zoned out, or completely lost in the fog.
Most of us are functional. However, and it is a big however, most of what we are
doing is not actually conscious. It is like zoning out while driving to work - we get
there, not knowing how. Functional, but not mindful.
Example 2, which is a "combo":
I was driving up to my office in Port Elgin, and decided to stop at Timmie´s.
(Canadian reference, for a Tim Horton donut shop - of which there is one, or one
like it, on every corner of every intersection in Canada - we do love our donuts.) I
was listening to an audio book, pulled into the lot, parked, got out, said hi to the
nice woman I passed, and made it the 50 feet to the door of the shop, when I
heard, "Hey mister. Your truck´s moving!¨
I quickly registered that she might be talking to me, as I, indeed, drive a
truck. I whipped around, and there was my truck, heading backwards through the
parking lot. Standard transmission, and a flash that I must not have left it in gear.
OK. There´s the mindless part. Now, the mindful piece.
I took off running across the lot, covering the 60 feet quickly for a 50-plus-
year-old. As I ran, (much like when you are falling - there is a certain slowness to
time, and clarity) I thought about what I was going to do next. I eliminated
running behind the truck and trying to stop it - dopes get run over that way.
Couldn´t grab the front bumper and stop it - it weighs more than me. That left
getting in and applying the brake.
Now, I come from Buffalo, via Chicago, so even after decades in Canada, I
lock everything. So, as I ran, not missing a step, I extricated my keys from my
pocket, picked the right one, and caught the truck. I ran alongside, shoved the
key in the lock in one try, turned the lock, pocketed the key and opened the door.
I then sped up my running, pivoted and vaulted into the seat, not whacking any
portion of my anatomy. I applied the brake. The truck had traveled about 50 feet
The 12 Comparisons
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I drove it back to the parking place, left it in gear and turned it off. The
woman was still standing where I had passed her, on my 100-foot dash. She
applauded. I did too.
There was a serene sense of focus in my "mindful¨ dash, where every step
simply flowed out of the one before. I was so focused on the task at hand that the
result was almost pre-ordained.
Mindfulness is simply about paying attention in two directions at once. The
first direction is inward. I needed to access info on how fast the truck was rolling,
how to stop it, and what to do, in what order. If I had gone into judgment -
thinking whether I could do it, or blame - how could I have been so stupid - I
would have been lost. It was essential to get on with the task without a pile of
self-doubt (baggage) creeping in.
Second, there is outward focus. I needed to open my eyes and see. I had to
see the pavement, the truck, my keys, the lock, the door handle and the seat.
Everything else was irrelevant. I remember being unaware of other cars, traffic, or
the (likely) bemused look on the woman´s face. Mindfulness allows us to focus in
on the task, flexibly.
This chapter´s lesson is around mindfulness - about paying attention to what
is happening. This requires balance - internal and external. No zoning out, no
luxuriating in self-doubt or self-recrimination, but rather simply focusing on the
present moment, and doing the necessary. Staying with the task until the $20 is
also in your hand, so to speak.
That kind of focused attention is rare these days. The vast majority of the
difficulties we find ourselves in are a direct result of mindlessness. Think about it.
Then, wake up!
The 12 Comparisons
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2. Bexpnnxlble ux cnmpured tn blumlng
You have probably heard a million times that the word responsibility means,
"Having the ability to respond.¨ The idea behind responding is this: as any
stimulus comes in, I have a small window of choice, even if it is not apparent.
Within that window are two options - I can react or I can respond.
Reactions are multiple. I was sitting with a client, a man I am doing
counselling and Bodywork with. We were talking about an incident at work. There
is a guy he works with who is quite vocal in his smart remarks and cutting asides.
(Hmm. Sounds like me twenty years ago, but I digress.) My client didn´t like
being the brunt of the verbiage, but learned, growing up, to keep his mouth shut.
We had been talking a lot about finding and having his feelings, and in this
case, (finally!) he realized that he really did not like the attacks. Rather than
stuffing his anger, he told the guy to stick it where the sun don´t shine. This
approach worked, and the guy left him alone (and didn´t speak to him) for a week.
I asked him, "So, what was it like to choose to strategically use an angry remark
in order to see what results you´d get?¨
He did what I think of as a "full shut-down¨ - blank stare, silence, holding his
breath. Then, he said, "Wait a minute! I thought I was supposed to let my
emotions out! Now you´re telling me I´m supposed to think about it before I yell at
I suggested that it might even be more complicated than that. He might want
to consider, mostly, not yelling at all. More confused, he said, "This sounds like I´d
have to be paying attention all the time, thinking, making choices about how and
what I´m saying and thinking. I´m just learning to let go, and you´re talking about
more control.¨
I agreed that I was saying something like that, but more like this: "We all
have feelings, and sometimes people do stuff we find objectionable. There needs
The 12 Comparisons
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to be an outlet for the feelings, but we chiefly have to consider what we are trying
to accomplish. If the person is a colleague, or my partner, or parent, or kid, or an
intimate friend, there might be more to it that just dumping. Seldom does `letting
it all hang out´ accomplish much more than contributing to hard feelings.¨
There is a certain emotional charge to letting it all hang out - to letting go of
whatever is inside, sort of a free-flow dumping. It can be about anger, sarcasm, or
righteousness, or even about sexuality. (More on this in the 12th section of this
booklet.) Leaving the latter for then, let´s look at where knee-jerk reactions come
From the time we were hatched, people have been saying, in our presence,
"You make me so ________ (fill in the blank.)¨ The idea is that someone does
something, and I have no choice as to my emotional reaction. I cannot tell you
how many clients have sat with me, and with a straight face, have said, "I can´t
help yelling at her. My father yelled at my mother,¨ or, "Sure I drink when I´m
upset. I can´t do anything about it,¨ or, "The only way I can get by is by being
controlling. My husband will just have to put up with it.¨
This is what research psychologists call a conditioned response. The rat
presses a button and is fed, presses a bar and gets shocked. The rat learns to
always press the button and always avoid the bar. Classical conditioning. Except,
we are not rats. Unless you choose to be, of course.
We are taught to do what we do through repetition, and then through
thinking, and then through abstraction. I got a hunch that when it comes to our
relationships, most people do not get past repetition.
So, we blame, because that is what people did to us. We blame because we
cannot believe that life is really all about me, as an individual, deciding (again and
again and again!) what I´m going to do and how I´m going to live.
The self-responsible person engages life. This requires paying attention, both
to the choices available and to the results of every behaviour. There are endless
The 12 Comparisons
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choices available to each of us, if only we will take the time to notice.
There may be a strong pull to repeat endlessly what never works, all the
while blaming the other person for "bringing this out in me,¨ but at the end of the
day, there is no gun to our heads. There is just life happening, and us either
reacting like conditioned rats or responding like fully functioning adults. If you pick
the latter, your life expands along with your choices.
If you pick the former, you are stuck in your self-righteous blaming until you
die. In which case, I can only hope one thing.
I hope you like cheese.
The 12 Comparisons
- 7 -
ß. Ilexlble ux cnmpured tn blncLed
I use the terms flexible and blocked to talk about Bodywork states. Flexibility
is a state of freedom of movement and the free flow of chi, or energy, within the
body. Being blocked, on the other hand, comes from acupuncture theory and is all
about the conditions that lead to being stagnant, or having stagnancy in the body.
I do not want to limit these terms to Bodywork - they apply as well to the
living out of our days. Flexibility is the ability to look life straight in the eye and to
deal with it as it is. Flexibility is the understanding that I always have choices,
both in how I think and in how I act.
Notice how fixated most people are on wanting other people to be flexible.
The assumption is that others should see their discomfort, hear their complaints
and simply stop doing whatever it is they do not like. Implied here is the idea that
others are completely capable of change, while the poor `victim´ is stuck repeating
the same behaviours.
Woe betide the person who suggests to the poor `victim´ that he or she might
simply consider changing his or her own approach to a more flexible one. No,
`victims´ think their blocks were earned honestly, and most `victims´ are not
interested in putting in the effort making better choices requires. `Victims´ think it
is easier to change the people they relate with, as opposed to changing their own
Blockages come from `early on´ and build from there. Because of the way our
parents socialize us, we get in our heads certain patterns of thought about who we
are, who others are, and how the world works. I worked with a young guy whose
parenting included a domineering father and an overly compliant mother. The
mom is a friend of mine who has come a long way in clearing out the baggage of
her childhood and early adulthood. The son was 19, and had major problems.
When I listened to him talk, I heard a lot of arrogance. He was convinced that
The 12 Comparisons
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he had all the answers. He often blamed his screw-ups on others. He based his
relationship with his girlfriend on her whining about his inconsideration and his
listing off all her flaws. Whenever I said anything about anything, his first words
were, "I know that.¨ When I asked him how someone as wise as he was could in
as much trouble as he was in, he would get quiet for a moment, and then would
blame his mother, his girlfriend, or his friends. The blockages and rigidities were in
I was doing Bodywork with a client, and she was especially sore in her legs.
We talked about how leg pain often has to do with a lack of groundedness - and
with the lowest level of Maslow´s hierarchy of needs.

This is "base needs¨ material - it is about whether or not I believe I have the
right to live. Many people are unconvinced that they are valuable, that they have
The 12 Comparisons
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the right to breathe the air and walk on the planet. They spend a lot of time
apologizing for their existence. They seem, at a moment´s notice, ready to change
anything to make a situation better.
This, surprisingly, is also a block - a rigidity. It is the fixed belief that one is
constantly in the wrong place, at the wrong time. People caught here claim that
they change and change and "nothing changes.¨ Well, of course not. They never
change their bas or core belief and are thus shifting around constantly, never
really taking a stand, never understanding who they are - their value, their
purpose. Their rigidity is all about proving to themselves that, despite their best
efforts, nothing ever turns out right for them.
It can´t, because the stuff of their life is not separate from them. Their
problems are not `out there, somewhere,´ waiting to be solved by continually
changing externals. The issue is at the core of their being, and is powered by their
resistance to self-acceptance.
Getting past this happens in direct proportion to the person´s willingness to
self-reflect and to make better choices.
Flexibility is the willingness to discard what is not working. In the martial arts,
it is the ability to adjust the response quickly and accurately to the actual attack.
In business, it is the ability to flow with the marketplace and with co-workers,
without demanding rigid adherence to what may or may not be the case. In all
situations, flexibility is about bending with the wind, without breaking.
Be bamboo.
The 12 Comparisons
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4. SelI-uctuullzed ux cnmpured tn xelI-ubxnrbed
I would have to admit to sitting at my computer for a minute or two, thinking
about how to encapsulate the difference between self-actualized and self-
absorbed. What I came up with was this:
The self-actualized person understands that his own world revolves around
The self-absorbed person thinks the whole world revolves around her.
The self-actualized person asks, "What can I learn?¨
The self-absorbed person asks, "What´s in it for me?¨

The self-actualized person takes her own wants and needs seriously. She
knows herself and seeks to know more. She never assumes that she is "done¨ with
much of anything - never is there a sense of "been there, done that,¨ as the
"there¨ and the "that¨ are constantly changing. If something is not going the way
she wants it to, she simply stops doing what is not working, without whining or
The self-absorbed person, on the other hand, from their place in the centre of
the universe, thinks that everything should go smoothly, and that whatever is
happening in the world is happening to them, because of them. This person is
highly opinionated, and thinks that he or she is always right, always justified in
their behaviour. When they perceive that someone else is not considering them
the centre of the universe, they redouble their effort to be noticed. Unfortunately,
they seldom get what they want because they are so full of themselves that there
is precious little room for anyone else.
The self-actualized person has learned to be self-sufficient, and therefore not
in need (not needy) of the support of others. This comes from a place of self-
responsibility. They do not require an audience in order to feel valuable - they
The 12 Comparisons
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already value themselves as they are. They may choose to be entertaining and
many have great charisma. They are working from a place of great enjoyment of
the drama and the beauty of life.
It is important to understand that this point has to do with internal versus
external states of comfort, value and understanding. If I am trying to be the
centre of everyone else´s attention, I have no centre to call my own. If I am using
my sexuality or talents to try to "win love,¨ I am using rather than valuing myself.
If I think that how I look is more important than whom I am, I am in serious
I am using `self-absorbed´ to indicate a way of being, a belief system that the
self-absorbed use to elevate their self to a pinnacle others notice and admire.
Thus, the self-absorbed seek external validation - in other words, I am nothing if I
am not noticed. Everything the person does is for attention.
The self-actualized person, on the other hand, does what he does for the
satisfaction of a job well done and for the value he places on his engagement with
the world. The person´s self-esteem, then, is not dependent on the actions or
reactions of others.
The self-actualized person, in other words, has the keys to his own car, and
turns his own key, and drives where he will, doing what he does, as the centre of
attention of a crowd of one. They are quite pleasant to be around, as they do not
make demands on others and have no expectation that others are there to meet
their needs or `make´ them happy.
The self-absorbed person wants you to admire their car, actually care where
they are driving it, and be responsible for keeping track of their keys. They want
someone to hand them the keys, tell them how much they will be missed, and
sent on their way with maps. They want people to stand on the side of the road
and wave as they go by, and picture the crowds whispering to each other "I
wonder where she is off to now?¨ They even want congratulations for figuring out
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simple things, like finding their way back home.
The self-absorbed person is convinced life is about getting attention. For the
self-actualized person, life is all about enjoying each moment on a journey that
never ends. Self-actualization takes nerve, bravery and self-assurance. Self-
absorption takes a good publicist.
In the end, the self-actualized person knows herself well, likes herself, seldom
second-guesses herself and cheerfully lives with the consequences of her actions.
She seeks the ways and means of meeting her own needs and engaging joyfully in
the lives of others, without attempting to manipulate others into focusing more on
her than on their own walks. Life becomes an adventure, fully expressed and felt.
It´s a walk worth considering.
The 12 Comparisons
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ð. Mnnext ux cnmpured tn lndlrect
I almost got fired today. This is fun language that therapists sometimes use,
although I typically use it the other way around - as in "I fired a client today.¨
Now, let me be quick to say that I do not fire clients often. The cosmos is kind,
and typically provides me with exactly the kind of clients I want to work with.
Nonetheless, occasionally one will sneak in that simply wants me to agree with
their diagnosis of how screwed up and trapped they are, and have no intention of
changing. Since I do not play that game, I fire them. Seldom, since 1982, when I
started working as a therapist, do I get `fired.´
My client has fibromyalgia, and her physician referred her. He thought I might
be able to help her to choose to feel better, as the medical interventions - drugs
and pain relievers and sleeping pills - were not doing much.
When she first came in, she let me know that she was not sure what I could
do for her, or even why she was there. I agreed that I did not know why she was
there either. I also agreed there was nothing that I could do for her. I wondered if
she would be interested in learning to do something for herself. Her interest
piqued, she decided to stay for the session.
We had a long talk about illness. I said that I thought that most illness is
psychosomatic in origin. Now, that word simply means, "having bodily symptoms
of mental or emotional origin.¨ It does not mean "imaginary,¨ nor does it imply
"mental illness.¨ Most physicians would agree that as much as 95% of all illness or
disease begins, somehow, in the mind.
I say this without trying to place "blame¨ - people do not cause illness in
themselves, but they sure do participate in the creative process. We get it into our
heads that our parents were a certain way, so we have to be. Or, we´re told we
are frail, or prone to something, and we develop it. Or, we don´t listen to the voice
of our bodies, and our bodies decide to speak more loudly.
The 12 Comparisons
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I figure that we are simply required to notice, and then change what is not
helpful. This is what I have worked on with my client.
My client decided to fire me because she really does not like the idea that she
gave herself fibromyalgia. (Again, that is not what "psychosomatic¨ implies. What
I suspect she is doing is not dealing with her feelings and emotions, because she is
too busy looking after everyone else. Her body decided to get her attention. Think
about it - fibromyalgia is a disease whose only symptom is one´s body screaming,
"Pay attention to me!¨) She can´t imagine that "life¨ works that way. So, because
what I said flew in the face of her belief system, I had to go.
Except that, prior to her actually firing me, I said something about self-focus
and self-responsibility, and she "got it,¨ so she decided that I´d earned a reprieve.
I was pleased with her honesty, and told her so. She really wanted to let me
know where she was coming from - that she did not "get¨ (or believe) everything
I was saying. She figured that, despite her illness and her pain getting worse
instead of better, surely my suggestion that a dose of self-responsibility and self-
centeredness couldn´t make things better.
I said that this was precisely what I thought. I also said, "Maybe, just because
you´ve spent your life being "other-centered¨ as opposed to self centered, your
body decided to yell, "pay attention to me!¨ and did so through the voice of
fibromyalgia. Maybe you need to spend as much time working on yourself as you
do sticking your nose into what everyone else is doing!¨
Now, I could have focused on the politically correct language of our age, and
congratulated her on her insight and agreed that I had overstated my case, thus
manipulating her into staying around as a client. Or, I could have apologized for
saying something she didn´t want to hear. Both of these approaches is indirect or
No, I went for honesty. I wanted to clearly let her know my perspective -
here is where I and stand this is what I believe is going on. To be perfectly blunt,
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I´m not overly curious about her take on this issue, as her belief system, as far as
I can tell, is at least indirectly contributing to her medical and emotional distress.
If I listened to her all day, the best she would be able to do is teach me how to
end up with fibromyalgia. I am not interested in learning how to do that.
Nor am I interested in her teaching me about how to be "other-centered.¨ I
want us to focus on her - what she can do, how she can live - in ways that will be
substantially different from what she has been doing. I don´t want to pussy foot
around and be subtle. I want to state what I see, and explain why I see it.
Because that´s what I do.
The direct approach, while blunt, is best. Two illustrations. In case one, I was
whining to my therapist, Gloria Taylor, about how hard my life was and how things
were not working out. Gloria said, "I just got a book that explains how to sort out
this kind of stuff. All you have to do is read it and follow the author´s suggestions,
and you will be fine.¨ She then got up and handed me This Endless Moment - my
own book. Gloria provided an amazingly direct and blunt piece of therapy.
Illustration two: I´ll be complaining about something or another that I´ve
gotten myself stuck in ever again. Gloria will shake her head and say, "Cute, but
stupid.¨ This is honesty in the extreme. Political correctness be damned.
Now, let me say quickly, before some of you, (and you know who you are!)
decide this is license to be jerks about this - that honesty is not the same as being
a know-it-all smart-ass. It is not about speaking some odd version of the truth so
you´ll be considered the most sarcastic person in the room. Nor is this about being
guru-like. Honesty is simply speaking the truth directly, as opposed to being cute,
evasive or obscure.
Oh, and you only speak honestly to people who listen. Others, who are not
interested, you ignore or fire, plain and simple.
So, isn´t it arrogant to think I might know "the truth?¨ I think not. Experience
tells me a lot, and intuition tells me the rest. And in the end, I´m directly and
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clearly state that I am only claiming to know "my¨ truth. This is my world, as I
choose to see it. When I speak honestly, I am providing a short course in
"welcome to Wayne´s world.¨ If what I say does not ring true for you, fire me. On
the other hand, if it makes sense, give it a try.
All too often, we make the choice to not speak the truth, as we think the
consequences of not saying what needs to be said are better than the ones that
will arise if we are honest. We end up with, "Well, if I say that, she´ll leave me,¨
and end up feeling miserable as we stuff what we need to say. Then, we get to
feel like a martyr, which somehow seems noble. Much like whacking oneself
repeatedly with a ball-peen hammer is noble.
Thank you, but no. Honesty and integrity go hand in hand. I need to have an
internal consistency if I am ever going to live a balanced life. I need to be willing
to see and hear anything without judgment, but at the same time be willing to
speak honestly about what I see. I speak from the perspective of whether "it¨
works for me, not whether "it¨ is right or wrong. If it doesn´t work, the only
solution is to change it. That takes both honesty and courage.
Think about what needs to be said, both to yourself and to your nearest and
dearest. Then, start with yourself, and call a spade a spade. You´ll be ahead, in the
end, by always opting for honesty.
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6. 1ruthIul ux cnmpured tn devlnux
I know. You´re thinking that I´m repeating myself from last chapter. I may be
accused of splitting hairs, but I think there´s a difference here. I´m seeing it this
Honesty has to do with faithfully reporting what I believe to be true.
Truthfulness means the openness to reveal everything relevant about who I
Or, let´s try it this way:
Honesty relates to what I believe.
Truthfulness relates to what I am actually doing.
Here´s an example from the good ole´ U.S. of A. - think Bill Clinton and
Monica Lewinsky. Given Clinton´s peculiar definition of "sexual relations,¨ (and for
the purposes of this illustration, we all have to suspend our disbelief, and "believe¨
that Bill sincerely held this definition) then his statement, "I have not had sexual
relations with this woman¨ would be honest. For me, for him to be truthful, he
would then add, "She does, however, have intimate knowledge of both my cigar
and Little Willie.¨
Let´s look at "indirect¨ vs. "devious.¨ As I wrote last chapter, indirect is
"beating around the bush,¨ finding the way to say something that is "politically
correct.¨ It´s saying, "Wow. You must really be hurting,¨ as opposed to "Boy, are
you ever living your life so as to really hurt yourself.¨ Or, "I´m sure you´ll find
someone who will love you,¨ as opposed to "You´ve had all these women in your
life, and it hasn´t worked out. Maybe you have to look at the common denominator
- you.¨ (I actually had this conversation with a client last week. He has dated six
women in the last 2 years, and blithely described what each of the women had
done to cause the relationship to end. When I asked him what he was doing to
create so many failed relationships - what it was about him that kept this pattern
alive, he said that I didn´t "get it.¨)
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Being devious is about game-playing and dishonest manipulation. Let me give
you an illustration or two. I have two clients tell me similar stories. In each case,
the husband of the pair had decided to distance himself from his wife. He told her
he was feeling remote and distant, and he moved into the spare bedroom. Not
long after, each husband began to accuse the wife of having an affair. In both
cases, the woman denied having an affair.
Now, in one case, the woman was having a sexual affair with a friend. In the
other case, there was a non-sexual attraction, with some fumbling about, but no
intercourse. Both women told me that they are really pissed off with their
husbands for accusing them, as they have no proof that they are having an affair.
Since the husbands are guessing, they both feel safe in their secret-keeping, and
angry with the spouse for making "groundless¨ accusations. This is deviousness,
and dishonest manipulation to the nth degree.
As opposed to this scenario: A friend and I were talking, and she mentioned
she´d been at a bar with a friend, when a guy some 14 years younger walked up
and started to chat her up. After 20 minutes, he said that he would like to take her
home and have sex with her. She admitted to being interested, but ended up
declining. She said that her major reason for declining was that she was in a six-
month old relationship, and she and her partner hadn´t examined what the rules
were about extra-relationship sex.
Now, before I tell you what she ended up doing, let me suggest some
The Devious Approach: my friend doesn´t tell her partner about anything. "I
was out with Sally.¨ When asked, "Did anything interesting happen?¨ she would
reply, "NO! We had a drink and left. Why? Don´t you trust me?¨
The Indirect Approach: "I was out with Sally. We talked with a bunch of new
people, and I had a lot of fun.¨ When asked, "Did anything interesting happen?¨
she replies: "I met an interesting guy, who works for XYZ company. He really
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seemed interested in my career, too. And he said he liked my dress.¨
The Honest Approach: "I met this guy at the bar, and we talked for a while.
He actually let me know that he thought I was sexy, and wanted to sleep with me.
But I´m dating you so I told him no.¨
The Truthful Approach: "I met this guy at the bar, and we talked for a while.
He actually let me know that he thought I was sexy, and wanted me to have sex
with him. I gotta tell you, the thought crossed my mind. I´ve never gone home
with a guy for a one-night stand. But I realized that you and I have never talked
about this, and how we´re going to deal with this as it happens during our
relationship. How do you want to handle it, because I really am curious about
following through on this kind of offer, at least once.¨
Whoa, I hear you saying. You´ve got to be kidding. No one would opt for
Interestingly, my friend opted for exactly that choice, and said that reading
our e-zine, Into the Centre and hanging out with Dar and me led her to trust the
relationship she has been building enough to make that choice.
Her partner said, "Hmm. Let´s talk about how we might make that happen for
you.¨ They did talk, but haven´t reached a consensus yet. You may have guessed
She really wants to try this out, but realizes that if she tries it, her boyfriend
may want to too. She is not sure she could handle that. So, being truthful, she
also told him that. The dialog continues.
I am amazed at how many people, (both professionally and personally,)
sneak around, doing something or another that they are afraid to admit to. They
are telling half-truths and living lies, stealing ideas and materials, cheating on
taxes, meeting clandestinely - whatever. Then, they justify their behaviour by
claiming some moral high ground or getting into all kinds of excuses as to why
both honesty and truthfulness, while noble ideas, are not applicable to their
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Of course, their indirect deviousness does not come from nobility, but rather
from cowardice. I suspect the world would be a much better place if we didn´t do
anything we weren´t prepared to admit to on the 11 o´clock news. Which is not to
say that I´m advocating walking some narrow, morality infused path. What I´m
saying is exactly the opposite.
We are free to do pretty much anything we want to,
with whomever we choose,
so long as we are honest and truthful about it.

The person who cheats on taxes, or goes behind a fellow worker´s back, as
opposed to dealing with the realities and issues directly, or who violates the tenet
of truthfulness within a primary relationship, will often have a long list of
justifications. But in the end, our souls suffer for our deceit.
As to my friend, she got a gold star for that one. We talked about the next
step in her walk - which will be a big one, for her. She is beginning to realize the
depth of her sexual nature. She also realized that she´d experienced her first
"microdot¨ reaction. (Ben & Jock (Bennet Wong & Jock McKeen, from pd seminars
- see The NEW Manual for Life) coined that idea - a microdot is the group of
aspects about another person that is an immediate sexual turn-on. My client
described her felling - "I was speechless and blushing and floundering around like
a teenager.¨)
My friend´s next task is to integrate this information about her expanded
sexual self into her present self-definition, and to keep her intimate partner
informed as to how it is going. If she chooses to act out any part of this new
learning, her commitment to her partner is to let him know what she is doing, and
with whom. No secrets. No games. No excuses.
When we resist truthfulness, when we come up with excuses - "People
wouldn´t understand,¨ or "It´s nobody´s business,¨ or "I´ll fill her in on who I am,
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but gradually, so as not to scare her off,¨ what we are really saying is, "I am so
unsure of myself that I chose deviousness over truth.¨ In other words, our
reluctance to be open and revealing has nothing to do with others and their
reactions, and everything to do with our own fear of the consequences of our
This is a hard lesson, I know. Most people are adept at hiding their natures,
desires, wants and needs from others, for fear of the preconceived consequences
they have dreamed up. To me, it is all about choice. If I have a trait or desire that
I embarrass myself over, I can work with a therapist to get over it. Or, I can
simply get past it. Or, I can accept it as an ongoing reality.
Years ago, for example, I learned to deal with my rage, anger, and temper. I
found ways to channel that energy to direct it harmlessly away from others. I
never deny still having those attributes as part of my personality. Intimate friends
and a few groups at Haven
have seen me unashamedly display all of it, safely of
If I have a curiosity or desire, my intimate partner is the next person (after
me) to know about it. Period. No exceptions. As Dar and I have lived our

I love The Haven!! Check out their website and go take a course. Tell them Wayne sent
you. Here's their Statement of Purpose: "Through the activities of The Haven Institute, Haven
Foundation embodies a philosophy dedicated to the enrichment and effectiveness of people´s
lives. Our education programs and leadership offer people opportunities to gain new awareness,
meaning and perspective in their lives. We believe human beings can best realize their full potential
by embracing the principles of self-responsibility and wholesome relationship with others and the
world around them. We promote a society where human beings are fully present and alive and we
promote a world where all life is treated with open curiosity, a generous spirit, goodwill,
compassion, dignity and respect."
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relationship, the only requirement, or "rule,¨ is total honesty and truthfulness.
That is not to say we have been perfect at this. There have been instances of
miscommunication, but there has never been anything that we haven´t been
willing to explore fully. And there never will be, from my side - and I have faith,
from Dar´s side either. And lord knows, we´ve covered the full range of topics since
we got together in 1983.
Think about your behaviour. Explore what you are not telling your intimate
partner, your spouse, lover, and friends. Make choices about who needs to hear
who you are, what you are about, and what you are doing. No, I am not saying
that the person in the next cubicle at work needs to know all the details of your
sex life or your political or personal focus. I am saying that lying, twisting the truth
and sneaking about will come around and bite you on the butt. As far as your
intimate relationships go, anything less than honesty and truthfulness is deadly.
In the end, life is enough of a challenge when confronted and dealt with -
head on. Maybe our world would begin to transform if we simply admitted who we
are, and spoke one less lie. It might be worth the experiment.
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7. SelI-centered ux cnmpured tn xelIlxh
In keeping with this series of articles, let me do a quick comparison of terms.
What I´m talking about here is one´s "locus of attention,¨ - the place where the
person "lives¨ from. My main usage of the term self-centered is to differentiate it
from "other-centered.¨
There is a reason for thinking about this topic. So, let´s define the three
Self-centered: "I like ice cream, I have a quart of Chunky Monkey¯, and I´m
going to have some now, as I love it. I´d be delighted to share it with you.¨
Other-centered: "I like ice cream, but I know you like it more. There´s not
much Cherry Garcia¯ left, so you take all of it.¨
Selfish: "I like ice cream, and not only am I going to eat my Vanilla HEATH®
Bar Crunch Ice Cream, I´m going to eat yours, too.¨
Within the realm of conditioning children to fit into society, most parents are
ruthless in trying to eradicate selfishness. I suspect that because we simply stop
our kids from doing what they please with whatever they can get their hands on,
we´ve created a couple of generations of people who see as their life´s mission to
make up for lost time. We have multitudes of adults running around grabbing hold
of anything that isn´t nailed down, and using crow bars on the things that are.
Often, such people are the ultimate capitalists. "I want, I deserve it all¨ is
their motto. This crystallized in the 80´s in the mantra, "You can have anything
you want.¨
Of course, there´s a paradox here. There is enough, for everyone. The
problem with selfishness is, the selfish person doesn´t know when they have had
enough. Not being satisfied with one dish of Triple Caramel Chunk¯, they want a
truck full. (And yes, I LOVE Ben & Jerry´s Ice Cream!!!)
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Now, of course, the cosmos is not kind to those whose lives about being
greedy and selfish. Things slow down. Like the stock market, for example. The
creed of the 90´s became, "You can have anything you want. You just can´t have
everything you want.¨
That was a major counselling issue in the mid-90´s - people would come in
and want to excel in their career, have perfect children and an excellent marriage,
and still have time to be a scratch golfer. They had amazing trouble grasping the
difficulty involved in making even one of these things happen, let alone all of
them. Because they had been brought up in a culture obsessed with having and
doing everything, they felt incredibly hard done by.
Now, in the present decade, the rule seems to be, "You can´t have everything
you want, and maybe you can´t have anything you want.¨ Payback time, I guess
you´d call it.
Because of this, some people are working at finding internal strength and meeting
internal needs. We call this being self-centered, because, as I often ask,
where else would I want my centre to be?
Digging a little deeper, most people can use entitlement language without
blushing, so long as it is generalized to include everyone. This, again, goes back to
our upbringing and our training not to be selfish. Most people agree that "People
should be successful,¨ or "All of us are entitled to a bigger house or a larger
salary,¨ or whatever. It gets more interesting when it is personal - about me.
What we do then depends on our parenting and our adult choices.
Parents don´t want us to be selfish, which is the expectation that "I deserve
whatever I want. Those who do not overcome selfishness want more of the pie
than their fair share. Perhaps more importantly, they want others to provide the
extra pie. Not only are they completely focused on their own needs and wants,
they expect the people around them to actively support their wants and needs.
They consider themselves the sun, and everyone else is merely a planet circling
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I remember, some years ago, working with a client who, in the first session,
told it that it was my job to see that she didn´t commit suicide. Her friends had
been doing that for years, and now she decided she needed to involve a
professional to keep her alive. When I stopped laughing, I told her that we´d be
working on her looking after her own life - if she didn´t want to do that, she could
find another therapist. She was horrified. This was the first time in her entire life
that someone refused to be manipulated or guilted into put her needs ahead of
their own. After two years of therapy, she quit - saying that she couldn´t continue
to work with a therapist who wanted her to stand on her own two feet, without
involving others.
Most relationship struggles are all about this - about who is right. About
which way of doing things is "right.¨ About who has control - who is in charge. It´s
a battle of the selfish for attention and for dominance.
Other-focused: the other (dysfunctional) way this can go is that people are
trained not to be selfish by being forced to put the needs of others first. Their life
is one trial after another, as they chase their tails trying to be and do what
another person wants.
My mom was good at trying this one on me. You´d have thought that over the
decades she´d have learned that I am always willing to do what I want to do, and
was very willing to listen to her, but I wasn´t going to do something just because
she asked.
Once, unexpectedly, a few months before she died, she looked at me and
said, "When are you going to find another church?¨ (You can read this story in my
book, This Endless Moment.
) My mom and dad had been supportive when I got
turfed out of the church, and had stopped attending when Dar and I did. But she´d

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loved defining herself as "the Minister´s mother,¨ and her agenda leaked out.
Now, if my way of being had been towards selfishness, I might have said,
"Don´t you realize that if you were a good mother, you´d never mention that and
you´d do things to make me feel better?¨
If I was into people pleasing (other-centered) I´d have said, "You´re right,
mom. I´ll go out and find a church right away. And while I´m at it, is there
anything else I can do for you? Yell at the staff? Fluff your pillow? Make dad do
what you want? Please, tell me!¨
What I did say (self-centered) was, "Why? Is one missing?¨ She laughed,
said, "Yeah, I guess that´s not going to happen, eh?¨ I just smiled.
We´re not here to be running around doing what other people want us to do.
For all you folk that think you´re being a bad kid for not being obedient, it´s time to
grow up and be a self-centered adult.
Because being self-centered is all about growing up and standing on our own
two feet. We choose to be with others, to share, to interact, but not out of
neediness or the need to be in control. We choose to be alone because we know
that, in the end, we nourish ourselves. We choose to focus our attention on our
vocations, because we are called to be of service. Our expectation is not to have
everything we want, but to be everything that we are. Nothing, not parents,
spouses, kids, takes precedence over our need to know ourselves through inter-
relatedness and introspection.
This is not selfishness nor self-absorption (see item 4, above). This is living
the quest for self-knowledge and self-responsibility. From that place, I may choose
to be of service, but it will be by choice, not from guilt. My life will be lived
knowing who I am and whom I choose to hang around with, and why. My actions
will be from desire not obligation. In other words, my actions, and my hands will
be clean. I will not be engaged in activities I torture myself over (see the last
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Think about your motivations, and the location of your centre. If you´ve stuck
it out there, somewhere, draw it back in. If you think others should care about
your needs, get over yourself. Clean up your walk. You´ll find yourself to be much
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S. MuxterIul ux cnmpured tn Lnnwledgeuble
When I think about mastery, my head goes to the martial arts. I´ve been
engaged in martial arts various and sundry since I taught myself jujitsu when I
was 12. I had a year of judo when I was 17, then several years of Kyokushinkai
karate, which was developed by Mas Oyama. He was the guy who brought karate
to the U.S. after World War 2. He´s famous in karate circles for demonstrating the
power of his style by fighting and killing bulls with his bare hands.

I started out with a sensei (teacher) named Richard, who taught karate in the
basement of the student union building at good old Elmhurst College, where I got
my B.A. He was 6´2¨ and, I thought, pretty fast. Well, he decided to open a dojo
(school) in the next town over, and import a teacher from the main school in
Tokyo. We got Sensei Miyuki Miura.
He was in his mid 20´s and was rated number two in full contact karate in
Japan. This would be the equivalent of a small town baseball team hiring Willie
Mays as a batting coach. He was that good. I thought I had died and gone to
heaven. I had met my first master.
Until they dedicated the dojo. Then I saw the angels sing.
The dedication took place about a year after Sensei Miura arrived. His English
was better, we´d become friends, and he´d "only¨ broken two of my ribs and given
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me a major blood clot on my shin. More on that later.
Two top-drawer Sensei arrived from the New York City dojo. Again, I raised
my bar on mastery. One Sensei was dressed in full body armour, the kind used in
kendo (sword technique). This allowed the other guy (who was later introduced as
Tadashi Nakamura, Master of the New York City dojo and head of Kyokushinkai
karate in North America) to hit the first guy full force with his hands and feet, and
not kill him. They sparred for a bit. Then, the guy in the armour picked up a
sword. The other guy tossed various fruit and vegetables at him. He moved the
sword a bit and sliced the fruit and veggies in half. This later became the
appetizers for the party. (I´m joking there.)
Finally, Nakamura fought against the sword, barehanded. The culmination -
he knelt down, and the sword master took a healthy cut, straight down at his
head. Nakamura slapped his hands together over his head, and caught or trapped
the sword between his palms. I´d never seen anything like it. Mastery.

I´d progressed to the brown belt level, and around the time of the dedication
ceremony, I was occasionally training the new students. Punches and kicks were
pulled, but accidents did happen.
I was sparring with Sensei one day. I had never before seen a spinning
reverse kick. He spun. I though he was retreating, stepped forward, and walked
right into the kick he launched - heel in solar plexus, toes on ribs. Two broken ribs
and I thought I would never breathe again. I did, obviously. Once I started
breathing, he had me get up and fight some white belts, protecting the broken ribs
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with my elbow. Fun.
Anyway, I recovered, and practiced, and started to get a bit cocky. I could
break a board tossed into the air, punching through it. Even though I´m 5´6¨, I
could kick pretty high. One day I was sparring with Richard (remember, he´s 6´2¨),
my former Sensei, now Senpai (senior student). I did a kick, and executed it
perfectly. My toe stopped against his temple (great control!!) He grinned. He
congratulated me.
Then he called Sensei over and told him what I´d done. Sensei smiled and
stepped in, taking Richard´s place. We bowed to each other. I began an attack,
which he blocked, but my intent was to set him up for my famous kick to the
temple. He was my height. This would be easy.
My foot never got more than 6 inches off the ground.
Each time, no matter which foot I used (I favoured my left, as I´m left handed
and footed) he´s see it coming and, using the side of his foot, kick me in the shin.
I tried 20 times before I gave up.
Two hours later, I had a blood clot the size of a half tennis ball raised up over
my shin. The skin does not stretch well there.
My mastery was not mastery. I had knowledge, and skill, but not mastery.
Long opening story, for a simple point. I learned that, in the martial arts,
there is always something new to master. Mastery takes time - it comes through
practice, dedication and the willingness to yield.
One must yield what does not work, yield the need to know, and yield to
instinct. For those of us following this path, we know the following: I can learn
things from anybody, but I can only be taught by one with mastery.
What this also means is this: humility is a good thing.
I know, for example, that I am an excellent therapist and a good Bodyworker.
However, I also know others who are better than me at both.
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I meet many knowledgeable people. These are people who have read many
books, taken courses, flitted from one thing to another.
I can´t tell you how many people, for example, want to become "counsellors,¨
and want to do so without rigorous training - like getting a Master´s degree or a
Dip.C from Haven. The usual line I hear is, "I listen really well when my friends
have problems, and they love my advice.¨
There once was a woman in Port Elgin who used this line with me. She
wanted to get her Master´s degree without getting a B.A. first. She´d almost
completed High School, had been "counselling¨ in a centre for battered wives, was
forty-five and thought the "system¨ should just let her get started on her Master´s.
She expected a shortcut at the counselling school too, so she wouldn´t be "old¨
when she started.
Boy, I sure want to go to her for counselling. not.
Or take relationships. I gained a new client yesterday, with husband issues.
No matter what direction I went with her, she´d say, "I know that,¨ or "I´ve read
about that,¨ or "I´ve tried that.¨ Finally, I asked her to imagine staring at herself in
a full-length mirror, really seeing her body (her tilt, her rolled in shoulders and
tucked head, her skin rash) and think about her life. How did she like it so far?
At that point, she crumpled, sighed and said, "I have a lot I don´t like about
me (she actually said "wrong about me,¨ but I suggested a fix to the language)
and really have a lot to learn.¨ I agreed with her sentiments. Her knowledge
hadn´t helped a bit, in the real world.
Dar and I have been practicing the art of communication since 1983. We are
not as "perfect¨ at it as, say, Ben & Jock, but I can´t think of anyone I know other
than them who communicate better while maintaining a healthy 7/24 relationship.
Decades of hard work, developing a skill both of us consider vital. I would humbly
suggest we have reached mastery, and still have much to learn.
Knowledge is never enough. Knowledge, typically, is gained unsupervised and
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ungoverned - from books, courses, doing some form or practice without feedback
from others further along the path. For example, many people who have attended
Haven courses end up on my doorstep. After the initial euphoria wears off (the
same thing happened to me after Phase 1 at Haven - I went to see my therapist.
see the story in This Endless Moment) the letdown comes. The letdown is because
nothing has miraculously changed. The participant has learned a new skill set, a
new way of talking and relating. That is knowledge. Mastery comes with diligent,
rigorous practice. And, mastery requires feedback from a master. All of this means
admitting, repeatedly, that knowledge is not enough.
I´m working on a novel. Back when Into the Centre was born, I presented
14 points - 7 Points of Confusion and 7 Pillars of Wisdom - about how life is. The
points are the backbone of the novel. The protagonist, Roberta Thatcher, is on a
pilgrimage into herself. In one chapter, I address the mastery issue this way:
Here´s another rule: Never hang out with any person who
does not have a mentor you would go to for advice. Never,
never, never, hang out with someone with no mentor. No
matter what excuse they give.
It is not, in my opinion, possible to progress into wholeness without a mentor
(therapist, master, teacher - you pick the name.) It is not enough to be
knowledgeable. Often, because we gain a particular skill, and because the people
around us do not have that skill, we can convince ourselves that we have
mastered the thing. But that´s like being a brown belt. Sure, I knew more than the
white belts, but confusing my knowledge with mastery led to broken bones and
blood clots.
Find a mentor. Work hard. Dedicate your life to this walk. Get the basics and
the requirements under your belt. Stop looking for a shortcut. ("You mean I have
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to use good communication all the time with my partner????¨ YUP! No excuses.)
Let go of your ego´s need to be seen as wise and all knowing.
Even the master knows her or his place. True mastery is the humility to know
how much there is left to learn.
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9. Prexent ux cnmpured tn ubxent
I listened to a tape some years ago, called "The Biology of Belief.¨ The
speaker is Bruce Lipton, PhD, a cellular biologist. I went to his site
and grabbed a
couple of lines from the site, which describe some of the content of the tape.
“Recent advances in cellular science are heralding an important evolutionary turning point. For
almost fifty years we have held the illusion that our health and fate were pre-programmed in our
genes, a concept referred to as genetic determinacy. Though mass consciousness is currently
imbued with the belief that the character of one’s life is genetically predetermined, a radically new
understanding is unfolding at the leading edge of science.
Cellular biologists now recognize that the environment (external universe and internal-
physiology), and more importantly, our perception of the environment, directly controls the
activity of our genes.
As is described by Nijhout, genes are “not self-emergent,” that is genes can not turn themselves on
or off. If genes can’t control their own expression, how can they control the behavior of the cell?
Nijhout further emphasizes that genes are regulated by “environmental signals.” Consequently, it
is the environment that controls gene expression. Rather than endorsing the Primacy of DNA, we
must acknowledge the Primacy of the Environment!
Conventional medicine has consistently ignored research published in its own main-stream
scientific journals, research that clearly reveals the regulatory influence that electromagnetic fields
have on cell physiology. Pulsed electromagnetic fields have been shown to regulate virtually every
cell function… These findings are relevant for they acknowledge that biological behavior can be
controlled by “invisible” energy forces, which include thought.
For example, if an organism “perceives” a stress that is actually not there, the misperception can
actually change the genes to accommodate the “belief.”
“Perceptions” lie between the environment and cell expression. If our perceptions are accurate, the
resulting behavior will be life enhancing. If we operate from “misperceptions,” our behavior will
be inappropriate and will jeopardize our vitality by compromising our health.”

Looks like the Buddhists, and "the Haven crowd,¨ and I (humbly) have been
speaking a version of life that is closer to "reality¨ than the allopathic medical
community might readily accept.

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Now, let´s unpack what´s being said in the quote, and let me add an
illustration stolen from the tape, then talk about present vs. absent.
Lipton has a score of recent evidence to support the concept that at the
cellular level, there is much more going on than protein reception. Cells are like
little binary switches. In response to stimulation, they do one of two things - move
forward toward nutrition (growth) or move away from toxins (protection.)
Allopathic medicine assumes that this is strictly a chemical reaction, and thus
drugs are "keyed¨ to receptors at the DNA or cellular level, to chemically "switch¨
the cell. This is the "mechanistic¨ view of science.
At the quantum level, on the other hand, everything is about energy, as in
vibrations. Turns out that the mental process of perceiving, and perhaps to a
greater extent, interpreting experience not only affects mood and motivation. It
affects the organism at the cellular level.
Lipton argues that only 5% of dysfunction is genetic. The rest is the
organism´s response to the environment.
Thus, to re-quote Lipton, above -
“For example, if an organism “perceives” a stress that is actually not there, the misperception can
actually change the genes to accommodate the “belief.”
“Perceptions” lie between the environment and cell expression. If our perceptions are accurate, the
resulting behavior will be life enhancing. If we operate from “misperceptions,” our behavior will
be inappropriate and will jeopardize our vitality by compromising our health.”
In other words, what we perceive, and more importantly, how we interpret
what we perceive, is chiefly responsible for our health.
Our topic is presence as compared to absence. Another way of putting this is,
the more "present¨ we are to what we are thinking and interpreting, the healthier
we are, even to the cellular level. The more we "miss¨ (absence), the more
affected we are by things that seem to be out of our control.
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Simple, right? Well, not really. Question is: what, exactly do we perceive?
My favourite illustration from the tape is this: Every second, the brain is being
"hit¨ with 4 billion signals. Of those 4 billion, we can manage to bring 2000 bits of
information in consciousness.

Here´s a picture. Imagine it´s made up of 4 billion pixels.
Now, let´s look at what the brain is actually conscious of. Remember, we can
only be conscious of 2000 bits.

Here, the dot represents consciousness, except it is enlarged 1000 times, so
you can see it. In other words, 99.999999% of the signals hitting our brains is
So, if you want to change something, and you have a thought in your head,
that doesn´t necessarily mean anything changes. Why? The "reasons¨ for the
aberrant behaviour hide in the "missed signals.¨
It´s like this: what does what you are sitting on feel like, as you read this?
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Hadn´t noticed your butt before I asked, had you? The nerves were sending
messages to your brain, but your brain chose not to report it to your
consciousness until you chose to pay attention to your butt. You are what you
attend to. All the rest is lost in the background.
Now, buried in the 99.999999% `background data´ are most of your beliefs.
The things I call Rock beliefs in my book, Living Life in Growing Orbits. They are
decisions you made about yourself and your world - about how the world works.
Once you made them, they solidified and faded into your unconscious, and
continue to determine your behaviour, out of your consciousness. If you are not
aware of the belief, you cannot change it.
Even when you become aware of it, changing it is hard, hard work.
Lipton, at one point, says something like, "The behaviour won´t change unless
you change the core belief.¨ We have talked about this in Into the Centre - in
therapy language, it is the difference between process and content.
Content is the experience (the "conscious dot.¨) Let´s say I´m having trouble
with my husband, I´m having conflicts with my parents, and my friends aren´t very
loyal. Each of those is "content.¨ From a consciousness perspective, I may focus
on the current relationship or situation, and cry, "He´s being unfair!¨ or whatever.
Then, I switch to another, and another.
Let´s say I decide to focus in on one of the content issues, and use better
communication with this person. Nothing much changes. I despair.
The process, (the issue underlying all the situations is what Lipton calls the
"core belief.¨) Perhaps, growing up, you got it in your head that people should
treat you "special.¨ Or, you learned you had to fight to stay alive. Or, you were
taught that you had to get sick (have issues) to get attention (this is a biggie!)
Hopefully, you begin to see that if the core belief does not change, the day-
to-day behaviours are not going to shift, period. And, if the core belief remains out
of consciousness, the only alternative the "system¨ (your body) has is to get your
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attention by making you sick, or making you ache. If that does not work, the cells
begin to break down and you get deeper, more serious illnesses.
Presence is choosing to focus your attention on what is really going on at the
deep, core level. Bodywork deals with this same process, allowing core issues to
emerge. Absence is to think your life is out of your control, as opposed to simply
out of your consciousness.
If you want help extracting your core beliefs, and re-thinking and re-imaging
your life, give one of my books a try. Find an excellent therapist and do the hard
work of self-exploration, at the core level. Then, add in a mentor (see last
chapter) and find a Bodyworker.
Presence is mastering what´s up at the core level. Nothing will change, and
you will be absent, unless you take core work seriously. Do it before it´s too late.
Because it´s "cellular,¨ baby!
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I0. Bexpnnxlve ux cnmpured tn reuctlve
I was hanging out with one of my friends today, she of the new boyfriend and
their discussion about extra-relationship sex (see page 18.) I always enjoy
hanging with her, and today we were talking about medical procedures, in this
case a sygmoidoscopy she´d had the day before. Aside from a gut ache, she was
none the worse for wear.
She was wondering about a Bodywork perspective on her lower digestive
tract. (See? Don´t I have an interesting life? I get to talk about bowels!) Her doctor
told her she might have the ubiquitous "Irritable Bowel Syndrome.¨ I asked her
why she was reluctant to let go of stuff in her life, particularly the "crappy¨ parts.
She does dwell on her past - on her upbringing, her past relationships, her
shape. She dwells on her future - fearful of choosing, of changing anything, lest
she hate the result. She mentioned that the other night she had called to her
boyfriend, "Come here.¨ "Go away.¨ "Come here.¨ "Go away.¨ When questioned,
she said, "I just wanted to do consciously what I do with you unconsciously.¨
Never satisfied, stuck, and grumbly. So are her bowels.
Anyway, we did end up laughing about how much of her behaviour "just
seems to happen,¨ outside of her consciousness, and therefore seemingly outside
of her control.
As I said last chapter, what we are consciously aware of only represents
.00001% of the stimulus hitting the brain. Most of us have had the experience of
driving somewhere, getting there and not remembering the drive. This is a bald
illustration of the process of the 99.99999%. All the signals are getting to the
brain, and the link between eyes and hand and foot operates the car, but it
happens behind the scenes.
If you want to play with this a bit, find a staircase and walk up three stairs,
turn around, facing down, and hold onto the banister. Now, make yourself think
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about walking down the stairs. Think about your balance, which muscles have to
be contracted or released, how to move the knee, the hip, the ankle and foot. If
you pretend you don´t know how, and consciously think about it, chances are that
you´ll have trouble going down the three stairs. Give yourself a shake and all will
be well.
Now, we have no energy or brainpower to waste on re-remembering stuff like
that. You don´t want to have to think about how to brush and floss, or to tie your
shoes. But marriages or relationships, for example, seldom get bogged down over
tying shoes. Marriages break down - relationships or work situations break down -
because we pretend that the way we interact should be as automatic as tying our
We engage with our nearest and dearest, yet try to do this without thinking.
We hold a view - a pre-conceived notion, say about how one acts in a principal
relationship. The notion is locked away in the sub or unconscious, and a stimulus
arises and a reaction just tumbles out. Thus, we deal with a tone of voice or a
situation the same way each time. Just like good little robots. We react instead of
The Native People have a saying; "You can´t enter the river from the same
place twice.¨ No conversation has to come out the same, and no situation is ever
the same.
I mentioned, two chapters ago, a woman with relationship issues, who kept
saying, "I know, I´ve tried that.¨ I suggested that she needed to pay attention,
talk honestly with her husband, and shift her focus from autopilot to consciously
working on the relationship. Somewhat to my surprise, she did exactly that, and
got a response quite different from what she had been experiencing. Her husband
began to ask her what she wanted with her life, her marriage. In other words,
dialog has begun.
Now, of course, they will slide back into indifference, because that is their
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habit - that is what they have been doing for 16 of 19 years. They will slide back
at precisely when they stop paying attention to what is actually happening, and
begin "reacting at¨ as opposed to "responding with¨ each other. This is OK, as well
as predictable, and all they have to do then is remember to start paying attention
I remember once working with a client, the wife of a pair, who was in the
midst of deciding whether to leave the marriage. He refused to come in, as he had
decided that she had all the problems. Never mind that it takes two to make or
break any relationship. Ultimately, he did come in for one session. He sat next to
me, prepared, as he was, to help me "fix¨ his wife. He was quite upset when I kept
asking him how his own arrogance and single-minded focus had contributed to the
ruin of the marriage.
He did not get it. He parroted the same words, blaming her for not doing it
his way. He was not at all interested in who she was. He was only interested in
changing her into who he wanted her to be. But, and I stress this, he was doing
this unconsciously. Reactively. He´d made a decision, long ago, that he was right
and she was wrong. Everything he did was dedicated to proving this point, NOT to
improving the relationship.
I just love people like him (not!) - I usually get to the point of saying, "If you
are so wise and all-knowing, why have you never had a successful relationship?¨
Seems to me that wisdom should create results the person actually wants.
Unless he is getting what he wants - a failed relationship he can blame his
wife about, and feel martyred about.
Today´s concepts are reaction as compared to response. I just thought of
another definition.
A reaction always has to do with what was done in the past and is driven by
regret or fear of the future.
A response, on the other hand, is located in the present moment, and is
based upon a current interpretation, while also based upon a principle.
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Example: Joe had a bad relationship. Joe reacts by continually replaying past
hurts; decide to get even, and go on autopilot, reacting to everything with
To change this, Joe declares a principle - "Everything I say and do from now
on will be directed at building a better relationship.¨ Then, as a negative stimulus
happens, Joe stops, remembers his principle, and forms a response based upon
building a better relationship. Joe may not want to, as his subconscious reaction is
still in operation, screaming, "Make him pay!¨ but Joe freezes that reaction and
choose another way, in the present moment. Joe does this repeatedly.
Try paying attention to the way you engage with others, and pay attention to
what you say to yourself. Notice how much of what crosses your lips and mind is
the same mindless drivel of criticism and judgment. Then, ask yourself, "What am
I trying to accomplish by thinking or saying that?¨ Ask yourself what your
response would be, if your goal were consciously to build yourself and your
partner or friend up. Ask yourself how often your mouth runs off without the active
participation of your heart and brain. Then, shift over and try it another way.
Then, do it again. And again. Eventually, destructive habits can be changed, but
only if you pay attention.
The world awaits your response.
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II. Incuxed ux cnmpured tn xcuttered
I´ve been working with a new client; a guy who has ample reason to believe
his wife is having an affair. She´s being semi-blatant about it - she took off to
Europe, and introduced "mister wonderful¨ to her two grown children. My client is
all over the map with it - and I understand that. He has never experienced this
before. He is a scientist, used to precision, unemotional behaviour and "things
making sense.¨
His approach has been quite scattered. He has made demands, and then
retracted them. He has yelled and screamed, and is now trying tact and
diplomacy. He is worried about losing the house, losing the kids. He is talking to a
slew of friends, and of course getting conflicting advice.
I don´t think he quite "gets¨ me - because no matter how complex he makes
the situation, I keep asking him one thing - "What does his wife want to do about
the marriage?¨
Actually, I keep suggesting he says a variant of the following to his wife: "I´m
not happy with the present situation. I need to know, by Aug 15 (or whenever)
whether you are willing to work on the marriage.¨
He´s busy in his head, concocting all kinds of scenarios, involving the kids, the
community. He´s scaring and confusing himself, and lately thinks that if he acts
kind and sweet, she´ll "see that he´s changed¨ and all of this will blow over. And I
keep saying that this might have a small chance of working if what she wanted
was for the marriage to improve. If she´s planning to leave and is just waiting for
the right time, his attempts, while both noble and helpful in a healthy relationship,
are futile. What he needs, I would argue, is focused attention on the specific
question: what is his wife´s intent?
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We might define:
Scattered as being all over the place, whether physically, mentally,
spiritually or emotionally.
Focused, on the other hand, is being of one "mind.¨ One self. Another word
might be integrated.

Now, as with all of these comparisons, there is nothing wrong about being
scattered. We live in a chaotic, random universe, and sometimes, perhaps often,
we need to let our hair down and let go. It´s all a matter of degree, or, as I read
not too long ago (somewhere - sorry, can´t remember where,) "Everything in
moderation - including moderation.¨
I teach businesses and individuals lateral thinking; I do not know many
people who are good at that. Now, the process might appear chaotic or scattered,
but it isn´t. While there is an incredibly free flow of ideas and a lot of looking at
things from several angles, what´s really going on is what might be called focused
chaos. It is not "out of control¨ - there is structure and meaning in the work. In
that, it is similar to modern art.
Where I see a problem is when there is undisciplined anything. Gabrielle
Roth, a dance therapist, has created an exercise where one dances in different
ways - lyrical, rhythmic and chaotic are three that I remember off the top of my
head. The chaotic piece involves flinging oneself around the room to atonal music.
But even within this seeming chaos is a structure - the structure is provided by
the leaders, the music, and the clock.
True chaos, on the other hand, often leads to hospitalization.
Underneath things that actually accomplish something is an implicit order and
direction. Being chaotically scattered, on the other hand, means yielding to whim.
One thing one week, another thing the next.
Not attending to the present moment because of the appeal of the past, the
future, or your fantasies.
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Not dealing elegantly and directly with relationships because what´s going on
in your head doesn´t match what´s going on in the relationship, and you opt
for your head, thereby losing the relationship. That´s a big one for my

As you might judge, and certainly have read, my preference in life (neither
right nor wrong - just a preference) is for focus. I believe that I exhibit great
flexibility in my thinking and acting, but am not chaotic or scattered in either my
thinking or acting. My reason is simple. I choose to guide myself using certain
flexible principles, and not just do whatever crosses my mind. While I agree with
the writers of Language, Structure and Change - "Life is a purposeless drift,¨ I
also agree with my friend David Raithby - "We may not know where we are going,
but we can choose to go in a group.¨ Or Ben Wong - "The facts of your life remain.
What you do with those facts is up to you.¨
My wish for a growing and deepening relationship with Dar, for example,
precludes doing things that will complicate matters. While we have a broad based
relationship, the bottom line for us is that we are committed to a daily walk
together, and that we make non-negotiable. So, I´m not going to pick a fight with
her because I´m having a bad day or because I need to be right. My goal of
deepening the relationship precludes being a jerk and demanding my own way.
Of course, this also applies in the "real world¨ of problem solving. Dar and I
were thinking back several years, to a day we spent "surviving.¨ We had driven
north of Sudbury to baptize a friend´s granddaughter. The father of the baby was a
canoeist, and we asked him to set up a paddle for us, we being into kayaks. He
picked John´s Creek.
He drove us in a Land Rover out into the bush, following a hydro corridor. We
soon reached what I would call a river, but I don´t live in the North. The sucker
was 60 feet wide and ripping along. He says, "Hmm. I paddled this thing a month
ago. Took me four hours to get to the lake, and a couple of hours across the lake.
But a tornado went through here a couple of days ago. Looks like there´s more
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water in the system. Watch out for deadfall.¨
Undaunted, we pressed on. Our kayaks are river kayaks. We can´t pack much.
We had a first aid kit, basic survival gear, and two meals. And a tarp.
We paddled along, taking in the wilderness. We looked at birds and animals
scurrying in the woods. We hit the first deadfall 30 minutes in. Took us 20 minutes
to navigate around it. The last thing you want to do is be pinned to a deadfall in a
kayak in a running river. That will kill you, for sure.
The next deadfall was different. A huge tree was down across the whole
"creek.¨ It was sticking out above the river a good three feet for the entire width
of the "creek.¨ The banks on both sides were not climbable. I scouted around and
discovered three things.
1) There was a waterfall 100 feet past the deadfall.
2) There was a spot above the waterfall to pull out the kayaks.
3) There was a dead moose caught in the deadfall.

We ended up paddling up to the tree, crawling out of the kayaks, climbing up
on to the tree, picking up the boats, swinging them over the tree, and getting back
in, all without touching the dead moose. Prior to acting, we did a pile of thinking
and talking, and then acted. (Dead moose smells nasty, in case anyone asks you.)
We paddled to the clear area, and then we portaged the kayaks past what turned
out to be a quite large waterfall, perhaps 50 feet high.
We got past the waterfall, but there was no way to take the boats back down.
Just a steep embankment. We sat there a few minutes, weighing our options, of
which there were none. Our only "out¨ was the "creek.¨ So, one after another, we
climbed into our kayaks, wiggled our butts and got them to tip over the
embankment. We slid down, through trees and brush, and crashed back into the
creek. Neither of us wanted to capsize and swim in water downstream of dead
moose goop, so we managed to keep the boats upright.
(By the bye, I hope you are getting the point. What should have been an
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easy paddle was turning into an obstacle course. While we had a goal, we also had
to go continually into lateral thinking to get home. Scattered panic wouldn´t do. At
that point, focused, lateral, creative thinking was the only way.)
I could go on and on, but we stopped for lunch, then several deadfalls and
another waterfall. No more moose, though. It took us 8 hours to paddle the river.
We managed also to take some neat pictures, clothed and sans clothes, at the last
waterfall, but I digress. I felt like mooning the wilderness, not just flashing it.
Our survival had depended, as it does in "real life,¨ on focus, determination
and clear thinking. We paddled another 3 hours across the lake, past the hydro
dam, and got to a road, which was pitched downward. Our friends´ house was 3
kilometres down the road, which meant we had to carry our gear and the kayaks,
after paddling 11 hours. We ended up carrying one together for 100 feet, going
back and getting the other, carrying it past the first by 100 feet, going back. you
get it. 15 hours after we started, we made it back. Obviously.
The wilderness has taught us many lessons, chief of which is the need for
focus and commitment. I think of one of my friends, and her note to me last
winter, about cross-country skiing and getting lost. She focused, cleared her head,
and found her way out.
Look at your focus. How often do you bail on your relationship, job, path,
because your attention wanders and you get "scattered?¨ How often do you act
rigidly, and miss the way out? How often are you stuck in being right, as opposed
to free to have flexible focus?
At the end of the day, life is a purposeless drift. Where you end up, however,
and in what condition, is entirely up to you.
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I2. Puxxlnnute ux cnmpured tn churged
I quite enjoyed reading Ayn Rand´s The Fountainhead. Listening, actually. The
joy of owning an audio player is getting two books a month from Robin William´s website. I don´t know exactly what possessed me to download it, as it
is 28 hours of listening. I can remember, many times, having the physical book in
my hand (both hands, given it´s length) and putting it back, thinking, "Lots to read
when I don´t even like architecture.¨ (That´s a Fountainhead joke.)
No, while the protagonist, Howard Roark, is an architect, and the book is a bit
about architecture, it is actually a treatise on passion as compared to charge. Or
so I am telling myself.
Roark is a 1920´s architect with a vision that is "Modern.¨ I think he´s like
Frank Lloyd Wright, but may have that "wrong.¨ He can´t figure out why buildings
have useless features, like columns that hold up nothing, or balustrades and flying
buttresses. He figures a building ought to be an organic thing that arises out of the
landscape, that makes spare use of materials, and that lives and breathes, and is
This is opposed by the view of one of the antagonists, Peter Keating, another
architect. His entire life is built upon absorbing the characteristics, definitions and
understandings of the people around him. He does a drawing, and runs to Roark to
"ask his opinion,¨ which translates to "fix it.¨ He reads a book, doesn´t understand
it, and hears an "expert¨ say it´s a great work, so Keating parrots the sentiments.
He then broadens his life theory to "great works are those which you don´t
understand.¨ He is driven by his attempt to fit in, by "giving the people what they
want.¨ He is thus the supporter of everything, the champion of nothing.
Rand was an Objectivist philosopher and writer, and speaks of (although she
never called it this) passionate vocationalism. She thought that, to be the perfect
human, one must act out of passion for and dedication to the living out of one´s
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personal vision. This vision is not caused by whom you hang out with, nor is it the
result of adopting the thinking of others. It is the slow, thoughtful, dedicated living
out of mastery. (see chapter 8)
Roark acts totally out of his own well-honed sense of himself - what we have
called being self-centered. (see chapter 7) He knows who he is, and is
emphatically not interested in what others think of him. He builds buildings that
scream "Roark,¨ for no other reason than he must build them.
Keating acts out of a selfishness that masks his deep insecurity. He wants to
be the best, to be noticed, to be important. He is not authentic, nor integrated.
(There´s a language issue between the words I use and Rand uses. In chapter
7, I contrasted self-centered with selfish. Rand uses the word "selfishness¨ to
describe what I call "self-centeredness.¨ I opt to use self-centered to avoid the
reaction most people have to the word selfish. Rand indicated she uses the word
selfish for exactly that reaction. In The Virtue of Selfishness, Rand writes:
“The title of this book may evoke the kind of question that I hear once in a while: “Why do you
use the word selfishness to denote virtuous qualities of character, when that word antagonizes so
many people to whom it does not mean the things you mean?”
To those who ask it, my answer is: “For the reason that makes you afraid of it.”… It is not a
mere semantic issue nor a matter of arbitrary choice. The meaning ascribed in popular usage to the
word “selfishness” is not merely wrong: it represents a devastating intellectual “package-deal,”
which is responsible, more than any other factor, for the arrested moral development of
mankind… The exact meaning and dictionary definition of the word “selfishness” is: concern with
one’s own interests.”)

It is to how "concern with one´s own interests¨ are expressed that we turn our
attention. Let´s talk of passion and charge.
Charge is neither good nor bad. (I have borrowed this term from Ben Wong
& Jock McKeen.) Charge describes both sexual excitement and "life excitement¨ -
and charge is a reaction to something external. Charge, then relates to "field
dependence.¨ It is big, bold, and very transitory. Charge is external gratification,
and we do it for the sake of the hit, the blast, the feeling.
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Passion is neither good nor bad. Passion develops out of a heart-felt need to
express oneself - to act with passion is to act with conviction, with Mastery, and
with purpose and direction. Passion is the feeling of wholeness that comes from
expressing oneself through whatever media one chooses. It is internally generated
and thus not "field dependent.¨
Our society in general revels in charge, not as a fun thing to do occasionally,
but as a lifestyle. Advertising is all about creating charge and then telling us what
to buy so that we can participate in the charge. It promotes instantaneous
gratification, and dilettantism - as people constantly flit from this to that to
another thing, never settling - and then having the audacity to say that they are
doing it because they are a "free spirit.¨
This is happening all around us, as people put externals ahead of Self. To
suggest that a charged lifestyle is self and soul destroying is to risk the wrath of
the masses, because charge is all they have. Or as one of the characters in The
Fountainhead says, "Ask anything of men. Ask them to achieve wealth, fame, love,
brutality, murder, self-sacrifice, but don´t ask them to achieve self-respect. They
will hate your soul.¨
Charge has its place. Sometimes, we want to let our hair down, bungee jump,
get laid, just let it all hang out. What we need to understand, though, is that this
charge is not very deep. It is at skin level. It is an error in thinking to equate
charged acts as either true freedom or passionate vocationalism. It´s living life as
if it´s disconnected from the depths of Self - good for some excitement, but in the
end quite predictable and boring.
Passion, on the other hand, is cultivated like a fine wine. I heard a line once:
The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago.
Passion, like mastery, takes time.
Some people think I am a pretty good writer, me included. While I have a
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certain "born with it¨ gift, I also practice - I write all the time. If someone asks me
to teach them to write, I say what my teachers in High School said to me. "Write.
Write. Rewrite. We´ll talk again in 20 years.¨
As I look back at my writing, I see the seeds of my thought today. There is a
consistency in my vocational worldview that stretches back even to High School, in
the mid-sixties.
This is not to say that I have not changed my views. Well, maybe it is.
Refined my views is closer to the truth.
I continue to stumble upon something like The Fountainhead and feel a
familiarity with yet another writer´s thinking - not total agreement, but a sense of
I write, and I counsel, and I live my life the way I do, not for show or
approval, but because this is who I am. Like Roark, I do not build buildings. I build
ideas. It is my passion and my vocation.
Some have judged me to be wrong, not to understand, to be "too tough to
live with.¨ That´s OK. I can either choose to accommodate myself to others
(gaining the charge that comes from being "loved¨ - as in "approved of,¨) or
choose to live my life passionately, living as I choose to, aware of and willing to
accept the consequences. My goal is the latter - to deepen my understanding and
my vocation, one day at a time.
I choose to have chargy moments, moments that are a small part of a life of
passion. Charge is fun, no question. To me, it seems limited as a life choice.
Passion changes the world. Charge creates a sweat.
Passion opens one to new vistas. Charge closes doors and limits options.
Passion is life long and life affirming. Charge often wears off when you roll
over the next morning and see who is there.
Passion is about deeply revealing oneself in one´s actions. Charge is about
creating an illusion in order to manipulate someone into helping you get your
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Passion is about freedom. Charge is about control.
Passion has its home in the soul, charge in the genitals.

Each has its place.
Passion creates newness. Charge regurgitates what has been before.
Passion is the wind in the sails. Charge is a person being dragged along for
the ride, screaming "Yahoo!¨ and thinking she is the wind.
Passion is built on rock. Charge is built on sand.
Passion is lived in each moment, from the depths. Charge flits from one
thing to another, never landing nor taking root.
Passion is about personal integrity. Charge is about what others think.
Passion is openness and vulnerability. Charge is keeping secrets about who
you are and what you´re doing.
Passion is focused. Charge is scattered.
Charge is fine as a moment of fun. My judgment is that it sucks as a

You get the point.
Thus ends our 12 Comparisons. I have pleased myself with this series, and
am thinking about what to write about next. My muse has never failed me.
Speaking of my muse - some time ago, I was engaged in a passionate dialog
with another writer. She and I saw each other maybe 10 times total. She had her
PhD in Literature, and wrote interesting stuff that seemed stuck in reporting her
failures without ever expressing her Self. We exchanged stories once, before she
ended our relationship, saying, "You push me and push me to see me. I´d rather
hide, and I can´t with you, so goodbye.¨ I smiled and walked away.
The 12 Comparisons
- 53 -
My story to her was about. well. read it for yourself.
In the dark of the night, dread comes unbidden, like
the return of a demented ex-roommate who refuses to
return the key. And I, enervated, seem powerless to
change the locks.
She comes to me, siren song of soul-less sorrow
upon her alabaster lips. A subtle seductress she, dressed
in gossamer that hardly hides her charms.
I am transfixed by the aching beauty of her song,
and tentatively stretch a hand towards her fecund breasts.
They beguile me. Cold as stone, and I cannot let them go.
I linger there, my mind awash in the play of images
of days long past, and yesterday. I draw her to me and
plough the furrow of what might have been.
Plunging in, I find no comfort. Soon, I am lost in her
depths, surrounded by the rich fragrance of her, enticing
me to remain, to be her love, to be lost in the dark tangle
of twisted strands of memory.
There is a curious comfort in her arms, a sweet
sadness, a gnawing regret. Colours recede, until grayness
surrounds me like a cloak. In her heartbeat, mortality´s
clock - ticking, ticking.
I silently pray for dawn, for light, for release.
Instead, night swallows me, pillows me, and brings tears
and weariness, and finally unconscious sleep.
I wake, exhausted, to a grey, cold dawn. I feel
spent. Used. I search for a glimmer of hope, finding,
instead, torrents of sadness. I notice she is gone, the door
securely locked, and I rise, thankful for her departure.
The 12 Comparisons
- 54 -
But perhaps tonight I will listen for her footsteps, for
the sound of key in lock. Perhaps I shall greet her as the
friend she is, she who sings of what might have been, of
what is lost, of what is found. Perhaps I will learn to hear
her song, to listen for another, clearer tone.
In a lyrical dance of mind and heart, I recognize that
but for those choices, made and not made, I would be
someone else. Life, I see, is one door opening as another
There is wisdom in her song, her embrace. The
dread recedes as I recognize her, for the first time, the
hundredth time. She is my Sibyl, my muse. Her touch is
fire, then ice.
She holds me in her ageless grasp, and urges me to
learn, to choose, to live.
Inside me, the clouds lift. Her face radiates in my
mind. I know I am not done with her. Nor she with me.
She is there. Behind the curtain of my mind, most days.
Sometimes, in my bed.
No demented ex-roommate she. She is Sophia. She
walks with God. She walks with me. Her wisdom hurts. Her
wisdom heals. Without hesitation, I reach out, and unlock
the door.