(6) AG Johnson: Living With an Asthmatic Ghost Causes a Paradigm Reset

AG Johnson at the Golden Gate bridgeAre you a pragmatic realist? Is life ONLY about what you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell?  AG Johnson used to think so until his unseen friend “Fred” proved to him that “The frame from which you determine what is real is a very powerful aspect for how you interact with all the events outside yourself. It needs to be chosen carefully and questioned often.”

AG’s tale is one of those motivational stories that really makes you think about what paradigms are holding you back.

Dr. Johnson currently works as an administrator and instructor at Stanford University. Besides his experience in the Navy, he has worked and learned at a wide variety of jobs including construction, conference coordinator, and in education. Each has provided different views of the world and ways of interpreting the behavior of self and others, which he finds fascinating.

AG’s Story


Teachable Moments

  •  It seems to me that I am more able to watch dispassionately how someone behaves and accept it with both the flaws and beautiful aspects, and then not expect them to change. What that does is allow me to not hope that someone will do what I want, but understand that they will do what they want and I shouldn’t put much effort into getting them to act otherwise. At the same time allow room for change.
  • I can’t help hoping things will turn out great and basically expecting that they will  –whatever they are, but I’m not devastated if they don’t. I’m not as attached to things being the way I think they “Should Be,”  as when I was younger. In fact, I am pleased many times when things don’t turn out as I expect, but some different way that is better, or more interesting.
  • There are many things that can’t be measured by conventional means, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Pearls of Wisdom

  • I have been a Buddhist for the last 25+ years. I asked to join a sangha, an organized community of Buddhist practitioners, and my teacher told me from the beginning to try the different forms of practice and if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. The idea was that I might grow into it later, or I might go in a different direction with my forms of meditation practice. The idea was for me to deepen the connection to my core-self using the tools Buddhism made available and seemed right to me.  For me, switching to a new paradigm that said all things are possible unless proven otherwise was like that. It was like removing an uncomfortable shoe and slipping into a warm comfy slipper. It has mostly been comfortable. But it is uncomfortable when scary edges of that paradigm are pushed on, like malevolent uses of psychic energy. But it is OK for me to not be brave enough to explore everything. Because I am naturally curious I keep exploring the possibilities of the paradigm, but don’t feel obligated or able to explore it all. I also respect that some aspects could lead to trouble. But I feel my paradigm is open enough to be very embracing of the experiences of life –good and bad.
  • The frame that is used to determine what is important enough to pay attention to, also excludes everything that doesn’t rise to that level of importance in my mind. In fact, I am aware that there are so many things I don’t get because I didn’t pay attention at another time. I have this tendency when trying to get a task done to not give much weight to irrelevant ideas or suggestions, as I see them within my framework. When I move into implementation mode, the only things I want to hear/see are ways to move forward toward the goal, whatever it may be. But having grown into this frame of reference more and more over the years has helped me stop and listen when other ideas are presented. This is particularly true when not only concrete objectives are articulated but also the emotional. The human connections, helping my own spirit thrive as well as that of others, and minimizing harm to self and others, has been steadily rising to the top of the “What is important list.” That broadens the frame from encompassing only accomplishments to including accomplishments and supporting a healthy emotional life. Additional aspects working their way into the frame include a greater appreciation of art, music, expressions of the strength and beauty of the human spirit, and recognition of our inner connectedness. Things being pushed out include needing to be competitive and win, having more cool toys, keeping up with pop culture, staying awake for the dropping of the ball in Time Square.
  • If questioning your own reality, go for it. I think if we quit questioning we start deteriorating. The plasticity of the brain is amazing and it can keep changing throughout our life. It truly allows us to keep changing. If we quit exploring new ways of being in the world, we are cheating ourselves out of a full and dynamic life. You don’t have to climb mountains, or learn a new language, but continually questioning which of your answers to life are accurate and which are based upon weak ground is very important. Then we don’t become rigid and we are open to new possibilities. We can stay in the life flow. I know that sometimes it is exhausting, but I would rather be exhausted than asleep to the amazing world around me. Smart well balanced people can do this without as much exhaustion, but I’m not there yet.

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Posted: July 29, 2014 By: Comment: 0