Storytelling at Work
December 11, 2020

2 Universe.jpg
I don't know how many "theories of the universe" exist, but I am guessing there are probably a lot -- ways in which philosophers, astrophysicists, savants, and pundits have attempted, since the beginning of time, to wrap their heads around the unwrappable -- one of the fun sports of being human, I guess, no less meaningful than collecting stamps, crocheting, or guessing how many jelly beans are in a jar.


One of these theories I find particularly intriguing -- and that would be the "holographic universe principle" -- the one that William Blake, the 16th century poet, once described, without knowing it, in a single sentence -- "seeing eternity in a grain of sand" -- or what Henry Miller, God bless him, described in the following way: "The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself."

I am not an astrophysicist, nor do I deeply understand the nuances of the holographic universe, but I do understand one thing -- that, somehow, EVERYTHING is encoded in the smallest thing -- or as some people like to say "as above, so below."

In other words, one does not need to go to the Himalayas or outer space in order discover the so-called "secret of life" -- one needs to simply pay close attention to what's right in front of them or, as the more spiritually inclined of our species like to say, "what's inside" of us. (NOTE: There are some astrophysicists who claim that the universe is curved and that if you looked long enough through a powerful enough telescope you would, eventually, see your own butt.)

Anyway, enough theory for now. It's time for a story or why Jean Luc Goddard once said, "Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form."

Some years ago, while MC'ing an event for Prem Rawat, in Los Angeles, I had the great, good fortune of experiencing one of these holographic universe moments. And the catalyst for it was very unexpected -- a 3x5 index card.

The setting? The Shrine Auditorium -- the same venue that had, over the past, few decades, hosted 24 Academy Awards and Grammy ceremonies -- an iconic environment with a ton of history and now, for me, a ton of presence. You see, a few weeks earlier, I had been asked to MC an event that would feature my long-time teacher, Prem Rawat, and I was both thrilled and anxious -- thrilled that Prem had enough confidence in me to play the MC role and anxious because I knew, all too well, the kind of impeccability that would be required of me that night.

My "handler" for that weekend -- the gentleman responsible for ensuring I would do a good job -- was Jean Marie Bonteaux, a relaxed, experienced, and knowledgeable fellow who had the knack for delivering just the right amount "get-ready-to-MC" information to me without triggering my "uh oh" response. Jean Marie was cool. He was calm. And he was very collected -- modeling the kind of vibe I was aspiring to abide by that evening.

And so, before the event, Jean Marie, spent some quality time with me, giving me the lay of the land, sharing some useful tips, and explaining the announcements I would need to make later that night. As he shared the announcements with me, I dutifully wrote them down on a 3x5 index card, wanting to be totally sure I had the correct information in order to communicate what needed to be said as accurately as possible and in the right sequence.

When the download was complete, I could see there were five announcements I would need to make, each one now neatly written on my index card, preceded by a number I had circled and a few words, underlined, to help me remember the gist of everything.

OK. So far, so good.

My task for the weekend appeared to be a simple one -- to sit there in the front row (whoo hoo!) with my headset on, listen to Prem and, at the same time, be alert to the cues I would get from the sound guys when it was my time to mount the stage and make the next announcement. And this is exactly what happened.

Well... sort of.

Soon after the program began, I noticed Jean Marie approaching me from the side, kneeling at my seat and, in a very soft voice, letting me know there was one more announcement I would need to make -- one that I rapidly jotted down on my index card, squeezing it in, in smaller print, between announcements #1 and #2.

Great. Got it. No worries. I had one more announcement to make. No big deal.

A few minutes later, I noticed Jean Marie approaching me again, still very relaxed and, upon arriving at my seat, knelt and let me know that there were, actually, TWO more announcements that needed to be made after the break.

As I began jotting down these new announcements on my index card, it soon became apparent that I was, most definitely, running out of room, so I flipped the card over and wrote the new announcements on the flip side -- drawing an arrow from the newly noted Announcement #2 to the far edge of the card, a clever reminder for me to FLIP THE CARD OVER when it was time to speak, which, as far as I could tell, would be happening in just few minutes.


Meanwhile, Prem, with great eloquence, flair, and humor continued holding forth, me now toggling back and forth between listening to him and inspecting my increasingly crowded note card to make sure that I actually UNDERSTOOD the announcements I would soon be making and taking the time to CIRCLE a few key words for emphasis and UNDERLINE a few words, here and there, to help me remember the flow.

But the more I sat there, the more I noticed that the index card I held in my hands was beginning to look a lot like a kidnap letter. The writing seemed agitated, shaky. Some of the words were BIG. Others were small. And there were entire sentences that had been relegated to the MARGINS, including phrases that now appeared to be vertical, requiring me to turn the card SIDEWAYS in order to follow the trail of the message I was supposed to deliver the next time I mounted the stage.


Oh, and here comes Jean Marie one more time. He is still mellow. He is still conscious, it seems, of not wanting to overwhelm me or make my job any harder than it needed to be.

"Mitch," he begins, "there is ONE MORE announcement you will need to make at the end of the program," proceeding, in his very relaxed way, to reveal its content, assuring me, in no uncertain terms, that it was absolutely FINE for me to make the announcement in my own words and that he had great confidence in me to deliver the message in the way most appropriate to the moment -- a vote of confidence that was very reassuring, especially now, since there was no room remaining on either side of my index card to write anything else. Indeed, the content of the card, to my untrained eye, began to take on the appearance of performance art. Words were everywhere. Arrows, too. Numbers were circled. Random phrases were underlined, and now, memes that made sense to me just a few seconds ago, were completely indecipherable.

My choice was becoming clear. Either sit there, in my front row seat, attempting to make sense of whatever I had written, or stand up, leave the auditorium, and rewrite EVERYTHING so I could actually UNDERSTAND what needed to be said without squinting, frowning, or turning the card this way and that.

Ah, the moment of truth!

On one hand, it made absolutely no sense to leave the hall. I mean, after all, I had traveled 3,000 miles to listen to Prem, right? And I had a front row seat, right? And I certainly didn't want to "abandon my post." Exiting the event, at this moment, seemed totally counter intuitive -- a move that probably said more about my lack of faith in myself than it did anything else. And yet, only a fool would fail to recognize that the card I was now holding in my left hand now was increasingly looking like a fragment, in Aramaic, from the Dead Sea Scrolls -- something that would take even the most pedigreed linguist weeks to decode.

It was at that precise moment, in the middle of Prem's timeless talk, that I stood and exited stage right, looking for a fresh note card or maybe just a regular piece of paper so I could rewrite the content of what I needed to say, in a few moments, with confidence, clarity, and consciousness.

And that is precisely what happened.

The note card appeared. The pen appeared. A surface to write on appeared. And the whole rewriting of the Dead Sea Scroll note card took less than two minutes to complete. Badaboom, badabing.

I returned to my seat. I put my headset on. And 20 seconds later, I got my cue from the sound guys to mount the stage and make the announcements which now, I was thrilled to see, actually made sense.


OK. On one level, the above story is funny and maybe even entertaining. But it is also, at least from my perspective, an example of how the so-called "holographic universe" works. In other words, my index card -- my grain of sand moment at the Shrine Auditorium -- had contained, within it, everything I needed to experience in order to wake further up. The dimensions of what I had to work with -- the "canvas", if you will -- was limited -- only 3 inches by 5 inches. Not much room to express myself in any meaningful way -- a familiar theme in my life of feeling that what I really needed to say didn't quite fit the limited dimensions available to me -- perhaps one of the reasons why Van Gogh cut off his ear and all of my musician friends are wondering what to do with their unsold CDs.

YES, I made my effort to make best use of the limited resources available to me and, YES, I applied various strategies, in the moment, in order to increase my chances of success. But in the end (or was it in the beginning?) -- the SINGULARITY of my own life was upon me. All bets were off. My old "paradigm" didn't cut it any more. My plan was a joke. Life was calling for the tango and I was still doing the cha cha.

And then, as the time ticked down and the stakes went up, I was faced with a CHOICE -- one that flew in the face of logic, rationality, and the litany of my own preferences. TO DO WHAT I WAS MOVED TO DO. To respond to an inner calling. To trust that which was being announced INSIDE of me with every fiber of my being. Bottom line, to GO FOR IT.

I realize, of course, that if somebody else was MC'ing that night, it is highly probable that he or she or it or they would have made a different choice, taken a different path. And if they did, everything would have worked out just fine for them. But it wasn't anyone else MC'ing that night. It was me on the receiving end of whatever it was I needed to experience in order to "get it" -- the learning, the lesson, the sound of one hand clapping.

The main takeaway for me?

That when I am in the consciousness of SERVICE, everything becomes crystal clear and there is always a happy ending.

You see, a big part of me, that night, just wanted to sit back and listen to Prem. That's it. Just listen and absorb what he had to say. But then .. ah... THEN came the moment beyond expectations. The moment of clarity. The moment of realizing how precious service is! I was there to serve! THIS was the organizing principle around which everything was taking shape. This was the tuning fork -- the medium to ensure I was vibrating at the right frequency to resonate with the present moment.

Leaving my seat to find the space and time to rewrite the announcements was not "leaving" anything. I was not "missing" anything. There was no problem. I was simply following the yellow brick road of the moment.

The so called "resolution" of the seeming conundrum took less than two minutes. That's it. Two minutes.

All of us, methinks, especially during these crazy days of the Coronavirus, are faced with a similar holographic moment. At first glance, it doesn't seem like we have enough of what we think we need to succeed -- that the situation we find ourselves in is difficult... dense.. or indecipherable. But then... the Red Sea parts... time stops... a choice is made... and the clarity becomes radiantly available to us.

Take a moment now to look down at YOUR index card. What is written on it? What does it say? Are you able to decipher it? And if not, in this moment, what choices will you make to better understand WHAT is written on your card and what it is you really need to say or do?

Photo #2: Chris Lloyd, Unsplash
Prem photo: courtesy of TimelessToday

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at December 11, 2020 02:42 PM

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Storytelling at Work is a blog about the power of personal storytelling – why it matters and what you can do to more effectively communicate your stories – on or off the job. Inspired by the book of the same name, the blog features "moment of truth" stories by the author, Mitch Ditkoff, plus inspired rants, quotes, and guest submissions by readers.

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Storytelling for the Revolution
Storytelling for the Revolution is Mitch Ditkoff's newly published book about the power of personal storytelling to elevate the conversation on planet Earth. Provocative. Evocative. And fun. YOU have stories to tell. This book will help you tell them.
Storytelling at Work
"The world is not made of atoms," wrote the poet, Muriel Rukeyser. "It's made of stories." Learn how to discover, honor, and unpack the stories of yours that show up "on the job" in Mitch Ditkoff's award-winning 2015 book, Storytelling at Work.
Do you want to know more about the book before buying it? Click here for Mitch's response to frequently asked questions about Storytelling at Work – the perfect book for people who think they have no time to read.
The Workshop
Storytelling is an "unconscious competency" – an ability we all have that all too often remains inaccessible to us. Enter the Storytelling at Work workshop – a simple way to activate this powerful, innate skill.
Wisdom Circles
Want to establish a culture of storytelling in your organization or community? Looking for a simple way to help people to share their meaningful, memorable stories with each other? Here's how.
Podcasts & Videos
Click here to view and listen to a series of interviews with the author of this blog. Go beyond the written word. Listen. Feel. Elevate the conversation. Understand what the big deal is about personal storytelling.
Blogs 'R Us
If you like this blog, you might also like Mitch's other two blogs: The Heart of Innovation and The Heart of the Matter. Mitch is also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post.
Idea Champions
When Mitch isn't writing, he's captaining the good ship Idea Champions, a leading edge innovation consulting and training company based in Woodstock, NY. What their clients say.