Teachings | Basics, Life
Who Am I Conventionally?Download
Introduction of participants; workshop outline; meditation instruction; Who am I conventionally speaking? What are my interests, talents, influences, gifts? Where am I going?
All set? Okay. So welcome to, I think this is our third or fourth in the Living Awake series, though many of you are new. This one is Who am I? And I find this very interesting, because each one of the Living Awake has attracted a very different audience. And there are many different people here that I haven’t seen for this one, and some I haven’t seen for a very long time, such as Joe here. And I’m a little puzzled why this particular topic frightened away so many people. Particularly men, you may notice. [Laughter] There are only a couple of courageous men here.
So what I’d like to do now, we have microphones and everything you say is recorded and up for podcast on the Internet. So please don’t use profanity. And don’t say anything too self-revealing or identifying, if you’re not comfortable with that. But what I’d like to do since many of you are new, I would like you to go around and very quickly, just in a sentence or two, quite literally, who you are, where you are from and what brought you here. Why this topic was interesting. So Martha, can we start with you?
Martha: My name is Martha.
Ken: No, with microphones.
Student: For people who haven’t been here before, these mics are very directional.
Ken: And just say your first name.
Student: And the way they work is you have to hold it like —
Ken: You’re a pop singer, now.
Martha: My name is Martha. I live in Ojai. I’ve been studying with Ken for a number of years. And I think this is kind of a fundamental topic, so it’s something I want to look at.
Julia: My name is Julia. I’ve also been studying with Ken for a number of years. And I’m very interested in this topic because the more I study, the more confused I get.
Jill: My name is Jill, from San Diego. And I’m interested to see who I am, and maybe who I’m not.
Sue: My name is Sue. And Jill forwarded me your website. And it happened to be at a time when I was like very distracted. I feel like I’m missing a good life sometimes by that distraction.
Christina: I’m Christina. I’m from San Diego. And I came today because I really didn’t want to. [Laughter] I took that as a sign that maybe I needed to. So I signed up last night and here I am.
Roxanne: My name’s Roxanne. I’ve been studying with Ken for a couple of months. From Venice. And I’m interested in this subject because it’s partially getting back to who I am, partially creating who I am.
Art: My name’s Art. I’m from Huntington Beach. And the reason I came is it seems that this is a very fundamental question from which everything else will flow. Who am I? So then, what should I do, why am I here? Things like that.
Randye: My name’s Randye. I’ve been a student of Ken for a long, long time. And I’m in a lot of transitions. And I thought coming here might help me figure out who I am.
Linda: Hi, I’m Linda Brown. I’m from Laguna Beach. And I’ve been working on this topic for 52 years—haven’t quite figured it out yet—so I figured I may as well continue the work.
Cathy: My name is Cathy. I’m from Orange. And I guess just the fact that you told us to introduce ourselves by saying who we are reveals how uncomfortable I am with the topic. And that’s always a rich source of exploration for me.
Nancy: I’m Nancy from Oceano, California. And I actually came today for the first time to meet Ken because I want to attend his mahamudra retreat, but I wanted to see what he was like. [Laughter]
Ken: So I’m on parole, am I?
Nancy: I was more interested in that than the topic, although the topic interests me, too.
Ken: You’ve been practicing for a while, then, have you?
Sandy: My name is Sandy. This is my first time here. And I’m from Redondo Beach. And actually Joe and I, we’ve been talking about this very subject. And when your workshop showed up, it seemed like a perfect message for us.
Joe: My name is Joe. And I’ve been practicing sporadically with Ken for a number of years. And like some of you, I’ve been trying to answer this question now for about 50 plus years.
Ken: Okay. Just your name, where you’re from, and what brought you here. First name.
Frances: My name is Frances. I live in Santa Monica. I came here because I missed an appointment last Saturday. And I never miss appointments, and I realized things were out of control. I haven’t meditated in three months, so I needed to get back to the program.
Pat: My name is Pat. I’m from Manhattan Beach. I’ve been at this for 60 years, and I’m close to the end of my conventional working life. And I want to figure out this question, also.
Patsy: My name is Patsy. And I’m also from Manhattan Beach. And I’m just really interested in the topic and the whole pursuit of who I am.
Ken: Cell phones. Can we do the cell phone ritual, please? There we go. It interferes with the wireless mikes that we have. Cara, do you want to say a word? Steve? Roxanne, could you pass the mike? Oh, it’s okay.
Cara: My name is Cara. I’m most recently from Los Angeles. And what else am I supposed to say?
Ken: You’re here because you have to be, right?
Cara: I’m here because I have the keys to the door. And the sound equipment.
Steve: My name is Steve from L.A. via New York. I’m here because someone has to record the class. And I’m here because I want to see if I could become someone else. [Laughter]
Ken: Okay. And everybody said, “I’m interested in this topic.” Of course, I wanted to push that a step further, but no doubt we’ll get into that later. Okay, what about this topic interests you? What we’re going to do is go through this question. We’re going to do four takes on it. And I’ve given you the outline. There are a couple of worksheets. And this is, we’ll definitely have some meditation. We’ll do some meditation to start off with, and in the later morning we’ll be doing some fairly substantial bit of meditation. But a lot of this also, there’s going to be some interactive work particularly in the later afternoon. And also some reflective work.
The four takes we’re going to do are, Who am I, conventionally speaking? And get a picture of that. And this is all in the notes here. Then, Who am I, ultimately? And this leads into the question, What am I? That deep question.
This afternoon, the third session, will be, Who am I functionally? And that is, what happens? Who am I in different situations and different contexts? And the fourth one is On being no one. How do you actually live that way?
Now, I don’t think that there are going to be many surprises to you—to many of you—about this topic. Because we’re coming at this from a Buddhist point of view. And one of the central themes in Buddhism—one of the things that made it cause such consternation in medieval India and so forth—was the teachings on non-self. What does this actually mean? I mean, “Here I am. What do you mean, there is no self?”
And that is a question we’re going to be exploring, but not from a theoretical point of view. Very, very much from a practical point of view. Because that’s the import of or the main thrust of these one day workshops that I’ve been doing. It’s how do you live awake from…with these Buddhist perspectives.
And this for many people is a challenging one. I mean, “How can I function if I don’t know who I am?” I would actually go so far as to say the problem is that you have an idea of who you are and that actually prevents you from functioning properly. Which from many perspectives is a completely radical idea. But we’ll see what we can do with that.
Logistics? We’re on a very tight schedule; we have to end at four sharp. There’s another group coming in at five. So we have to have broken down the room and all the sound equipment between four and four-thirty. For that reason, at four o’clock when we end, if any of you can stay a few minutes, help stack chairs, etc., Cara and Steve I’m sure will appreciate your help.
We’ll have four sessions as I’ve said. Each will be about 75 minutes long. We’ll have a break in the morning, there’ll be a one hour lunch break, and then there’ll be a break in the afternoon. So, a pretty straight-forward day that way. Restroom keys are the blue ones hanging by the door. Any other logistical points we need to address, Cara?
Ken: Okay. And I’d like to thank Cara and Steve and Julia for taking care of everything—and Randye? I’m sorry—for setting everything up, because it makes life so much easier when I can just come and all you guys take care of things so well. It’s very nice.
Okay. So let’s start with a period of meditation and settle down. I have to ask this question because there’s often one or two people—Is there anybody here who doesn’t have a background or who doesn’t know meditation? This is their first exposure? Sandy, yes. I suspected as much.
Okay. A little review. There are many approaches to meditation. The approach that I’ve found most useful both personally and in my work with people is a little different from what a lot of people think of about meditation. A lot of people think about focusing and concentration, etc. The quality that I want to emphasize here is resting. And what we’re doing is resting in our experience. Now, we’re just going to sit and breathe. And we find that the best way to be in that experience is to actually let the body sit somewhat straight—upright and straight. If we lie down, we tend to go to sleep. If we’re leaning on something, we feel imbalances [in] the body. And as we rest in our experience, we’ll find that our body naturally wants to be straight. So we let it express that straightness. The breath, the body knows how to take care of that. It’s been doing it for 20, 30, 40, 50 years. It actually knows how to breathe better than we do, so we don’t interfere with that. We just let the body breathe naturally.
And then there’s the little matter of what to do with our attention. If this is our experience of breathing—this little gong—and this stick is our attention, what we do is we rest in the experience of breathing. To do that, just simply breathe out through your nose. And you find you just come straight into the experience of breathing. And then you continue to breathe. That’s all you have to do to practice meditation.
There is one slight problem—[Ken rings the gong]—the attention falls off now and then. That happens to everybody, but whenever it does, something else always happens. There’s a moment of recognition when we go, “Oh!” At that moment, you simply come back to your experience of breathing. So meditation is more a process of returning and resting. Returning and resting. Returning and resting.
What is this experience of breathing? At first it’s just a coming and going of breath through the nostrils. Then we begin to notice all the body sensations connected with it: slight movements in the back, sensations in the throat, movement in the stomach, diaphragm, everything. And it also includes our experience of this room. So we begin just by resting with the breath, and we find that as we rest more and more deeply, we will include more and more. But we always remain just resting in the breathing. And whenever we’re distracted by anything—outside, inside, thoughts, feelings, sensation—we simply return to the breath. Okay?
As I said, the first part of this first session is to get a picture of who we are, conventionally speaking. So we’re going to do a little bit of work now—mainly individual—and that is to develop this picture. So what I’d like you to do is to turn to page two. And get out your pen. And just jot a few points down on every one of those bullet points over the next 15 or 20 minutes. So, let’s start with the first one. And we’ll do this in sections.
What are the things that you find interesting in life? Those are major interests that you have.
How did you come to be where you are now? Not in detail, but just very broad strokes. For me it all started in—I guess it was 1969 when I was…I’d graduated but I was hanging around the university. I was meant to be doing some research in mathematics, but that wasn’t going very well. I was hanging out with a group of new left radicals in the…at an apartment. It was the kind of thing you did in the sixties. And I was somewhat ambivalent about going to do a Ph.D. in England. And my fiancee wanted to cycle around Europe. And I mentioned to one of my apartment mates that I was thinking of it. And he said, “McLeod, you don’t have the guts.” That’s how I came here. [Laughter]
Preferences and quirks. So just take a few moments and jot some ideas down. Don’t have to be structured sentences. This is just point form.
A workshop I was doing in the business world, as an icebreaker I had everybody tell, ask—these are all people who’d worked together for like fifteen years—I said, “We need to start off. Say one thing about yourself people in this room probably don’t know about you.” It turned out that one of them had run a boutique shop on the side the whole time she’d been at the company. Another one had written a book, getting up at four a.m. and working until eight on her book while she was working full time at the company. Just little things like that.
So, quirky things that give your life character and distinction. Don’t worry, you aren’t going to have to read or share this. This is for you.
In this business, First thought, best thought. So don’t spend a lot of time thinking—just write. If you don’t know what your interests are, what do you spend most of your time doing? There’s a good possibility that those are your interests. And sometimes they’re much narrower than we’d like to admit. Sometimes they’re broader. If you’re having difficulty with preferences, just think of the areas and situations that you don’t like. You get a very good idea about your preferences.
Okay. So let’s turn to the second topic. What makes you special? We have this propaganda that’s taught to us in this country, you know—we’re all unique; we’re all special. We’ve been brought up with this. So this shouldn’t be too hard. You know about that in American society, Julia? Yes? So what are your talents? Where have you specialized? What are some experiences you’ve had? What makes you different from other people? These can be talents in any area: athletics, artistic, people skills, intelligence, cooking, crafts.
A friend of mine saying he went to the university with a person who was really, really good at baseball. Could have been a major league pitcher. But he didn’t go into that. He went into business instead. But that was a talent that he had.
Ken: Specialities? Well, what have you trained to do? What are particular things that you are good at? One of the things that I’m fairly good at is asking questions. Bode Miller, the skier, the way he trains for skiing is that he does a lot of tightrope walking in the summer. Because his philosophy about skiing is he wants to be able to recover his balance from whatever position he gets into. So he does all of these exercises which are very unstable situations, so he has to find his balance. That’s one of his specialties. That give you the idea?
If you have any questions about any of this, just throw them out.
Student: Here’s some extra paper. [Laughter]
Ken: Use the back of the sheet if it’s already filled. One of my favorite Peanuts cartoons is Lucy and Charlie Brown. And Lucy says to Charlie Brown, “I’m going to do you a favor. I’m going to tell you everything that’s wrong with you.” And the next frame is, “Get a sheet of paper.” The next frame is, “Draw a line down the center.” The last frame is, “On second thought, get two sheets of paper.” [Laughter]
Particular experiences. Some of these can be major ones. For me, one of my major experiences was the three year retreat, of course. It was a long period of time, many, many facets to it. But another what I would say was a pivotal experience was after I’d opened my first office, and I’d been there for about a year. I was chatting—it was a building with about 40 one-person offices, one-room offices, all of these little businesses—and I was chatting with one of the financial planners. And I said I didn’t think I was going to be successful. This is a very bright, very conservative guy. And he just looked at me and said, “Ken, you have a good product, you do business ethically, and you are intelligent about it. Why wouldn’t you be a success?” And the reason it was such an experience for me was that, as a Buddhist teacher, one tends to feel that you’re not in the mainstream of society. And at that point I recognized that as far as everybody else in that building was concerned, I was simply another one-room business, or one-office business. And that was it. And something switched in me at that point.
So it can be little things like that. Big things.
What makes you different? I can’t stand being in institutions, that’s what makes me different. The Groucho Marx theory—I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member. [Chuckling]
Now, we’re going through this very, very quickly. Obviously, if you have time to do this, if you want to do this more deeply, you can do this after the workshop, on your own.
So the third one, what are you made of? Who are your principal advisers? These may not be formally in an adviser role. But they…people you look to for advice and guidance. Often those can be relatives. For some, it’s parents. Colleagues, old…but who are the sources of advice for you? Some of them may be dead. Some of them may be historical figures.
One of the great—very great—influences in how I approach translation, for instance, is the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. In the early seventies, when I was living in Vancouver and translating for a center there, a friend of mine came into my apartment and handed me a copy of Wittgenstein’s main work, Philosophical Investigations, and said, “Read this. This is not negotiable.”
And it was a very puzzling read. Wittgenstein’s extremely difficult. But I gained an appreciation of language and how language is used that has served me very, very deeply in being able to talk about things. And talk about things very, very precisely. And avoid many, many areas of confusion. It’s one of the reasons why I try to be very precise in language. So that was a huge influence and advice on me.
Partners? That can be intimate relationships. Business partnerships. Business partnership is just a different form of marriage. I used to work with two business partners in Orange County. They would come and see me every week, one after the other. I managed never to get triangulated into the relationship. But it was just another form of marriage counseling. They would come in and say, “When are you going to fix this other guy. That’s what I pay you for.”
Family is always a huge component of us, both genetically and in terms of conditioning. Sir Francis Galton posed the question,
Is it nature or is it nurture? This is one of the more useless and destructive questions that has ever been posed in science. It is always both, as modern research has shown that different genes are turned on by different conditions, so that you can’t possibly separate nature and nurture in this way. So what are the influences of family there?
And then, of course, friends and colleagues. These can be some of the most important relationships in one’s life. Certain friends, certain colleagues, you may spend a very, very significant portion of your time with. Who are the important ones? What have they contributed to you? What have you learned from that?
All of this material comes from a guy in Santa Monica, I think his name is Sasha Strauss, whose company, I think, is Innovation Protocol or something. This is a framework that he uses when he’s working with people. His business is helping people tell others who they are. That’s what this is about—Who are you?
What is your gift? Or what are your gifts? That’s the next section. How do you make people happy? How do you bring value into their lives? What do you teach or learn from people? What do you provide in the way of companionship?
In Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point, he divides people up in three categories. There are the mavens. They are the people who know everything about a subject. And then there are the connectors. And they are the people who know everybody. And there are the salespeople. They are the people who can get an idea across and get people enthusiastic about something. Those are the three mechanisms you need in order to get something to gain traction.
So you might consider that in your case. You know. Is that what you do? You provide connections. You get to know everybody. Very valuable thing. You’re everybody’s best friend. Or are you the person they come to when they want to find something out? Or is it, “Could you just talk to this person? They always listen to you.”
What are you admired for? What do people appreciate about you? Sometimes the very thing they appreciate about you is the thing they find most irritating about you.
Back when I was at university, I had a final exam, and it was across the campus. And in the residence I was in, there was a woman. And she had an exam in the same place at the same time. So we ended up walking over together. And it was May, university. It’s a really bad time to have exams, in May, because—especially in Canada—because everything is just growing like crazy. So it was a great day and we had a very pleasant walk. And we just chatted lightly.
Several months later I found out that she credited me with helping her pass that exam. Because she’d been extremely nervous about that exam. And the walk over had been really, really relaxing for her, because we hadn’t talked about the exam at all. No idea. So, often we are not aware of what we actually contribute to peoples’ lives. But do your best here.
The other thing is, what do you like to give to people? What kind of help, what kind of interaction. Do you like to make things together? Do you like to talk with people? Do you like to do things with them?
Last part. Where are you going? Which I think is probably why many of you are interested in this question. You want to get some idea of where you are going in your life.
A lot of people are shy about starting a meditation practice. And one of the reasons that comes up again and again is, “Well, I don’t know what’s going to happen if I start meditation practice.” When people bring this up, I always ask everybody, you know, “How many of you are where you are in your life, where you thought you’d be at this point?” And it’s like, “No.” So meditation is not going to make any difference. You didn’t know how things were going to work out anyway.
So revisit your history. What are the things that you’ve—just going over this, it’s going to give you a different sense already, probably, of your life. What are the significant failures and successes in your life? One person I know likes to ask people, “What is the worst failure? And what would you do about it in retrospect?” Which is a very interesting question. Because it shows what you’ve learned. Or what is one decision you’ve made that has been a constant source of hassle for you ever since? [Chuckling] You can put in here, of course, hopes and aspirations. And alternatively, things you definitely want to avoid.
Ken: Struggling with failures and successes.
Julia: No, I mean I can’t [unclear].
Ken: What have you been successful at, Julia? An academic career, by any chance?
Julia: Sort of.
Ken: What do you mean, “sort of”? I think by almost anybody else’s standards, you’ve had a successful academic career.
Julia: All of these things [unclear].
Ken: Could you use the microphone, please? Roxanne.
Julia: Looking back, everything that’s happened just seems to have a nature of an experience. For instance, what seemed to be successful was something that turned out to be something that I didn’t want. And what seemed to be something that one might call a failure or a mistake seemed to be something where I really learned to open to something that was very difficult for me to open to. So I’m, I’m sorta struggling with that.
Ken: Well, put both of those down.
Julia: Thank you.
Ken: You know. Wherever it says failures, you put down your successes. And whenever it says successes, you put down your failures. [Laughter]
Julia: That’s it. Thank you.
Ken: You might something else in there, that what you like to do is be contrary. [Laughter]
Ken: Not at all. I mean, this is just the kind of stuff that gets in our way, isn’t it? I mean, that’s why I gave that example of how I got started on this path. It was one person saying, “You don’t have the guts,” and I just went, “I’ll show you.” Gave up the scholarship, went traveling, ended up coming to India, meeting Rinpoche, etc., etc. And it all came from that one comment.
I don’t know. I might have got to England, got halfway through, given up the Ph.D., might have got it, I don’t know. I don’t have any idea. But I do know that that was a turning point. Yeah.
I should probably write him a letter. Look him up. He has no idea. Ironically, he and his newly married wife tried to go traveling a year later, when they travelled, and they hated traveling so much they returned after one week. [Laughter] So there was no projection operating here at all.
Okay. Five years out. What do you want your life to look like? Where do you want to be? Jot down a few ideas. I mean, several of you said you wanted to find some direction, so okay, we’re doing it right now. [Laughter] I’m supposed to give you the direction? You want me to tell you what your life should be like? And it’d better be right.
Cara: That way we can blame you.
Ken: Okay. So you might note there, Cara, “I like to have someone to blame in my life.” [Laughter] “I don’t want to take responsibility for this thing.”
Student: Is there a pattern?
Ken: We’re getting to that. [Laughter] Now, how many people are finding, just looking over your life—and looking at it this way, looking at who you are—is churning up some stuff as you do this? Yeah. Well, it does. We’ll get into that a little bit later. Okay.
Now, I’d like you to start looking over everything that you’ve written. What are some things—some themes or patterns—that you can see recurring? When I was doing this—I did this exercise for myself when I was trying to develop some materials, publicity materials, for Arrow to the Heart. And one of the things that came up for me is that I was the first one to do a number of things.
So when I went to high school, we were the first group, it was a brand new high school. And I helped to start the school news—actually, I did start the school newspaper. In my Buddhist training, I was one of the first students of Rinpoche to learn Tibetan and do ngöndro. And I was in the first group to do the three year retreat. First person to develop a private practice model. It was all of these things. So, I had to come to the conclusion that in some way I was an innovator. Or going, always going into new territory.
When I went to visit Ken Wilbur once, he said, “Turn around, Ken, and let me pluck the arrows out of your back. It’s the price for being a pioneer.” But that was something I came to appreciate when I just looked at everything I’d written. I went, “Oh, okay. That’s what I do.”
So, if you go back to the first page, you’ll see. Look all over this. And just write a few sentences, now, about who you are. This doesn’t have to be—and when I say a few sentences, I mean, like four or five. Just describe who you are—looking over all of that—just write it down. And the idea is this is something that if somebody says, “Well, who are you?” this is something you could tell them. “This is who I am.”
Okay. How are you doing? Got something there? Okay. So, let’s just take a few moments. This question—Who am I?—what have you got in front of you? Anybody willing to read what they’ve written? Cara. One of the things I appreciate about you so much—you’re game for almost anything.
Cara: Well, I pretty much said everything there is to say in the podcast. I’m sure most of you know me better than—
Ken: So, just read it.
Cara: What do you want me to read? Which part?
Ken: No, just your three or four sentences about who you are.
Cara: Okay. I wrote I am an adventurous, creative and genuine person. I love my friends and family deeply and look for ways to enrich their lives through my arts as well as my attention. I’ve been shaped by 27 years of life, and I am grateful for all of it.
Ken: Okay. Anybody else? Please, Nancy. Microphone right here.
Nancy: I am a person who likes to be with and work with people. I’m family-oriented. I have a pattern of taking care of others within my family, friends, professionally. I like to learn and experience new things, especially travel and books. And I’m devoted to exploring the inner life.
Ken: Okay. One more. Yes. Frances. Nancy, could you pass the mike to Frances, please?
Frances: These aren’t exactly complete sentences, but—
Ken: That will be fine.
Frances: I’m an Irish person, living in America, enjoying the freedoms and diversity of life and the weather. I’m a professional, independent organized person, moving to be a professional therapist for children, families, and animals. Listening to people today in my everyday life. Introverted, like the alone time for reading and nature. And I absorb like a sponge.
Ken: Okay. What’s the first answer to this question, Who am I?
Student: How do I function?
Ken: Not yet. No. Who I am? is a story. What you’ve just done is construct a story. Conventionally speaking, this is what we are. Who am I? is a story. Okay?
Now, what I’d like to hear from some of you, before we take our break, is what was this exercise like for you? What was your experience in this exercise. Roxanne.
Roxanne: My experience was that it was difficult.
Ken: Sorry, it needs to be turned on. I’m sorry, it’s okay. It is turned on. Steve hadn’t pushed the button.
Roxanne: Okay. The experience was a little bit uncomfortable. Because I felt like I kept saying the same things over and over again. Listing the same people, and that felt limited. It felt like there should be more. It kind of seemed silly to me by the end of the page that I kept saying the same things over and over again. They kind of lost their meaning, a little bit. But then when I had to put the sentences together on the back, I was very happy with my story by the end.
Ken: Yeah, because there are certain people who’ve been extremely influential in your life. Yeah. Okay.
Anybody else? What was your experience with this? Randye.
Randye: I felt like at each question I was being forced to look into dark, dusty corners that I hadn’t looked into for a while.
Ken: How many others found that? Okay.
Randye: Also, I kind of recognized how much of a paradox I am. There’s a lot about [unclear].
Ken: Anybody else find that there were different parts to themselves that weren’t easily reconcilable? Okay. Other comments on your experience. Christina.
Christina: I found that as I was writing, it didn’t really feel like I was writing about me. There was something…I mean, I could list a bunch of things about myself—my history and my quirks—but it still didn’t feel like it got to anything.
Ken: It didn’t feel like you. Okay.
Christina: Yeah. And at the end, the putting it all together, what I wrote was, “I’m forty-something years old and still trying to grow up.” [Laughter]
Ken: And he’s a little older than you.
Christina: Yeah. It, I know going back and looking at it, it didn’t really touch me. It just felt like a bunch of sort of facts about what I’ve been doing and where I’ve been, but it didn’t feel very deep.
Ken: So it was a story, but not a story you could connect with.
Ken: Interesting. Anybody else? Yes.
Student: I kind of had a similar experience. That it felt superficial, and I was judging. Am I picking the right things? Whenever I have to select just a couple attributes, without talking it through, I’m always concerned that I’m picking the right things. And am I just picking the superficial ones that came to mind and I’m repressing the ones that are really important. That “Yeah, yeah, yeah yeah yeah” in my head. I’m trying to figure out whether I’m doing the right ones or not. And whether the story is the right story. Because there are so many paths that it could take.
Ken: Is this a theme in your life?
Student: Yeah. I wrote that one in.
Ken: Have to do things right.
Ken: Joe, what about your experience?
Joe: Basically, what I noticed was it was actually pretty easy for me to go through this. Because I’ve been doing this constantly. I have a slight advantage because I’m a speaker. I’ve been speaking for 30 years. And so I tell my story at the beginning of my talk. And that story has evolved. So I’ve got the story pretty down.
But in the process of thinking about my story, I’m constantly sort of revisiting the corners, so there’s not too many corners left anyway. But it’s also interesting that the nuances of the story change according to every audience that I’m in. As I’m saying the story, I will get different emotional, physiological reactions. Something about the audience will cause me to color—you know, I’ll talk more about Viet Nam, or I’ll talk more about swimming, or I’ll talk more about my sales experience, or whatever. So—
Ken: Right. Okay. So, several things here. Conventionally speaking, Who I am? is a story. Several years ago, I was participating in a program called a Day of Conversation out at Pasadena, at the Huntington. And we were groups of eight. And we were to have a day of conversation. And I didn’t get a lot out of the day because—I’m not quite sure why—but our facilitator opened it up, and people spent most of the time telling in great detail who they were, in terms of their family, and their education and stuff like that. And it just went on and on and on. And it was really, very definitely, for these people, who they were was this story.
Now, are we a story? Some say yes and some say no. Okay. So, Nancy, you say yes. Christina, you say no. Let’s hear from each of you.
Nancy: Well, [unclear] on one level we are a story, because that’s who we project ourselves to be out in the world.
Ken: Okay. Christina?
Christina: Yeah, I definitely have a story. And it explains maybe, I don’t know, some of my conditioned patterns. But it just doesn’t feel like that’s all there is about me or that’s who I am.
Ken: Okay. Right. So, this is one little paradox. Yes, we are a story; no, we aren’t a story. As Joe mentioned in his comments, the story changes. And, Cathy, in yours, okay now, “Which elements of the story do I pick out?” And that can vary probably from day to day, certainly from month to month, year to year, and so forth. So, there is an ever changing, multi-faceted story here.
So, this is what we are conventionally. So, we’re going to take a break now. And we’re going to look at this question—Who am I?—very, very differently after the break. So, there are refreshments here, and restroom keys there. And we’ll meet back in 10 minutes.