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“Once there was an eagle who thought he was a chicken. Left at birth in a chicken coop, all he knew was how to peck at the dirt, scrabble for grub and walk around strutting his stuff like he was the best dang chicken in the yard.
And he was, until one day an eagle spied him from on high and wondered, “Why is that eagle acting like a chicken?”
Wanting to find the answer, the eagle swooped down and landed in front of the eagle who thought he was a chicken.
All the chickens in the yard were terrified. They raced to the coop, slammed the door and hid inside.
Not the eagle who thought he was a chicken. He was the best dang chicken in that yard and he could stand up to an eagle. And that’s what he told the eagle.
“You don’t scare me. I’m the best dang chicken around. You don’t belong here.”
The eagle was surprised. “You don’t belong here either,” he said. “You’re an eagle. Your wings are designed to soar high.”
The eagle who thought he was a chicken stuttered and spewed. “I am not an eagle. I am a chicken!” He stomped his great eagle talons in the dirt and threw back his head to show off his mighty eagle beak.
“Ummm…. I don’t think so,” replied the eagle who knew what he was talking about. “Let me prove to you that you’re an eagle. Come, take one flight with me and you’ll know the truth.”
The eagle who thought he was a chicken thought a moment before answering.
“Ok,” he said. “I’ll fly with you but first, you have to let me go to the coop and say good-bye to my family. They will be worried about me if I’m gone too long.”
The other eagle was standing between him and the chicken coop and that’s where safety lay. In the coop.
“Sure thing,” said the eagle who knew what he was talking about as he stepped aside to let the eagle who thought he was a chicken pass. “I’ll wait right here.”
And with that, the eagle who thought he was a chicken raced to the chicken coop. Flung the door open, entered its dark confines, slammed the door shut and exhaled a sigh of relief.
“See!” he said to the wide eyes chickens he called his family. “I am not only the best dang chicken in this coop… I’m the smartest. I just outsmarted that eagle!”
And all the chickens praised him for being such a smart chicken because through their chicken eyes, they truly could not see he was an eagle born to soar on high.
Every heart needs a home, and every person needs to have a place to belong.
Sometimes, we mistake where we’re at as that place. Sometimes, we confuse our titles, our degrees and accomplishments, our belongings, talents and accolades and our origin story, as our place of belonging.
Belonging comes from within. It is the knowing that, as Maya Angelou described it:
“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all.”
It is the dichotomy of belonging. We yearn to be or do or have something that will quell the fear within that we don’t fit in anywhere. Propelled by our fear, we adapt ourselves to suit the world around us to fit in somewhere. And in our adaptations, we lose the one place we truly belong, within our hearts, true to our own self — which leaves us nowhere out there to belong, other than everywhere, or as Brene Brown writes in Braving the Wilderness:
“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
You can clip an eagle’s wings so it cannot soar.
You can dim your own light so you will not shine.
Whether you hide out in the chicken coop of your thinking you don’t fit in or fit in where you don’t belong, or strut your stuff believing you’re a rock star because nobody can see how scared you are of shining your light, you cannot belong anywhere without first belonging to yourself.
Your answer does not come from ‘out there’. It comes from and lives always within the sanctuary of your being at home with being true to your beautiful, magnificent, brilliant self, fearlessly breathing life into the sacredness of being who you are, always.
A note on the eagle story — I heard this story years ago in a video of Eldon Taylor. It’s one of my favourites.
Mountains touching sky
beetle marches unobserved
in prairie grasses.
The haiku wrote itself while I lay in savasana last night, my body gratefully giving itself over to ‘corpse pose’ after 75 minutes of hot yoga.
I know. I know.
Dead minds don’t think.
But my mind couldn’t help itself. When it wants to create, the muse awakens in the silence and has her way with me.
In my search for quiet mind, I wondered if I would remember the words, or even the fact that I had fallen into haiku thinking and, there it was this morning. The moment my fingertips hit the keyboard and I gave myself over to the process of writing, the words appeared.
I am amused.
I don’t recall ever being fascinated with writing haiku before. One month after hitting the yoga mat, my mind is stirring in unusual ways. Perhaps it isn’t a goddess awakening within me but a Buddha!
Somehow, the vision of a fat, chubby Buddha laughing and rubbing his belly in contentment is not as stimulating as a svelte, sensual goddess dancing with her seven veils unravelling my psyche.
Perhaps though, it is fitting.
Life is funny.
We humans are funny too.
Yesterday, a man I knew from my days of working at the homeless shelter, dropped into my office unexpectedly.
I’d run into him the day before and he’d asked if he could call. “I’d like to talk to you about writing my story,” he said.
And there he was, the very next day, standing in the lobby of our offices.
“I need to ask you something,” he said after I’d lead him into a private meeting room and sat down. “I’m in a real bind financially. Everything will unravel if I don’t get $500 today and put it in my bank account. If you lend it to me I can pay it back tomorrow.”
And he went on to explain his financial predicament.
I stopped him.
“You don’t have to tell me the intimate details of your story,” I told him gently. “I can’t lend you the money.” And then I gave him a suggestion on how to deal with his financial emergency.
Instantly, his entire being deflated. He looked lost. Frightened. My suggestion won’t work he told me because he had to pay the first $500 to someone else in order to borrow the next to pay off the second.
What happens when you get to your last person on the list? I asked.
I don’t know, he said. I haven’t got there yet.
When I worked at the shelter, one of my co-workers called it, The Hail Mary Solution.
Pray for a miracle. Pray that if you keep putting one more grain of sand on the pile it won’t all come tumbling down. And even though you know it can’t last, you keep adding one more grain, one more grain, building it up and up until that one grain is added that the pile can no longer sustain. And it all comes spilling down to earth.
Mountains soar to the sky. Prairie grasses blow in the wind. And there, at my feet, is a tiny beetle slowly crawling along the earth. Unnoticed, he is not concerned with what the mountains are doing. He doesn’t care if the grasses grow or the sky falls down. He is only concerned with his journey. Slowly, with intention, he keeps walking. One step in front of the other, moving forward.
I have spent many days piling sand, trying to fix a problem I’ve created by adding more of what I did to build it up.
It is only when I stop focussing on adding a grain of sand to keep the sandpile growing, that I start to awaken to what is evident right where I’m at. Grounded in my body, my feet firmly planted in the now of my being present, I discover the truth of where I’m going is not built on adding one mistake to another.
It’s created when I stop doing what I’m doing that isn’t working, and start becoming aware and accountable for what I’m doing – and choose to stop destroying my path with steps in the wrong direction.
A man asked to borrow $500 yesterday. In his request, I was given the gift of awakening. No matter if part of me wanted to help him. No matter if part of me wanted to relieve his immediate anxiety so that he would feel better, it wouldn’t have helped. The relief would have been fleeting.
And in its passing, we might both have been swept away in the tsunami of the sandpile spilling down to the earth.