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April 18, 2003

"Come to the cliff," he said.
They said, "We are afraid."
"Come to the cliff," he said.
They came.  He pushed them.
And they flew."
-- Guillaume Appolinaire
We all know that a mother bird pushes its babies out of the nest when it senses they are ready to learn how to fly.  But imagine for a moment not knowing that and seeing the young bird falling out of the nest, assumedly towards its imminent death.  With the best of all possible intentions, we would instinctively reach out and catch it before it hit the ground.

From our point of view, we might assume that we saved that bird from pain or even death, and reflect on the synchronicity of our being in the right place at the right time and the apparent cruelty of nature. 

The young bird would feel mightily relieved at being caught, and would certainly be extremely grateful us.  Depending on whether it had an optimistic or pessimistic bent, it would either decide the universe is a friendly place where people are always there to catch us when we fall, or a dangerous place where you never know when the next person you love and trust is going to push you out of the nest.  It might understandably misinterpret its mother's loving nudge as a cruel rejection, and wind up in bird therapy.  (Talk about having issues with your parents! :-) 

Of course, the mother bird might see things differently.  She knows that even baby birds have wings and after a certain age, they can fly.  The way they learn is by "falling" until instinct takes over.  But by catching the young bird too early in its fall, we interrupted the lesson at a critical uncture.  Instead of flying clumsily around the nest until mastering itswings and realizing it can ride the wind across the sky, the little bird we so kindly caught will remain flightless, dependent, and frightened, completely unaware of the incredible power within it to spread its wings and soar high above the clouds.

So what conclusions can we draw from this little thought experiment? 

What we can learn is that perhaps we too have wings which have rarely if ever been tested, kept tucked firmly at our sides by our well-meaning support networks of family and friends.  Perhaps we cling too tightly to our own nests, "protecting" ourselves with a cocoon of fear, thinking that to venture outside that comfortable nest will bring disaster and death, when in fact it is the only way we can truly connect with the inner power which is our birthright.

A friend told me the story of how she first found her own wings after losing a breast to cancer.  She was attending a personal empowerment program, listening to the proceedings half-heartedly, feeling both helpless and hopeless about her future.  The course leader, after repeatedly asking for her full attention, sent her out of the room until she was "ready to participate fully."

When she first left the room, she was filled with anger.  How dare he treat her like that?  Didn't he know she was recovering from CANCER?! 

After a time, her anger turned to sadness, then despair.  How would she ever be able to get by in the world after the loss she had suffered?  What if everyone treated her as coldly and cruelly as the course leader?

Finally, she told me, she began to laugh.  The absurdity of her situation had just struck her.  Here she was, alive and relatively well after the doctors had told her she could easily have died, and she was wasting her precious, precious time feeling sorry for herself and getting angry at the man she was paying to help her find what she had never lost. 

She realized then that treating her as a responsible adult had been the most loving thing that course leader could possibly have done.  She knew in that moment that she would always be able to make choices about how to show up and participate even under the most difficult of circumstances. Her personal empowerment training was complete. 

By Michael Neill at www.successmadefun.com
(c) 2003 Michael Neill  All rights reserved.
1.     Take at least three actions this week which force you
        outside of your "nest."  Notice what you learn when
        you step beyond your own cocoon of fear -- how do
        you feel?  What's different?  What remains the same?
        (Obviously, common sense prevails here -- if you are
        in a situation of imminent physical danger, do what
        you need to do to stay safe!)

2.     Choose a person in your life that you deeply love and
        would love to see tap into the power within them.
        This week, decide to be with them as they are without
        trying to change, fix, or help them in any way, knowing
        in your heart that they too have the ability in any moment
        to spread their wings and go from falling to flying.

3.     Have fun, learn heaps, and fly free!

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