Let Me Out Of The Cage!

“Any fool can make a rule
And any fool will mind it.”
Henry David Thoreau, Journal #14

I started a new job and it has left me gloriously exhausted. Part of the new position is developing and teaching courses in mindful meditation. Mindfulness meditation has changed my life in beautiful ways and I hope I am a worthy teacher on the topic.

That being said, I am diving deep into the literature as I prepare these courses. I wrote in a previous post about a story I read in my preparation and I want to share another story. In Tara Brach’s meditation talks she tells a story about a tiger.

Once upon a time, a tiger lived in a cage. He lived in this cage for most of his life. As he aged, he was sent to live in a large nature preserve with acres and acres of world for this tiger to explore. However, the tiger found a small space in the preserve that resembled the cage and spent the rest of his days there. He never explored the world that was now open to him.

I think this story represents how so many of us live by rules and limitations that are no longer applicable or healthy for our lives. We fear leaving a cage that no longer exists. Many of us rest in our safe corner of the world without believing that we have permission and even expectation to explore our world. I think this relates to opening ourselves up to new experiences, new relationships, new jobs, and new adventures. I can appreciate that new is terrifying but I feel like living in a cage my entire life is far more terrifying.

I think some of the bars of our cages are made up of our life experiences. Sometimes well meaning parents wanting us to be safe put expectations on our lives that don’t match what our soul desires. I think some teachers may imply that you struggle in a subject and we take that to mean we aren’t smart. Maybe the art we create didn’t turn out the way the instructor imagined and we took that to mean we couldn’t sing/dance/draw/write. The problem with these bars is that the opinions of others do not have to control our lives. For many of us, long after the person with the opinion is gone, we still live by their rules and opinions.

I try to explore the ways I live in a cage in my own life. When I feel like “who do I think I am to do/say/feel something” I realize that this is probably my cage talking. But, I want a cage free life. I want to explore the preserve.  And, I hope you’ll join me.


“There is no list of rules. There is one rule. The rule is: there are no rules. Happiness comes from living as you need to, as you want to. As your inner voice tells you to. Happiness comes from being who you actually are instead of who you think you are supposed to be. Being traditional is not traditional anymore. It’s funny that we still think of it that way. Normalize your lives, people. You don’t want a baby? Don’t have one. I don’t want to get married? I won’t. You want to live alone? Enjoy it. You want to love someone? Love someone. Don’t apologize. Don’t explain. Don’t ever feel less than. When you feel the need to apologize or explain who you are, it means the voice in your head is telling you the wrong story. Wipe the slate clean. And rewrite it. No fairy tales. Be your own narrator. And go for a happy ending. One foot in front of the other. You will make it.”
Shonda Rhimes, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person


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