Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Falling Asleep

"Why contracting? Is it stable? Were you able to stay on projects all of that time?"

It was a question from an employee to me, a contractor... and for a moment, I felt the draw into the question, waking up to see myself starting to babble, in time to gracefully put myself back on track.

The question itself is purely innocuous, nothing more than a spring breeze or an itch, but friends and followers may understand how the question may have hit me differently. All of the sudden, I am there again. The mind is in overdrive rationalizing, filling in the details; my tongue is starting to wag and words are rolling out.

I'm putting things in a good light. I'm justifying my choices. I'm stringing the words together ever so eloquently, just so...

... but for whom? This fellow has no idea of my history, nor--however interesting it may be--did he ask for it.

Who was talking? Who was listening?

I fell asleep and suddenly I woke up.

And quite simply, that's how it happens.

Zen practice--and koan practice in particular--cuts to the root of situations like these. Am I on autopilot, at the whim of everything that happens to me? Do I have no choice in how to respond? It's a matter of staying awake--and maybe graceful recoveries when you realize you've slipped.


Techguy said...

I find myself in similar circumstances only different. I keep trying to do things that...well, are either "ho hummed" by the people in charge, e.g. "Let's start bringing curriculum into 21st century, alternate energy, robotics, biometrics, biomedical, incorporate programming,'droid apps...." and if heard at all, not accepted. Then my current project, a high altitude balloon camp, balloon with sensors in the payload, cameras, gps...they never seem to understand all that is required. Like you, are we on a different wavelength, universe or what? Then there is the age thing. "At 65 you should think of retiring." But I am just getting to the cool stuff...let me teach that to the young ones...I am glad that this stuff still frustrates you. That you keep on trying...

Ordinary Joe said...

I love your response in at least two ways, Techguy:

First, I can relate completely. I'm working a systems engineering problem now that is very broad and with lots of players, all of whom are real talents, who see the overall system from their own perspectives, and many of whom view the others as nuisances in achieving their goals as they perceive them--however similar those goals may actually be. I don't know that they can currently see through each other's eyes, but it's my job to step into each of their separate universes and to reconcile things across the board---and to do it leaving my own ego and opinions behind. Watching how different parties respond to different questions and statements can be like black-box testing, reverse engineering everybody's current situation, seeing where they're coming from, and it's sometimes like diffusing bombs--delicate work.

The second reason, though, is more both on- and off-topic, though still related to the first point: It's seeing how my post hit you, so to speak, and seeing your response as the parts of what's on your mind that resonated with what you read. Does that make sense at all? It's like being a kid, striking a tuning fork and being surprised that a piano string is vibrating nearby--completely unintended and unexpected. Somehow my thought (post) was reflected and transformed in your response in an unexpected manner, revealing something about you from inside your own universe, so to speak.

Drawn into what we read or otherwise perceive, we inadvertently resonate, reveal--and hopefully see--something about ourselves in the response. In that way, the universe--everything around us--is a mirror of our own minds, a way to peak inside and see ourselves.

Or so the theory goes :-p

Cool stuff to see your own mind working, forming responses to stimuli. Then when you can see yourself responding to another's response, you can subtract those thoughts and see a little more clearly what the other person is actually revealing.

It's applied Aikido & Zen ;-)