Flying Yaks and Other Versions of Reality

2007. Yes-terday, I was at my glorious work place (yes I love my work), CommuniChi, fixing a chair and as I stood up, suddenly my trick knee went out. “That’s the way the meniscus cookie crumbles”, I later remarked to a friend in a moment of lightness. Still, the habit of self pity is deep and my wife had to remind me – “Maybe it’s a good thing.” Perhaps you’ve heard the Tibetan story about the nomad boy who finds a wild horse. “Oh how lucky” everyone says, except for the wise elder. “We’ll see” he says, calmly reciting the mantra of compassion…om mani padme hung.

 The next day, the boy attempts to tame the wild horse and is bucked off, breaking his leg. “Oh, how terrible”, everyone says, except for the wise elder. “We’ll see”, he says, still chanting mantra…om mani padme hung. The next day, the Chinese army sweeps through town and forcibly conscripts every able bodied youth into armed service – except for the boy with the broken leg. “Oh, how lucky”, everyone says….except for the wise elder…om mani padme hung…..and so the never ending story of our lives goes, ever testing us to remove delusional self-centered perspectives of gain and loss from the larger story of the unfolding universe.

Night dream: Back in my childhood home in Maine, gathered peacefully with my wife and child (but wait a minute, they’ve never been to Maine a part of mind interjects…okay, just watch the show), when suddenly a vast cloud of crows flies overhead, and in their midst, a Tibetan yak, who lands rather gracefully like a swan on the water, just as some Pacific Ocean sized waves break on our quiet Maine cove. Voices in the alley from early morning bar traffic on Capitol Hill in Seattle wakes me to another dream.

Which reality is more real? Which delusion deeper? Last night, I was reading The Wizard of Oz to my four year old daughter, trying to explain to her that maybe the Wicked Witch of the East who got smooshed under Dorothy’s house when it crashed out of the sky wasn’t really wicked. I stammered trying to condense  and distill the story of the Inquisition and witch trials which demonized millions of innocent women over three plus centuries into a meaningful chunk of information for a four year old. “Whether something or someone is good or bad depends upon who is telling the story”, I tell her.

Hmmm. The current telling of the collective American story echoing in my brain goes something like this: “It’s late summer, school is about to begin, people are playing golf, kayaking, sailing, the government is discussing a sad old man’s airport bathroom escapades, and every once in a while, the discussion turns to carbon emissions, melting ice caps, dying soldiers, children, and planetary decline. And then, just as suddenly as a flying yak appearing in the sky, the conversation switches to baseball playoffs or whether Obama is black enough.  That’s a story? Sounds more like psychosis.

In the late 1960s, a pair of psychologists conducted a study in which three paid actors were put in a room with a subject. The room was then slowly filled with black smoke. The three actors maintained a light chatter about contemporary trivia, as if nothing were happening. The subject, “Linda”, repeatedly tried to make anxious eye contact with the other three, but as long as they seemed unconcerned, she said nothing. Only when she could barely breathe did she shout, “there’s a fire”. Several times they ran the study and the results were always the same: If everyone acts like everything’s okay, nobody stands up and yells “fire”.

 Hey everyone – the room is on fire! Okay, now I’ve said it, but before we either have a collective freak out, or you all start gathering brush so that you can send me off to join the Wicked Witch of the East while you have a marshmallow roast, let’s consider our options. What’s a logical response here? We need to tell a new story. The old story based on unlimited planetary resources and the positive trickledown effect of unbridled greed (i.e. capitalism) is not leading us back to Kansas Dorothy!

If seven billion humans (or will we see twelve in a few decades?) are going to live together peacefully, the new story needs to be based on people, communities, and healthy ecosystems, not multi international, soul-less corporate profit machines. David Korten sums this new story up well in his essay in  “The Earth Community Prosperity Story.  1. Healthy children, families, communities, and ecological systems are the true measure of real wealth. 2. Mutual caring and support are the primary currency of healthy families and communities, and community is the key to economic security.

Korten goes on to list other beautiful expressions of this new story (which I think is actually the Old Story) . But these first two points resonate with my heart. Community Acupuncture is part of this “Earth Prosperity Story”. Time to tap your glass slippers together and we can all go home to our cozy bed time stories? Well, not quite. We’ve got our work cut out for ourselves, and to be sure, there will be more twisters and probably a few flying cows and plenty of adversity. And if we tell this new story to ourselves, our patients, and our communities, pretty soon we’ll be living the story.

And if not this story, then which story? At least be aware of the story you are living. Is it your story? Or just a pack of lies that have been drifting around like hungry ghosts since time immemorial, preying on your ignorance? Time to wake up folks and smell the toast. Is that your story going up in flames? Here’s my story:

CommuniChi’s mission is:

To provide high quality acupuncture therapy.

To promote health care reform through affordable fees.

To build community by creating a treatment space that connects people to the powerful life energy (Chi, pronounced Chee) uniquely available in a group healing environment.

Thanks for listening. Let’s hear your story now.

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