News — Contributor Excerpt

RSS

Excerpt from "Broken Open" by Elizabeth Lesser - Bozos on the Buss

BookCover-BO-ELesserWe’re all bozos on the bus,
so we might as well sit back
and enjoy the ride.
—Wavy Gravy

One of our favorite chapters from Elizabeth Lesser's wonderful book Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow is "Bozos on the Bus", excerpted below.  We hope you're happy as we are to just be another bozo on the bus.

One of my heroes is the clown-activist Wavy Gravy. He is best known for a role that he played in 1969, when he was the master of ceremonies at the Woodstock festival. Since then, he’s been a social activist, a major “fun-d”-raiser for good causes, a Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream flavor, an unofficial hospital chaplain, and the founder of a camp for inner-city kids. Every four years he campaigns as a candidate for president of the United States, under the pseudonym Nobody, making speeches all over the country with slogans like “Nobody for President,” “Nobody’s Perfect,” and “Nobody Should Have That Much Power.” He’s a seriously funny person, and a person who is serious about helping others. “Like the best of clowns,” wrote a reporter in The Village Voice, “Wavy Gravy makes a big fool of himself as is necessary to make a wiser man of you. He is one of the better people on earth.”


Wavy (I’m on a first-name basis with him from clown workshops he’s offered at Omega) is a master of one-liners, like the famous one he delivered on the Woodstock stage: “What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 400,000”; and this one, on why he became a clown: “You don’t hear a bunch of bullies get together and say, ‘Hey, let’s go kill a few clowns.’”

But my all-time favorite Wavy-ism is the line that opens this chapter, about bozos on the bus, one he repeats whenever he speaks to groups, whether at clown workshops or in children’s hospitals. I have co-opted the phrase, and I use it to begin my workshops, because I believe that we are all bozos on the bus, contrary to the self-assured image we work so hard to present to each other on a daily basis. We are all half-baked experiments—mistake-prone beings, born without an instruction book into a complex world. None of us are models of perfect behavior: We have all betrayed and been betrayed; we’ve been known to be egotistical, unreliable, lethargic, and stingy; and each one of us has, at times, awakened in the middle of the night worrying about everything from money, kids, or terrorism to wrinkled skin and receding hairlines. In other words, we’re all bozos on the bus.

This, in my opinion, is cause for celebration. If we’re all bozos, then for God’s sake, we can put down the burden of pretense and get on with being bozos. We can approach the problems that visit bozo-type beings without the usual embarrassment and resistance. It is so much more effective to work on our rough edges with a light and forgiving heart. Imagine how freeing it would be to take a more compassionate and comedic view of the human condition — not as a way to deny our defects but as a way to welcome them as part of the standard human operating system. Every single person on this bus called Earth hurts; it’s when we have shame about our failings that hurt turns into suffering. In our shame, we feel outcast, as if there is another bus somewhere, rolling along on a smooth road. Its passengers are all thin, healthy, happy, well-dressed, and well-liked people who belong to harmonious families, hold jobs that don’t bore or aggravate them, and never do mean things, or goofy things like forget where they parked their car, lose their wallet, or say something totally inappropriate. We long to be on that bus with the other normal people.

But we are on the bus that says bozo on the front, and we worry that we may be the only passenger onboard. This is the illusion that so many of us labor under—that we’re all alone in our weirdness and our uncertainty; that we may be the most lost person on the highway. Of course we don’t always feel like this. Sometimes a wave of self-forgiveness washes over us, and suddenly we’re connected to our fellow humans; suddenly we belong.

It is wonderful to take your place on the bus with the other bozos. It may be the first step to enlightenment to understand with all of your brain cells that the other bus—that sleek bus with the cool people who know where they are going—is also filled with bozos: bozos in drag, bozos with secrets. When we see clearly that every single human being, regardless of fame or fortune or age or brains or beauty, shares the same ordinary foibles, a strange thing happens. We begin to cheer up, to loosen up, and we become as buoyant as those people we imagined on the other bus. As we rumble along the potholed road, lost as ever, through the valleys and over the hills, we find ourselves among friends. We sit back, and enjoy the ride.

Excerpted from Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser Copyright © 2004 by Elizabeth Lesser. Excerpted by permission of Villard, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow

Elizabeth Lesser on Facebook

The Omega Institute for Holistic Studies

Lesson 11 from Jon Kabat-Zinn's "Letting Everything Become Your Teacher"

Cover-JKZ-LettingEverythingBeYourTeacherIn this lesson from Jon Kabat-Zinn's Letting Everything Become Your Teacher, we're reminded that receptivity and acceptance is what allows healing, not force of will.

LESSON 11 - Paying Attention 

Awareness requires only that we pay attention and see things as they are. It doesn’t require that we change anything. And healing requires receptivity and acceptance, a tuning to connectedness and wholeness. None of this can be forced, just as you cannot force yourself to go to sleep. You have to create the right conditions for falling asleep and then you have to let go. The same is true for mindfulness. It cannot be developed through force of will and striving. That kind of effort will only produce tension and frustration.

Reprinted from LETTING EVERYTHING BECOME YOUR TEACHER: 100 Lessons in Mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn © 2009 by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  Reprinted by arrangement with the Random House Publishing Group.

Jon Kabat-Zinn Titles on BetterListen!

Jon Kabat-Zinn Bio and Links

Letting Everything Become Your Teacher

 

How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow by Elizabeth Lesser

ELesserHeadShotLearn the alchemy
true human beings know.
The moment you accept
what troubles you've been given,
the door will open.
  —Rumi

 
Elizabeth Lesser, the author of the national best-seller Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow and the cofounder of the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies have shared with us an article based on her book.  We are so delighted to be able to share it with you.

How do we use the forces of a difficult time to help us grow? There are many ways, but the first way, the gateway, is to know that we are not alone in these endeavors. One of the greatest enigmas of human behavior is the way we isolate ourselves from each other. In our misguided perception of separation we assume that others are not sharing a similar experience of life. We imagine that we are unique in our eccentricities or failures or longings. And so we try to appear as happy and consistent as we think others are, and we feel shame when we stumble and fall. When difficulties come our way, we don’t readily seek out help and compassion because we think others might not understand, or they would judge us harshly, or take advantage of our weakness. And so we hide out, and we miss out.  



We read novels and go to movies and follow the lives of celebrities in order to imbibe a kind of full-out living we believe is out of our reach, or too risky, or just an illusion. We become voyeurs of the kind of experiences that our own souls are longing to have. Here’s the oddest thing about living life as a spectator sport: While the tales in books and movies and People magazine may be created with smoke and mirrors, our own lives don’t have to be. We have the real opportunity to live fully, with passion and meaning and profound satisfaction. Within us—burning brighter than any movie star—is our own star, our North Star, our soul. It is our birthright to uncover the soul—to remove the layers of fear or shame or apathy or cynicism that conceal it. A good place to start, and a place we come back to over and over again, is what Rumi calls the Open Secret.  

The Persian poet Jelalluddin Rumi wrote poems so alive and clear that even today—eight centuries later—they shimmer with freshness. Their wisdom and humor are timeless; whenever I have an a-ha moment with one of Rumi’s poems, I feel connected to the people throughout the ages who have climbed out of their confusion on the rungs of Rumi’s words.

 In several of his poems and commentaries, Rumi speaks of the Open Secret. He says that each one of us is trying to hide a secret—not a big, bad secret, but a more subtle and pervasive one. It’s the kind of secret that people in the streets of Istanbul kept from each other in the 13th century, when Rumi was writing his poetry. And it’s the same kind of secret that you and I keep from each other every day. You meet an old acquaintance, and she asks, “How are you?” You say, “Fine!” She asks, “How are the kids?”  You say, “Oh, they’re great.” “The job?” “Just fine. I’ve been there five years now.” Then, you ask that person, “How are you?” She says, “Fine!” You ask, “Your new house?” “I love it.” “The new town?” “We’re all settling in.”

It’s a perfectly innocent exchange of ordinary banter; each one of us has a similar kind every day. But it is probably not an accurate representation of our actual lives. We don’t want to say that one of the kids is failing in school, or that our work often feels meaningless, or that the move to the new town may have been a colossal mistake. It’s almost as if we are embarrassed by our most human traits. We tell ourselves that we don’t have time to go into the gory details with everyone we meet; we don’t know each other well enough; we don’t want to appear sad, or confused, or weak, or self-absorbed. Better to keep under wraps our neurotic and nutty sides (not to mention our darker urges and shameful desires.) Why wallow publicly in the underbelly of our day-to-day stuff?  Why wave the dirty laundry about, when all she asked was, “How are you?”

Rumi says that when we hide the secret underbelly from each other, then both people go away wondering, “How come she has it all together? How come her marriage/job/town/family works so well? What’s wrong with me?” We feel vaguely diminished from this ordinary interaction, and from hundreds of similar interactions we have from month to month and year to year. When we don’t share the secret ache in our hearts—the normal bewilderment of being human—it turns into something else. Our pain, and fear, and longing, in the absence of company, become alienation, and envy, and competition.

The irony of hiding the dark side of our humanness is that our secret is not really a secret at all. How can it be when we’re all safeguarding the very same story? That’s why Rumi calls it an Open Secret. It’s almost a joke—a laughable admission that each one of us has a shadow self—a bumbling, bad-tempered twin. Big surprise! Just like you, I can be a jerk sometimes. I do unkind, cowardly things, harbor unmerciful thoughts, and mope around when I should be doing something constructive. Just like you, I wonder if life has meaning; I worry and fret over things I can’t control; and I often feel overcome with a longing for something that I cannot even name. For all of my strengths and gifts, I am also a vulnerable and insecure person, in need of connection and reassurance. This is the secret I try to keep from you, and you from me, and in doing so, we do each other a grave disservice.  

Rumi tells us that moment we accept what troubles we’ve been given, “the door will open.” Sounds easy, sounds attractive, but it is difficult, and most of us pound on the door to freedom and happiness with every manipulative ploy save the one that actually works. If you’re interested in the door to the heavens opening, start with the door to your own secret self. See what happens when you offer to another a glimpse of who you really are. Start slowly. Without getting dramatic, share the simple dignity of yourself in each moment—your triumphs and your failures, your satisfaction and your sorrow. Face your embarrassment at being human, and you’ll uncover a deep well of passion and compassion. It’s a great power, your Open Secret. When your heart is undefended you make it safe for whomever you meet to put down his burden of hiding, and then you both can walk through the open door.

Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow

Elizabeth Lesser on Facebook

The Omega Institute for Holistic Studies



Lesson 10 from Jon Kabat-Zinn's "Letting Everything Become Your Teacher"

Cover-JKZ-LettingEverythingBeYourTeacherIn this brief yet profound lesson from Jon Kabat-Zinn's Letting Everything Become Your Teacher, we come to a better understanding of the difference between healing and curing.

LESSON 10 - Healing & Curing

Healing does not mean curing, although the two words are often used interchangeably. While it may not be possible for us to cure ourselves or to find someone who can, it is always possible for us to heal ourselves. Healing implies the possibility for us to relate differently to illness, disability, even death, as we learn to see with eyes of wholeness. Healing is coming to terms with things as they are.

Reprinted from LETTING EVERYTHING BECOME YOUR TEACHER: 100 Lessons in Mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn © 2009 by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  Reprinted by arrangement with the Random House Publishing Group.

Jon Kabat-Zinn Titles on BetterListen!

Jon Kabat-Zinn Bio and Links

Letting Everything Become Your Teacher