By walking into the classroom, a slight-built Japanese man silenced 12 people. The energy of his powerful presence assured the claim he was one of the best in his field.
I liked him at once. Able to command immediate attention from 12 extroverts, all wanting to brag about the last group they facilitated, he was the teacher I sought. At 28 years of age, I wanted to be the best management trainer possible.
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Dick Arima. No…please refrain from speaking for the next while.” He smiled, working the pause with ease. “You’ll understand in a few moments.”
“It’s my hope you’ve come to these sessions in Montreal because you are passionate about helping people learn. I don’t want you to tell me – I want you to show me who you are. Please follow me into the gymnasium next door.” We stood up and began to follow our teacher through a single door that was part of a folding wall.
Once in the gym, we were to choose one of 12 lines taped to the floor, running across the width of the gym. At one end of the lines was written a giant “#1”. On the opposite ends, a large “#10”.
Dick told us he would make statements. We were to stand in the middle of the line, eyes closed, listen to the statement and decide where we fit – a definite “Yes” (#10) or a determined “No” (#1). Once decided, we could open our eyes and move to the appropriate spot on our line. We could not change our minds or speak until he asked us a question.
He began, “The first statement: I am an effective trainer.”
I didn’t like the question. It was too exposing. If ‘yes’, why was I here? If no, why was I here? I heard people shuffling. I couldn’t make up my mind. ‘I’ll just go for it’ I decided, opened my eyes and went to the safe #6 position. I looked around the gym. We were all 5 or better. Two men were hanging around #9.
“Let’s only break the silence to answer questions I pose. I’ll ask you to tell us the reason for your position.”
Obviously I needed to take more time to move beyond shallow and hurried reponses.
We went through eight more statements. Each required deeper soul searching. Struggling to access my truth before moving to the spot, too often I wanted to alter my choice after others expressed their depth. I had been stopping short of revealing the real intimacy that fueled my life. I shielded my spiritual self.
Dick questioned us in a bubble of acceptance. He supported rather than judged. I felt no threat or shame.
Finally, it was time for the last statement: “A trip to Jamaica would be more significant for you than a trip to Winnipeg.”
This time, I responded immediately. I opened my eyes and moved to #1 – No!
The others, also responding quickly, positioned themselves between #7 & #10. I’d finally tapped an authentic vein, but felt over-exposed. I dreaded the prospect of answering Dick’s questions.
Dick took everyone else through their paces, leaving me until last.
Then it was my turn.
“For me, it’s the feelings I experience that makes the trip significant. I could go to either place and find enrichment beyond measure. It could be through stories, experiences or a simple discovery. A life-changing gem could fall into place and transform my life in any location – no matter its beauty. It’s how I feel that makes it significant for me.”
“Thank you,” Dick said with a smile. His lack of questioning told me all I needed to know. He said, “Let’s return to the classroom and talk about what just happened.”
Dick Arima’s powerful and insightful training techniques continue to serve many aspects of my life. Affecting mind, body and soul, it’s possible to benefit from love-filled subtleties that cause people to say, “What just happened?”
I can find no trace of Dick Arima on Google – he would have retired many years before the Internet. But Maya Angelou’s quote often brings him to mind: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, … will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Feelings feeding memories,
a larder rich