Focus of the Month: December, 2016
My friend Sting, the world-renowned rock star who gives hundreds of concerts a year, once said to me, “I put on a better show when someone I know and love is in the audience. It’s only natural, isn’t it?” I think he’s right—it is natural. It is difficult to communicate to an empty room or to a room full of frowning or indifferent faces. Usually those who live reclusive lives don’t have much chance for personal growth. Others who insist that they don’t need anyone and would do what they do regardless—OK, what to say? Perhaps some people can do fine relating to nothing or to the impersonal, but for most of us, the development of our talents, intelligence, emotions, and spiritual awareness depends on our having others to relate to. A performer who steps onstage and faces a sea of indistinguishable faces, or a teacher who teaches a room of strangers, will do their best to find someone to address. That someone might be a person they are imagining is in the room—someone in their mind or in their heart. But it is more difficult to sustain yourself for a long time when you are speaking to an imaginary listener. It is always better to have a real flesh-and-blood person in front of you. One of my dearest friends, Shyamdas, who was a kirtan singer and spiritual teacher, often said to me, “When you sit in the front row I can sing and teach better because I see your face and it gives me instant feedback as to how I’m doing, and since I know you love me and are not finding fault with me, I am encouraged to go deeper.”
Accomplished performers will tell you that they could not have gotten to where they are without the support of at least one person in their life who they knew without a doubt loved them unconditionally. Great teachers will tell you similar accounts of how they were compelled to teach because of the unconditional love of one devotee who was always sitting nearby eager to hear what the teacher had to say.
Good performers and distinguished teachers are endowed with gifts of communication. They are able to engage an audience because they are masters of communication. Someone who is good at communication not only knows how to speak, but also how to listen, how to pick up on someone’s reactions to what they are saying and adjust their own delivery accordingly. A master communicator is a channel that funnels nourishment from a cosmic source. In other words, the best communicators are not the ones tooting their own horns and demanding that others listen to them because what they have to say is more important than anything else: actually, they aren’t even interested in expressing themselves. Good communicators are servants who serve the yearning for happiness in the souls of others. They always ask themselves before they speak, “How will my words make people feel about themselves?” They then choose their words with care in order to bring about the most elevated experience.
Our time is precious and we should not spend it in unhappy situations. This is a simple idea but often difficult to know how to put into practice. When you attend a performance or a lecture, if you want to get the most out of your experience, then as an audience member your job should be to remain in rapt attention, hanging on every word or every note. Don’t be a smug or passive observer, sitting in the audience waiting to be entertained. Instead, become like a puppeteer pulling strings. If you want to have the most meaningful experience, you should actively participate in making it so. Project love and support directly to the person before you. See them as a holy, intelligent, and profound being. Know that you have that much power, because you have the power of love in your heart. It is the Divine power of love, and it is our true nature, the nature of our atman, our soul.
All is God, there is nothing but God, and everything comes from God. Any bliss that we experience in this material world is a reflection of Divine bliss. Love is the magical elixir that has the power to draw the sweetest essence from our hearts. God is Love. God is the only real doer. God’s nature is bliss-filled. He is attracted to and by love. God loves the one who loves God. He enjoys being with his bhaktas (those who love and are devoted to God) because his bhaktas recognize his bliss. Their attraction to him can cause his bliss to expand and be drawn forth out of his cosmic body to merge with the bliss of the devotees’ hearts, resulting in a full-on bliss-filled experience. May all of our experiences and encounters with others be magically transformed into bliss-filled experiences through the power of love being drawn from us outward into the world. Magic, after all, is a shift in perception, and it is waiting within all of us to happen.