The Black Box

From: Who Am I  (4)
Full transcript

So the three tools that I've found helpful are the black box, the middle way, and interdependence. Now to understand the black box [writing] the first thing we have to appreciate here is that we live in two worlds. Okay? The two worlds here are the world in which we think we live and the world in which we actually live. Okay? So I'm going to describe one of these, but I'm not going to say which it is,and I want you to tell me. Family, career, education, birthday parties, celebrations of various kinds, beginning and ending relationships, doing things with people, enjoying doing things with people. Which of these two worlds, you know, making progress in our career, living to a ripe old age, etc.

Student: [Unclear]

Ken: Yes. This is the world in which we think we live. What is the world in which we actually live?

Student: The moment.

Ken: Can you be more specific?

Student: Experiencing.

Ken: Yeah.

Student: Right at that time.

Ken: The world in which we actually live consists of only three things: thoughts, feelings and sensations. By sensations I mean all our sensory input, so touch, smell, taste, form, etc., sights, sound. Now, the world in which we think we live is constructed out of the world in which we actually live. [Drawing] So there's the world in which we actually live. That's in blue there. And you've got your camera?

Cara: I do.

Ken: Good. And here's the world in which we think we live. Okay? We'll put "T" for "think," and "A" for "actual." Now just idle question here: what percentage of your time are you in this world versus this world?

Students: [Unclear]

Ken: Intentionally, yes. How many would say that you're in this world more than five percent of your time? Okay. [Laughter] We spend most of our time in this world. Okay? There's a very interesting feature that I should have touched on. In this world we're used to exchanging, giving, take, sharing things, like we can share our book, we can share a CD, share a movie. You know, I can give you a book. I can give you a flower, or I can give you all kinds of gifts. And you can give me things. In the world in which we actually live, is giving, receiving, sharing or trading or any form of exchange possible?

Students: [Unclear]

Ken: Okay. This is very important. The black box approach is based on living in this world. Please note this world is included in this world. So you're not leaving this world, but you're actually living in a larger world in which you know your constructs to be constructs. And so you aren't limited by them, because when you're in this world, that's where you get limited by the stories. Are you with me? Making sense Christine? Okay. So what does the black box actually look like? When you have a difficulty with somebody, and you're talking about this with a friend, what is the dominant pronoun that you use?

Student: I.

Ken: No.

Student: They.

Ken: They. "They're doing this. They're doing that. They're doing this. They think this. They think that. I can't get anywhere, because they're doing this," etc. All right? When you're having a problem with someone and you're speaking to them directly, what is the dominant pronoun that you use?

Student: You.

Ken: Yes. You know, "If you would just understand what I really want, then everything would be fine. You. You. You. You. You." All right? That's what I said to Cara at the beginning of this, you know, "If you just read my mind, probably everything would be fine. It's all your fault." Okay. Now, this is living in this world. And it's actually living in a story about this, because do you actually know what is going on in the other person's head?

Ken: No. You never know. So the black box--I'm sorry, just to step back, [turning page of chart and drawing] they're used to my wonderful art history these days--so we have two people interacting. This person (use different colors here) has one idea of the interaction, and just to make it very confusing, this person has another idea of the interaction. What is the relationship between these two representations? Pardon?

Student: Black box?

Ken: No, I haven't got to the black box yet. What's the relationship between these two representations?

Students: [Unclear]

Ken: Yeah. They may be completely different. We have a wonderful case of this with the Dalai Lama with Tibet and the Olympics. Because from the Chinese point of view, it's a completely internal matter. This is their country. "Why is everybody kicking up a fuss. There must be somebody big behind this, because this could not be happening spontaneously, because they're all actually happy Chinese citizens. Therefore there must be an outside agitator. It must be the Dalai Lama," etc.

From the Dalai Lama and the West's point of view it is; "You've occupied this country, and we're doing our best to keep violence at a low level so nobody really gets hurt. But you're coming in with all your goon squads and beating everybody up, and this is a horrible thing. And we want you to talk to the people that can help make it better, and at least talk to somebody."

Now, if I was the Chinese leader, and I got a phone call from Bush saying, "Please talk to the Tibetans," I'd say, "I'm happy to do that as soon as you talk to the head of the Sioux tribe." And of course, Bush would say, "What?" But that's how the Chinese look at it. So they have two completely different views of this. There can be no rapprochement or resolution in these circumstances. It's very tragic. A lot of people are getting hurt.

The black box theory, or approach to things, is, Get out of your idea of what is going on, because it's a story that you're living in. Okay? What do you do instead? What you do instead, [writing] here you have this interaction. Now, what's over here, that's in the black box. You cannot know it. It's impossible. If you think you know what's going on in there, you're just living in a story. What can you know? You can know what's going on in your own experience. That's what you can know, is your own experience. And the way that you live being no one is you assume nobody else exists. You don't exist, so let's share the bounty. Nobody else exists either. You only have your own experience. And what you're doing is addressing imbalances in your own experience.
NOTE: Ken also talks about the black box approach in a Huffington Post article and in several other classes and retreats including Then and Now (30),  Surviving Stressful Times (1) and Four Immeasurables ( 4).