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  • Brian Tom O'Connor

Watch The Retrievers: Book Excerpt

Thanks to all the readers who have posted such lovely reviews of Awareness Games on Amazon!

For this blog entry, I thought I’d excerpt one the games from the book. Most of the games are pretty short and only comprise of a brief description and the steps to play. This one has a little story behind the game.

Watch the Retrievers

Once when I was visiting some friends who had a house in the country, I spent a lot of time playing with their dog, Buddy, a golden retriever. Buddy had taken his retriever nature to obsessive extremes. He had a stone from the garden, a smooth stone, just the right size for him to carry in his mouth. He would find a likely human suspect and drop the stone at his or her feet. Since I was new and not yet sick of this game I was elected on that day. I picked up the stone and tossed it into the nearby woods. Buddy ran in, found it, ran back and dropped it my feet again. Again I'd pick it up and throw it. Again Buddy would retrieve it and drop it at my feet. If I walked away, Buddy would pick it up and follow me, dropping it at my feet in my new spot. If I didn't pick it up and throw it again, Buddy would bother me, poking my leg with his nose, or making whimpering noises or sometimes even barking. He never got tired of retrieving that stone no matter how many times I threw it. It didn't seem like he had any choice. He was a retriever. Retrieving was his nature, so that's what he did—retrieve.

Years later, I noticed that I had several recurring thought patterns that were like Buddy—compulsively going after some goal over and over no matter what. One of them was "How am I going to fix my life?" and its variants, "How can I make more money?" "How can I improve my career?"

Another retriever thought pattern was "I don't like this feeling. How can I make it go away and make sure it never happens again?" And another, "I did something wrong. How can I make sure no one notices, or make it seem like it was not my fault?" Or "How can I avoid criticism and get only praise?"

These retriever thoughts are automatic. I don't decide to have them. If I could, I'd decide never to have them. But a retriever thought just keeps happening, never tiring; always ready to poke me with its nose to get my attention.

So the game is:

  • Watch the retriever thoughts.

  • Notice that they happen automatically.

  • Notice that they aren't you.

  • Identify with the bigger self that notices the retrievers.

  • Don't try to stop them—let 'em retrieve. Just notice them, and notice they aren't you. You are much, much bigger and much more spacious.

Of course, one thing I haven't mentioned. You don't have to keep picking up the rock and throwing it. Buddy will nudge and whine and cajole for a while, but he'll eventually give up.

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