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I had arthroscopic shoulder surgery yesterday. They put me down, spent an hour snaking tubes into my right shoulder joint, took out some loose bone debris, wheeled me back to recovery, and then I woke up and a friend drove me home

This sort of mini-epic, like first-time sky diving, rock-climbing or public speaking, is a gateway to a deeper understanding of how the mechanical systems of the world operate. Each experience requires that one become separate from the hum-drum of the every-day; to become “outside and slightly elevated” from it.
When apart from the churning mass of everyday sights, sounds and events, one can look down and see the individual systems of one’s life.
Beyond the few and far between stomach churning mini-adventures, finding a way to stay in this outside-and-slightly-elevated place full time is a very good thing because, if you can do it, you will be able to figure out how to get what you want from your life. In this post, let’s get started on that path. It’s not difficult.
Don’t complicate this. It’s as simple as it sounds: By consciously (and after a while, unconsciously) observing the systems of your life – exciting events, mundane daily routines or workplace tasks – you are in the position of being able to adjust those systems – one at a time – to get the results you desire.
The gates are open when you just notice the systems around you.
There is no mystery here except the question, “why didn’t I see this before?” (There is a simple reason, but that’s a post for another day.)
For my shoulder, I had the same out-patient procedure five years ago for essentially the same injury (last time, a mountaineering fall; this time, a ski/tree encounter). In both cases I waited over six months to see if the injuries would heal themselves but then just got tired of the chronic pain. With the first surgery’s repairs the pain disappeared completely, and I expect the same result this time.
Here’s why I look forward to hospital visits: First, it’s quick transport from the regular day and into an isolated, exciting enclosed world of its own – the perfect setting for an easy gateway excursion to my preferred systems-perspective of life. Second, in the moment and watching carefully, it’s fascinating to observe the myriad system procedures that are the basis for a hospital’s super-efficient functioning. For me, it begins with a sit-down interview at the hospital two days prior to the surgery, with an administration person who covers every conceivable angle including insurance, releases, where to go, what to wear, etc. It’s a beautiful performance by this well-versed veteran who doesn’t miss a beat – in large part because everything she covers is guided by documentation, not by memory.
Then, the prelude to the surgery itself. From a prep nurse, there is further questioning regarding my physical and mental state – have I eaten anything this morning? No. Am I dizzy? No. Am I allergic to any particular medication? No. The IV is inserted into my wrist and a dose of antibiotic is administered. The anesthesiologist visits with me and patiently answers my questions.
I am rolled into the operating room where my doctor and his three-member team await. They have surgical masks on and, as I make some inane comment, I can tell they are smiling . We chat a bit and then I fall asleep only to awaken in the recovery room an hour later.
While I’m awake I track it all, step by step. Yes, the doctor did his work with great care and skill. I know that’s true, and kudos to him, but I was sleeping through his gig and the point of this post is to illustrate the conscious observation of one’s life.
The total hospital excursion took three hours and here I sit, one day later, sore but cleaned up and I’m quite sure, fully repaired. I’ve got the prescribed Oxycodone but will save it for a rainy day because Aspirin is good enough for now.
The largest lesson learned from this small adventure? That real appreciation of life – and better control of it – comes from the moment-to-moment observation of the flow of it.
And for you, if you don’t have an imminent mini-adventure coming up? To practice looking down to see the systems of your life in the everyday world, pay attention to these seemingly mundane episodes:
In the grocery store, observe the individual clerks, shoppers, food, drink and physical building. Think about each of these separate systems: each has a purpose; each exists in its space for some reason. Observe how these systems – including the people – intermingle. It’s mind-boggling when one considers the complexity of it and how well it works….
Driving the freeway, become an observer and know that your car is a system of systems. The road is a system, too (pavement, barriers, ditches, signs, rules of the road, traffic police). Of course, you are a system as well, manipulating yourself and other systems to get from A to B (and the trip from A to B is a system, too). It’s the same scenario for all the other drivers. Whew!
At an airport terminal, watch quietly and contemplate each passing traveler separately. Imagine how they got there and where they are headed. Then think about the airport workers and the waiting crews in the planes out there on the tarmac. Next, the concessions and the restaurants and the drinking fountains and the bathrooms; the ticketing and baggage handling. Think about a single airplane and the thousands of separate systems within each, and how it will leave this airport and arrive at some distant airport, hundreds or thousands of miles away (remember that each airport is a system all to itself: each an independent system-of-systems).
Incredible how well it all works!
The careful observation of systems in the here and now is the gateway to the mindset that will set you free; not just in your head, but also in your mechanical world. Take advantage of the rare mini-adventures when they occur, but for the right-now, carefully observe the system mechanics of less exciting events. Do it carefully and when you “get it,” the dynamic be-here-now systems perspective will be with you permanently. Then, because you can see the systems that make up your world, you can go to work to adjust each one that is under your control until you are getting exactly the results you want: An inner serenity that includes plenty of great relationships, lots of money, vibrant health, and plenty enough time to do whatever it is you want to do.

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