The Big Bluff


A USA Today poll revealed that: 29 percent of respondents had experienced contact with a departed loved one; 18 percent had seen or been with a ghost; and 15 percent had consulted a psychic or fortune teller. Most of these numbers were somewhat higher than I had expected, yet happily so.

When I taught yoga, a high school teacher invited me to talk to her class about spirituality. Once each semester I would go and discuss psychic phenomena, healing, the power of the mind and lots of juicy topics. When I asked the students, “Have you ever had a psychic or supernatural experience?” nary a hand would go up. As soon as the class was over, however, a line of kids would form to talk to me. “I heard my grandmother speak to me after she died,” one reported. “My stepfather’s face came to me in a dream before my mother met him,” another shared. “Sometimes I can put my hands on my little brother when he is in pain, and the pain goes away instantly,” came another account.

When I asked these students, “Why didn’t you share that in the class when I asked?” they would answer, “I didn’t want the other kids to think I was weird.”

Such a fear of looking weird carries over, for many of us, into adulthood. We see, feel and know things that we are reluctant to speak about because we might be judged or criticized. So we end up living two lives – one a public life built on presentation and image management, and another inner life, more personal, often secretive, and infinitely more real.

Psychologist and educator Patricia Sun [] recounts, “As a child I was highly intuitive. I could see and feel what people were thinking and feeling, and quite often it was the complete opposite of what they were saying or doing in their social world. It seemed to me that the world was a kind of “Big Bluff” where people were living disconnected from who they really were, but because everyone expected certain behaviors and agreed to play the presentation game, their lives, hearts and souls were shriveling behind the scenes.

The way to cure “The Big Bluff” is to live authentically. When you express your truth, you invite others to meet you in an arena of realness, and you establish a platform of integrity for all of your relationships.

Patricia Sun further recalls, “Once when I was counseling a client, I noticed that I was bored. I tried to push beyond my feeling until I was practically falling asleep. Finally, as my client was going on with a long story, I told her, ‘I just need to share that I am having trouble connecting with what you are saying. I’m feeling kind of bored.’ To Patricia’s surprise, the client admitted, ‘Actually, so am I.'”

The client had gotten so immersed in the story she had told so many people so many times that she had become disconnected from her aliveness. This frank discussion between counselor and client led to an entirely more vital exploration of what, by contrast, was real and empowering for the client.

If you are bored, tired, lonely, angry, fearful or unfulfilled, you have probably succumbed to The Big Bluff. You have gotten so used to your routine, your story or a position of apparent (but dangerous) safety that your life force had slipped away without you recognizing it. But you can get it back. The way to reclaim joy is to be extremely honest about where your passion lives and where it doesn’t. You have to tell the truth, moment by moment, about what brings you life and what deadens you. Honesty is your lifeline to healing.

Like the respondents to the USA poll and my high school students, your inner truth may be connected to intuitive, spiritual or psychic experiences, or preferences and experiences that might get you labeled as an oddball. If so, I have comforting news: You are not alone.

In their book The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World, Paul H. Ray, Ph.D., and Sherry Ruth Anderson, Ph.D., describe a subset of the population that does not subscribe to mainstream beliefs and values, but is responsible for most social progress (à la the bumper sticker “The world has never been changed by well-behaved women”). It’s the people who are unwilling to participate in The Big Bluff who have the power to undo it.

While living authentically may initially appear frightening, realness is the most comforting and liberating path of life. In The Teachings of don Juan, author Carlos Castaneda quotes his Yaqui Indian shaman mentor: “Ask yourself one question…Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn’t. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.”

We are living at an extraordinary time when more and more people are confronting and dismantling illusions. Institutions based on the Big Bluff are crumbling before our eyes, and ways of living based on The Big Real are rooting and growing. Perhaps, if the current trend continues, that revealing USA Today poll is giving us a peek at USA tomorrow.

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