Reader comment on Jacob Needleman's passage ...

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    On Apr 15, 2011 rahul wrote:

    The first thing this passage brought up for me was presence, and that with a given quality of presence always comes permission to respond in harmony its energy.  The neurological basis of this is what are called ‘mirror neurons’ which essentially pick up on the mental states of those around us and cause us to replicate their inner states within ourselves.  Research has shown that you’re much more likely to be happy if you have happy friends.  Not just that, but if a friend of your friend is happy, your chances of happiness go up.  A different study even showed that having an obese friend increase your probability of being obese.

    This continual exchange between you and the people around you, puts high importance on the type of people you surround yourself with .  Emerson said, “Show me who a man’s friends are and I will show you the man.”  Yet many of us have mixed communities with different kids of friends that hold a range of sometimes conflicting values.  Maybe there’s someone in your family who clashes with your values, or maybe there’s not a complete alignment at your office, or maybe you have problems structural violence in your society.  How do you impact those energies positively instead of being impacted in a negative way?  We're often seduced towards big:  talking louder, faster, on a larger scale, in more media—and this may have some short term impact, but I suspect it doesn't last.  Who will remember an insensitve, loud politician or media personality after they're gone?

    Is there another answer?  I think it may be the power of attention towards the subtle that helps us respond to negative influences.

    Last week something I said triggered an attack-like response from my boss, and I noticed unpleasant feelings starting inside of me.  So I watched those for a second, wondering what I should do and I decided to see if I could disarm the attack.  As my boss was proceeding on his annoyed monologue, I cracked a little smile and took a tiny step towards him.  I noticed a little change in his expression, but he kept going on his rant.  So I smiled bigger, and took one more tiny step towards him.  I noticed a little bit of confusion in his face, but he kept going.  So I smiled even bigger, and took another little step toward him.  His rant turned into just talking, and in another few seconds, he just ran out of steam.  I was still smiling and just kind of nodded my head, and he kind of had this flash of ‘what’s going on here?’.  Next minute I said something and he laughed, not knowing what hit him.  The whole experience seemed to feel like loudness wasn’t the answer; that tuning into the things most subtle within ourselves and being able to smile at whatever is happening there gives us the best chance to influence instead of being influenced.  This feels like that quality of attention the author was talking about that mankind is, and is made for.


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