I recently read this story by author/ teacher/psychologist Tara Brach…
“Mohini was a regal white tiger who lived for many years at the Washington D.C. National Zoo. For most of those years her home was in the old lion house—a typical twelve-by-twelve-foot cage with iron bars and a cement floor. Mohini spent her days pacing restlessly back and forth in her cramped quarters. Eventually, biologists and staff worked together to create a natural habitat for her. Covering several acres, it had hills, trees, a pond and a variety of vegetation. With excitement and anticipation they released Mohini into her new and expansive environment. But it was too late. The tiger immediately sought refuge in a corner of the compound, where she lived for the remainder of her life. Mohini paced and paced in that corner until an area twelve by twelve feet was worn bare of grass. ”
How often do we create our own prisons? How often do we tell ourselves a story- that we’re not beautiful, smart, funny, kind, generous, skinny, gracious, ambitious enough? And then we believe it. And we keep on believing it even when it’s disproven. Even when we’re loved by someone else and have the house and have the job and have the ‘life’?Even when all the things happen that we thought would set us free.
We continue to pace the 12×12 invisible cage waiting for freedom. We continue to be locked inside our own stories, wearing ourselves down. We ache for space and light and acres of rolling hills, and they’re right in front of us the whole time.
So how do we step outside? We just do. It’s often as simple and complex as that. We stretch, we stand up, we set ourselves in motion.
Me? I talk to myself. Now, a note of caution- I consider myself to be borderline woo-woo. Meaning, do I believe that what we think/say/do/ask for/wish for/dream has power and energy?
Do I think that staring at myself in the mirror while staring at my slightly puffy stomach and saying ‘You are thin and lithe and lean’ 500 times over will magic my puffiness away? No, I do not. But I do say something like this…
You are puffy. Yes, yes you are. And that’s okay. Puffy is okay when you’ve had the sort of week/month/year/life you’ve had. Puffy is good and true and honest. Being puffy doesn’t mean that much. It means you’re puffy. Big deal. So someone calls you puffy or even the dreaded ‘F’ word. Big deal-we probably don’t like them anyway. But puffy doesn’t feel good. So let’s move a little more today than we did yesterday. Let’s stretch our toes and drink our water and turn off the TV. Let’s put on mascara and choose something to wear that feels good, in spite of (not despite) our puffiness. Let’s get outside and feel warm and let’s laugh a lot.
Saying things like that to myself feels like a step outside the 12×12 invisible cage. It’s the sort of thing I’d say to a dear friend if they stood in front of me scared and sad and hopeless. I wouldn’t lie or say they never looked better or told them they were crazy. I wouldn’t coddle them either. I’d be gentle and acknowledge the story that was true for them. And then I’d help them start to step outside.
Growth is hard and that’s really what this is all about. Growing. I’m convinced it takes periods of rest and motion.
Rest and motion.
You’re not destined to pace a 12×12 invisible cage. You’re meant for acres and hills and expansion.
P.S. If you’re also borderline woo-woo or especially all the way woo, you’ll love Tara Brach’s podcast found here.