Friday, September 30, 2011

We're all but frogs in a well

A number of years ago I was fortunate enough to attend a presentation given by Dr. Robert Svaboda titled "Spirituality or Psychosis?" (a subject near and dear to the hearts of many meditators and yoga practitioners) at a yoga centre in Toronto. Svaboda is a riveting and entertaining speaker and he told a story about a frog in a well which goes something like this...

There once was a frog who lived in the bottom of an abandoned well with a lot of other frogs happily going about their little frog lives. As days and nights passed the light coming in from the top of the well revealed to them all they needed to know about where they lived and who they were. When they looked up at the sky they recognized familiar changes. They saw the passage of the moon and stars, the sun and clouds; of night and day. Now and then branches blew into view sometimes bare, at other times decorated with blossoms or leaves, some of which would drop down into their abode and provide an exceptionally tasty treat, especially if accompanied by resident bugs.

Then, one day, a young boy discovered the well and being in need of a drink lowered the bucket and scooped up some water...and our little friend along with it.
The frogs gazing up from down below noticed an eclipse as the bucket filled the sky and then it passed. The old ones said this had only happened once or twice before in their lifetimes.
The little frog riding in the bucket on it's way up the well, gazed in awe as the hole, that was the sky, grew bigger and bigger until the sides of the bucket were only a slim rim around it. Then the sky grew dark and he closed his eyes in fright as it squeezed around him. He heard sounds he'd never in his life heard before, smelt smells other than mud and musty water and felt the pressure of the soft warmth around his body being withdrawn. When he opened his eyes he was surrounded by sky and all the things that it contained.

He came to live with the little boy for a time and from his vantage point in his custom decorated glass aquarium witnessed (though we all know the lifestyle of a typical pet frog) more of the world than he could ever have imagined. Until one day, thinking our little friend might be lonely for his past life, the boy went back to the well. He gently placed his now older and wiser friend into the bucket, lowered it down and released him back to his "hood".

The little frog's eyes took time to adjust to the dimness of the light. The sudden change left him a little disoriented so he sat there silently for a while.

"Hey, isn't that Ralphie?", said one frog to another.
"You know, the guy who disappeared one day."

For the first time in a long time he heard sounds in his own native tongue. And as his vision cleared, he saw that he was surrounded by others of his kind and though they stood back from him at a distance he was thrilled to see all their familiar froggy faces.

"Where were you dude?" asked one "We looked all over for you but when we couldn't find you we figured you'd been taken by a snake."

Our little friend began to excitedly tell them of his great adventure.

"Do you know that the sky is huge?" he said, spreading his forelegs out wider and wider.
Looking up at the tiny circle of light way above them they replied, "No way! Ummm mmm. It's not, it's small".
"And that there are places where there is no water at all. There are beings who don't hop...well, they can if they want to but it's usually just the younger ones that do; most of them don't want to. And, they have only 2 legs, not 4 though they have 2 other limbs that are sort of like legs but not really. And....", he spoke, barely taking time for a breath as he was bursting to tell them of all that there was "out there".
They listened silently while casting sideways, horrified glances at each other as it became unspokenly obvious to all of them that Ralphie had clearly lost his mind.

"No, no. It's all true. I swear," he protested as he was dragged away to a place where he could recover his sanity.
When he ceased to speak of: a sky that surrounded them, creatures that walked, dryness and the sensation of warmth and such; when he went about daily matters and sat in the muck looking up at the sky like the rest of them they knew he had been cured. But, he knew he was just playing the game while waiting for the bucket to return.

(The gist of the story is his, the elaborations are mine. My apologies to Dr. Svaboda for putting my spin on your story).

*     *     *
This weekend I'll be attending THE WAY OF THE TEACHER a workshop in Shamanism with Sharon Van Raalte. We'll be leaving CR (aka consensus reality) and riding the bucket into NOR (non-ordinary reality) which has me recalling this delightful tale.

I've also been recalling a talk by a lovely animation instructor called TOM (sorry I don't remember his last name at the moment though I think it was Tom Halley) who had been an animator on the Beatles film THE YELLOW SUBMARINE (I was a student at the International Summer School of Animation at Sheridan from 1986 - 88) given to our first year class of animators.

He said that people are in awe of artists because we provide a sorely needed service for humanity. We can go "way out there and come back and bring the most amazing experiences with us to share with those who can't go venturing for themselves". He believed that we have the ability to show others a fuller spectrum of reality, broaden peoples' minds and in expanding their view of what is possible create the foundation for more possibility to manifest in the world around us. He was excited about the journeys we were about to embark upon as novice animators and story tellers.  He saw us as forerunners of possibility. "Many people are afraid to do what we have the ability to do", he said, "because they fear they won't come back or will come back maladjusted".

My unspoken responses to his comments were:
How much questionable substances he'd ingested during his work on the Beatles project?
Was he ingesting any now? As I'd never met someone with such a sense of childlike wonder nor had I been viewed with the awe that one reserves for astronauts and the like.
What the heck am I getting into?

But deep inside there was also a flicker of a feeling in my gut that he was absolutely right, which has been confirmed by my life experiences in CR and NOR since then.

These many years later, I have learned that all you have to do is remember:
  1. where you are at all times
  2. the rules of the game in each territory
  3. speak the language of each realm or else others will think you're nuts
And a weird thing is that now with the possibility that E doesn't = MC squared we could all just be blown out of the well.

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