Teachings | Life
Understanding the problem Download
Identifying what you want to do and what prevents you from doing it; how attention causes one to focus and create results; lack of willingness, know-how, and capacity as a framework for understanding what prevents things from happening
This is, I think, the third workshop in the living awake series. This one is Living Awake: Making Things Happen. February 3, 2008. That’s the right day, isn’t it? Good. Got one thing right.
The aim of this series is to explore, learn, how to be awake in the activities of life itself.
First one was primarily about just interaction with others. And the theme was rather than taking your practice into life, taking your life into practice.
The second one, which we did in December, was on money and value, which was on what is actually running your life. And judging from the feedback that I got from that workshop, a lot of people were rather dismayed to discover that money was running their life and not their spiritual values. I think that sums it up in a nutshell. And, which is very understandable in this culture, because of the conditioning, the extraordinary conditioning. One could almost call it brainwashing, where everything is to be decided in terms of financial considerations. And we explored some of the problems with that, and also some of the ways out of it.
This one is on making things happen. It’s something that we have to do in our lives, whether it’s raising a family, finding a partner, finding a job, doing things on the job, etc. For many people, I guess, the difficulties fall into basically two categories. Either they can’t figure out how to make things happen, and there are various reasons for that, and we are going to explore that. Or they’re very good at making things happen, but they aren’t particularly awake in the process. That is, other things are running, shall we say. This is certainly true for a lot of stuff I’ve seen in the business world, where in many cases, probably most I would guess, people’s business ambitions and business achievements are coming right out of family conditioning. “I will show him.” And it’s usually a him, sometimes a her. Or it may be father, brother, mother or something like that. And that’s what they’re doing. Not exactly awake, but trying to remedy things in the past.
On the handouts that I gave you, that you’ll be using through this, you’ll note the quotation at the top.
Buddhism is a way of freedom. Many people when studying this way, they think that skills one develops will not be useful in real situations. The true way of buddha is to train so that these skills are useful at any time, and to teach these skills so that they will be useful in all things.
Now I can’t claim originality with this quotation. It comes from a biography of Miyamoto Musashi, who is arguably the greatest of the Japanese swordsmen. He is quite phenomenal. He had some sixty duels in his life. I think it was after age 30, he stopped killing his opponents. It was sufficient to demonstrate that they could never kill him. And then they just gave up. ’Cause they realized they could never kill him and he could kill them at any time, so…
And he had an association with Takuan, who was one of the great Rinzai Zen masters. And late in his life, well in the latter part of his life, he studied Zen and practiced Zen quite deeply. But this is what he said about martial arts. And I read this and I went, “That’s exactly how I think about Buddhism!” So I just substituted Buddhism for martial arts in this quotation. So even though I say it’s by me, it’s really adapted from Musashi.
And if you want to get some idea of Musashi’s level of skill, try to find a picture that he painted of a bird—I can’t remember what kind of bird—standing on a branch. And this branch, which is I think what the painting is about, is one brush stroke. And it’s absolutely perfect. It’s just amazing. So if you can find that, it will give you an idea.
And he wrote one of his martial arts books by walking up this long, really long flight of stairs to this temple. And then he sat. And he just sat. And whenever he felt there was something that was worth writing down, he wrote. And it was usually just a single sentence. And then he sat. So he wrote this literally, one sentence at a time sitting in meditation. It’s one way to get things done!
But this idea or this theme that he presents, where Buddhism is about being able to negotiate our lives freely, without struggle—and struggle is the word that I’m using to translate suffering these days, because I think that it fits with our experience of life. I mean if I say, “How many of you are suffering,” a lot of people would say “Mmm.” But if I say, “How many of you experience struggle in your life?” Is there anybody who wouldn’t hold up their hand? So, and that’s the…that’s the quality.
So how do we make things happen without struggle? You could regard that as the theme of our work today.
Now I want to make this, and I want this to be very concrete and useful to you. I mean that’s my intention here. So I’d like you to think of something in your life that you want to make happen. And we will use that as a basis for our work today.
So just take a few moments and think about that. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, you know, like save the world. It can be something very straightforward, which hasn’t come about.
Many years ago a person came to me and I said, “What would you like out of your practice?” Or “What do you want to change?” I didn’t put it that way—I said, “What do you want to change about your life?” And he said, “I want a job, a car, and a girlfriend!” So we started to work on meditation. And a year later he had a job, a car and a girlfriend! He got the job first, then he got the car. Then he got the girlfriend. He’s been very happy ever since, as far as I know. [Laughter]
And I didn’t explain how to get a job, or how to get a car or how to get a girlfriend. We worked on meditation—how to be more awake and present. But the result of that is that he negotiated these different areas in his life in ways that he hadn’t been before. That was the result. So just take a few moments and we’ll sit quietly. And…
One person used the example of “I want a new computer.” Okay. How do you make that happen? Maybe there’s a room in your house that needs painting. So just take a few minutes and jot something down. Something real, something concrete. So…
Student: Just one?
Student: Just one?
Ken: Yeah, let’s just work with one. I mean you can make a list of four or five. And then you can look that over and pick one. Sorry Molly, don’t be greedy! [Laughter]
So let’s have a few examples if anybody is comfortable. Where are the mics, Molly?
Molly: There are some right there.
Ken: Okay. Okay. Anybody? Just so we have an idea of what we’re working with. Okay, could you hand the mic up, please?
Student: I would like to reduce anxiety. Maybe that’s not narrow enough but that’s my goal.
Ken: Okay, I think that’s a very good start. I think actually for our purposes maybe you can see how we work with that. See how this works, but you might also find it helpful to think of one thing that causes you anxiety. And then how do I take care of that thing, but working with anxiety is also possible. Okay, anybody else? Randye?
Randye: I want to continue to develop and disseminate the mindfulness for children program that I’m developing. Get it out there. Get the manual written.
Ken: Okay. Carol.
Carol: I want to pick up—well I’ve been working on it since the Money and Value program—but I’d like to take up on that theme, which was to counteract loneliness, isolation and helplessness in the elderly.
Ken: Okay. Two more. Yeah.
Linda: My name is Linda and I’m new to the Los Angeles area. And I am trying to embark on a new career in my life, helping people eat better, more nutritionally, and free from the bondage of suffering from their diets. And using a Buddhist approach and helping people with their nutritional lives.
Ken: Okay, so in that very, very big thing—that’s a very, very big thing—what’s one thing you would like to make happen?
Linda: Well, I’m a personal chef, and I am trying to get my career in line with that to right livelihood, basically. I was a professional photographer and I’ve been to culinary art school. And now I am trying to combine food and nutrition and be successful supporting myself doing it.
Ken: Okay, good. All right. One more. And somebody over here? Leslie? Where’s the other mic? Okay. So it’s good to have them both in circulation.
Leslie: I want to move to a place that supports me and feels like home.
Ken: Oh boy!
Leslie: You knew I was going to say that!
Ken: You’re going to cross the pond are you? [Laughter]
Leslie: I don’t want to make that assumption. I want to move to a place that will support my life better.
Ken: Yeah. This is going to be very interesting as we will see with some of these things. Okay.
Now, what I’d like you to do is to divide up into groups of three. And in these groups you are going to take turns, and this is going to go very quickly. So it will probably take about 15 to 20 minutes for this next section.
And in these groups of three, you determine the order, I want you to sit quietly for a couple of minutes, I’ll time that. And then person number one is going to say what they want to do. And describe very briefly what prevents you from doing that. Some of the things that are in the way. Just describe that and you are just going to have a minute to do that. So you need to be focused and clear.
The other two people are just going to listen to that. At the end of that minute the two people will then reflect and seek to clarify what they’ve just heard. So they are going to give some feedback, maybe ask a couple of questions, etc.
And then that first person will again have another minute to talk about what gets in their way. Then I want you to stop, make a few notes of that, because you’re going to use that material. And then we’ll rotate to the second person, repeat the same process, and then the third person.
Is that process clear for everybody? You’re going to have a minute to talk about what you want to do. And that’s why I’m encouraging you to formulate it into a concrete single sentence, and what prevents you, what gets in the way. That can be internal as well as external, and just what gets in your way. The other two people are going to then seek to clarify, reflect back what they’ve heard. Again I encourage them to be equally as succinct and to the point. Then you have another minute to talk about whatever else this has brought up or helped you to understand. And then make some notes. And then repeat the process. Okay? Carol.
Carol: Should we be doing this with people we know or with people we don’t know. More or less.
Ken: I find that this works better with people you don’t know. Because then you get really different ideas coming in. And you get fresh perspectives. And there aren’t as many assumptions going on, because they don’t know you so they can’t assume anything. [Chuckles] So that’s—thank you for that—my suggestion is pick a couple of people you don’t know that well. And there are lots of new people here and there are lots of people from all over the place, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Okay?
So just spread yourselves out in the room. We’re going to do a lot of moving around today, so…
You’re all set to go? Okay, first off I’d just like to hear single word descriptions of this experience.
Student: Okay. Good.
Ken: Annoying. [Laughter] Ah. [Writing on board] What did you find annoying about it? Microphone.
Student: Well part of it was in the time constraints.
Ken: Just a second.
Student: Well, part of it was the time constraints. I just felt as though I was at a checkout line or something. I mean, everything kind of had to happen. We needed to move along. And that did not promote my flow in the experience.
Ken: [Chuckle] Okay anybody else? Microphone’s right here, Leslie. Kim.
Kim: I find the experience to be amazing because amazingly the three of us who got together, were very, very well connected. And we…even though within the time constraint we managed to put out everything that we needed to.
Ken: Okay. So you also…I’m going to take one more there. You find it connecting?
Ken: Okay. [Writing on board] A couple more. Randye. Microphone is there.
Randye: I found it illuminating.
Randye: The time constraint I thought was beneficial because it made us sort of cut through the periphery and get to the core stuff.
Randye: And I think that at least two of us had epiphanies during the process. Possibly all three of us.
Ken: What’s the adjective for epiphany? [Chuckles] Okay. Anyway, illuminating is fine. Okay. So you found that the time constraints actually helped? Okay.
Randye: Yeah, because you had to think through and cut through what was not necessary and get to the core of what was necessary.
Ken: Okay, so I’m going to put focused. Is that fair? Okay, one more. Anybody? Carolyn.
Student: Oh, I’m sorry.
Carolyn: [Unclear] Painful.
Ken: Painful. No pain, no gain. You ever hear of that? What was painful about it? [Laughter]
Carolyn: Facing it.
Ken: Facing things. Okay. Well I’m sorry to hear that, but maybe I’m not too sorry. [Laughter]
Okay. Now, this is a very condensed exercise. One of the reasons that I condensed and put you under such severe time constraints is, it’s one of the best ways to get attention to operate, you know. And we have this principle in Buddhism: we do not know when we’re going to die. If you actually live as if each moment is your last moment in this world, then you tend to be very, very focused.
I can’t remember who it was, maybe it was Mark Twain, but I think it was somebody else who said that, “The presence of death wonderfully concentrates the mind.” And it also…pardon?
Student: It sounds like Churchill.
Ken: Churchill. [Chuckles] And this is a very, very deep principle that operates in Buddhism. The presence of death, the fact that everything is impermanent, everything changes nothing stays the same, is a tremendous impetus for focusing and bringing our attention to what is actually important and of value to us. So that was one of the reasons I put that. It reflects the imminence and the ever-presence of death in our lives.
The second is that when there is heightened attention, when we are actually in attention, then all of these things start happening. It’s annoying because we don’t have that luxury just to do whatever we want. We are more in attention and so we see that there are only actually a few things, often only one thing that is relevant to do in that moment.
It’s painful, because when we’re in attention, we come to meet all of the things that we’ve been ignoring. And those are usually the source of pain in our lives, the things that we had been ignoring. If we hadn’t been ignoring them they wouldn’t be causing pain. So it moves us to facing things. It’s also amazing because we discover this potential which actually is always available to us. But we don’t make use of it, we don’t draw upon it.
Connecting. The number one factor in experiencing connection is attention. When you feel that someone is paying you attention and when you pay them attention a hundred percent, then you feel connected. What doesn’t feel connected is when you’re talking to another person and as they are talking you are paying attention to some of what they are saying and a lot of what’s going on in your own mind. Then you don’t feel connected. Because you’re not. If however, you’re paying a hundred percent attention to them, and then when you talk they’re paying a hundred percent attention to you, then you will feel connected.
Illuminating. This goes in the same thing as amazing. When you really bring attention to what you’re experiencing and what you’re doing in your life, then you get to see a lot. Actually quite quickly. And this was like I think that we spend a total of 15 minutes on this exercise. That’s a lot in a very short period of time. And it’s focused. Okay.
So now…[Ken turning pages]…there we go…let’s move to the object of the exercise. What are some of the things that get in your way? You don’t have to give me a lot of elaboration. Just really short summaries, or expressions, of what are the kinds of things that you observed from this exercise that get in your way. That prevent you from making what you want to make happen. Carolyn?
Carolyn: Fear of failure.
Ken: Fear. Fear of failure. [Writing on board]
Student: Out of comfort zone.
Ken: Microphone, please.
Student: Out of comfort zone.
Ken: Out of comfort zone. Mmm. [Writing on board] Randye?
Randye: I’m more prosaic: time and money.
Ken: They’re never the real reasons, but we’ll come back to that. [Laughter, writing on board] But they’re where we go first, you’re quite right. But we’ll go a little further. Yes, anybody else?
Student: Fear of making mistakes.
Ken: Fear of making mistakes. Okay, so… [Writing on board] Okay. Diane. Back there.
Ken: Anger? Hmm. Where will I put that one? How does anger get in your way, why doesn’t it energize?
Ken: Okay. I guess it will go here. [Writes on board] Anger. Okay? Lynea, microphone please.
Lynea: Not knowing my own value system.
Ken: Mmm-hmm. [Writing on board] Okay. Raquel.
Raquel: Staying intellectual about it. Thinking, I guess.
Ken: Thinking! [Laughter]
Raquel: You could say, over!
Ken: These are very interesting. This is not working out as the way that I intended it to do. [Laughter]
Student: You need another board.
Ken: No this is okay. I just have to be…I just have to think…I have to do a little thinking myself right now. I think we’ll put that one here. I’m going to put “thinking too much,” will that be all right?
Leslie: Fear of asserting power. And I’m not sure whether it’s more fear of finding out I don’t have any power or fear of what might happen like if I assert power and it causes problems for others. Or it’s, you know, the risk of what might happen.
Ken: I’m just going to say “issues around power.” Is that fair?
Ken: Issues around power. [Writing on board.] Anybody else have that issue? [Laughter] Nava.
Nava: Living in the past and also wanting to be in the future. I guess.
Ken: Living in the past or wanting to be in the future…
Nava: Wanting to…
Ken: Or wanting to be in the past and wanting to be in the future.
Nava: Here and there.
Ken: Okay. But you know, it’s like jam every other day, right? Jam yesterday, jam tomorrow, but never jam today. [Laughter] Okay. [Writing] Living in the past and the future. Okay. Kathy.
Kathy: Not being clear on what I want.
Ken: [Writing on board] Okay. Jim.
Jim: I need a mic?
Jim: Usually it seems there’s a reward for not changing.
Ken: Yeah, so what prevents you from the status quo?
Jim: Well that you have to investigate within and see what kind of feedback you’re getting from your life that prevents you from moving into the anger or the fear.
Ken: Right so what do you see? What prevents you? I want to keep this very concrete, directly, not theoretical at all. What prevents you from making what you want to see happen, happen?
Jim: Holding onto a notion of myself that no longer exists. Clinging. Clinging to the past.
Ken: So. Okay. Can I say “sense of identity?”
Ken: Okay. [Writing on board] Laura.
Laura: Not being clear what the steps are.
Laura: Between here and there. And then related to that, not having established habits.
Ken: [Writing]. And not?
Laura: Not having established the habits that will get me there. [Writing] Habits or practices, discipline.
Ken: This could go in a couple of places, but we’ll put it here. [Writing] Well, almost got that spelled right. Okay, let’s get a few more. Yes. What’s your name by the way?
Miriam: I’m Miriam.
Ken: You’re Miriam. Okay.
Miriam: A sense of inferiority to and superiority. Inferiority and superiority towards others, which is maybe part of a sense of identity?
Ken: Oh yeah! [Laughter] I’m better or I’m worse. That’s all about who we think that we are. Right? And you’re absolutely right, it can really get in the way.
Ken: Yep. Okay, that’s good. Okay. Others? Yes.
Student: Being easily distracted.
Ken: Being easily distracted. [Writing] They have a drug for this; it’s called Ritalin! [Laughter] That’s not a recommendation. Yes.
Student: A lack of creativity.
Ken: Lack of creativity. [Writing]
Student: Could that be under identity?
Ken: Could be. I mean these could go in different…you’ll see what I am working towards, and then you’ll either agree with me or disagree with me. Okay. I think that we have enough.
Now, you notice I’ve been choosing where to put these on these three flip charts, and I deliberately haven’t titled them first. Those of you who’ve looked at the handouts can probably guess. This one [writing], I’m giving the title, Willingness. And just so we can have this in vivid technicolor, this one is about Know-how. And our last one is about Capacity.
Now this particular framework—willingness, know-how and capacity—cropped up for me when I was talking with one of my business clients, who was contemplating firing everybody in his department and starting from scratch again, which is a little bit expensive. And I said, “Why don’t you just let me have a look at this, because often…” He said, “They aren’t doing what I want them to do. And they aren’t the right people.” And I said, “Well, you don’t know that. I mean maybe they aren’t willing, maybe they don’t know how, maybe they don’t have the capacity.” And he looked at me and said, “Where the hell did you get that framework!” And I went, “Where did I get that framework?”
Has anybody got a copy of Wake Up to Your Life here?
Ken: Okay. So I went, you know, “Where did that come from?” This is the danger of hanging around Buddhism too long. Thank you. So in this august tome [chuckles]…it’s okay, I wrote it I can make jokes about it. Hmm, yeah, if you…no, it’s a little bit further that that.
On page 75, you will see the topic called Unwillingness. And, now unwillingness was the way I chose to render the concept that is usually translated as laziness. I find laziness a very pejorative translation. I find it a very pejorative term. And when you say, “Well you’re being lazy,” it doesn’t really help people. And in my own experience actually, I’ve only run across a couple of people whom I would actually describe as lazy. Most people, something else is going on. And so in thinking about this in terms of meditation, I thought, okay, what they’re really talking about is a kind of unwillingness, which is being regarded as lazy.
And I thought of the analogy of going swimming. Okay, if you don’t know how to swim, how enthusiastic are you going to be about to be about swimming? Not very, okay? Maybe you know how to swim, but for whatever reason you actually don’t have the strength. How willing are you going to be to go swimming? No. And then maybe you have aquaphobia.
So if you look here, you have these—let’s say page 77—yeah, effort, confidence, and competence are the traditional remedies for this quality of laziness or unwillingness. And what you have here is willingness, that’s like interest; competence, that’s know-how; capacity roughly corresponds to confidence. And I realized this is where I got the framework. Thank you Carol.
And when I wrote an article on this, which is up on the website, it’s called Three Questions. It was in a newsletter. It was applying this framework to the practice of meditation. Then I sent out that newsletter and I immediately got a reply from a person who teaches teachers in Atlanta. It’s now officially known as the WKC model. See WKC. He said, “Where did you come up with this model, and how are you developing it?” And I went, “Okay!” [Chuckles] So, but I found it extremely useful in my work with students and in looking at myself.
So you look at these things and fear of failure, fear of mistakes, there’s a lack of willingness to actually engage with what’s going to happen there because one doesn’t want those things.
Anger, Diana, I interpret it as a kind of lack of willingness, you know. You’re just angry about the whole thing, and you don’t want to have to deal with this, etc., etc. One can go deeper here, of course, but that’s operating.
Living in the past, future—anywhere but here. Right? And a sense of identity because when we start to make things happen, what happens to our sense of identity?
Ken: Well, it changes. And we can be very attached to that. That’s one of the central problems, I believe in Buddhism, is being attached to a sense of identity. So that’s why I chose to put that here.
Let’s take a look over here. Out of the comfort zone. Well, when we say we’re out of the comfort zone, we don’t know how to handle that. So that’s why I put it under know-how. Like, “Oh, I don’t know what to do here.” And as soon as we start trying to make something happen, then everything changes—maybe we find ourselves out of our comfort zone.
Not knowing value systems. Is this yours Lynea? Yeah. That’s okay. How do I know my value system? And that’s really helpful.
Issues around power, not knowing how to negotiate power. Is that fair Leslie? Okay? Not knowing what I want. We’re going to work explicitly—a colleague of mine has this wonderful approach to exactly the problem—we’ll touch on that later.
And not knowing what the steps are. That’s very clearly a lack of know-how. You know, “What do I do next, what do I do next,” etc.
And then let’s take a look at capacity. Now another analogy that I like to use is rock climbing. In rock climbing these three things all come to the fore. You have to be willing to go up, you know. If you’re just in the rock climbing gym and you’re roped and everything like that, that’s very nice you’ve got these nice mats. But you still have to be willing to fall, because you are going to—if you’re going to learn how to rock climb.
There is also very definitely technique involved. That is, you can move in certain ways which makes the moves easier—makes them possible. And you can move in other ways in which you completely get tied up in knots—which is a very interesting thing when you are like this, and tied up in knots. But at the same time you need a certain amount of strength, just sheer strength, and that’s the capacity here.
So these are typically the things that fall under capacity. Time, okay? Money. In organizational settings these are the primary things. Thinking too much. The reason I’ve put this under capacity is, one needs a certain capacity in attention. So you can actually stay present in the process.
Thinking too much is an expression of the difficulty one has of staying present. What we do when we aren’t comfortable in a situation is we start to think. The purpose of thinking in that situation is to prevent us from experiencing what is going on. That’s the function of thinking. It’s not to help us understand what’s going on. It’s to prevent us from experiencing what’s going on. When you’re sitting in meditation and you start thinking, it’s almost always because there is some subtle physical sensation—maybe it’s not so subtle—that you don’t want to experience. And so when you notice that, that’s why I emphasize, go back to the body, go back to the body. What are you actually experiencing?
Not knowing the discipline or not having the discipline. Sorry, not knowing the discipline would be here. Not having the discipline is another expression of a lack of capacity. Being easily distracted. You notice how these are very similar, but they’re all expressing the idea? All of these are about a lack of capacity in attention.
One of the ways that I view meditation practice—it’s not an end. And we often have the impression that, you know, that if you really want to be alive in terms of Buddhism you’d meditate all the time. No, that’s not really being alive, that’s meditating. And what are you doing in meditation? You’re building capacity or you’re growing capacity if you wish. And so every time you are sitting down, don’t expect wonderful things to happen or insight to happen. That’s like putting a carrot seed in the ground and thinking something magical is going to happen. Well something magical does happen, but it happens at its own rate in its own time and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. But if you are provided with the right conditions—and we’ll get to that—then a few months later, or a few weeks later, you have something you can eat. It’s wonderful. In the same way you do the discipline of the practice of meditation, then you actually cultivate and grow the capacity of attention. And that translates into a different relationship with life. So all those three are very similar.
Lack of creativity. A couple of years ago I was at a conference, which friends of mine, a husband and wife team, ran in Toronto. It’s called Mindcamp. And it’s all about creative problem solving. And they have like usually about 150 or 200 people, 40 of whom are presenters. The presenters have to pay like everybody else. So it’s very egalitarian. And there are like 40 or 50 workshops over this three-day period. You can’t go to all of them, but every one of them has to deal with creative problem solving.
One I went to was by this physicist out of England who explored how you move in and out of a creative frame of mind. And I didn’t bring it with me, but I should. It’s absolutely a bell curve. [Draws] How many have seen this before? Okay so here you have lethargic and dull. And here you have somewhat interested. Here you have alive and awake and creativity. And here you have beginning to be overwhelmed, and here you have burnout. [Chuckles] Which is exactly what we find. So lack of creativity, can be…I could have put it over here as well, it’s being able to move from here to there or being able to recuperate from here and get back to there. So there’s a certain know-how connected with it. There’s also a certain kind of capacity we don’t often—when the conditions are right, we find that we’re creative.
Just very, very quickly, when are you most creative in your life? Now this differs for different people. Let’s just hear a few points. Randye?
Ken: Is it on? Should be.
Randye: Testing. I’m learning that creativity doesn’t happen in isolation. I’m most creative in interaction with others.
Ken: Okay, so for Randye interaction. [Writing] For how many of you is creativity a solitary thing? Yeah, so it can be one or the other. Interaction or solitary, depending on this. We will be getting exactly to this point later in the thing. Let’s hear from some other people. Molly, when are you most creative?
Molly: When I have time. And when I’m able to be outside.
Ken: Okay so, time and outside. [Writing] That’s fine. Outdoors, right? Okay. Now, how many of you find that you are most creative when you’re under pressure? Okay.
Ken: Yep. Okay. So time or no time.
How many find that you are creative when you are in a kind of secluded internal environment? Yep, so outside, inside. [Chuckles] So what are you getting out of this? There aren’t any rules, but it’s very helpful for you to look at the conditions in which you are creative and then start figuring out how do you create those conditions in your life. That’s not like, “These are the right creative conditions.” It differs from person to person, you know.
I find sometimes I’m here and sometimes I’m there. Sometimes creativity comes out in interaction definitely, because for me the easiest way of teaching, and where I think I’m most alive is when I’m responding to questions. Other times I just have to sit down and think about stuff. So you may not always be in one or the other. Okay, so…yes?
Student: Is the mic on?
Raquel: I’m having a hard time stomaching the first one, willingness, ’cause a lot of mine are fear of this, fear of that. It doesn’t feel like a lack of willingness but maybe it is.
Ken: Well there’s an old expression from Africa which a student of mine told me about called, “Go into the roar.” And this comes from the way that a pride of lions hunts antelope. In a pride of lions you’ll have the male, who like most guys does absolutely nothing. He just lolls around—his job is to protect the others from basically hyenas and other threats. And the women do all the work.
But in any particular pride, which is usually five or six lions, there will be a couple of older females, and a couple of younger females. Now because of the red queen theory of evolution, basically the fastest lion can only just catch the slowest antelope. That’s how it works in nature. If there were any other way there would be a problem. But it’s always that way. The fastest lion can only just catch the slowest antelope. So the older lions or lionesses in this case, can’t catch an antelope, even a young one or a sick one or an old one.
So what the pride does is those two old females are set down at one end of the valley. Then the younger lionesses they cut out the antelope that they think is going to be suitable for them. Cut it…cut that antelope out of the herd, and start chasing. But they chase towards the old lionesses. And when the lionesses get within a cer…when the antelope gets close enough, the old lionesses start to roar! Course the antelope freaks out, runs straight back and everybody has dinner! [Laughter]
So you go towards the roar. So if you have fear of failure, fear of mistakes Raquel, where do you have to go?
Raquel: Straight for it.
Ken: Could you say that a little louder, please? [Laughter]
Raquel: Straight for it!
Ken: Straight for it. Are you doing that?
Raquel: No. [Laughter]
Raquel: I just…[unclear]
Ken: Pardon? [Laughter]
Ken: Okay. This is something you’re intending to do, right?
Raquel: Yeah. Can I ask you also would fear of vulnerability go up there, too. Or is that…
Student: Microphone. [Chuckles]
Raquel: Would fear of vulnerability be under willingness?
Ken: Oh I think we can put any sort of fear here because there has to be the willingness to meet the fear. Okay? Now there’s also know-how connected with that. So do you know how to meet the fear? And there’s also capacity. Some fears are so strong we simply do not have the capacity in attention to meet them. And if we try to meet them before we develop that capacity, all we will do is condition trauma in our experience. And that’s not terribly helpful.
So fear of failure, fear of mistakes, fear of vulnerability, these could operate in all three areas. But I put them here because the other two are going to develop from being willing to work with it. Okay?
Now we’ve been going for about an hour and 45 minutes. Let’s take a 10-minute break right here. Okay?