Life is like a bowl of cherries.
I just walked outside and life was in no way like a bowl of cherries. In fact, it was so unlike a bowl of cherries I can’t even list the differences between life and a bowl of cherries.
All the world’s a stage…
Ummm… not really.
As far as I can tell, the world does not exist in a theater, there’s no audience whining about how “People used to get DRESSED to come to the theater.” No scalpers outside the world giving people access for a hefty “surcharge,” and no intermission.
Now, I know you don’t believe these metaphors are literal. But, man, I’m getting tired of spiritual sales-people who don’t know when they SHOULD be using a metaphor or, worse, don’t know when they ARE using one.
My more specific bitch-and-moan of the day refers to the use of the utterly meaningless phrases: “Your True Nature” and “Who you REALLY are.”
Want to fill a room with eager-to-spend-money spiritual seekers? It’s simple. Tell them that, in your presence, thanks to your woo-woo technique, or due to the grace of your guru they can “experience their true nature,” and “discover who they REALLY are.”
We all have a sense that something’s not quite right in our inner Denmark, and these phrases offer the promise of making it all okay.
Frankly, once you make this sales pitch, you could take money from the people that show up, keep them in a stuffy hotel room for 48 hours straight, do NOTHING else and, guaranteed, some people would end up giving you testimonials like, “I released thousands of years of karma, got my chakras spinning at an octave of the frequency of the universe, reclaimed my soul energy from 2,300,000.38 past lives, and met my soul mate… oh, and I discovered who I really am. I give this workshop 4 Pleadian stars! Two chi-filled thumbs up!”
But, if you feel guilty taking money for letting people have a weekend projection-fest, here’s what you do instead to assuage your guilt (and win this episode of American Guru-Idol):
1) Lead them to a paradoxical experience
2) Tell them that what they’re experiencing is THEIR TRUE NATURE, who they REALLY are
Don’t know how to do #1? Then, see a urologist.
(Sorry, I was channeling Bart Simpson for a moment.)
Here’s how to give someone a paradoxical experience. It’s simple. Give them these instructions:
a) Look straight ahead.
b) Place your hands near your ears; about 2-3 inches away from the side of your head.
c) Notice that BASED ON WHAT YOU SEE in front of you, you have no hands. You can see your elbows, you can see your forearms, but because your hands are behind your eyes, you can’t see them. It’s as if they’ve disappeared into space.
So far this is pretty straightforward, right? I mean, it’s not news to you that you can’t see something that you’re not looking at, is it? It doesn’t keep you up at night that you can’t see the back of your head, does it?
Okay, here’s the “paradoxical part”:
d) Now notice that you are aware of the “space” where your hands are.
e) Without moving your eyes or head, look for the location of that awareness. Notice that “the part of you which is aware of seeing” seems to be in the same space as your now-invisible hands.
All you’ve done there is looked at something physical, so you know how to look. Then you used that same tool to “look” for something that isn’t a “thing.” It’s not possible to see a not-thing. Trying to do so creates a neat, spacious feeling, a paradoxical experience. A “feeling of knowing” without an object.
Okay, ready to lock your attendees into your new religion? Proclaim: “That spaciousness is WHO YOU REALLY ARE. That is your TRUE NATURE.”
Bow to the applause, put out the collection plate and take your saffron robes to the dry-cleaner.
Let’s check this out again, in slow motion. TRYING to LOOK at something you cannot see can generate a feeling of spaciousness, of emptiness. Realizing, then, that you cannot see your SELF transfers that feeling of spaciousness and emptiness to your sense of “me.”
The idea that this IS who you are, or that’s the TRUTH of you… is just a metaphor (and not even a good one).
Our 100,000+ year old brains are constantly searching for the answer to the question, “What do I need to do in order to be happy in the future?” Tell people that their suffering comes from not knowing who they REALLY are and convince them that a paradoxical experience is the TRUTH, and you’ve got a new seeker. Give them a more elaborate cosmology to go with the experience and you’ve got a convert.
The more accurate way to describe the experience would be, “When you look for yourself, doesn’t it SEEM LIKE you are invisible, spacious and empty? Doesn’t it SEEM AS IF you are a big void?”
If you say that, though, people will respond, “Well, yes, it seems that way. That’s interesting and cool, I guess.”
But, for experiencing a metaphor or an analogy, nobody will reach into their wallets to buy your books and CDs, they won’t come back the next week complaining that they LOST the experience of who they really are and need you to give them another hit, they won’t beat themselves up for having their regular ole’ feelings and thoughts and see you as the solution to humanity.
And without that, you don’t get to be the special amazing person who introduced them to who they REALLY are.