Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Blind Men and the Elephant

Once upon a time, there lived six blind men in a village. One day the villagers told them, "Hey, there is an elephant in the village today." They had no idea what an elephant is. They decided, "Even though we would not be able to see it, let us go and feel it anyway." All of them went where the elephant was. Every one of them touched the elephant.

"Hey, the elephant is a pillar," said the first man who touched his leg.
"Oh, no! it is like a rope," said the second man who touched the tail.
"Oh, no! it is like a thick branch of a tree," said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.
"It is like a big hand fan" said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.
"It is like a huge wall," said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.
"It is like a solid pipe," Said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.

They began to argue about the elephant and every one of them insisted that he was right. It looked like they were getting agitated. A wise man was passing by and he saw this. He stopped and asked them, "What is the matter?" They said, "We cannot agree to what the elephant is like." Each one of them told what he thought the elephant was like. The wise man calmly explained to them, "All of you are right. The reason every one of you is telling it differently is because each one of you touched a different part of the elephant. So, actually the elephant has all those features that you all said."

"Oh!" everyone said. There was no more fight. They felt happy that they were all right.


As we know, the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant is about understanding that each of us has a different perspective; there may be some truth to what others say, depending on their personal experience of their own truth. It's important to talk, to discuss, to try to gain understanding through dialogue, intellectual reasoning and critical thinking.

I think our media does a terrible disservice to us by not providing sufficient information to foster intelligent dialogue. By design, the media must create headlines that inflame emotions and sell newspapers. "If it bleeds, it leads." They give us brief synopses of stories with no in-depth information; we get only the sketchiest and the most lurid of details as a result. The more scandalous ("AIG execs spend thousands at high-end resort!"), the better. In our reality-TV culture, the media panders to the voyeuristic nature that's so prevalent today, creating shocking, sensational headlines to incite highly emotional, agitated responses.

We need to take it upon ourselves to learn from different sources, look at different parts of "the elephant" in order to get a complete picture of the facts, especially regarding information on the candidates and their positions in this election.

A young woman was interviewed on TV recently to gain her perspective on the financial bail-out. "The government shouldn't get more money if they can't handle the money they already have!" she raged emotionally. She didn't realize the "bail-out" was not for the government , but for the financial institutions. (How could a government bail itself out with its own money? That would be like a person in debt spending more money to get out of debt. Illogical.) Yet, she was very irate and upset about the whole thing. And the cameras were there to capture her ire and fan others' flames of anger.

And that AIG thing? There were calls to "throw the bums out!" for partying after receiving the bail-out. The facts are that AIG is comprised of over 70 companies, many of them insurance agencies. It was the holding company, the arm that held the mortgage-backed securities, that was bailed out, not the insurance agencies. It was an independently owned insurance company affiliated with AIG that held its annual event in SoCal to reward their top-producing agents, an event very common in many industries to reward their top sellers. There were no AIG execs paryting; there was no government money spent.

Another great example: Man-on-the-street interviews where Obama supporters were presented with McCain's views but were told they were Obama's; those interviewed strongly agreed with those views and also agreed that Sarah Palin would make a great vice president for Obama.

There was a brief moment this week where everyone gasped that $150,000 had been spent on Sarah Palin's wardrobe, hair and make-up. This money was paid by the Republican National Committee, not the government; no tax dollars were spent. The RNC has a line item in their budget for candidates' wardrobes, not Sarah Palin's specifically, but for whomever the candidates are. The candidates have to travel through many different climate zones - from warm to cold, rainy to sunny; they have to make TV appearances, give interviews; they have to look the part. Obama just bought five $1500 suits. And I personally think the man looks very sharp in his expensive suits. Kinda has a 50s, Frank Sinatra vibe. I don't care about his suits, or Palin's wardrobe, and the media shouldn't care, either. More meat, less dressing, please.

My point is not to mock those who are ignorant or ill-informed, but to encourage people to look beyond just the elephant's trunk. Touch its ear, its side, its leg. Learn more. Question more. Read more. Be a little suspicious of the information you're receiving. (Instead of watching TV news or taking a newspaper, I read Newsweek for in-depth coverage. Although lately it's been very one-sided, at least the articles are several pages instead of a few paragraphs.)

Voters should cast their ballots according to their own conscience, but it should be a well-informed conscience that has given careful consideration to issues of health care, taxes, the economy, leadership ... world issues and national issues that affect us all. There's no right or wrong candidate. They are different people with different approaches. Each of us views the candidates according to the issues that are important to us. I have my hot-button issues, and others have theirs. We should be tolerant of one another's viewpoints, but we should also be knowledgeable enough to be able to engage in intelligent discourse and to support our positions. Voting is a privilege and should not be undertaken frivolously, but with seriousness and with respect.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A bride, a beach, a ballet, a baby ...

A bride ...

Saturday morning as I got in my car after yoga, I glanced down at the car mat and noted the sand scattered across the dark fibers. I smiled and felt happiness fill my heart. The sand was from Thursday, when my friends married each other on the sand in Laguna Beach.

What a beautiful ceremony it was, outdoors, under God's blue skies, the ocean waves crashing on the shore, Laguna's dark cliffs rising behind us. The bride wore a beautiful creamy gown that flowed over her like milk; the groom, a shirt and shorts. My bare toes wiggled in the sand as the minister presided over the ceremony, his words sometimes drowned out by the roar of the waves. White buckets of brightly colored gerbera daisies formed a circle around the happy couple as they vowed to live and love together always. The couple and the setting made this among the most beautiful ceremonies I've witnessed. May God bless them with a lifetime of joy together.

A ballet ...

Saturday afternoon, the Kirov performed Giselle, one of my favorite story ballets. Light and ethereal, I found myself completely lost in the dance, oblivious to anyone else around me in the darkened theater. My dear friend and I have had tickets to the dance season at the performing arts center for many years; getting together several times a year to enjoy these performances is something we both look forward to. Giselle is a classic story ballet in the Marius Petipa tradition, replete with incredible battement sequences so precise, they seem nearly impossible and soaring jetes with the dancer lingering so long in suspension you can almost hear the audience stop breathing in awe. The Kirov, a Russian company, does the classics beautifully. And it was pure pleasure to enjoy it with my dear friend.

A baby ...

Immediately following the ballet, I was off to a baby shower for a friend. The mom-to-be is a gifted salsa dancer and former teacher of mine. One of the other shower guests is also a former salsa teacher of mine. Both of them were members of Los Rumberos, a noted LA dance company. They've traveled the world performing for audiences in a number of different countries, and are noted instructors in the LA salsa world. To say I am a huge admirer of each of them would be a huge understatement. Oh, if only I could dance like them - fiery and sharp, electrifying and sexy. The mom-to-be looked gorgeous and healthy, glowing with her pregnancy. It was fantastic to be with them and laugh and share in the joy of the new baby girl that will arrive in early December.

What a magical weekend this was, sharing such wonderful times with such good friends! My heart is glowing with happiness. I feel so blessed and filled with gratitude for these friendships that enrich my life.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

variations on a theme ...

It's always interesting how when I'm supposed to learn a lesson, I get messages from more than one source reinforcing the lesson. Guess the Universe/God wants to be sure I get the message - lol! So here're more messages I've received the past couple of days about personal power ...

I received the following e-mail the other day:

One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches! The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. I mean, he was really friendly. So I asked, 'Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!' This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, 'The Law of the Garbage Truck.' He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they'll dump it on you.

Don't take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Don't take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets.

The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day. Life's too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so ... Love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don't. Life is ten percent what you make it and ninety percent how you take it!

Added 10/8: Chris added a comment that David J. Pollay is the author of The Law of the Garbage Truck™ - Beware of Garbage Trucks™! Read the original story on David’s blog Thanks, Chris!


And today, my Daily Om message reinforced the same theme about Avoiding Negative Vibrations and taking on others' negative energy. Excerpt:

"... The energy of laughter from a newborn baby, the feeling of joy radiating from someone in love, and the frequency of calm emanating from an enlightened teacher are just some of the energies coming from others that you may want to have around you."


I've posted before that I try not to make assumptions about others' intentions; if I'm going to assume anything, I'm going to assume positive intentions until proven otherwise. Most of us probably do the same thing, cuz who wants to carry negativity and suspicion around instead of positive energy and hope? All people really are basically good, so let's treat one another that way.

Here's hoping that others only give you the most positive, loving energy today. And may you see the signs and learn the lessons being given to you, for you.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Keeping personal power ...

Master Kan:
Is it not better to see yourself truly than to care how others see you?

It seems there's always a mean girl or two in every school. A bully who tries to put down others, or exclude from her private clique. Someone so insecure that the only way she can feel superior and confident is by stepping on others who she perceives as weaker and "less than" she is. (I think we can agree that some mean girls grow up but don't outgrow their predatory behavior.)

My daughter had to deal with her fair share of mean girls in school. I always taught her "Never give away your power to others." I told her that when she ignores others' remarks, she keeps her power; when she answers back in hurt or anger - when she attaches her energy to the situation - she has lost her power and has given it to her tormentor for her tormentor to now use against her. Stay detached. If you don't engage, if you don't invest yourself, you don't give away your power.

This may seem silly, but Super Nanny teaches the same lesson. When a child is having trouble sleeping in their room, she has the parents place the child in their bed, say "It's bedtime now, honey." and then leave. If the child gets up, put them back in bed, say "It's bedtime." and leave. If the child gets up again, put them back in bed, without a word. In other words, don't engage with them, stay detached. Eventually, after seeing that you aren't giving them your power - by giving the child your attention, fussing over them, reading or getting drinks of water - the child just gives up and stays in his room and sleeps. It's not a fun game if only one is playing. Same with bullies.

My granddaughters spent the night Saturday so we could go to our church festival today, and as always we spent a lot of time gabbing, with me asking them about friends, school, etc. My youngest told me that an older girl at her school called her "Ugly." Fortunately, she didn't seem overly concerned about it. She knows she's not ugly, with her long lashes, crystal blue eyes and button nose. But I told her the same thing that I told her mom: ignore it. Don't engage, don't give them your power. You know your own truth. You are not ugly and her saying you are doesn't make it so.

The other day, as I was sitting at the light to make a right turn, a guy came up on my right on a bicycle, glared at me and yelled "b*itch!" I ignored him. I know I'm not one and him calling me that doesn't make me one. He yelled it again, as if daring me to respond. I don't know if he was mentally ill or thought I was his ex-wife or something, but I just didn't engage. I told a friend about this and she said "Oh, I'd have told him off! How dare he! That's just rude!" She would have engaged, given the bully her power and had an argument with him. Why? What would be accomplished by that? She'd just be upset and angry and then she'd have that negative energy attached to her. I stayed detached and went merrily about my day, free of his energy because I'd simply ignored him and didn't let his words attach themselves to me.

Other's opinions can be valuable when offered in a helpful manner. They help us learn and grow if our hearts are open and able to sift through the opinions to find those words that speak to us with an honest voice. We can learn by listening to others. But we have to listen with discernment, careful to listen through our hearts, discarding those words that don't resonate with us, never giving away our personal power.

If a bully says that I'm a terrible person, and I don't think that I am, who is "right?" It's all perception. I can listen to his/her criticisms carefully and thoughtfully, but ultimately, the way I perceive myself is what counts, and I won't allow myself to be put into a labeled box that someone else tries to impose upon me with their words. How I react to the mean girls is up to me.

added 10/6: At the bottom of my blog I have a self-meditation widget. Today's self-meditation seems to affirm today's post. Ironic. Excerpt:
Happiness and suffering are dependent upon your own mind, upon your interpretation. They do not come from outside, from others.

May all your interpretations today be positive and happy! - Rose