Get in Trouble on Purpose

By Keith Varnum

Why would someone want to get in trouble on purpose?

Well, if you were a masochist? Or an idiot? Or crazy? Or all of the above?

No, it’s more like someone who’s decided to “play with trouble” as a lifestyle choice!

I learned this edgy approach to life from my unusual parents. As many of you, I grew up with major contradictions in my upbringing. My parents were a bastion of stability, a bedrock of Midwestern family values, and defenders of the Establishment. My father was the mayor of our city, a distinguished lawyer, and sat on almost every board in town (church, school, city council). My mother was a court reporter and was on every other board (mental health, hospital, PTA) that my father couldn’t attend because there are only five week nights in a week!

Yet, my folks had a very unique and curious approach to raising me. They embodied a motto they publicly announced with pride far and wide. Their guiding maxim was, “We never say ‘No’ to our son! We always say ‘Yes!’”

And I can’t recall a time when they didn’t adhere to this radical strategy of child-rearing. They never once said “No” to me.

If they had a strong preference as to the smartest choice, the most they’d ever say was, “Well, you do what you feel is best. We would strongly advise this particular choice. But you decide. It’s your life.” And they would back me up in whatever rash or ill-advised course of action I took.

You see, my parents wanted me to develop my own ability to make smart choices in life. They knew that wise decision-making is a person’s greatest ally in life. So they felt that the more opportunities I had to make my own choices, the more experience I’d have in discovering the true consequences of my personal choices. They wanted to give me as many chances as possible to experience the fun—and not-so-fun—consequences of wise—and not-so-wise—life choices.

And they felt it was most loving of them to give me the opportunity to explore choices and consequences while they were still around to help me out when I made not-so-smart choices. When parents limit personal life choices for their kids with strict rules and boundaries, they limit their kids’ opportunities for choice. These kids don’t get much experience in choosing their own fate in life—and learning about the consequences that go with their choices. 

In one very real sense, you could say that my folks encouraged me to get in trouble while I still lived at home, so they were still around to help me get out of trouble!

And I took maximum advantage of this parenting style! I stayed out late at night, took the family car out in blizzard conditions, and hung out with the “wrong” kind of friends. I got in one kind of trouble or another on a regular basis. And my folks helped me clean up the messes I made. I’ll be forever grateful for their unwavering support in my follies!

I feel that their parenting strategy worked! Sine the day I escaped my hometown, I’ve made fairly wise life choices. And when I haven’t, I’ve known from experience how to make things right—or at least repaired to some degree.

Like Parents, Like Mentor

Not so coincidentally, my first spiritual teacher had the exact same mentoring approach as my parents. His name was George Ohsawa. He was fond of saying:

“If you truly want to grow and become truly happy, go out into the world, get in trouble, and then get yourself out of trouble—over and over and over again—until it’s fun and easy!”

Ohsawa was born in Japan into a samurai family. So he came from the stock and soul of the ancient Spiritual Warrior.

Ohsawa began his spiritual awakening at the same age as I did. He cured himself of “incurable” tuberculosis at age 19 using what he knew about the ancient Chinese concepts of yin-yang. I cured myself of “incurable” blindness at age 19 using what I knew of the ancient Chinese concepts of yin-yang.

And “coincidently” I learned these concepts from no less than George Ohsawa’s main U.S. disciple, Michio Kushi!

After Ohsawa healed himself, he travelled to Europe where he started to spread his philosophy. In Paris he adopted his pen name “Ohsawa” from the French phrase “Oh, ça va!” —which means “all right!” or “I’m doing fine!” or “It’s all good!” as a reply to the question “How are you doing?” He wanted his name to express his approach to life!

In the same spirit my parents would say to me, “Do whatever you choose. It’s all right. It’s all fine. It’s all good!”

Then George Ohsawa traveled throughout the Third World and deliberately contracted the worst diseases (considered “incurable” by Western and Eastern experts) so that he could see if he could cure himself of any disease. He did!

In my life, I’ve also developed many severe ailments. Although I didn’t deliberately seek out these sicknesses as Ohsawa; nonetheless, I cured myself of them all as well!

As you might expect, all my later spiritual teachers also practice a similar wild and trusting world view: a Hawaiian Kahuna, a Hopi medicine man, and Matrix Eneregetic’s Richard Bartlett. Why are you not surprised!

The River Flows Through It

I enjoy discovering the “common threads” that weave through the tapestry of a person’s life. I delight in finding the “common themes” that unite a person’s seemingly chaotic path. I seek to sense the “river that runs through it all.”

In my own instance, I marvel at the continuity of spirit from my parents to my later chosen teachers to the life I now lead. You too can uncover the river of intention flowing through your journey. If you look deeply—beneath the surface, behind asserted beliefs—into the words and actions of the most important people in your life, you’ll find an undercurrent of common focus connecting all your dearest mentors.

For example, at surface glance, my folks were as dire and solemn as you could get. They stated publicly for the record that life was a sober and crucial affair of serious struggle and survival. Yet, when I listened carefully—especially in times of crisis—I could hear them mumble aloud to themselves, “You know, it really doesn’t matter.”

This is the message I chose to hear from my parents, from my mentors, and from life itself:

It really doesn’t matter the way we think it matters, the way our mind insists that it matters. After all, what we think is solid matter in life really isn’t solid or matter.Quantum physics has proven that in its essence, every seemingly solid thing in life is actually energy. All objects and so-called physical bodies are essentially moving energy—and therefore, they are infinitely fluid, malleable and changeable.

You can replay your life in order to uncover the truth behind the scenes. Listen with your heart as you recall times of heightened urgency in your life. In times of crisis and emergency, what did your parents, family, friends and teachers speak softly to themselves and to others in need of help and truth?

You can choose anew. You can choose now. What messages do you choose to hear from the important people in you life?

… The socially correct clichés they mechanically expressed publicly?

… Or the true whispers of their hearts expressed through words and actions beneath the radar of the collective mind?

It’s your choice! Your life! Your hell or your heaven!