When “Hey Mommy” turns into “Good Morning!”

An excerpt from Practical Enlightenment

When “Hey Mommy” turns into “Good Morning!”

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Practical EnlightenmentAt 23, Val was thrilled to have gotten her first job after college, working for a PR firm in New York City. The job allowed her to utilize her schooling, communication skills and even her knowledge of the French language. But when she tried to imagine the types of challenges she would face in her new job, she never imagined that walking that last half block to the building where she worked would be the most daunting.

As an Amer-Asian (her dad is of Korean descent, her mom, Caucasian), Val has lustrous deep brown hair, a compact and shapely figure and an elegant air about her. In the beginning, her job was typically fast-paced with a significant learning curve as she got to know the clients and juggled the tasks that were hers to manage – phones, emails, packages and deadlines. But as she slipped into the routine of a busy office, she was excited about the work and her newly minted career. All of this was about to change one sultry summer morning in an unexpected way.

Val bounded up the stairs of the PATH train that takes riders from New Jersey to their Manhattan jobs each day. When she exited the station at 23rd Street and 6th Avenue, it was already very warm outside; the concrete buildings all around her were still holding warmth from the previous day. There was the slightest rancid smell of garbage in the air but oddly enough, she liked it. It smelled like New York City in the summer – big and hot and bustling with people. Like a girl in love, she was thoroughly excited to be there and part of it all.

In a loose, easy stride, Val sauntered toward 28th Street, happy that she was wearing strappy little flats and that she didn’t need to wear stockings beneath her flirty skirt. As the sun peeked out from between the tall buildings, she took a deep breath and felt on top of the world. As she turned the corner leaving 6th Avenue behind her, 28th Street was alive and bustling. That particular block was the heart of the flower district and in the stores that lined the street were flowers of all types, year-round. One storefront specialized in dried arrangements while the next had orchids. Others had towering green leafy plants and still others had boxes of cut flowers such as roses or tropical Hawaiian blooms. No matter the weather, this block always looked and smelled fresh in the mornings. It was where flower shop owners and designers flocked to buy their fresh flowers, ribbons, baskets and all that went into floral designs.

When Val was about halfway between the corner and her building, she saw a man leaning on a doorframe, who began to give her a catcall. He made her skin crawl and her bright outlook on the day got dim. “Hey Mommy. Mmmm you’re looking gooooood,” he said, drawing out his words. “You look good enough to eat.”
Val hunched her shoulders and kept on moving. Just looking at him made her want to run home and take a shower. What a creep, she thought, as his long, low whistle of appreciation followed her up the street. With relief, she finally stepped into the vestibule of the building where she worked, glad that this small ordeal was over. Little did she know it had just begun.

For months, this man hassled her on her way to work whenever he was out front – which was often. She tried approaching her building on the opposite side of the street but he usually caught sight of her coming and his cat calls and whistles got louder to make up for the distance. Mornings became a tense time during which Val felt as if she had to run a gauntlet each day in order to get to work. While she still loved her job, these daily interactions dimmed her enthusiasm because she started her workday worried, not knowing which days it would be “safe” to walk down the street and which ones that man would make the short walk a living nightmare.

It was an early spring weekend when all of that changed, but she didn’t know it at the time. Val’s bosses invited her to attend a seminar that was being offered by Ariel and Shya Kane, who were their business coaches, about Money, Success and Happiness. It was called Wealth as a Lifestyle, which sounded good to her and they said it was about Instantaneous Transformation – whatever that meant.

That Friday before heading down to the workshop, Val stayed at work a bit later than usual. Feeling a little nervous about attending a self-help course with her bosses, she lingered in the bathroom, fussing with her hair and makeup. When she looked in the mirror, Val saw her own dark eyes gazing back looking all serious and subdued. She snorted and cracked a smile at herself. What might her bosses see, she reasoned, that was so terrible?

Later that evening when she arrived at the seminar, the Kanes greeted her warmly. Val felt herself relax a little but she wished she could go back uptown to her desk and bury herself in work because that would be easier than being with people as they arrived, most of whom were strangers to her. She had planned to sit unobtrusively in the back but another young woman, Christina, had invited Val to sit next to her, so she sat much closer to the front than she had envisioned.

At first Ariel and Shya introduced the idea of listening – truly listening to hear what another has to say from his or her perspective. They encouraged people to let go of their agendas and what had happened during the day and to use listening as a tool to get into the moment.

“When you get into the moment, your life will transform,” Shya promised.
Intrigued with the idea, she leaned forward slightly in her seat. There had been plenty of times during that day when she had worried about the future, mentally chewing on things she was afraid to start for fear of getting it all wrong. Maybe there was something to this listening thing.

Next came the Three Principles of Instantaneous Transformation. Val quickly lost track of who was saying what since the Kanes had this way of speaking in which one would start a sentence and the other would finish it. Neither one of them looked bothered by the other or seemed to feel like they were being interrupted. It was almost as if they were operating on the same wavelength or reading the same script, although it was obvious that their words were spontaneous and unscripted.

“The First Principle of Instantaneous Transformation is: Anything you resist persists and grows stronger and dominates your life,” they said. “Take a look at your own life and see if there is anything or anyone you’ve been resisting. Hasn’t that person or situation been something that you think about more and more?”

Boy, you could say that again! Val thought. Immediately her mind had flashed on her stalker – that creepy guy who just wouldn’t leave her alone. For a moment her mind wandered. She started to think about how grateful she was that she left her job each day after he was gone so that she only had to avoid him in the mornings. Of course there was the occasional lunch hour as well where she couldn’t easily walk in his direction.

Suddenly Val realized that the Kanes had continued speaking; the evening had moved on but she hadn’t been there for it. A blush of crimson spread across her face and she surreptitiously glanced at her bosses sitting down the row on her right to see if they had noticed. Nope. They were listening. She hastily started listening again herself as she realized that she hadn’t been “gone” for that long after all.

“The Second Principle of Instantaneous Transformation is this: No two things can occupy the same space at the same time. In other words no one but you can possibly be sitting in your chair in this particular moment.”

Shya then gave a fellow on the end of the row a challenge, “Be different than you are right now,” he said as he snapped his fingers. “Too late! Now has gone by!” The man grinned.

“How about now?” Shya said as he snapped his fingers, “Too late! Now has gone by. Your life shows up moment- by-moment and in that moment it can only be the way that it is because it is. If you see this, then there is no need for blame or shame or regret. Your life is unfolding perfectly right now.”

Val found herself a little confused by this. Sometimes some things didn’t feel perfect to her.

As if reading her mind Ariel continued, “If things don’t feel perfect to you, then chances are there is something that you’re resisting or complaining about, something you’re judging, saying ‘No’ to or you’re wishing it could be different. But we’ve already established that what you resist persists and grows stronger,” she added with a smile. “It’s a law of physics – for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The more you resist something the more you keep it in place.”

“This brings us to the Third Principle of Instantaneous Transformation,” Shya segued. “This is the ‘awareness’ principle. Our definition of awareness is a nonjudgmental seeing or observation of things. The Third Principle is: Anything you see without judging it completes itself. In other words, anything you allow to be allows you to be.”

Val toggled back and forth between catching the Kanes’ meaning in one moment and in the next moment losing the sense of their words entirely. She felt as if she were looking out the window of an airplane. One moment everything was shining and crystalline, the view illuminated by the sun, and the next it was as if she had entered a cloudbank and could see nothing. Luckily, she remembered not to get lost thinking about it. She kept listening instead.

It wasn’t long before Val found herself being swept away on the current of conversation. The evening was humorous. The Kanes were engaging. The topics ranged from getting to work on time to childcare, from someone’s eating habits to another person’s relationship with her boyfriend. Val forgot all about her bosses sitting in the room with her. She forgot that she was new to this. She felt as if somehow, she had come home.

As the evening wound down, Val was feeling relaxed and refreshed. That’s pretty neat, she thought, especially since it had been a busy day. The weekend flew by and soon it was already Sunday and the seminar was drawing to a close. Before everyone left that night, Shya made a remark that she would remember later, while at the time it was just a concept.

“Transformation has happened here this weekend,” Shya said. “We have all been here together and engaged in what has been happening. We know that many of you have already been talking about things you’ve noticed, but you won’t actually see the depth of what has happened for you until you go back into the normal routine of your day. It’s like a pebble that has been dropped into a pond. The rings go out into your life and you see what has transformed in retrospect. Pay attention. You just may be surprised by what you discover.”

The next Monday morning Val exited the PATH train and found herself humming. It had been months since she had been so relaxed on the way to work. She found herself thinking about her day and felt a sense of excitement about the projects on her desk. Before she knew it, she had rounded the corner and her legs were striding in a purposeful manner toward the vestibule of her building, effortlessly carrying her forward to her day ahead. It wasn’t until she was passing “the man” leaning against his doorframe that she realized that she had forgotten to avoid his leering stare and obtrusive comments. Just as he began making some kissing sounds, she abruptly stopped mid-stride and turned and looked at him. “Good morning!” she blurted, shocked to discover she really meant it. “Uhh…Good morning!” he stammered in reply.

In that moment, Val realized that she had never really looked at this man whom she thought had terrorized her all these months. She had been so busy keeping her head down and resisting his comments that she had created him to be a larger-than-life bully, a mean and menacing presence, a skeevy, leering pervert whose job in life was to make hers miserable. In reality, he was barely more than a boy, complete with acne. Unsure of himself, he blushed. She became aware that this young man was as insecure as she had been – more perhaps. A grin spread across her face and then over his. A connection was made. A moment of sweetness passed between them.

That day was a new beginning. From then on they weren’t exactly friends, but they were two strangers who casually enjoyed the passing moments when their lives brushed one another’s.

As Val sat down at her desk that morning, she recognized that she had just had a spontaneous experience of “wealth as a lifestyle.” When the Kanes had posed the question, “What is Wealth?” on Friday night, she never imagined that having the freedom to walk down the street without being afraid or being hassled would become one of her new definitions. Her sense of excitement suddenly returned as she realized that she had just had a direct experience of Instantaneous Transformation. She hadn’t planned it – it had just happened. Smiling to herself, she got down to work. Val had no idea how the events of this morning had come about but she was profoundly grateful that they had. She looked forward to next Monday night with the Kanes and could hardly wait to see what would happen next.

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