You and me and everyone we know and all the others we don’t…we all share the same secret.
We all know so much more than we pretend to know.
Maybe we don’t know exactly how the universe came into existence, maybe we don’t know precisely how many neurons are in a brain, but we know, or can know, how to live our lives in an authentic and free and creative way.
We can know how to live from the depths of our being, from the deepest and most daring dreams of animal love and moon walks and cosmic exploration and tearful tenderness and erotic overflow, all full-throated and whole-hearted heated to beyond glowing.
We know this. And if we think we don’t now know how to live our lives in this way, we can know this. Every step of our way is well-lit for us, even when we go off-road into the wilderness. It’s all well-lit from within.
I’ll give you three examples (out of more than I can remember) of things I knew that I had no right to know; and then I’ll tell you how I think we can access this knowing all the time. Along the way, I’d like you to remember things you knew that you had no right to know, things that you used to step here, go there, say this, do that.
Sometime during the ’90s, I led a two-day executive retreat for one of my corporate clients. As there were only eight participants, remembering names should not have been a problem for me.
But it was.
One of the participants name was Michelle. Every time I started to address her, the name “Melanie” formed in my mouth. Whether we were out on the ropes course, at meals, or in the classroom, I could never get her name right. I was like a crazy pitcher who balked at every pitch. I tried all kinds of things to make me remember her name. For the life of me, I always wanted to say Melanie. Only with great effort, concentration, and patience could I get Michelle to come out of my mouth.
This had never happened to me before. I searched my memory banks for any clues to this mystery. She did not remind me of any Melanie I had ever known, and while the names sound alike, I am certainly capable of navigating such a minor detail.
At the conclusion of the program, I felt compelled to confess this to Michelle, who must have noticed my constant hesitation when addressing her.
I began by apologizing for not being able to remember her name, and then jokingly said, “Michelle, I’m sure that your mother misnamed you at birth. I’ve been wanting to call you Melanie for the past two days. Nothing I did to remember your name worked. You should be called Melanie!”
Her eyes became big as cups. She stammered, “Oh my God.”
She looked shaken. Now, I was concerned. I reached out to touch her arm.
She said, “Wow, your intuition is really working today. I was born with a twin sister, who died three weeks after our birth. Her name was Melanie.”
One time, when I was much younger than I am now, I was driving from Los Angeles to Marin County, up Hwy. I-5. The speed limit at the time was 70 mph. Inasmuch as I was driving after midnight and there was no traffic, I unilaterally upgraded the speed limit to 85. On the outskirts of Oakland, I-5 merges into I-580, where the posted speed limit was 55 mph. Just before merging into I-580, I heard a little voice in my head: Just keep it at 70 and you’ll be fine.
I had been driving for several hours at 85, so 70 seemed like a reasonable accommodation to the posted limit, which I took as a suggestion rather than an absolute. (Kids, do not try this at home! Obey the posted speed limit signs!) However, from a more conventional point of view, if you are going 70 in a 55 mph zone, you are going to get a ticket. Period. Final. But, I listened to my little voice of unreason.
As a quick aside, I should say that I was rather disheveled that trip, with my shoes and wallet-with-license in the trunk. If memory serves, I had accidently smoked some illegal herbal substance, and thus my eyes were the color of a raging red sun. I say this, because just as I had slowed to 70 mph and hit the 55 mph zone, I saw in my rear view mirror a flashing red light, the color of my eyes. Oh oh. I slowed and pulled over and stopped.
Okay little voice, let’s see how big your cojones really are. Stoned, barefoot, disheveled, 4 AM, going 70 in a 55 mph zone.
“May I see your license and registration please?”
“Yes, sir, I just have to get them out of the trunk.”
As he turned the light of his flashlight on my license and registration, his walkie-talkie went off. He was summoned to something more important than me. So, handing me back my license and registration, he said, “Son, take it easy. Slow down.”
“Yes, sir, I will.”
And off I went, without a ticket, though I was going 70 in a 55 mph zone. Now, I can’t say for sure that if I’d been going 72 or 75, I would have gotten a ticket. But I heard, keep it at 70—and I did. And I did not get a ticket.
(I have so reformed my attitudes and behaviors in the years since this episode. I am now a model citizen, more or less.)
I was once asked by a corporate client to design, produce, and manage a three-day corporate retreat for his entire company. He gave me a free hand and blank check. He said, “I know you’ll do the right thing. I trust you.”
This incident occurred during that corporate retreat, which was held at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The Broadmoor is the only Five Star, Five Diamond property in the U.S. It was late October, and we were flirting with winter. On the second full day of the retreat, I had planned to take all 440 people off-site to a ropes course for team-building fun and games.
The night before, the ropes course owner and several of his assistants told me that the forecast for the next day was a white out, a furious snowstorm. These people had lived their entire lives in the Rockies, and they knew what they were talking about. I was just a guy from California, what did I know? They said that I needed to come up with another plan. They said there was no way we could get the buses up the mountain to the ropes course. Out of the question. All the weather services agreed with equal certainty: snowstorm. What was I going to do?
The president of the company caught wind of this drama and came over to our huddle. “What’s up, Robert?” I smiled, “Nothing at all. We’re just having a strategy meeting for tomorrow.” I’d worked with him for years, and he knew that when he hired me to do something, he hired me to do it. He looked around at the others, looked at me, and said, “Okay, it’s your show.”
Indeed. I was keenly mindful of the fact that he had entrusted me with his entire company and a seven figure budget. A major element of our retreat, a day of team-building on the mountain, was in serious jeopardy. I had no backup plan. All the conference and meeting rooms we had been using were rented by others for that day, as we were to be on the mountain. What the hell was I going to do with 440 people for a whole day and nothing else planned? Disaster was looming!
Things got pretty hot. My ropes course team felt that I wasn’t really getting it, that I didn’t understand. Maybe not. But I started getting a feeling, one of those tiny little things that kind of tug at you from way down deep down there where we hardly ever look, or listen to. I became very still, as one does when listening to that quiet inner voice, which I call silence. When silence speaks, I shut up. Suddenly, I heard someone (it turned out to be me) say, “It’s okay. It won’t snow. We’ll be fine. We’ll do the ropes course.”
Well, they just went ballistic. They showed me all kinds of maps and reports and printouts and things like that. They had even gotten hold of some NASA satellite pictures: snow, snow, and snow. I trusted them. I relied on them. They were a seasoned, experienced, sober group of professionals. They had everything on their side. I had silence on mine.
Since I was the producer of the retreat and in charge of everything, I finally fell back on that time-tested gambit of the control freak: I’m the boss of you! “We’re going to do the ropes course. It will not snow. Everything will be fine.”
As you might guess, when I woke up the next morning, I bolted to the window. Snow? No snow? I am telling you the absolute truth of what happened: it was just about the most gorgeous, bright, clear and crisp autumn day you could imagine.
Blue skies like I had never seen before.
I went down to the restaurant for breakfast. I saw the ropes course team. They looked at me. I looked at them. I smiled. They shook their heads. We had the most incredible day out on the mountain, wearing T-shirts all day. I was in the last bus down the mountain. I was the last person off the last bus, late in the day. As I walked the short distance from the bus to the hotel, a white hell broke loose. Within minutes, we were in a white out, but we were also in the hotel.
I have more stories like this than I can remember. It’s how I live. I am dependant on this deep place and still voice to guide me. It never fails. Take a moment or two, if you haven’t already. Can you recall your version of these kinds of stories? Of course. We know. We know how to live authentically, powerfully, creatively, purposefully. All the fucking time.
How to Know More Than we Know
Now, as promised, here’s my view of how to live from within the center of this knowing, so that our path in life is constantly marked by what some call intuition, serendipity, grace, miracle, angelic intervention, psychic ability. Maybe. For me, it’s just how it is, if you get big enough.
I sometimes get feedback from people on the things I write. There is one person, a friend and colleague, who says virtually the same thing every time he writes. He’s an old haiku poet. He writes, “Robert, this is great stuff. Please thank whoever it is that comes through you when you write this. And thank you for being willing to get out of the way.”
I always laugh. And then I write back, virtually the same thing every time, “As you requested, I thanked who comes through me when I write, and it turns out that who comes through me is me! I don’t even have to get out of the way, since it’s just me.” I suppose I should be more gracious, but I can’t resist. I don’t hear from him for a number of months. Then he’ll write again, same thing. I write back, same thing. We’ve been doing this little dance for a couple of years now.
I think my friend’s attitude is often shared by people on spiritual paths, as well as by creative people, like artists, writers, and musicians. We don’t like to take credit for “creative” monsoons, for eruptions of inspiration that seem beyond our doing and control. We affect a kind of humility, almost a superstition, in the face of this creative process. We even name it. Out here in California, it’s called channeling, which refers to this phenomenon of having some kind of creative expression come through you that is attributed to someone else: God, consciousness, angels, guides, astral entities, ten thousand-year-old Celtic warriors, deceased mother-in-laws, or who-knows-who.
My friend’s attitude represents a critical error in self-imaging, especially for people who are interested in awakening, in freedom, in living the kind of authentic life I described in the first paragraph. The mistake is in thinking that we are different from the creative power that comes through us.
What comes through us is us!
If we don’t see this, then we will continue to live in poverty, with limited resources, thinking we are only this body, this mind, this personality. We will continue to think that we are a kind of mannequin in a store window who can only be enlivened every so often by the grace of a window designer. We become victims of wrong thinking: we are small, but __________ (fill in the blank) is great!
What comes through us is us.
A book came out a few years ago, called “Children’s Letters to God.” One little girl wrote, “Dear God: Who draws the lines around the countries?” I just love that. Isn’t that a wonderful question?
Who does draw the lines around the countries? Who draws the lines around Finland and Belgium and Monaco? Who makes San Marino, a tiny republic in the midst of Italy, and who makes Antarctica? What would happen if we didn’t draw any more lines?
Talk about a melting pot!
Let’s apply that question to our lives and ask, “Who draws the lines around the countries of our own identity, the countries whose boundaries we believe in?”
We do. No one else. We are the cartographers who have drawn up a map of our world. We have drawn the line around our own little country here, the country of our body and mind; while over there, across some galactic distance, is God, a vast and powerful country that sometimes sends ambassadors to our puny little country. They don’t stay long though; they have to hurry back to their own country.
They just stop by to shout some incredibly wise thing and then rush off. That’s why we’re confused about how to live, and what to do and where to go: the big brains have gone away! Isn’t this ridiculous?
We need to erase all the lines we’ve drawn around the country of our self. Melt back into the whole of existence.
No, this re-design of the map of our own identity does not lead to arrogance, egomania, or delusional messianic impulses to enslave others. It simply allows the reservoir of our heart to fill and overflow with love and kindness from the unending wellspring of our super-size Self. What comes through us, is us.
Once we remember we are without boundary, we access that greater field for information and inspiration. All we have to do is learn to listen to the down deep. Trust. Act.
Be quiet. Listen. Trust. Act.
Rinse and repeat.
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Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: elephant archives