Friday, November 07, 2008

Is the Door Really Locked?

I'm sure I'm not the only one who's had the following experience.

I arrived at my hair salon for my appointment a bit early. I needed to use the restroom and made my way to the back of the shop. In this particular salon, the door to the restroom is always left open when it is vacant. I was feeling a bit of urgency, but saw that the door was closed and sat down in a chair to wait my turn.

I sat there for three or four minutes and wondered what was taking the occupant so long! It then occurred to me to ask myself, "Do you really KNOW that it is occupied Nola?"

I got up and tried the door handle. It easily opened to an empty restroom.

I was conditioned by past history to believe that this door being closed meant that the restroom was occupied, and not open to me. I didn't even question my assumption. I just accepted the closed door as reality.

I've had similar experiences in the past, and waited much longer than 3-4 minutes before challenging my assumption and trying the door. Hey... I'm improving!

It does illustrate an important point, however. We can allow our past to dictate our expectations of the future. We can close ourselves off from experiences, based on our past experiences.

Maybe we've been hurt in relationships, or been turned down for certain types of jobs we've applied for. Maybe we were told once, twice or more that we could never attain a goal or a dream that we had. We can let those past 'closed doors' become our future if we don't challenge those automatic, knee jerk perceptions and reactions.

I once heard a teaching story about how baby elephants are trained. When an elephant is a baby, a rope is attached to their harness and they are tethered to strong posts in the ground. When the baby elephant tries to move further than a few feet from the post they are stopped by the length of the rope they are attached to. Struggle and strain as they might, they are not able to go past the length of their rope. Over time, the elephant learns the futility of this struggle and accepts the length of their rope as their domain. They simply know its impossible to go any further.

Adult elephants never forget that lesson. When there is a rope attached to their harness, it can be simply draped over a railing and the elephant will not try to move beyond the length of rope. They have been trained to KNOW their limitations. They think as soon as they get to the end of the rope, they will be forcibly stopped. They don't even try.

We can be a lot like an elephant in this regard. I had an 'elephant moment' at the bathroom door today. It pays to tug at the rope. It just might be an open door!

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