'I think therefore I am' - what a powerful and thought provoking statement! It makes us wonder, 'what is the relationship between thinking and being'? How much does one influence the other? To what extent does our thinking shape the story of our lives and who we may become? The story of the chicken and the eagle addresses some of these questions and more...
There once lived a young Eagle who thought he was a chicken. As fate would have it, this Eagle was raised in a chicken coop from a very young age, where he lived alongside his chicken brothers and sisters. The young Eagle knew himself to be a chicken, no different from the rest of the chickens inhabiting the coop.
Nobody ever told him anything about Eagles and everyone treated him as one of their own. The young Eagle grew up with a whole vocabulary of inner talk that was 'chicken like'. He 'clucked' and 'pecked' to the best of his ability. He thought chicken thoughts, he developed chicken habits and he lived chicken dreams. As the years went by the Eagle grew older, yet his thoughts - the world of his inner self talk - stayed pretty much the same.
One day the Eagle was out in the yard foraging for seeds alongside his chicken brothers and sisters. Suddenly something caught the Eagle's attention. Out of the corner of his eye he could see something flying in the sky, high above the ground. Living inside the coop for most of his life, it was the first time the Eagle had seen such a magnificient animal.
Alerting a nearby chicken to this awe-inspiring sight the Eagle asked, 'Do you see that?! What an absolutely magnificient creature! Do you know what it is?' The Eagle's chicken brother said, 'Yeah, that is an Eagle. He is the majestic king of the skies. You need not concern yourself with Eagles. You and I are chickens and could never soar with the Eagles. The sooner you get back to pecking for seeds the better.'
The Eagle reluctantly turned away from the skies to resume his foraging. He never saw another one of his kind again. Yet, for the rest of his life, he couldn't shake the feeling that there was something about that Eagle he saw that day.
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From a very young age the Eagle was taught and conditioned to think that he was a chicken. And to all intents and purposes that is exactly what he was. He was very 'chicken like' in everything he thought and did, perhaps with the exception of a strange sadness, which he harbored, yet could never explain.
He had plenty of food, he had reliable shelter from predators and the cold, and he had the company of his fellow chicken brothers and sisters. From a chicken's point of view he had nothing to complain about. For a chicken, life just doesn't get much better than that.
Yet, as an Eagle, he was leading a limited life - to say the least. He never took to the skies in majestic flight because he didn't believe, or even know, that he could fly. He never 'swooped' and never had the chance to survey his 'kingdom' from the heavens above. Everything that nature intended was taken away from him - not through ill will or harmful intent - but simply through ignorance and the absence of an Eagle to show him the way of Eagles.
This Eagle's conditioning worked against it and the Eagle spent its life unfulfilled. 'I think therefore I am', meant a living prison for the young Eagle. The Eagle was living in a prison created by nothing other than its very own mind.
As illustrated so clearly by this story, subconscious conditioning shouldn't automatically be taken as our true identity. It isn't necessarily a true reflection of who we really are. In the case of the hapless Eagle, believing in preconceived notions of who and what it was, it never even suspected that it could fly. Believing in its own conditioning, the Eagle moved further and further away from who he really was.
The illusory power of conditioning comes from making us forget who we really are. The young Eagle, although growing up among chickens was an Eagle, he just forgot or never even really knew. Conditioning took over, masquerading as truth. Remembering who we are, false conditioning loses its grip on us.
'I think therefore I am'...
Once our thinking sinks into the subconscious mind as habit it has tremendous power to influence the course of our lives.
If the young Eagle had had the example of and guidance to develop himself as an Eagle - to think like an Eagle, to talk like an Eagle, to act like an Eagle - then he would be well on his way. His development as an Eagle would have been supported by conditioning instead of hindered by it.
His wings would be conditioned to powerfully carry him on the winds. His taloned grip would have been conditioned for the successful hunt and providing for its young. His eyesight and other natural abilities would have been honed to the max - helping him be an Eagle through-and-through.
'I think therefore I am' becomes irrelevant to an Eagle such as this. Thinking would be meaningless since he has already fulfilled himself. This Eagle, without false conditioning to get in the way, has arrived. He is living as himself, fully.
Thinking, internalized, becomes part of our subconscious self. It is here that our thinking and being integrate as one. This is when the true meaning of 'I think therefore I am' is realized. What we think and feel at the subconscious level of mind, we essentially are or become.
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