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June 6, 2010

The Emperor is Naked: LA v. NYC.

For years I have casually joked amongst my friends about people who sell things that aren’t real – be it their personality, their intentions or their beliefs. I usually respond to these situations by announcing that the Emperor is naked!

I love using this reference to the children’s book, The Emperor’s New Clothes, by Hans Christian Andersen, because it sums up this phenomenon in a light and humorous manner. In the book, the Emperor is sold the idea of a new suit custom made with fabric that only those who are suitable for their positions can see. When he cannot see the fabric, he is over-ridden by fear of being perceived incompetent as the Emperor. His response to this fear is to pretend that he does see this magic fabric.

It’s no surprise that the truth speaker of this story is a child. While the Emperor is parading his new outfit through the streets, a child in attendance of the procession yells out,

“But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

When I moved to Los Angeles from NYC 14 years ago, I remember feeling a similar disconnect.

I didn’t feel the bold reality that I felt while living in NY. This bold reality makes life so much easier because you don’t have to waste time wondering what is true. If someone doesn’t like you in NY, they just let you know. You can then happily move along, instead of feeling confusion as to why a person who doesn’t act like a friend pretends to be one, or even continuing on a path that isn’t based on truth. In LA, it’s about “who you know to get what you want.” Herein develops the unseen dimension that is based on an illusion. People predominantly seem to care more about maintaining their positions than to acknowledge the truth, even if it means sacrificing their dharma.

Maybe it is my years of living in NYC, maybe it is my years studying Psychology, maybe it is a result of having a very bold and realistic father, maybe eleven Vipassana meditation courses clarified my senses, or maybe I developed new skills of perception after dating Prince Charming who turned out to be a stalker of yoga instructors and a sociopath. It is probably an accumulation of them all. The resulting keen sense of truth and infrared radar for BS do help while maneuvering through the Emperor’s parade.

This topic has been on my mind since I returned back to Los Angeles from a trip to NYC last week. Here are two highlights from my time there: 1) getting a coffee at Starbucks without the cashier / future motivational speaker singing ways for me to “manifest my destiny today!” I honestly do not recall the cashier at the Starbucks in NY even looking at me – but she gave me my coffee exactly how I asked for it! I found this very refreshing. 2) I took a yoga class during my visit. The teacher didn’t grope me, suggest wine, or chocolate, recite excerpts from The Secret or offer any other esoteric, co-dependent illusion of sweetness before, during or after class. Instead, she gave a great yoga session – again, exactly what I was looking for. She honored my presence with accurate, mindful adjustments and gave the respect of reality based conversation. HEAVEN!

It will take me about a week to acclimate back to LA, but now I have a stronger sense of humor about this coastal disconnect, because I see it even more clearly for what it is, and I do believe strongly that everyone on the path of Yoga will eventually find their way – even Hollywood, the land of illusions. In the U.S., we are very fortunate to have so many freedoms that offer us the ability to work out our kinks without judgment. Find that honest voice of a child within you; like the Balloon Boy who only knew to tell the truth when the news asked him why he was in the attic, while the world thought he was trapped in his father’s flyaway balloon. We learn how to lie so as to avoid shame, punishment, guilt, loss, and so on. More often children haven’t learned yet how to lie.

Practice, practice, practice.

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