Giant Steps: Prologue
Several years ago, a dear friend of mine died while on an operating table. His heart and respiration stopped during a relatively minor procedure. Because of the heroics of a team of surgeons and nurses, he was revived within a short time. In the recovery room, he shared with his family and friends a very strange and wonderful occurrence which he had experienced at the time of his death. His story duplicated, with amazing consistency, other accounts recently documented by researchers and clinicians.
In great detail, he described the sensation of, somehow, being released by his physical nature, as if the essence of what he traditionally called himself floated freely outside of his body. He heard the quick, frenzied instructions exchanged by the medical personnel who participated in the bold attempt to revive him. He felt no panic, but only a quiet, protected movement … like a balloon drifting easily through gentle air currents.
The noise in the room became muffled; individual voices and the clanging of metallic instruments melted into one continuous hum. Then, he felt himself eased downward into a dark tunnel which surrounded him like warm water, soothing and comfortable. His sense of peace was overwhelming. The visual aspects of his travel appeared quite definite, though he did not think of himself as seeing through his eyes. At the end of the tunnel, he encountered an intense yellow-white light. Although he sensed an incredible power and intelligence in the light, he refused to name or label it, becoming slightly embarrassed with the implications of his words
As he bathed in the energy of its glow, he heard a question, not one asked of him verbally, but one which bubbled from within. He felt more receptive at that moment than during any other time in his life. The question was quite simple and direct: Was he happy or unhappy about the life he lived and, whatever his response, why did he feel that way?
Several people in the room became very upset with his story. “My God,” one woman exclaimed, “who would want to be asked such a question when you died? Surely there would be so many things left undone … and what about all the regrets? What a horrible question to be confronted with.”
“No, no,” he assured them in a soft, mellow voice. He had heard this question in a way he had never heard such a question before. The tone felt so loving and accepting. No implied accusation or judgment. He knew, whatever his answer, it would be for his own enrichment … to come to his own truth and understanding. Rather than running away, he found himself welcoming such an awareness. His eyes displayed a comfort defying the skepticism and fears of those in the room.
Whether he had experienced a dream, a fantasy, or, in fact, another kind of journey we all know very little about, I found myself awed and excited by his words – for his experience mirrored in tone and attitude a central aspect of The Option Process, a life-affirming perspective which has helped us dramatically modify and reorder our own lives. It begins with a very simple, loving and non-judgmental dialogue, precipitated by questions similar in content and mood to the one my friend heard.
In our own personal Option journeys, less flamboyant though no less beautiful, we have learned to dispense with most of our discomforts and fears by uncovering and discarding the beliefs which fuel them; beliefs which we have been taught, which we have adopted and which we can change.
From such an exploration, a very special attitude has evolved: “to love is to be happy with,” an accepting and non-judgmental way to embrace who we are … not as the result of any dogma or theory, but simply by viewing, understanding and accepting our feelings and behaviors rather than judging and condemning them. In such a pursuit, we can often observe that all of us, although perhaps tripping and stumbling at times, are doing the very best we can, the very best we know how based on our beliefs. That awareness, joined with the delight of experiencing ourselves as our own experts, can present us with the unique opportunity to redefine and recreate ourselves – a very open-ended and joyful activity.
Living Option and teaching it became a way of life. We witnessed people doing dramatic and wonderful things for themselves in areas they had previously considered difficult or unsolvable. We experienced our own lives as a mellow and easy movement, quite different from the stormy and troubled days before we understood how we operated and how easily we could change.
And then … the birth of our third child, Raun Kaufman, whom others would come to view as a “horrifying,” “hopeless” and “disastrous tragedy.” It was through our encounter with this very special human being that we fully realized that the accepting and loving vision, which had become the cornerstone of our existence, was not only a powerful philosophy and an effective teaching technique, but also a beautiful and special gift of living.
Although this book, basically, will portray the inspiring stories of young people (and, in some cases, their parents) who have used Option to deal with questions frequently confronting young people in such areas as sexuality, self-worth, drugs, discipline, abortion, rape, divorce, a dying parent, I would like to share our experience with our son, as well. His story is very much an Option experience and suggests the endless possibilities which might be present in any situation if we suspended our judgments and moved without fear, trusting ourselves.