The Heart of the Matter
September 26, 2012
Perception, Reality, and Resolution


Part #1 of this blog post is a brief story I wrote two weeks ago at a retreat center in Australia, based on my observations, in an amphitheater, on the day my teacher, Prem Rawat, had a Reception Line for his students.

Part #2 is the response I received, a few days later, from one of the players in Part #1.

Part #3 is a summary of what I learned from the experience.

PART #1: The Perception

I am sitting in the amphitheater watching hundreds of people returning from the Reception Line, Maharaji's favorite music playing in the background.

On the large screen is an endless stream of photos of happy people, smiling, laughing, or just being totally focused. The line keeps moving, each person a universe folded into itself.

Everyone is radiant, self-contained, walking more slowly than usual.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see a woman, on the line, dancing. She, too, has just returned from seeing Maharaji. The only thing different is SHE IS DANCING -- the most beautiful dance I think I've ever seen -- a dance of uncontainable joy.

The security guy takes note and, mindful of his duty, starts to approach her from behind as she dances by.

She cannot see him, bouncing and bounding from one step to the other, arms to the sky in perfect sync with her invisible dance partner.

Those of us in the audience are watching this little scene unfold, silently rooting for the dutiful security guy to keep his distance and let her keep dancing up the aisle.

He seems concerned, like there is something he is supposed to DO, but the closer he gets to her, the more it seems like there is some kind of invisible force field around her, protecting the dancing from any kind of disturbance.

Her dancing trumps his security and, as the song she is dancing to ends, she keeps dancing up the aisle, eyes on fire -- the rest of us madly clapping -- for her, for the dance, and the extraordinary perfection of this little moment in time.


PART #2: The Reality

A few days after I posted the above story on Facebook, I received the following comment from Michael Nelthorpe -- the "Security Guy."

"Nice story Mitch. I was the guy. Not quite the way you saw it.

I slipped in behind her so no one stopped her dancing or interrupted her 'space'.

Times change, Mitch. We treat EVERYONE as his guest no matter what."

PART #3: The Resolution

What did I learn from this little episode? A lot.

To begin with, what I think is happening and what is actually happening are sometimes two very different things.

It was easy for me to conclude that the "security guy" was doing the traditional "security thing", when, in fact, what was really happening was quite the opposite. He was not attempting to interfere with the beautiful dance going on. He was trying to protect it!

He was protecting. I was projecting.

Why did I assume what I assumed? Because I had an outdated concept of "Event Security". So outdated, in fact, that I did not even know that "Security" wasn't called "Security" anymore -- but "Safety".

You might quibble that this is semantics, but from what I can tell, it's far more than that, as evidenced by Michael Nelthorpe's crystal clear feedback to me -- given, by the way, with elegance, feeling, and the spirit of "we're all in this together" -- which, I now understand is what his commitment was to the dancing lady.

As a writer (or human being... or man... or Virgo... or baby boomer.. or whatever), it's easy to default to habitual ways of looking at things, based on my past experiences and assumptions.

The fact of the matter, is, however, that every moment is a new one. If we really want to appreciate what's going on, we have to let go of old ways of seeing.

It's a bit like the classic story of the five blind men trying to figure out what an elephant looked like. Each of them were touching a different part of the elephant and they each concluded something different, based on what part they were touching.

The guy who was touching the tail got a very different impression of the elephant than the guy who was touching the trunk... or the leg.

This seems to be our challenge. Each of us are looking through our own lens, trying to make sense of things. Then, based on our limited perceptions, we proceed to proclaim to the world what we see -- as if what we see was the only reality.

"When a pickpocket meets a saint, all he sees are pockets," goes the old adage.

I saw the "dancing lady" and the "security guy" and made my own poetic leap to a false conclusion, then proceeded to write about it and get a whole bunch of confirmations -- 68 Facebook LIKES.

Yes, I know the essence of what I was writing about was real and that, indeed, similar scenarios play out, in many ways, every day of our lives.

But the FACT is: my conclusion at the Amaroo amphitheater was faulty.


This was a great lesson for me.

It gave me (and gives me) pause. I am more conscious now of not jumping to conclusions... of allowing more space and time before I proclaim anything to be true.

I am also newly committed to entertaining diverse inputs (second opinions and reality checks) before I go dancing off to the races.

What conclusion have you come up with lately that might be bogus? What assumption have you made -- about someone or something -- that might be completely unreal?

Long videos of Prem Rawat

Short videos of Prem Rawat
More about his message


Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at September 26, 2012 12:35 AM


Bravo Mitch. Writing this took humility, open-ness, real honesty and considerable bravery. It also gives the rest of us some very useful information on how things have changed.

On that score, I want to ask Michael Nelthorpe a couple of questions:

1) Why weren't you manning the entrance to Campground A for the events there?

2) Please communicate your understanding and wisdom more widely to EVERYONE doing "safety/security"..

A few of us had truly horrid experiences with one guy, going into the grounds there. I was man-handled, literally, and the musicians had had trouble the day before. Not good.

Posted by: pcatpurrs [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 26, 2012 09:28 AM

Keep dancing in the dance professor.

Posted by: hoffmaninoff [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 26, 2012 10:38 AM


I never read these things - but - the moment was a propos.

My simple response is "Kudos!"

Judging is so tiresome - abusive really
and 'growth is like that girl dancing down the aisle.'
One thing I know personally - we do not know each other well enough to do so!

We all need work - we are works in progress, hopefully!
Continue......, Alie

Posted by: Alice T. [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 26, 2012 02:40 PM

What a life, what a life, always something refreshing amidst the turmoil especially the humbled heart. Thanks Mitch there is never a dull moment on this blog.

Posted by: Chris [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 26, 2012 08:29 PM

Mitch, your term "projections" reminds me of a term my wife uses in her executive coaching biz, it is called "running up our ladder of inference". I applaud your humility.

Posted by: ron ames [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 26, 2012 10:59 PM


The Campground A Queue formed at the entrance to the Campground Event area.Frankly the number of people gathered was way to high and the small team facilitating the entrance area were overwhelmed on both Day 1 and Day 2 in this area.But to be fair many people were not co-operative or at all sensitive and literally stampeded into the Event area.The entrance to the Event is managed by the EEG team and the Ushers.The Event Safety Teams role is to ensure that no-one enters prior to the event.I'm not sure who would have manhandled you or why.

Posted by: Michael Nelthorpe [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 27, 2012 10:14 AM

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