“The Frog and the Well”

Even Frogs Can Gather Honey

by Jeff Martens

Once upon a time there was a frog that lived his whole life in a cool, shaded well.  One day a beautiful white bird landed at the well, enormous wings folding over legs that were tall and straight.
“Who are you?” asked the frog.
“I am a crane.  I eat pearls at the shores of great lakes.”
“What is a lake?” asked the frog.
“A lake is a vast body of water,” answered the crane.
The frog splashed into the well.  “Is it this big?” he asked, swimming in a little circle.
“Much bigger,” the crane laughed, shaking its bill from side to side.
“How about this big?” the frog huffed, swimming in a bigger circle that took many strong kicks.
“No, no, no.  Many times bigger than that.”
With a determined plunge frog swam an entire lap around the well.
“It can’t be bigger than that!” exclaimed the frog when he had finished.
“But of course it is,” answered the crane.
“Now I know that you are trying to trick me,” frog said.  “No body of water can be bigger than that!”  And with a splash of water frog dived to his muddy underwater perch until Crane spread her wings and flew away.

Tadarthah eva drysyasyatma Yoga Sutra 2.21

Tadarthah = for the purpose of
Eva = alone
Drysyasya = the knowable, the perceptible, the visible world
Atma = the God Self, Soul, your Eternal Nature within

For the sake of the Self alone exists all that is perceptible.
This world exists to set you free.

This verse certainly brings joyful news.  Often samskara or impression/habit is referred to as something that is related to karma.  Karma or the law of cause and effect can bind us to old ways of seeing the world and ourselves, but when observed with awareness, Patanjali implies that even habitual ways of seeing the world have the potential to set us free.

Habit is a byproduct of unconsciousness.  The experience of being lost in habit is like wallowing in the mud and mistaking it as sunlight.  When you think you know something completely, the mind is attempting to own and categorize life indirectly and intellectually.  We then run the risk of reducing experiences to mere concepts.  You may see a rose, for example, and the mind will think rose.  By mentally picking the rose in this way you will see the label, the categorization, the comparison to all other roses and your eyes will be holding a concept instead of a flower.  You will be unable to appreciate THIS rose’s unique beauty, structure, feel and scent.  The rose then becomes dull, familiar and uninspiring.

Tadarthah eva drysyasyatma

In the 21st verse of the second chapter, Patanjali uses the term atma to refer to God in a very personal way.  Patanjali does not use Isvara or the external Lord here, nor does he refer to a separate God to which we can surrender ourselves.  Atman is that soul nature within you.  In this verse it can be understood that God perceives this world through you.  God hears, sees, touches and feels this world through you, and because of this, God and all that you are seeking is closer than your very breath.

The freeing power of awareness comes from not attaching ourselves to our observations – which often means our opinions taken as fact.  In this scenario of non-attachment, the process of life and living is much more aligned with the example of a bee gathering pollen then the life of a frog in a well.

Frog Mind or Bee-ing?

A bee becomes saturated with the essence of the rose without taking anything away from the rose’s natural beauty.  In fact the bee helps to propagate the flowers so the rose’s beauty is multiplied for the observer.  The bee uses the flower’s freely given essence to create honey.  Take a moment to think what would happen if the bee tried to steal the whole flower or hoard the gathered nectar for itself alone and you will have an idea of how the mind works with our observations.

When Patanjali talks about avidya as the main klesa or mental affliction at the start of chapter 2, he mentions that when in ignorance we mistake dukha (literally bad space or bad feeling) for sukha (literally good space or good feeling) and vice-versa.  The frog clings to his well, the walls, the familiar circumference, the limited view of the sky, and takes this feeling of limitation to be the entire world.  The mind does the same thing with our observations.  Because the mind is very ambitious and likes to collect old perceptions, as soon as you identify with your opinions you become lost to your true Self or Atman and consequently lose contact with the full potential of this unique present moment.  No longer a living and unfolding mystery, the world is replaced by pre-defined opinions taken as fact.

Tadarthah eva drysyasyatma

It is for the sake of awakening to the true Self in this moment that all that is perceptible is made available to us.  Contrary to some spiritual teachings that seem to prefer that we make war with this world, this body, its senses, and ourselves, Patanjali’s verse hints instead that with proper awareness the world exists to set us free.  Free of ignorance, free of pain, and free of the suffering that comes from mistaking honey for mud and mud for honey.

When you can observe your old tendencies as the bee of Atman or Perceiver and not the frog of your habits, even your habitual way of perception can help you to identify with your true nature rather than your past conditioning.  Every experience then has the potential to become golden honey, the nectar of life and enlightenment.

Each experience starts with a flash of awareness that in the next instant is colored by our past conditioning or future expectation.  Yoga is the practice of wedging a spiritual crowbar between that moment of pure awareness and the next instant of the mind that clouds our experience with judgment and analysis.  See if you can begin to create more space between these two phenomena and just allow yourself and the world to simply Be one breath, one moment at a time.

By being present in this way our experiences become authentic and rich.  Life becomes like the example of a bee buzzing from flower to flower, sampling pollen to make honey.  There is no need for the bee to try and own or judge or control the flower or try to pull the flower up by its roots to stuff into the hive.  Like the bee we are simply borrowing flowered moments and dancing with their essence.  May God breathe and dance through us on a reular basis.  The Glory of this dance is limited only by the quality of our awareness and our willingness to let go of the known.

Jeff Martens is a teacher, writer and co-owner of Inner Vision Yoga. All suggestions are voluntary.  Consult a qualified teacher or your physician before you embark on any practice in which you are unfamiliar.
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