Photo by Carla Blazek, owner of Zenamoon.
This post is dedicated to my daughter who graduates from high school today. To your freedom Lilly baby!
There is a Sufi teaching story about a caged bird. The bird was well looked after by her owner, fed and talked to, and her cage was kept by an open window so she could see the wonderful world outside. But still she was caged. She could see other birds flying free. She could see interesting things happening. Her wings twitched because she longed so to join the world.
One day, the owner left both the cage door and the window open, and went to work for the day. The bird quicky hopped out of her cage and onto the window ledge. She could see so much! She could see mountains and a lake, birds cavorting, humans hugging on the street below. So much amazing life!
But the bird could not make herself move. She just stayed on the ledge, wondering what to do. She stayed and stayed and stayed. She couldn’t make her wings take flight. The bird was still there when her owner came home from work. So he put the bird back in her cage. And there she stayed.
In the last week::
I sat with a long time client as she denied herself the peace and happiness she already has. I don’t mean that in an abstract way. I mean she has everything she wants and she doesn’t allow herself to trust it’s real, to let it in. Instead, she lacerates herself with self-loathing for opportunities not taken and her failed marriage.
I watched a dear friend refuse to acknowledge she has the money she needs in the bank to leave the work that is killing her. I listened as she told me why she has to stay two and half more years until her pension is fully funded. I honestly don’t know if she can survive another month.
I watch these people I love, as I often watch myself, refuse to walk through the open cage door.
I’m fascinated by this human phenomena! What is it with us? I give this so much thought – it’s a favorite subject of mine – why we stay caged, when we can instantly be free? Here is my most recent reminder list to myself — I’d love to hear what’s on your get free list::
- See the cage clearly. Name your “cage story.” What is the cage you are in? If you can’t see it there is no way out. Then ask: why do I have to stay in my cage? Be granular. Note: doing this almost always requires help from someone skilled in seeing cages. But beware: not so much help you keep bouncing from expert to expert instead of taking action to get and stay free.
- Test the reality of your cage story. I have asked my friend for years: How much do you spend? How much do you owe? How much do you need for retirement? How much do you have in the bank now? I always start exactly there with clients who come to me for business help. It never fails to amaze me how we don’t pay attention to the most basic facts of what we have and what we need. It can be so much more fun to take another course or brainstorm about our life purpose (busting myself here). But these very things can keep you in your cage going round and round on the gerbil wheel while the door is open! Facts get you free.
- Use conditions of enoughness. It’s a term I coined for naming what is enough in very concrete terms – it’s life changing and simple. The bottom line is you have to build a bridge of doable action from inside the cage to outside. Think of it as a ramp to freedom, made from enoughness. Building this ramp is not hard. The reason most people don’t do it? It isn’t sexy or fast. But it works. It gets you free, if you let it.
- Keep coming into trusting contact with life. The cage lives in your mind. I’m not saying you don’t have real crappy constraints on your lives but the feeling of being caged is always in your mind. When you come into your precious body, partake of this very moment, you are free. The weird thing is, no matter how uncomfortable the present moment is, no matter how filled with grief or pain, when you are in it, you are free because it’s real. Reality, present moment, divine oneness, whatever you call it, is freedom. It’s all around you saying “Taste me! Live me! Be here in me now!” The bird didn’t fly because it was thinking about flying rather than actually flying.
- Love your cage. You get free. Then, a minute or an hour or a month later, you wake up back up in the damn cage. Why am I here again, you moan! Because you got triggered – by your bank balance, your crappy first draft, your kid’s pain, your migraine – and you zipped back into the cage. Do not despair! You are human. Being human is the whole point. Seriously. Please hear me. Being human is the whole point. Don’t beat yourself up for doing what you are here to do – which is learn! Instead, come over to my house and we will polish our cages together until they shine so brightly we and our cages disappear into sparkling ordinary oneness… and then we find new cages and it starts all over again… until it doesn’t.
To cages and freedom and being human. To seeing ourselves in our cages with love and tenderness. To being at peace with it all. To you!