The struggle to find peace and happiness within ourselves can feel like an uphill battle. As a teenager, I was incredibly socially awkward and self-conscious. Happiness was fleeting as a sideways comment from a friend could bring me down. In art class in high school, I painted an image of a naked young woman curled up in a broken egg shell. She was hatching into a dark nesting box. There was a light coming from a small hole up high on the wall. This is what my experience felt like every day. I felt trapped and imprisoned by my own mind.
On some level, we as human-beings are all trapped in a prison of the mind*. All of our doubts, worries, fears, and limiting beliefs keep us trapped in a certain way of behaving in the world. Whether it is avoiding a much needed talk with our sweetheart for fear of angering him/her/them, or driving to work because we are afraid of cycling with traffic. Most of us are not even aware of how our fears shape our daily lives. We are kept in the dark being blind, deaf, and dumb as we repeat the same behaviors day in and day out. We then wonder why we feel anxious, lonely, and at war with ourselves. We wonder why all of the symptoms of illness and ignorance in our society- including suicides, extreme poverty, and environmental degradation- continue to grow and/or remain largely unaddressed. Even if we wanted to adopt behaviors that would benefit greater society most of us become thwarted at some point by our personal, hidden nemeses of fears and limiting beliefs.
Who is oppressing whom? You hear the saying that we are our own worst enemy. Well I believe it is true. This is where a deepening of one’s spirituality becomes helpful. Ever since I painted that girl in the egg shell, I have been on a quest for Truth about my fears. It has led me on a beautiful path of spiritual discovery that has helped me to understand and overcome many fears. When we become open to discovering new Truths we can find the keys that unlock the doors of the prison.
Imagine you are in a prison cell, surrounded by fellow inmates but you cannot see them. You can only hear their snores, mutterings, and cries to get out. You are alone. You see a man walking by the jail cell door and he carries a ring of keys, never to be given to you freely. Unless you do something you will be in that prison for life.
A lot of people would give up hope and allow time in lonely suffering to whittle away their sanity. But not you. You begin by reflecting on why you are in prison and start to seek forgiveness for yourself. You pray for forgiveness and ask for healing. You give thanks for the beautiful life you had before being put in prison and for the gift of life you have right now. You thank the Creator for the water, the prison food, and the company of your inmates. Little by little, you start to feel less lonely and a little more joyful.
You receive an idea like a whispering from a good friend that you should reach through the bars of the door. You do so, grasping along the floor in the dark and find a set of keys that were dropped by a guard. You turn your attention within and ask the Creator what you should do next. You have the intuition that you need to wait. A few hours later, you know it is time. You put the key in the door and open it. You walk calmly to the front gate of the prison. There stands a guard. You feel fear and hot blood course through your veins. Then you look inside and ask, “What next, Father?” The good voice whispers in your heart: “Go to the guard and offer the keys.” You find your calm and start walking to the gate, prepared to face the guard’s rage and sudden capture. Then the gate opens, the guard turns his back, and you walk out free while surrounded by a sense of peace and protection.
Then a thought enters your mind: “But what about the other inmates?”
Questions for further reflection:
Who is the prisoner?
Who are the inmates?
Who is the guard?
What does the prison represent?
Why are we often so afraid of leaving the prison?
Why do we sometimes like the comfort and security of a prison?
* I share this article and story with the intention of sharing truth from my experience for the benefit of others. I do not claim to know all of the truth and acknowledge that my experience and perspective is very limited. All we can do is share our own truths then it is up to each of us to decide what we want to examine and experiment with in our own lives.
If you feel fearful, angry, discouraged, or judgmental after reading the story and you want to work with it, you can notice the feeling and just be with it. Our feelings are guides but they do not define who we are as a human being. It is a brave act to examine these feelings and realise that they do not own us and our story. May you be well and have peace.