Just Keep Me Where the Light Is

Hear me read this post.

Recent­ly I attend­ed a per­son­al devel­op­ment work­shop called The Wall, taught by Car­ol Peringer of Excel­lence Sem­i­nars and eight supreme­ly help­ful vol­un­teer assis­tants. For the eigh­teen peo­ple who attend­ed, the work­shop trans­formed ini­tial hes­i­ta­tion into a pow­er­ful and mov­ing explo­ration of pur­pose, rela­tion­ships and inner space. I came away deeply sat­is­fied with the expe­ri­ence and put my learn­ings to use imme­di­ate­ly — and just as imme­di­ate­ly saw pos­i­tive out­comes from that joy­ful and inten­tion­al energy. 

More from my reac­tions than any­thing for­mal in the agen­da, The Wall taught me again how easy it is for me to project onto oth­ers all kinds of stuff that does­n’t belong to them, includ­ing such things as plac­ing neg­a­tive inten­tions on anoth­er per­son when he/she gives me feed­back. The Wall gave me a chance to exam­ine the process by which I lit­er­al­ly put some­one else’s face on a stranger (such as my father’s face or my broth­er’s) and loosen the grip of my more or less hair-trig­ger reac­tions when there are pow­er-dif­fer­ences in my imme­di­ate envi­ron­ment. I noticed how I’ve learned to quick­ly sup­press real feel­ings in order to deal prag­mat­i­cal­ly with the moments that come and go in any meet­ing where ten­sions abound. I found I was turn­ing stuff around in ways that hurt me with­out even know­ing I was doing it. That was my Wall. Oth­er peo­ple had oth­er issues to attend to. But mine was like the “Grav­i­ty” that John May­er sings about:

Is work­ing against me
And gravity
Wants to bring me down


And after a few days I was very much in tune with his vul­ner­a­ble prayer at the end of the song to “Just keep me where the light is.”

Some­times it sure­ly seems true that we live and work in envi­ron­ments that do not sup­port the heart. And yet, The Wall also sure­ly made me won­der how much I bring to that equa­tion. I do not wish to be naive. And yet I also do not wish to bring the instincts wrought from hurts of the past. And to what degree do I bring that uncon­scious pro­gram­ming, rac­ing ahead of myself in my rela­tion­ships and sit­u­a­tions to warn me with­out any par­tic­u­lar foun­da­tion of the bad things that might hap­pen? Any­one who leads — any­one — can­not afford pro­jec­tion, can­not afford to assume. There has to be clar­i­ty, light on the water, light on the branch­es and the riv­er-worn stone that knows so much bet­ter than any of us what it means to endure, and more: to live with vibran­cy and pas­sion at every sin­gle beau­ti­ful moment.


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  • Dan: it’s won­der­ful to have some fresh and insight­ful words and pho­tos from you again! As some­one only dim­ly aware of my own shad­ow pro­jec­tions, the work­shop sounds like a pow­er­ful experience.

    Your obser­va­tion about assump­tions — “Any­one who leads — any­one — can­not afford pro­jec­tion, can­not afford to assume” — reminds me of Don Miguel Ruiz’ third agree­ment: don’t make assump­tions. I’ve strug­gled with his fourth agree­ment — always do your best — but late­ly, I’m strug­gling with this assump­tion business. 

    I think it’s impos­si­ble to dri­ve a car with­out mak­ing assump­tions about the oth­er dri­vers on the road. Sure, one wants to be pre­pared for unex­pect­ed actions and reac­tions on the part of oth­er dri­vers, but if one does­n’t assume that most peo­ple will abide by most traf­fic laws most of the time, one would­n’t be able to drive. 

    Tying this back to lead­er­ship, how can one lead if one isn’t will­ing to make cer­tain assump­tions — about the com­pe­ten­cy, integri­ty and ded­i­ca­tion of those whom one is lead­ing? Of course one wants to “trust but ver­i­fy” but isn’t alot of that trust based on assump­tions? I think we can­not but help make assump­tions … per­haps the key is to be more con­scious about when we are mak­ing assumptions.

    On a relat­ed note, I also don’t think we can help but make pro­jec­tions. All I real­ly know is my own expe­ri­ence (and I don’t even know that very well). As much as I may try to under­stand you for who you are, I’m not sure I can ever hon­est­ly say that any per­cep­tions I have about you are not some kind of pro­jec­tion. Per­haps, again, the key is sim­ply to be con­scious of the pro­ject­ed nature of these “per­cep­tions”.

    Obvi­ous­ly, I don’t have any of this worked out — thanks for help­ing me to be more con­scious­ly in the question(s)!

  • These are great ques­tions, Joe. In a log­i­cal sense, every­thing you say and ask is true. No, we can’t eas­i­ly relate with­out assump­tions (I was speak­ing most direct­ly about neg­a­tive assump­tions). Can we ever get past all our pro­jec­tions? Pos­si­bly not. Excel­lent. And we can keep try­ing. My point spilled over into some­thing a bit more poet­ic and rhetor­i­cal. If we could ever get past the fil­ter­ing pro­jec­tions, see with­out bring­ing our uncon­scious­ness out of our­selves in this way, what would that be like? I’m sim­ply point­ing to what is beyond — and prob­a­bly most­ly for myself — using the metaphor of light water, on branch­es, on riv­er-worn stone. For me nature always holds that promise of see­ing with­out ego, of see­ing what it is to be with­out ego. Is that attain­able, real­ly? I think we bet­ter go ask the Buddha.

  • Hi Dan:

    Wow, great write-up on The Wall, and I so con­cur hav­ing gone through it with you. I’ve explored your web­site just a lit­tle bit so far, and I love what I see. Your wis­dom and beau­ty comes shin­ing through. Thanks for shar­ing part of you with us. I’ll be back to review the rest of it at anoth­er time.

    All the best,


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    I recite Don Miguel Ruiz’ Four Agree­ments as part of my dai­ly mantra prac­tice (mantras are pos­i­tive affir­ma­tions reflect­ing qual­i­ties I want to cul­ti­vate in my self). I have already blogged about the ambiva­lence with which I some­times view his…

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