One of the books we are reading for our teacher training is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and in it, Sachidananda tells us the story of the silkworm.
The silkworm can survive on just one leaf. But she eats more and more and more,
until she needs to eat a whole tree to be satisfied. Soon she becomes so fat and tired that she can’t eat any more. So she sleeps, and sleeps, and drools and drools. And her drool creates a cocoon around her.
She stays in this cage for some time, but doesn’t even know she is caged, because she is sleeping. As soon as she wakes up, she realizes that something is wrong.
So she starts to think about it. And she meditates. And she fasts. And then finally she repents; deciding that, if given the chance, she will no longer live that mindless life. As soon as she repents, wings appear! And she flies up! And now that she is enlightened, she can never return to that state again.
I started to think about this worm, and her cage, and the cages we all build in our own lives. Cages in our minds. Some made of negative words, like “I can’t do that” “I’m no good at that”, “I will never be able to…”. Or even cages made of words that we think are positive, “I am too good for that”, “I am better than those people”…
We also turn other people’s words into cages. Something they have said to us that sticks with us and colors our decisions, or maybe even our indecision.
We build cages of political ideology, unable to see the other side. Cages of religious dogma, or even scientific data. We turn our bodies into cages, trapping ourselves with excessive weight, or becoming obsessed with being physically fit and having a perfect body.
We even make cages out of the people that we surround ourselves with. People who keep us stuck in place. People who may be all wrong for our lives, but perhaps allow us to continue with some caging behavior of our own.
The silkworm’s eating started out as a healthy thing. She needed it to survive. But somewhere along the way it became excessive, unhealthy, and it was no longer serving her in a positive way. I don’t think she had bad intentions. I don’t think it was her intention to get so fat she couldn’t move.
Her intention was probably to simply survive. Once she was in this unhealthy pattern though, she couldn’t see past it. She didn’t realize that her behavior was conflicting with her intention. Only after she was caged for quite some time, and she awoke, could she realize.
The transformation was easy for the silkworm. As soon as she knew better, she had wings.
I believe that the moment we come to realize that our actions conflict with our life’s intentions, we can immediately grow wings. We can break free from the habits, patterns, addictions, in our minds. But physically, we may have to chew through that cocoon for a very long time to get ourselves out completely.
I think that in all phases of our life, we can step back and ask ourselves: Which stage am I in? And we can look at everything we do, and ask: How is this activity, this thought process, this habit, AND EVEN this person, serving me?
Is it helping me move forward on my path, or is it holding me back? Is it positive and productive? Or does it conflict with my real intentions?
Tonight, as I get ready to teach this first class, I find myself in a cage made of the words “I don’t know if I can do this”. But those words are not serving me at all, because they conflict with my intention. And my intention tonight is to share something that I love with all of you, to be present and positive, to learn from the experience, and to enjoy this part of my journey.
So tonight, I break out of that cage. I have already started to chew my way through.
Maybe there is a cage in your life that you want to break out of?
Bring your hands up to a prayer in front of your heart- press your palms together and set an intention- to break out of your cage.
[…] front of a room full of friends and loved ones. I read my carefully written dharma talk about the silkworm breaking out of her cage. I started to lead people through poses. I remained mindful and completely present in every […]