Got it!

Podcast and blog
I made a commitment to write a short piece to put up as a blog post and podcast  once a week, and sometimes I’m so unclear about what I want to say that I spin my wheel for an entire day. Then sometimes, before I go to sleep, I whisper a request to my unconscious mind to come up with ideas. I feel like a captain calling down to the crew. The next day I often wake up with so many ideas that I don’t know where to begin.

Do you ever experience this? Either the sense of abundance, and resources beyond measure, or else a sense of total lack?

It’s amazing the way our perceptions play tricks!

Then I was wondering, “What is the essence of the things we do at Five Changes?” What should I write? What do we do for our clients and students, and what should we do for ourselves to keep on learning and growing?

Michele and I have had many different kinds of people come through our lives; spiritual seekers and students of Buddhism looking for something more than the bland generic fare that is so often offered to them. We’ve had social and environmental activists looking for a spiritual dimension to their lives. We’ve had Cambodian and Laotian teenagers serving probation as novice monks, trying to figure out a way to fit into North American society. We’ve taught and given workshops in schools, juvenile halls, centers like Esalen and Findhorn, we’ve taught and spoken at universities throughout California; and we’ve conducted leadership trainings in Australia and the U.K.

Then much to the consternation of some of our friends, we stopped teaching formal meditation. We even stopped taking an official stance as progressive activists. We focused instead on more direct change-work, coaching individuals and teaching Hypnosis and NLP (Neurolinguistic Programing). The question remained, “What is the essence? What is it are we providing?”

No doubt, we were going through our own process of integration, and we continue to go through it. Still, the question remains, what is the essence? Of Zen? Of General Semantics? Of a truly integrated social-spiritual activism? Of NLP? What is the essence of an authentic spiritual transformation?

What is the one change, that if you made it, would change everything about – what you do, how effective you are in the world; and just as importantly, how happy you are in the core of your being?

There is no single answer, yet there may be a singular answer for each of us. In other words, the changes we must make to change everything that’s not fully working in our lives may be simpler than we think.

People often ask us what the Five Changes are. One answer is that there are no ‘Five’ changes. One change is enough. We have five .. just in case you’re as hard-headed as we used to be! And of course we do have a five-part system that we use to work with our clients.

Alfred Korzybski
Alfred Korzybski

Then yesterday I was looking for videos to put on a tribute page on our website for seven of the people who touched our lives most profoundly. Some we knew personally, others we know only through the legacy of their work. I came across a three-minute video of Alfred Korzybski from the 1940’s. He speaks about the distinction between ‘abstraction’ and ‘illusion’. And I thought, “That’s it! Now I’ve got it!” That’s the distinction we’ve been pointing out to people for more than twenty years, through everything we’ve ever done. Life is ‘real’, there’s nothing illusory about it. Yet we continue to make abstractions that distance ourselves from it. That’s what normal thinking does. It abstracts. It does it through beliefs, through notions that the ‘self’ is ‘something’ rather than a process, through emotions that we take at face value, and through stories we tell ourselves about our lives. You can see Korzybski’s, and other videos, by clicking here.

Meditation is a good tool for addressing this habit of abstraction, especially if you have a good teacher. If you don’t, it may either send you to sleep, or else reinforce your neuroses. NLP, Hypnosis, Family Constellation work etc., and all the available modalities and tools, are all potentially life-changing too. But deep change is more than that .. it’s to really ‘get’ how you’re creating your life, making it up, abstracting.

This is easily said, it may be harder to understand until you get used to this sort of thinking; and it’s harder still to embody. But that’s the essence of the ‘real work’. It’s  something we can all work on while also working on the central thing we are called to do in our lives.


Understanding that everything in life is ‘real’, not illusory; and that our problems come from how we make abstractions and meanings, and how we draw conclusions and anticipate outcomes from our experience, is the essence what we do with our clients. Of course, how we work with them is much more specific, and practical than this might sound. We focus on getting immediate results by changing limiting belief, emotional patterns, and the residual stories you keep telling yourself. And we do it with surgical precision. What it amounts to is helping you stop sabotaging yourself so that you can get on with fulfilling truly your life’s ‘purpose’!

Unless you address this, your ‘purpose’ remains a dream. It’s like stumbling down the road with a sharp pebble in your shoe. Sure, you can get used to. But why would you want to? Only if you didn’t know how to remove the pebble, or had made up a story about how sharp pebbles are good for you .. but that’s what Korzybski means by abstracting.

So in the spirit of identifying and removing sharp and unnecessary pebbles from your shoe, registration is now open for our December retreat at Manzanita Village The Big Picture click through for more info and to register.