Today’s question: If you were told you could bend a spoon with your mind, would you agree but accept you don’t know how, or would you say it’s a trick?
In the year before the Grand Canyon started as a trickle of a creek, about a billion years ago now, I attended a spoon bending course in New York City. There were 200 people there and you had to bring your own spoon. Not wanting to be a failure, I chose a relatively cheap simple spoon. And, 2 hours into the workshop, I and 150 of the 200 people in attendance, bent the spoon by staring at it.
In attendance were 100 New York first responders. Fire fighters, police, and ambulance. The teacher was doing courses with them on mental power and this Sunday course was part of it. Yes, New York’s finest, learning to bend spoons.
At the beginning I was one of the hopefuls. I really do believe in this stuff because I am also a strong believer in the power of indigenous people that exists way beyond the sadly intellectual horizon of most poor highly educated skeptical business executives. In the hall at this spoon bending there was a diversity of humanity, healers, hippies, sick people hoping for a miracle and then there were the sexy ones. A spectrum of all manner of humanity, very under represented by business icons from Wall Street.
Had it been a lecture on how to calculate share profit or make a fast dollar the tide of the audience would have turned and limousines would have filled the streets dropping off the suited barons and goddess of the money markets. Ironically, both the spoon bending and the Wealth programme would have been presented by the same person. She, the speaker, was both master of mind powers, a healer, and a stock exchange guru. And that’s the great part of her story. It’s the same game.
We were given five or six different exercises to do in our seats. Visualisations, closed eyed meditations. Then she got a few audience members up and demonstrated how in a blind fold she could feel the presence of the person. Then used a coat hanger made of metal to show the energy that exists around that person. And, amazingly, how their mood (sad or grateful) changed that energy field.
When it came to bending the spoon the trick was so powerful it was unbelievable. The secret to spoon bending was making a wish.
I held the spoon by the handle just below where I wanted it to bend and moved my thumb and fingers in a rubbing motion as if rubbing sand between then, a pinching motion, this obviously disrupted the metal and softened the molecules. (heated). Then, all I had to do is to want the spoon to bend.
Again, you might read this as a skeptic. But lets step outside the spoon bending room and look at life. How easy do you give up wanting something when you get no positive feedback? Very quickly is the standard response. So, we change strategy when we want something and it doesn’t come. We give up the wanting and try a different technique, approach, strategy, we give up so fucking easily like weak ducklings. But in the spoon bending, that spoon resisted, it fought back, it said no, I will not bend. And I felt myself start to doubt myself.
This was the lesson. How easy it is to give up on people. How easy it is to give up on ourselves. How easy it is to want something, not get the feedback that says, “great well done, super, you are amazing, fantastic” and think, I must be doing it wrong.
This lady, the lecturer, the healer, stock broker, wasn’t a magician. She walked around the crowded room to help people. We sat in groups, me alone, shy or ashamed, trying with all my super hero force to fuck that spoon into submission. My X-ray vision burned into the spoon, but that shitty old spoon remained vertical. My pinched fingers burnt, I rubbed like there was no tomorrow, I stared at that spoon like it was a Zen wall, but no bend. My mind raced, the thoughts came up, you idiot, what are you doing here. This is ridiculous, what sort of waste of time is this. I don’t really want to learn how to bend a spoon, I’d rather talk to that gorgeous sexy red head woman over there who was smiling at me from the start. Yes, go on, go over, see what she’s thinking.
Just as I was about to surrender this stupid spoon thing, the instructor came in my direction. She looked softly at me. She could see my embarrassment and had dealt with mens super ego a thousand thousand times before. Men’s force of nature. Instead of looking at my spoon and it’s perfect original shape, she sat down beside me. She didn’t speak. I kept the rubbing and the staring but really, I was no longer focussed on bending the spoon, I was, in her words, distracted.
She asked, “how do you feel?”
I replied “embarrassed, disappointed, pissed off and I want to stop.”
She replied sitting right beside me and whispering in my ear “are you more interested in bending the red head over a chair than bending the spoon?”
Shit, I thought, how could she?
“Come on” she said “I’ll introduce you.”
And she did. Wow. This spoon bending workshop was really worth it.
But the redhead just smiled. Put down her bent spoon, next to the other four she’d already bent, and picked up a sixth. Stared at it for a minute, and I watched it bend.
The ease and grace and love and beauty of the redhead lady was a conflict of confusion for me. First, I was welcome but not a priority. Second she didn’t use what I could experience as effort.
What was it? What was it that bent that spoon? No beating drums. No fanfare, no violent focus that couldn’t be interrupted, unquestionable relationship between her and her task at hand. And the spoon surrendered. She smiled at me, put it next to the others, and picked up another. She was a machine but no “Terminator” and certainly none of the ego, anger, force I thought it would take, like most of my achievements in my life to that point, aggressive assault on the result.
It turns out that this redhead woman was the CEO and owner of a multi billion dollar company. Founder and CEO. In a workshop, again, not her first time, sitting calmly, bending spoons.
Mine eventually bent. Just like my ego and my erection. And humbled I asked her about herself and why she was here when she was a real champion spoon bender already. And she replied “practice.”
It turns out, that outside that hall, down midtown on 4th Ave, she didn’t bend spoons. It was only in this space she felt it appropriate. The lecturer was her teacher. The space was special.
In the rush of my life, in the urgency for results, I had accumulated the perspective of power being a hard, strong, heavy thing that could cause what I wanted, whenever I wanted it and if it took longer than I’d estimated, then obviously, I was on the wrong path. But that was clumsy power. Ignorant power. Aggressive and violent power. Here in the weirdest of places, Soft Power was real, and obviously, at 10 spoons bent into a U shape, my Redhead CEO lady, had mastered it.
We do give up too quickly because we think life is so short, we need results, and we need them now. But maybe in the universe of life, our ego comes face to face with our mortality and we try to force our way through things like me and the spoon. We give up too soon when our force is met with resistance.
Years later, somewhere near the dates of the birth of Moses, I was in the Himalayas. I was carrying the heaviest of backpacks, a habit I would pay for years later with a smashed spine and many surgeries. I stopped for shelter on a freezing night at a shed built for the monks to sleep. I bunked in with 30 farting monks. And felt like a bull in a china shop. In the morning I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of that smoke filled shed, the farty shed, and put my way too heavy backpack on and get on my way. But a monk stopped me and asked me to deliver a letter to the next village. I think they deliberately stopped me venturing out into the ice and fresh snow. A really dangerous thing to do in the mountains without crampons and rope.
Two hours later, the letter finished, the sun had melted most ice, and yaks had paved a trail through the deep snow. I left that shed, pissed off at waiting. Impatient and aggressive. Angry and frustrated. Instead of bending spoons with soft power, I reverted to hard power, put the foot on the accelerator and pounded my way down the trail. I slipped, fell down a cliff, smashed my knee and ankle and ended up, hobbling slowly, at soft power pace for the next 20 days in pain.
The best teachers of soft power in action are the Sherpa people of the Himalayas. Powerful men and women, who hold a smile. in the darkest hour. People who believe in magic, who work with nature, never alone. Maybe this, ancient wisdom is what we learn as leaders with a good heart. That we do give up too soon. That belief is power. That things take time. That we can bend spoons by sitting still and that skill is the same skill as building an empire. Spoon bending is parenting too.
End of question.