By Alvin Tam
Professional Acrobatic-Fitness Coach
I love my Human Touch AcuTouch™ HT-7450 Zero Gravity Massage Chair, not only because it massages and relaxes me. My chair puts me in a state of contemplative bliss, which is today’s modern equivalent of putting your computer in standby mode. It’s an “off” mode, a few precious moments where schedules and deadlines pause and true reflections of spirit and mind can rise calmly to the surface. I begin this month’s blog with a new series of articles that I call “Ruminations From The Chair”. This month, it’s about the truth behind trust.
After 15 years of professional performing in the circus, I realize that we live in a world of trust. When I perform a high flying act, supported only by cables and carabiners, I trust that the equipment will work. When I tumble across the stage in a rapid succession of back handsprings, I trust that other artists on stage will move on time, and clear the space for me. Others trust me to catch them when I throw them into the air for a double back flip, or to correctly attach their safety lines to their harnesses 60 feet in the air. I trust myself when I light my poi on fire and spin it in rapid arcs around my body. Trust is as palpable and real as the show itself, the glue that holds together a thinly fabricated illusion of seamless choreography, characters, and story line. I am fascinated by how much we trust each other, how much we trust the machines and systems that run our lives and how horribly denying it is to our spirit to not be able to see the bountiful sea of trust that surrounds us, bathes us, and carries us.
You don’t have to be an acrobat in a dangerous circus show to recognize that trust is everywhere. Consider, and be amazed by, the many and varied acts of trust you perform when you drive to work. First, you trust that your car will start the way it was designed – you expect that the technology inside your vehicle will work correctly, and not detonate in a massive fireball on your driveway. You calmly turn the key despite the fact that you are sitting only a few feet from a bathtub full of gasoline, and that this highly explosive fuel is forcefully funneled through a super heated engine block and deliberately ignited with an electric spark.
As you drive down the road, listening to the radio, observing the weather, reading billboards, checking voicemail, and sipping your morning coffee, be astonished it is not a regular occurrence that no one has yet jumped the yellow line, careening wildly into you in a head-on collision. Be joyful that your fellow comrades on their way to work also acknowledge that they each command a multi-ton weapon of encased metal and rubber, capable of snuffing out the life of any pedestrian nonchalantly meandering across the street – but most of the time, don’t.
And speaking of pedestrians, rejoice in the knowledge that you can cross the street because we all made an implicit agreement that red means stop and green means go. After all, they are just random colors of the rainbow and don’t have any real meaning, except for the ones we give them.
So your successful arrival at work, or wherever you are going, depends on two things: first that we give meaning to meaningless things, and second that we agree to continuously agree to the meaning. What greater daily demonstration of trust is there than to see millions of people consciously stopping their vehicles of mass destruction when they see the color red? Think of the millions of lives that are saved every year by this collective nod.
And this is only the drive to work. Now look inwards and consider what happens within your body on a second-to-second basis. The miracle of life is the miracle of total, complete, and binding trust. Your lungs are expanding and contracting, your heart is beating and pumping, and your eyes are absorbing light patterns while your brain is expeditiously processing trillions of bytes of information. These occurrences happen thousands, if not millions of times a day under the veil of the autonomic nervous system, completely unconscious to your waking thoughts, dutifully performing their life supporting functions without so much of a complaint or gripe. You trust that when you wake in the morning, your blood will still be flowing through your arteries, and your intestinal tract will have processed enough of the late night cheesecake to provide energy for the start of your day. It’s a miracle to think that, at any point, this intricate fabric of interdependent systems can be so easily interrupted, and life as we know it will end.
Living is trusting and is the greatest testament that the values of trust are alive and well. The next time you hear someone, or perhaps yourself say, “I can’t trust…”, contemplate the millions of examples that occur every moment that are life supporting and not life taking. Then contemplate how simple it is to cut the thinly attached chords of trust with a benign act, like driving down the wrong side of the road, or throwing bags of trash out the window of your 10th story apartment. And why wouldn’t you? It’s faster than bringing garbage down the stairs, but you don’t because we’ve all agreed to the value of life, which is the value of trust.
You might be silently screaming that mistrust does exist and that horrible trespasses against our collective agreements do occur. People do get run over by cars, murders and wars happen, and hearts cease their vital beating. There is no doubt that the execution of the trust act is not total and all-pervading. Not everyone or every system functions perfectly.
You may have been lied to, manipulated by, or transgressed upon somehow in the past. The sensation of boundaries crossed and opportunities stolen is weighty and sobering. It is not helpful to simply say that the past is the past because your thoughts happen in the present.
What is helpful then is to remark that your present moment is replete with miraculous illustrations of trust. The question, how to trust again, is also the question of how to live again. And living by being, not thinking, strategizing, doing, or analyzing, is the answer to living again.
Living by being is a daily practice of conscious observation. What are you observing? You are rediscovering that ordinary events that normally occur without so much of a thought are in fact stupendous examples of trust. Begin observing simple, routine acts with an open and curious mind.
When I am on stage and a fellow artist is quick enough to catch me from an accidental fall, or remembers to correctly attach my safety line to my harness, I know that we live in a world of trust. When I drive through an intersection and see all the cars stopped at their red light, or get to work without trying to dodge an oncoming truck, I know that we live in a world of trust. And when I wake in the morning and open my eyes to the sunrise or take a deep breath in, I know that we live in a world of trust.