have you ever had the experience of hearing someone tell you something, and while what they told you may to something very similar to what you have heard many times previously, this time you really took it to heart and it became something of value to you?
Last week, while we were in London to deliver a bespoke seminar on NLP and Coaching, we had the opportunity to experience one of Marina Abramovic’s performances. – Abramovic is the presiding goddess of performance art, this year she is on Time magazine’s list of the world’s top 100 influential people, and Lady Gaga has chosen her as a mentor.
Here is what happened. We got to the Serpentine gallery which is located in the middle of Hyde Park. After spending some time in the queue we entered into a spacious room with a people standing silently along the walls. I walked in and found a spot to stand. Within seconds Marina Abramovic approached me. She does this a lot during her performances! She whispered in my ear a request for me to trust her for a little while, took my hand interlacing her fingers with mine, and started slowly walking with me, while whispering further instructions – my task was to let go of the past and the future, and to focus on the moment – easier said than done, yet quite important – and also while continuing to be aware of all the other gallery visitors around me to focus on the tranquility of the present moment.
She led me to a group of chairs, in some of them people were sitting with closed eyes, and invited me to sit down, to remember to breathe, and to be aware of the tranquility of the moment.
And I did.
Now – this is very literally the sort of simple advice that is potentially life altering – IF one chooses to follow it and make it into something of a practice.
Right advice at the right time
Ironically it is also the sort of advice or instructions I find myself regularly giving to participants in our seminars. Or to myself. I am after all an NLP trainer, and hence quite used to directing my awareness in one direction or the other – and usually I would expect to be able to do any mind altering task quite well – even under adverse circumstances – but the truth is that my mind that day when I met Marina, was racing with thoughts about the unending number of tasks I planned to complete during the rest of my stay in London – thoughts about the seminar I had just spent several days delivering, thoughts about upcoming seminars in Belgrade, in Brussels and in London again. And yes – o crime of thoughts – I was even disturbed by thoughts about writing and describing this experience(!). And the sound of other visitors walking around in the gallery space – they were so not contributing to any tranquility of this moment ;-)! Time for another Vipassana, methinks ;-)!
But after a while – it usually is just about being tenacious enough – I was able to follow the instructions. And I did experience the tranquility of the moment. It is a wonderful state, and I tend to think of it as a good starting point – as a state you would want to enter on a daily basis, both to simply enjoy it and also as a very good preparation for any tasks of the day.
And the experience, as a whole, has reverberated deeply with me since.
Now, in part this has to do with the fact that Marina Abramovic is a very influential person.
The power of directness
I am reminded of a classic Zen story. In it there is a traveling Zen master named Guodo, who also happens to be the teacher of the emperor, and he is traveling along a road when it starts to rain heavily. He seeks shelter at a house and is invited to stay for the night by the wife, whose husband is out gambling and drinking. When the husband returns the Zen master offers him some wine, the husband falls asleep, and Guodo spends the night meditating. When the husband wakes up he doesn’t recognize Guodo and accusingly asks him who he is and what he is doing there? Guodo introduces himself and the husband, once he understands that he is dealing with the teacher of his emperor, excuses himself profoundly.
Then Guodo says something very simple: “Listen. Life is very short. And your drinking and gambling is hurting your family. You should stop.”
The husband perceives the reality of this. Eventually he ends up becoming Guodo’s pupil.
So what is it that gives some people the power to say something simple in such a way that it becomes very influential?
Sure, there are some very simple factors at work: celebrity and reputation. I already had heard stories about people being deeply moved while meeting Abramovic. And sometimes I am a sucker for fame ;-)! The fact that I traveled to get to the place of the performance and had to spend some time queuing certainly heightened my expectations and response potential.
But here is also something to be said for meeting someone in person. If you read what someone has written – that is great, and you can learn, and put stuff into action. But you get a whole different feeling for the material and learn in a different way when you watch and listen to that person on TV. Finally there is a whole new dimension added once you meet that person in real life.
And when you meet a person in real life you can experience the difference that is created by getting advice from someone who has integrated it deeply. Someone who embodies the learnings they teach. This makes all the difference in the world.
With this in mind, and in spite of not being present with you right now, we would like to suggest that you spend a little bit of time – now or later – to just sit and breathe, being aware of your surroundings, perhaps there will be people around you, and find the tranquility of the moment.
And notice how present are you? Get into the experience of yourself! Acquaint yourself with yourself.
This is of course an exercise that can be easier described than done, so if at first you find your mind full of chatter, don’t give up, just notice that that is happening, and keep searching for the tranquility of the moment.
Wishing you a week full of tranquil moments and sending you oceans of tranquility!
Your influential NLP trainers,
Lidija & Thomas
P.S.”But is it art?” This seems to be a recurring questions when we mention Abamovic. We can only say that some people use the word “art” one way, and others use it in another way. And that the question is quite irrelevant for our experience.
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Lidija Markovic Rosati – ITA NLP (International Trainers Academy of NLP) Accredited New Code and Classic Code NLP Trainer and Master Coach, Hypnotherapist and Psychological Counsellor.
Thomas Björge – ITA NLP (International Trainers Academy of NLP) Accredited New Code and Classic Code NLP Trainer and Master Coach and Designer of New Code Game ‘Arrows’, to be featured in Dr. John Grinder’s upcoming book.