The Pathless Path

Wayne C. Allen – a simple Zen guy – writes about living and relating elegantly


It’s OK to Be OK


It’s OK to be OK — being OK is about self-valuing. It requires stop­ping the stories, open­ing up, and being real.

In This Moment

I finished a pretty cool photo shoot a week or so ago, and seeing the images led me to think about how being open (being seen) changes everything. I decided to write about the experience, and will keep you posted as some of the photos become paintings.

ok to be ok

It’s OK to Be OK could be the motto for our work. It’s not really about toot­ing your horn — it’s about recog­niz­ing how you stop your­self from being your best self.

I used this line with client a few weeks back, and it’s become her motto. I almost designed a tee shirt!

Something interesting happens when people really get something. They smile.

Or wiggle, or giggle, or sigh. Their body lets go, and there’s a moment of peace. With prac­tice that moment can be repeated, "moment-by-moment."

It seems to me that the process is to endlessly re-examine what is right in front of you, and then to pay atten­tion to the stories you tell. The "right in front of you" is simply the stuff you contend with.

The stories, on the other hand, are… stories.

In the late 60s, early 70s, I was doing my BA at Elmhurst College, near Chicago. I’d been taking photos, and paint­ing, for fun, for years.

chicago 68
Chicago, 1968

I ended up there just after the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and all the drama of the protests / Anti-war / Civil Rights move­ments. I "hired on" at the College paper, and started shoot­ing.

I also renewed my interest in painting.

This all led to my open­ing a small photo studio, and doing the requi­site portraits, weddings, etc. Then, I branched into model port­fo­lios, adver­tis­ing, and photograph­ing and paint­ing nudes.

I paid off a lot of my BA with my camera.

One of the things I discov­ered was that the kind of shoots I liked doing had to do with help­ing the folks I photographed peel away (liter­ally and figu­ra­tively) layers of resis­tance to being seen.

It became a recurring theme in my paintings, too. I work at capturing both the bliss and the "tuned out-ness" of real living.

if it feels good

Here’s the point: some people resist being photographed. They have trou­ble think­ing they could "let go" enough. Or, they let me take photos, and stay tight little balls.

Others do a service­able job of being present, but hold them­selves back a tad.

And others, (the top photo) well, you see the letting go in the almost ecstatic look on her face.

I’m read­ing “Not for Happiness: A Guide to the So-called Preliminary Practices,” by Dzongsar Jamyang Khjentse

Here’s an inter­est­ing quote:

“In prac­tice, though, we have a fond­ness for slav­ery. We love to be ruled by other people and things, to be chained up, dragged by the hair, and pushed and pulled by atmos­phere, circum­stance and situ­a­tion.”

Our nature is to get so wrapped up in our stories, and from there to severely limit our behav­iour. I hear grown adults complain that their parents, or spouse, or chil­dren are keep­ing them stuck.

I’d suggest to you that this prison is imag­i­nary, and that the slav­ery to others – or to “the world” – is self-imposed. Or, as a client said last week, “OK, so maybe I just have to stop with the stories, and actu­ally make a deci­sion…”


We all have within us a deep "pool of cool" — all the inter­est­ing stuff that, if expressed, changes things. We’ve learned to stuff that stuff, behind walls of phys­i­cal tight­ness, and behind stories of our inep­ti­tude.

Once you see how you are stop­ping you, block­ing you, restrain­ing you, there’s a glim­mer of hope, a bit of light. You can choose to break through.

Here’s the thing: this is ongoing and endless.

You have to resist your locked-down-ness, re-tell your stories, and act differ­ently. Again, and again, and again.

And typi­cally, as this happens, each shot gets more inti­mate, deep, and open. Just like "real" life, truly lived.

This week, think about what would happen if you declared your­self and your life to be OK. Full. Real. Deep. Chargy. Imagine open­ing your­self to the full expres­sion of who you are, in your rela­tion­ships, in your "life produc­tion," and in your self-knowing.

Listen for the stories that you stop your­self with, and have a breath. Say, "I’m OK, and I can be real."

And then, do it!

Make Contact!

So, how does this week’s arti­cle sit with you? What ques­tions do you have? Leave a comment or ques­tion!

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  1. Jane

    Hey Wayne I really, really liked this post. Saying we’re not ok seems to be a badge of honour. Like saying I’m sick or I’m tired. Yet as you say think­ing like that holds us down and discon­nects us from the joy of being ourselves. I agree it’s not arro­gant to be ok, it’s simply a solid place to live your life from and that’s an absolute gift. Jane

    • Hey Jane,
      Nice as always to hear from you. Amazing how much drama goes away when you live in the OK place! All the best to you!

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