Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Simple, Unexpected, Stories (SUS) have been the staple elements upon which we have been exploring the method of making talks that resonate with our audience. Many of us are now very familiar with the basics, the past posts are full of them. In this post we want to delve further and see how we can refine these ideas.

We have stated the difficulty in crafting the simple statement as it requires us to consolidate all the material provided to us into one sentence. However it is critical to crystallize this idea since this is the message we want everyone to leave with. We have noticed that when implementing SUS, we start off with a great unexpected and everyone is engaged. We then try to parlay this engagement into our simple and stories and prasangs. However after the initial excitement we find that the audience tends to loose focus.

We believe that the next step in SUS should be: Connecting the simple to the unexpected. This will require thought, but will increase the engagement from beyond the thought provoking idea of funny story of the unexpected to the core of the simple message and prasangs.

Let's look at two examples we saw over the last two weeks.

Example #1
On Superbowl weekend, the kishore/kishori sabha topic dealt with samp, suhradhyabhaav, and ektaa. The presenter opened it up by talking about an Arctic explorer who came across a bag of cheese doodles that he himself had buried prior to his trip and the his reaction. Take a look (note this was also referenced on RadioLab).

After setting up and showing the clip everyone was engaged and laughing. Now the presenter started to tie this unexpected to his simple message. There was a small discussion (question / answer really): when have you ever been this happy before, when we walk into the Mandir and do darshan do we scream like him, five year olds scream like that all the time why don't we, etc. He then mentioned the following: this explorer put himself in this position of being very tired and hungry (walking for over 40 days) all alone so that when he discovered something he already had, something he had put in the ground himself - he experienced bliss. For us to experience bliss in satsang we too need to be put in situations where we face hardships - where we are tested. He then moved on to ask would the explorer's journey have been easier or harder with another person or a group? A group may have given him company, but they may have also got on each others nerves. If you were that hungry would you want to split those cheese doodles? He then moved to his simple: Samp, Suradhyabhav, and Ekta cause us to be in in difficult situations so that we can experience happiness. This line and the reference to the cheese doodles were then used to compare almost every story.

Example #2
Just yesterday in the same sabha, the topic was sadhutaa. The presenter opened it up with a story where he asked everyone to visualize playing in the Mandir parking lot and getting hit by a car. Then a question, "Would you want someone to perform CPR on you?" Of course, the majority of the sabha raised their hands, but the unexpectedness of the question came through when he played the clip (again from from a recent episode of Radiolab) in which the doctors interviewed pointed out that only 8% benefit from CPR (3% regain normal function, 2% remain as a "vegetable," and 2% remain comatose) while 92% die. The interview also revealed that TV shows depict CPR working on average 75% of the time thus shaping the public's opinion of the maneuver and that most doctors would refuse CPR for themselves.

He then tried to link it accordingly:

  • We did not realize how we had been fed a lie. 
  • Only when we realize the niyams we have can we understand what it means to be a sadhu.
  • Sadhutaa is about pushing forward,
Unfortunately, the last point, his simple statement, did not connect so well to the unexpected. How could he have done it better?

  • Sure, doctors would have not wanted it for themselves.
  • Now let's say their patient was their child.
  • Would they still elect for CPR despite the data?
  • They would because it's a deep relationship that they are not willing to forego.
  • To keep pushing forward out of our relationship with God and our guru - that's sadhutaa.
This relationship proves crucial to the presentation because it is the point that is reiterated over and over throughout the talk.

We can  find cool things to use in our presentation, but it's equally important that we take the time to link the elements up, in this case the simple and the unexpected. The stories should also be connected to the simpl and can then be used to drive home the connection.

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