Last month I had a late breakfast with a dear friend. She was visiting from out of town, on Christmas break from her grueling postgraduate program. I was excited as always to hear her stories and because I always learn so much and get so inspired. I look forward to telling her my stories because she listens so well and reflects back so clearly. We’ve been sharing stories for over a decade now and the patterns and mysterious twists and turns of our respective mythic lives never fail to enchant me.
Breakfast: I was torn between the breakfast burrito and the Huevos Rancheros. I decided the burrito sounded a little better, even though I was kind of in the mood for bacon.
My friend said she’d had bison and broccoli for breakfast and was going to be bad and order a big pancake.
In the middle of a spell-binding story about awe and wonder amidst the agony of life, our food came. The server put my burrito and a side of bacon down on the table, and then the big pancake for my friend. I didn’t remember bacon, but I’m often not remembering things, so I was grateful that I got my bacon wish after all!
The story took up where it had left off and we commenced eating. The bacon tasted great.
And then my friend reached over and broke off a giant piece and ate it. How nice, I thought, that she feels we’re such good friends that she is comfortable having a big piece of my bacon. Then she ate the whole strip (of two total) and I felt my ego getting indignant and confused. I decided to let it slide. Who cares? It’s just bacon.
An hour later we looked at the check. I didn’t want it split it in half because my order was quite a bit more expensive. We itemized. She clicked off the pancake and the side of bacon.
“You ordered a side of bacon?!” I spluttered, mortified.
Indeed she had.
In an instant my reality completely disintegrated. It was I who was eating her bacon.
The next day, I was making flight reservations on one of those travel aggregator websites. As I’d noticed happening before when I’d booked flights through a similar website, the flight prices had gone up in the week-and-a-half since I initially looked online for pricing. After some snooping about, I did find manage to find quite a good flight with an airline and routing that worked. I even got SkyMiles. It was a couple hundred bucks more than the flights I’d seen a week-and-a-half ago, but I felt the pressure. It seemed highly likely that if I waited to book it, the prices would go up again. After saying a few prayers, I did the deed.
Now, for some time I’d had a sneaking suspicion that these aggregators mysteriously know that I’ve been on the site before — and the second time I visit, the prices jump. I figured I was being paranoid. But I talked to a couple of savvy friends and they said yeah they do that. You use a different computer if you want to shop around and book later. (Or, clear the browser history, I found out.)
So out of curiosity, the next day I got on a different computer and put in the same dates and destination of the flight I’d just booked and I’ll be damned if I didn’t find the same flight . . . for two hundred bucks less.
Damn— am I the only one on the planet who didn’t know that this is how it works?!
I was pissed of course, and mortified, feeling like a fool.
Later I thought about the strangeness of it. I’m on this website, looking for flights, believing I’m seeing reality. But I’m not seeing reality at all.
I know that my reality is a construct made up of a small slice of what’s actually there; a mixed cocktail of past experience and present concerns. But the internet and a side of bacon brought it all home to me with a thwack.
No matter how strongly I feel, I can’t know for sure that my reality is actually anywhere near real.
That is scary and disorienting.
It’s also liberating, if approached in a certain way.
Here’s the magic.
If I can practice some distance, not being too attached to my perspective of what’s going on, and when I’m caught facing being dead wrong, just sit quietly until the moment of shock, anger and embarrassment subsides . . . something opens up. If I can gently see where I am mistaken, my perspective gets wider. I see myself more clearly. I can see the whole dynamic. A bigger picture comes into focus. And then somehow I deeply relax. It’s like the fabric of the Matrix — of my personal Matrix — gets a little hole in it and behind my Reality with a capital ‘R’ is, well, just space. Open space. Like Rumi’s open field, out beyond right and wrong.
So the next time you notice yourself fighting ferociously for your point of view, give this a try. Motivated by the possibility of exploring some new territory (and perhaps finding inner peace) in the moment of heat, summon all your will and stop defending your perspective. Just stop, and imagine yourself standing out in a beautiful open field with the wind gently kissing your face. Stand there and let all your emotions be. Watch them and see what happens when you don’t do anything. Eventually they will subside or change. Then say to yourself “what am I not seeing about this situation?” You are looking for data you’ve not seen or considered before. Let your creativity be your guide and from that open field in your imagination, check out new possible realities . , , and watch what happens. And send me your story. I’d love to hear.
I’ll choose the freedom of open fields any day over being tightly secure in my reality. So please pass the bacon!