Ken: Several people have asked how you recognize a reactive pattern. Well, one of the features of a reactive pattern is, as I mentioned, that they're mechanical in nature. What's one of the characteristics of a mechanical system?
Student: No variation.
Ken: No variation. It just runs one way. So, a way to identify a reactive pattern--and it's very useful to do this--is, "Must be this way, can't be that. Have to have this, can't have that. Must have this, can't have that." Any time you have that going in you, chances are you're running a reactive pattern. We run into this all the time. The retreat that I did recently in Santa Fe, there was a little confusion the first day, and there was no coffee at breakfast. [Laughter]
Student: Not a good move.
Student: Ah, love it.
Ken: See, there we are, right there. "Must be this way, can't have that."
Student: I have it on good authority that they have coffee in the bardo.
Ken: Yeah, so a nobleman once asked a dervish, "I've been a student of the path for many years but I feel I have gained no understanding at all." And the dervish replied, "That is because you are too arrogant." And the nobleman said, "If you weren't a holy man I would take offense at that remark; however, I am willing to listen. I will do whatever you say." And the dervish replied, "The situation is beyond hope. You will not do what I say, and so you cannot learn anything on this path." And the nobleman said, "I don't accept that. Give me your instruction." And the dervish said, "I want you to take off your fine clothes, put on some rags, wear a horse's feedbag full of oats in front of you and a sign saying 'Kick me' on the back." "I can't do that." "Exactly," said the dervish, "so you cannot learn."
We run into this all the time--when you hear yourself say, and we have many ways of saying it, "Has to be this way." Some of the examples that were given in earlier conversations: "Have to be peaceful, can't have conflict." Reactive pattern. You know, "It's against the rules." Other people, their conversations can't be peaceful, have to be conflict. Same thing. It's just the reactive pattern running in a different direction. So anytime you run into that kind of inflexibility--black and white, this way or that--you're dealing with a reactive pattern.