Leading by Example
Expanding Paradigms - Fall 2001
When I was a kid, my mother told me a story about a family whose grandmother became too ill to live alone, so they brought her home to live with them. When she dropped a fine china cup, the mother was upset. She bought a plastic cup and bowl for the grandmother to use at the dinner table, much to her embarrassment.
Several months later the grandmother passed away so the mother threw away the plastic bowl and cup. When the little girl retrieved them from the trash the mother was touched, and said, "I did not know that you missed your grandmother so much." The little girl replied, "Oh, I don't, but I might need these one day when you get old."
There is an old saying that when working with children you should never worry whether they listen to what you say, you should be terrified that they watch what you do.
Although this is particularly true of children, it also applies to adults as well. When I started work with athletes at UT, I was surprised at how much resistance they showed to following my instructions. Later I discovered that they had been very carefully observing my actions. Only when satisfied that I followed my own suggestions did they begin to apply themselves to the yoga and meditation.
Richard Heckler was an Aikido instructor hired by the military to turn 25 Green Berets into "Spiritual Warriors." He wrote of his experiences in "In Search of the Warrior Spirit". He invited a series of weekly guest lecturers to address the soldiers. The first of these was a Martial Arts instructor. Minutes into the presentation the Green Berets began to ask him difficult questions. They followed up with cat calls, and insults. After five minutes he was hounded off the stage and left, visibly shaken.
Richard was upset at the way his friend had been treated. Then he realized that he had also invited a Franciscan monk to talk to the soldiers about love! He was horrified at the prospect of what they would do to this monk and suggested canceling the engagement. The monk insisted on coming anyway.
When the monk arrived the following week he spoke to the soldiers about love and they listened with great respect. Richard was relieved, but also puzzled. Afterwards he asked them why they had been so polite and respectful during the talk. They replied that "the monk walked his talk." What you do and who you are communicates more about you than anything you ever say.
When we encounter someone whose view of the world does not match our own, we may feel moved to try to enlighten them ... especially when their paradigm is different from our own. The problem is that no matter how absurd someone else’s belief structure might appear to you, it is impossible for one to talk them out of those beliefs. In fact, the more you talk the more they dig in, and the stronger their defenses become.
William James recounted such an incident. He had just finished a talk on Life, the Universe and Everything, when a little old lady approached him. "Very good talk," she said, "But of course, you realize you were wrong on one point?" William James replied "And what would that be my dear lady?" The old woman replied that this business about the earth floating in space was of course nonsense. "If the earth does not float in space
what holds it up?" he asked. "The earth is carried on the back of a turtle!" William James knew he had her now. "But my dear lady, what holds the turtle up?" "Not so fast," she replied, "its turtles, turtles, turtles, all the way down!"
Trying to help other people can set you apart from them. The implication is that you are somehow better. So your attempt to help them implies a lack of acceptance and further isolates them. Sometimes what people really need is someone to listen and to accept and to love them as they are. To understand one another we must first understand ourselves. To love one another we must first love ourselves.
Often I find myself caught up in the frantic, chaotic rhythms of modern life, focused on other people’s problems, or the problems of the world. Most of these are, for all practical purposes, beyond my ability to change. At these times I try to remember to spend a little more time focusing upon the one thing I do have some ability to affect in a meaningful way… myself. If I remember to spend a little more time in self-reflection and meditation I find that I am more comfortable in myself. In learning to find and embrace my own inner silence I am better able to live from the center of my being. From that center flows right action and right livelihood. From that center flows life. Aligning with the flow of life brings Joy, and when I am aligned with joy life is miraculous! Namaste'
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|The Tao of
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|Follow Your Bliss|
|Leading by Example|
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|The Other Person|