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"After hearing and talking about unconditional love for many years, I find it quite refreshing to see it in action with no hype or flourishes."
I Don't Play Hurt
People often ask me who my gurus are. Years ago I would rattle off the names of various well-known sages whose names ended with "-ananda" (many of them Jewish fellows who traded "Goldstein" for a swami name.) And indeed there are many wonderful such teachers.
More recently I have been impressed by ordinary people who donít talk much about spiritual matters; they just live it. After hearing and talking about unconditional love for many years, I find it quite refreshing to see it in action with no hype or flourishes. These hidden gurus masquerade as hotel cleaning ladies, shoe shiners, or rental car shuttle bus drivers. They look like regular people, and they are -- except they are extraordinarily shiny and they embody a simple earthy wisdom that stops me in my tracks.
My most recent encounter with a saint-in-drag was with a limo driver who picked me up at the Los Angeles Airport. Terry was a tall, husky African-American man who could have just as easily worked as a bouncer. His hair was buzzed almost to his scalp, his neck the width of a mortal manís thigh, and he did not smile much. He arrived at baggage claim about 20 minutes late, but I was not about to get in his face.
Terry apologized for being late, explaining that he had had a minor fender bender in the airport parking lot; a young lady who had just gotten her driverís license that day, tapped his car in the rear end. Although there was no damage, they had exchanged paperwork.
Along the route I overheard Terry reporting his mishap to his dispatcher over the 2-way radio. "Was there any damage to the car?" asked the dispatcher.
"None," Terry answered curtly.
"Did you get hurt?" was the next question.
"Howís your neck feel?"
Short silence. Dispatcher returns: "You know, there could be some cash in this for you."
Although I felt a bit disgusted to hear this, I was not surprised; lots of people think like this. But Terryís response did surprise me. In a very authoritative manner, he answered, "I donít play hurt."
I donít play hurt. Now thereís an affirmation to file in a conspicuous place. I donít play hurt. My God, thatís exactly what Iíve been learning for 30 years! (And how many lifetimes?) Donít play small. Donít assume a victim position. Donít seek rewards for pain. Be magnificent. Be self-empowered. Be whole. Play grand, for thatís who you -- all of us -- truly are.
Why, if we are all so grand, would people want to play small? Because they believe that the rewards for pain outweigh what they would be receiving if they were well and whole. Letís consider some of the rewards we might garnish for being hurt: money; gifts; attention; sympathy; control over others; getting out of work; escaping relationships with unresolved issues; avoiding undesired sex; postponing decision making; being right; an identity; acceptance in a group which glorifies similar pain; and on and on.
Now letís consider the benefits of not playing hurt: integrity; honesty; health; prosperity; success; rewarding relationships; self-empowerment; and peace of mind. The entire list of worldly rewards for playing small doesnít add up in value to even one of the benefits of practicing wholeness. The rewards for victimhood are not satisfying at all; they only drive pain, separateness, and illusion deeper. The benefits of living large are empowering and go on gathering good.
Consider the scenario of a man walking down a street when a flowerpot falls off a windowsill above him and crashes at his feet, narrowly missing hitting him. There are several paths of response the fellow could take:
(1) Victim: he slips into feeling vulnerable, goes home, feels sorry for himself, and sends away for self-protection equipment;
(2) Retaliator: he dashes up to the apartment from which the flower pot fell and punches out the owner;
(3) Stoic: he reasons that it was simply his karma for the flower pot to miss him and he keeps walking; and
(4) Healer: he goes to the florist on the corner, purchases another flower, finds the apartment from which the pot fell, and gives it to the owner to replace the one he accidentally lost.
Obviously, the path of the healer is the most empowering and regenerative. The healer "donít play hurt." We have all felt hurt. We donít have to stay hurt. It takes a big person to grow beyond the seeming rewards for smallness. Terry knows. He was bumped unexpectedly, but he would rather get on with the fun portion of the ride.
Alan Cohen is the author of the best-selling Why Your Life Sucks and What You Can Do About It, a Book of the Month Club selection, and the award-winning A Deep Breath of Life. If you enjoyed this article, you will love Alanís newly published collection of his best articles, Looking in for Number One. To order it or request a free catalog of Alan's books, tapes, seminars, and Mastery Training in Maui, call 1-800-568-3079, visit www.alancohen.com, email email@example.com, or write P.O. Box 835, Haiku, HI 96708.