Why hasn’t the bird stepped out of her cage and flown to freedom (Part 1)


I haven’t written a blog post for a little while – mainly because I have been thinking and pondering about my life – how I have got to where I am and where I am going next.  It’s a big subject!  But it needs exploring because, otherwise, I am in danger of continuing to go round on the same wheel again and again and again.  I have started to write pieces for this blog but – as I write – I realise something new every time….  And I have had to start again!

I have started reading a book by a Buddhist Order Member called Manjusvara – “Writing Your Way”.  Manjusvara means “Gentle Music” – what a lovely name to be given at ordination!  He runs writing courses called “The Wolf at the Door” which I would love to attend one day.    His basic premise is that writing is much more than the finished article ready for publication; through writing the person discovers hidden dimensions of themselves.  In the forward, his friend says that Manjusvara is:

“a man who fully lives his philosophy, whose daily life is an enactment of his core beliefs.  That is why this book will be of great interest to all those who are trying to live emotionally richer and more harmonious lives in a world dogged by materialism and pressure to conform!”

So I have been using writing to explore the decisions that I have made.  I am not exploring them in order to feel guilty or to feel regrets or to imagine what would have happened if I had made different choices – there is little point in that.  No – I am looking at the motivations behind my decisions.  I am looking to see if there is a trend, a common thread.  If there is a link, then maybe I can step off the roundabout and make different choices in the future.

So I look to the decisions that I have made.  And, actually, some of those decisions were damned brave!  Took courage…  took a lot of sparkle!  Looking back – those were my best ones.  Other decisions were not as great – and, I think that I have some themes to explore:

  • convention. Being tied up with the ropes of convention, what I should be doing, what “normal” people do
  • fear!  The fear of making a mistake; the fear of judgement; the fear of the unknown
  • A lack of imagination.  Being only able to imagine my life being led in a certain way.

And those three things lead to a live less lived!  As the Meatloaf song says,”You’ve been living your life like a girl in a cage And you whisper when I want you to shout”.  

To come back to Manjusvara’s book – one of the exercises he sets is to think what would make a good title for your autobiography.  At the moment my thoughts are around being a bird in a cage unable to fly free- but that cage isn’t really a cage!  It is a cage built of those three things – fear, convention and my lack of imagination.  Every so often I have taken a step through the door only to turn and go back inside shutting the door behind me.

Of course, there is a lot to learn from my good decisions – or what I now see as being good decisions.  The categorisation of a decision as “good” or “bad” fluctuates over time depending on what has happened since and other factors.  And what makes a good decision or a bad decision may be affected by circumstances outside of my control….  For example, my decision to leave teaching to do a PhD did not turn out well but that was nothing to do with the original decision but things that happened later.

I am in danger of going round in circles now!  Getting myself into a muddle…   So I will leave it there!

Rambling over for today!

The courage to take a new path

The poem below was read at the beginning of a meditation in the Shrine Room on the retreat I went to at the weekend.  It made such utter sense to me!  It summed up my life so perfectly.  Talking with others, it made sense to them too. Some felt that they were still walking down the same path and falling down the hole whilst others felt that, at least, they were climbing out more quickly.

There needs to be several things in place to be able to choose to walk down another path.  There has to be the recognition that we keep choosing the same path which leads us to the the same place, to fall down the same hole, to make the same mistakes over and over.  We must have the knowledge that we can do more than just skirting around the hole; to know that the same problems will continue to arise for as long as we continue down the same route, travel the same course.  We must understand that there is another way even if it is hidden by social convention, our ignorance, our fears.  We must have the courage to take another path.  We have to be aware that there will be people, things, events that we will leave behind on the old path.  Most people will stay where they are. Things will look different on the new path, a lot of them will not be of any use or will be an hindrance.  New events / outcomes will result from taking a new way.   We must want to take the new path enough to look for it and learn how to navigate it.  We may even have to create some of that path for ourselves; it might not yet fully exist.  Most of all we must have the courage to take this new path, to walk where we have never even considered walking before, to walk away from what is known, to face the fear of the new.

We can ask ourselves how much we have given up because of fear?  How have we tried to protect ourselves from all that is threatening to who we believe ourselves to be, from all that is outside whatever small comfort zone we’ve created for ourselves?  How has it felt to live in this degree of defendedness?  Everything we long for is beyond the wall of fear”  

(Kathleen Dowling Singh)

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

By Portia Nelson


I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place
but, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.


I walk down another street.