The following is a chapter from my book ‘Parables For The New Conversation.’ One chapter will be published every Sunday for 36 weeks here on Collective Evolution. (I would recommend you start with Chapter 1 if you haven’t already read it.) I hope my words are a source of enjoyment and inspiration for you, the reader. If perchance you would like to purchase a signed paperback copy of the book, you can do so on my production company website Pandora’s Box Office.
From the back cover: “Imagine a conversation that centers around possibility—the possibility that we can be more accepting of our own judgments, that we can find unity through our diversity, that we can shed the light of our love on the things we fear most. Imagine a conversation where our greatest polarities are coming together, a meeting place of East and West, of spirituality and materialism, of religion and science, where the stage is being set for a collective leap in consciousness more magnificent than any we have known in our history.
Now imagine that this conversation honors your uniqueness and frees you to speak from your heart, helping you to navigate your way more deliberately along your distinct path. Imagine that this conversation puts you squarely into the seat of creator—of your fortunes, your relationships, your life—thereby putting the fulfillment of your deepest personal desires well within your grasp.
‘Parables for the New Conversation’ is a spellbinding odyssey through metaphor and prose, personal sagas and historic events, where together author and reader explore the proposal that at its most profound level, life is about learning to consciously manifest the experiences we desire–and thus having fun. The conversation touches on many diverse themes but always circles back to who we are and how our purposes are intertwined, for it is only when we see that our personal desires are perfectly aligned with the destiny of humanity as a whole that we will give ourselves full permission to enjoy the most exquisite experiences life has to offer.”
11. The Glassblower
One day the restaurant chef was taking her afternoon walk down the main street of the village on the island of Allandon when the glassblower popped out of his glassware shop and waved her over with excitement.
“Come in here for a minute,” he said. “I have something I know you will want.”
The chef followed as the glassblower took her into the back room, where he unveiled a set of wine glasses inlayed in a velvet box.
“These are perhaps the finest wine glasses our shop has ever produced,” he said.
“They look wonderful,” replied the chef. “But the real test would be with some wine.”
“An excellent idea,” said the glassblower. He went down into the cellar and soon emerged with a fine bottle of red wine. He uncorked the bottle, carefully took two wine glasses out of the box, and poured each glass half-full.
As soon as the chef picked up the glass and gently circled the wine around she proclaimed, “Yes, they are exquisite. You are to be congratulated.”
“I didn’t do it. I have gotten too old to blow glass,” he said. “You can congratulate my youngest son. It is his care and love of the craft that produces a work of art such as this.”
“Really? And what about your other sons?”
“Bah! I spent years with my first son, taking him into the shop every day when he was young and training him on all the minute details of glass blowing. But when I tried to get him to take over on his own, it was a disaster. He had no self-confidence. He would get nervous and either blow too hard or too softly, creating monstrous shapes.”
“That is a pity.”
“Yes, so I decided that with my second son I would not make the same mistake. I forbid him to come into the workshop when he was young. But when he came of age and I tried to train him, he was very obstinate and tried to do things his own way. He surely would have put us out of business.”
“So what is it that you did with your youngest son?”
“Nothing!” he said laughing. “I’d given up by then!”
“Given up? Do you mean you sent him away as well?”
The glassblower thought for a moment. “Not really. I suppose whenever he wanted to come in the shop, I let him in, and if he stayed away, I paid no mind.”
“But you never tried to train him?”
“Well—not exactly. If he wanted some instruction, I gave it to him, and if he just wanted to watch me work, that was all right as well.”
“I see,” the chef said. “And he makes all the glasses now?”
The chef raised her glass. “Well then, I would like to propose a toast, and give credit where credit is due. Raise your glass with me.”
“Here, here! To my youngest son,” the glassblower said.
“Oh, no,” said the chef smiling. “Not just to your youngest son, but to all three!”
In an earlier time in our history, most learning was fundamentally the acquiring of knowledge from those who had come before. Elders who knew something like a family trade or a secret recipe would pass the information down to younger members who did not know. These interactions were one-directional: the wise teacher would go into a closed ‘teaching’ mode to impart knowledge to the ignorant student who assumed a more open ‘learning’ mode.
While there may always be teachers and students, this model of learning alone is no longer enough for the lessons that are presenting themselves to us today. It is not the kind of model that is going to take us forward, to help us evolve, to move us to new heights of consciousness. No matter the nature of the relationship, the new conversation requires that all participants enter into the learning mode, and remain wholeheartedly open to what comes of the experience.
To be in the learning mode is to be open, curious, and ready to suspend all that we think we know in order to tune into the clues that can lead to a new awareness. Whenever we are teaching something, it is fully beneficial to be in the learning mode ourselves because then we model the very behavior that would help the student to be most receptive to learning. When we ourselves are actively open and ready to embrace whatever comes, to accept what is and to learn something from it, this cannot help but serve as an invitation to the student to let down their defenses, open up and participate in the learning process.
However at the same time, we need to be careful not to get attached to whether the teaching actually gets learned. If we have this attachment, we end up taking the role of teacher too seriously, and we lose an authentic connection with our student. When we are not one with a student, we will get so caught up in implementing our lesson plan that we will be oblivious to the lesson that is there for us.
My first serious romance actually showed me a lot about this, because it mimicked this teacher-student dynamic. In our seven years together I was the teacher, the authority, and in my mind, my younger girlfriend and I would stay on the right track if she just followed my lead. I didn’t feel that she had anything to teach me, and this was only reinforced in our first few years together as she treated me like a savior. But then, as she gained confidence in herself and tried to have a say in our relationship, she started to resent my closed mind. She made efforts to assert herself but I was unwilling to let go of control. I gave little regard to what she had to say, for after all I was the expert on relationships and she was just the stubborn student. If she said she was unhappy, I labeled her a complainer. If she seemed unmotivated, I told her she wasn’t being committed. And so, unwilling to consider my own role in why things weren’t working, our relationship continued to slide. Finally, I tried to revive our emotional attachment to each other in a most desperate way: I proposed to her. I somehow convinced myself that a new commitment would put me back in control and would empower me to lead us out of our problems.
Fortunately it didn’t work out. In fact, asking her to marry me only pushed things to the point of no return. Not only did she refuse to give me an answer, she in fact confessed to me that her eyes had already started to turn elsewhere. When I heard that, I was confronted with the most frightening of truths: I could no longer dictate what happened in the relationship. I had completely lost control. And losing control was the beginning of finding myself, and learning the lessons that this relationship and this person were there to teach me.
Only when I began to accept the fact that the relationship had ended, and there was nothing I could do, did I feel a calm coming over me. From this place it became possible to enter into the learning mode, which, I think, saved me from a prolonged stretch of bitterness. I could see the happiness she had with her new boyfriend, who she eventually married, and could admit to myself that she and I had never experienced that kind of happiness together. My blame turned to gratitude, my fear into relief. Now that we were apart, I was actually more open to what she had to say, and she in turn became more willing to speak freely with me. I was able to examine who I had been in the relationship: controlling, condescending, and painfully serious. I saw that I had endured a relationship that was less than fulfilling—and I was even pushing to continue it—because of my fear of being alone.
It is ironic that it is those situations where we resist looking at ourselves and are convinced we know better that can provide us with the greatest learning. It is precisely our avoidance of the truth of who we are being that we need to shed light on and uncover. Only then can we really step closer to fulfillment, to wholeness, to becoming who we really are. Only after I was forced to surrender and drop my self-image of the wise teacher was real learning able to come to me. In the aftermath of our breakup I started to really listen to her and take her opinion to heart. And once out of the power struggle that was our relationship we developed a deeper friendship, one where we both became more open to what we could learn from each other.
Since this time I am happy to have changed my ways. I am aware of what my life would be like if I had remained the way I was. I have let go of much of my need to control, and have experienced far greater enjoyment in my relationships as a result. And so I hold my first major break-up as one of the greatest gifts I have ever received in my life, despite how difficult it was at the time. Being challenged with some difficulty is more the rule of profound learning than the exception. Richard Bach said there is always a gift waiting for us behind all problems. We can all reap great benefits from our difficult and painful events, every single one. The learning is always sitting there, waiting for us to pluck it, but it requires us to relinquish control. When we let go and remain ready to learn and evolve, then we are in flow with life itself.
So entering the learning mode is not easy. It is a call to courage because the unknown can be scary. For most of us, growing up has meant becoming suspicious and fearful of the unknown. But the learning that we deeply long for, which moves us into the realm of the Dao Self, is founded on the bridge we build across the unknown. When we always cling to ‘going with what we know,’ we are actually cutting ourselves off from the vast expanse of experiences that life offers. Life in the known eventually becomes stale and ordinary. But what’s worse, we become more and more convinced that this is the only life that is available to us. Our Ego Self will allow us to learn some things, but within safe boundaries, with fairly predictable results. If we follow this we usually only learn things that confirm our limited beliefs. When we try to learn on our terms rather than on life’s terms, we have not relinquished control. Our Ego Self tries to convince us that we need to be saved from the unknown. It promotes a world that is familiar, that we are competent in, that we have control over. It is easy to be tempted by this, but in truth this is a great disservice to our lives because it keeps us living in fear.
Instead of getting saved from the unknown, I believe what we truly need is to be saved from the known, from the prison that we have trapped ourselves in, our own limited way of looking at ourselves. And let us make no mistake, we all have a limited way of looking at ourselves. It is a condition of being human. When we begin to loosen up and free ourselves from the known, from certainty, that is when life begins to get magical, and when learning really dazzles us. It’s not possible to reach mastery until we first acknowledge mystery. To have the courage to say “I don’t know” opens up the vastness of what there is still to learn. And the more we learn in this way, the bigger becomes the body of what we don’t know, until we see the whole universe as a treasure chest of mysteries to endlessly excite our curiosity.
Whenever we escape from the known, some sensation of fear is inevitable while we get our bearings within the unfamiliar. For what is growth except expanding oneself into unfamiliar territory? And while I believe we can get a bit more comfortable with our fear, we never really get used to unfamiliarity. If we were used to it, it would have ceased to be unfamiliar.
Living life as a daring adventure is to actually seek out unfamiliarity, understanding that any suffering we experience is of our own making. As we let go of the habit of blaming external events or people for our suffering, peace comes more quickly, and we go straight to explore what we have to learn. Surrender is no longer simply giving up and quitting, but rather migrating to an expanded version of ourselves.
And if we are not prepared to seek out unfamiliarity, life itself will give us a nudge now and then. If our resistance is strong, the current of life will twist and turn us, and eventually we will be thrown overboard. For this we should be thankful, because if life always played out the way we thought it should, we probably wouldn’t learn very much. It’s only when we are made to come to grips with a world that does not conform to our restricted vision that real learning and growth are made possible.
Of course we have a choice. We can always refuse the gift of learning. We can choose to stay in the jail cell of our attachments and blame, gripped by our own need to control, and serve a bit more time. But when we don’t take the gift, when we resist the lesson, it will keep showing up in our lives until we stop resisting what it is trying to tell us. It is fascinating to look back on our lives and see how some patterns repeat themselves over and over and over again. When the lesson is not learned, and we blame circumstances or other people for our suffering, it is inevitably going to recur. When we have had enough and finally decide to get it, we can move on to the next lesson.
This is the flow of life. The current of the river brings us forward into new adventures, and we navigate on our raft with the oar of resistance. All learning is letting go of resistance, of fear, and becoming more skillful at going with the flow. One would think that this would soon become easy for us. But it does not. Rapids and whitewater appear as our Ego Self constantly confounds our attempts to let go of control, employing new tricks to address each new situation. We are vulnerable at any point in our evolution to falling back or getting stuck. This is because our Ego Self is skilled at fooling us into thinking that it represents our true self, even though we learn time and again that it does not.
And so in a way life comes down to learning, and learning comes back to discovering who we are. It’s a perpetual fearing and overcoming, doing and reflecting, closing and opening. The new conversation follows this flow of action and reflection. We are encouraged to reflect on the actions we have taken in the world, and are inspired to act on these reflections. In the space of trust we are able to provide each other with an honest perspective on who we are being, one that is often exceptionally difficult to see on our own. This is what really helps us to move more quickly along the path towards an ever-expanding vision of our self.
We reach the end of this path when we find ourselves completely open to everyone and everything around us, when everything that is has become fully acceptable and we can find no resistance within ourselves, even if we actively seek it out. How will you know for sure when you have reached the end of your path, and you can finally retire from the trials and tribulations of learning and rest on your laurels? No need for concern. If your heart is still beating, then you can be sure that there’s still another transformative lesson out there waiting for you.