I just visited a large barber shop in the city of Lisbon Portugal, for the first and last time. A Google search showed me that this place was conveniently located in my general area, so I jumped in an Uber and went for a ride. Their online presence was decent, good photos, well placed information and all the right appeal for a man looking to authentically connect with someone who knew what they were doing.
When I arrived it was the middle of the afternoon and the streets were buzzing with tourists, locals, and enthusiasts of all kinds. Stepping into the establishment one could not help but to be impressed. The place looked, smelled and even tasted like the epitome of a big city barber-shop. I even noticed a sign at the cash register that read, “A cheap haircut is not a good haircut.” I thought to myself, “Haha alright! Now here’s a place not afraid to value their service.”
I was greeted by a man that seemed to either be an owner or a manager. He had that classic look of one who spends their life trimming a mans beard - he was covered in hair. It was from that moment that the true colors of the business started to show. Not bad colors, but the actual colors; beyond the facade of a fancy building, expensive decor, and well placed photos on a website that advertised a great experience.
He reached out to shake my hand and at the point of contact of manly palms his eyes reached over my shoulder to see who else might be coming in. He didn’t actually see me. He was looking over my shoulder for more. I could see why. All around me were full chairs. I was excited, enthused for this adventure unfolding before my eyes.
In a very real way, my inner and playful quest, was to find an establishment that I could return to again and again, knowing that who I was authentically connecting with would genuinely desire to take care of my playful question. The very simple question of, “Can someone just take care of this face once a week and straighten it up so I don’t have to?” In all honesty, I didn’t care how much it cost, because what I wanted was a real solution, not a way of saving money.
This owner, with someone waiting for him in his chair, asked me, “Do you want to come back later?” I responded, a little confused and smiling, “Uh, no. I want to get my face taken care of. Do I need to come back later in order for that to happen?” I thought this question was so hilarious. Who wants to come back later, who wants to delay the solution? In a way, he was telling me “I can’t help you, try another time.”
He checked his schedule and said they could get me a chair in about 20 minutes, so it would be good for me to come back then. I quickly thought to myself “Well, I’m in the middle of the city, if I walk out and find a place to sit down, by the time I get settled, I have to get back up and return. That’s stupid." So I asked politely, ”Would it be okay if I just sat in one of these chairs that look like chairs to wait in?” Of course the answer was yes. I’m not so sure he knew that it was an option to give me a choice. As if he just assumed, I didn’t want to be there, unless I could get my problem solved immediately.
Next Phase. The Perfect Look, with no Life
A barber exits from backstage and I see this Dude… and I’m like, “Fuck Yes!” This dude looks legit. Fulfilling my visual fantasy of what I would want my permanent barber to look like. I sat in the chair, excited to watch what life would do. I should probably note here that I really didn’t care about the outcome. I’m more interested in the experience. The outcome is irrelevant; my hair will grow back, a cut to the face will heal. All is well, regardless; so let’s play.
His second language was English, however, he knew what he was saying. He asked me what I wanted, I said, “Fade from the bottom to the top and make my beard tight.” He had a classic questioning look in his eyes, which said without words, "I’m confused, that’s not enough information." He then proceeded to confuse me with options of hair styles, using lingo I’ve never heard before, as if I knew what he was talking about. I just smiled, and said, “Brother, really I just want you to enjoy yourself and make me look better than I look now.”
You see, he’s the barber. I’m not. In all truthfulness, I don’t know what the fuck I want, other than guess what? A joyful experience! So I asked him to enjoy himself. Which proved to be a challenge because he was so concerned with getting it wrong. In this space, he tried to enjoy himself by being afraid of not giving me what I wanted, when… I just told him what I wanted; to share joy with one another.
The end result was a play-it-safe mediocre haircut, that in all reality, I could have got anywhere. I was enjoying the experience regardless because I was amazed at the play that was happening. Watching him restrict his joy, because he wanted to “not do a bad job.” He didn’t enjoy himself at all. I gave him an empty canvas that said “Create Your Art BRO! Here I am!” He simply wasn’t excited about that which really blew my mind. Do you think I want an artist to paint me a picture, that says, “I hope you think this doesn’t suck.” Or maybe instead an epic masterpiece that says, "Here I am, this is what I do. Boom.”
He then grabbed the mirror, half cocked and only revealed to me part of his lackluster art, as if slightly afraid to show me; and said, “How’s this look?” I replied, “Do you like it?” With zero confidence, enthusiasm or passion, he said “Yeah, yeah, it’s good.” I even told him in the beginning that he was auditioning for a permanent position as my home city barber. You see, I was open to build a relationship with someone who loved what they did. However, in these moments, he wasn’t in love with what he was doing. His present moment was trapped in a future fear, which was completely unrelated to his present moment profession. As he cut my hair we spoke about his concern with the city, or rather his frustration with the city, and how he didn’t have enough to be what he really wanted…yet, the present moment was right then and there.
SHAVED…. What the???
He then proceeded to pass me off to the guy who does the shaving. I was a little bummed, as I was hoping to just have one guy do it all; but okay, the adventure continues.
This next little lad seemed just a bit nervous, in the most adorable way, almost like he was excited about his job working there but was still trying to fit into the shoes that felt a little too big. I was all smiles. Inviting him to just relax. He politely asked me what I wanted, I said, “Let’s keep it all the same but take the beard down a size, and sharpen up the lines.” I also noted my interest in maintaining the lines around my temples and forehead.
He responded with possibly the worst response of, "We don’t do that here.” What he was really trying to communicate and didn’t have the words, and maybe again, the language gap “Oh, I like that idea, that would look great, however, it’s not my specialty and I’m not super comfortable doing that. I am super comfortable doing…. the other part, and would love to really focus at what I’m good at. We would both be much happier.”
As the shave commenced, I could tell he was fucking it up. When it comes to a razor on your face, there's no backspace or undo button and not even a rewind. So, I playfully let go of every expectation and released him into a freedom to do what he was going to do. It was making for creative content to write about; I was authentically thrilled. This guy was a little bit more enthusiastic, sensing he had an opportunity to be present and express himself. I could feel that and I appreciated it. Which is why I was even more comfortable with the potential disaster.
Upon completion and looking into the mirror, I smiled, and said, “Well alright, thank you very much Sir." Was I impressed with the shave? Not in the least. However, overall I was impressed with the experience because it was such a profound opportunity to watch the human unfolding of inner and outer connection; not just in others of course, but in myself.
We miss out on the play and joy of attention to detail, because we are distracted. On my face after the razor shave there were still hairs in places where it was supposed to be shaved. This left a message that said, “That's all I got, you'll have to go home and finish the rest." If he looked, he would have seen them, but he couldn't see them, because he was looking for something else beyond the present moment.
I love this play of not 'needing' it to work out, or go how I think it should; but I can relax and simply be available to observe and engage naturally.
The Opportunity for Authentic Connection
From my end, the authentic connection is to release any expectation that 'needs' someone else to be a certain way, in order for myself to be with Joy. It's just that simple, in recognizing that others don't determine how I feel internally; I create that, based on what I imagine is or is not. So every experience, in dealing with people, places and things, I'm free to be as I am. However, in order for this to really be felt and embodied, I must release others to be as they are.
The amazing part in what I experienced, is that even though I visited this establishment that in my view did not deliver what I was looking for, I still genuinely felt connected to them. I saw them literally doing the best they could, with what they had. If they really believe the non-sense in the mind that says they can't be present and inspired, then that's what they are working with. There doesn't need to be any judgment.
Again, because in my world, how I feel and experience 'the' world, isn't dependent on what others are doing. If we believe, our inner world is prisoner to the outer world, then the opportunity for authentic connection becomes a battle for control, manipulation and confrontation.
For the barbershop staff, their distraction that wasn't able to connect with me fully was only a distraction with thought. Thinking about something that wasn't actually happening. Feeling, as if there was something more important than fully welcoming me to their establishment, to their place of passionate self-expression. In no way is this wrong, it's just an opportunity to be seen.
This is the root of every issue, that keeps us from fully showing up in what's actually happening. It's a confusion between the reality that's present and alive, and the reality of a self in the mind that believes it's missing something.
Authentic Connection, it's simply waiting to be seen; so can you connect with the moment, and see what's already here. If you can, if you are willing, you'll recognize beyond doubt, that you have everything you need, in order to hold a present moment space of joy, passion, and authentic service.