The Donkey story is one of many which makes its point very well.
One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was more trouble than it was worth, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn't worth it to retrieve the donkey. He invited all his neighbours to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realised what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone's amazement he quieted down. A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw.
With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey was doing something amazing. He would shake it off and take a step up. As the farmer's neighbours continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!
Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a steppingstone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not stopping, never giving up! Shake it off and take a step up.
This is a powerful story of how change can begin to flow for those imprisoned in depression. It is by Hilary Farmer
Silas how w as imprisoned far away in a remote castle dungeon. Day after day he faced four walls of despair and misery. Higher in one wall of the cell was a small barred window where he could see just enough light to know whether it was day or night. He had a rough wooden bench for sleeping, an old blanket and a pot in the corner that was emptied daily. The jailer bought him a daily meal which looked and tasted the same as the last.
He would try to talk to the jailer but was met with silence. Sometimes he would get angry and beat on the walls until his knuckles were raw and bleeding. Sometimes he would yell and shout until he had no voice left and he fell to his knees in abject misery and despair. Sometimes he would try to do mental exercises for something to hold onto -- he was afraid he was losing his sanity.
In the days and weeks Silas lost track of time. It was all the same. He felt he was falling into a deep dark pit. It went down and down interminably. When he felt himself falling into the pit, he would imagine the most fearful creatures were going to absorb him and snuff out its existence. Sometimes he wondered if he even existed at all. Then one night, he felt he reached the bottom of the pit. There was no feeling -- just numbness -- nothingness.
After that he sat and waited. What was he waiting for? Rescue? Would someone realise his plight and try to secure his release? Why was here? Someone must tell him surely? Silas would try to think but give up in despair.
Sometimes he would give way to bitter tears -- at other times the numbness would return. Whether because of poor diet, his state of misery or just how it happened, he seemed to always have something wrong with him. He had aching limbs and pains that came and went in different parts of his body. His head felt so noisy sometimes he would beat it with his fists to try to get some peace. Abandoned and forgotten, this was no life -- just in existence.
Then something happened that was to change everything. Silas was dozing on the bench when he had a curious dream. Curious because normally his dreams were full of dark misery; this dream was full of light. He was walking along a path through woods and red, brown and yellow autumn colours. He felt the crunch of dry leaves under his feet and smelt the crisp smell of an early frost. Birds were singing above him and the sun was dappling the tree trunks with my light.
They Silas awoke he felt calm for the first time he could remember. That day, small things started to change. He held onto his dream and relived it from time to time. With each replaying, he would add something to it. He could make things happen! He put people into this dream in his head. He would have conversations with them. Conversations he chose. There was another change. He would add clouds to the sky and imagine he could feel a gentle breeze. Gradually he started to feel strength that he had not felt for a long time.
There was another change. His jailer would exchange a few words with him. As the weeks passed, Silas began to feel different. He started to feel ... what was it? It was as if the walls did not exist only his imagination.
Then one day his jailor came to a cell without food and motioned Silas to follow him. A prisoner for so long, he felt his heart pounding. What was going to happen? His legs felt weak. Then he experienced something he had only imagine for the past few months – Sunlight.. Silas covered his eyes against the brightness and when he uncovered them, he was alone and outside the castle gates. He was free.
Change is always possible even when it can't quite be seen
This Octopus clings to everything when she swims, she won't let go. One day she sees the bottom of a boat and notices an anchor at the end of the chain. Typically she clings to this, only to find the anchor drops into the depths of the ocean. Its cold, dark and miserable down there and she is terrified. She calls for help and little is forthcoming. Finally a little fish comes by and after listening to her tale says that she can't really help because she is too small but a bigger fish is coming behind. Duly the big fish arrives and agrees to help the little octopus and said "I can help you, but first you need to something to help yourself. You need to let go of that anchor to which you are holding. Then I can show you a way out".
It took enormous courage for the little octopus to let go and how she did it know one knows but she did. The kindly fish waited encouraging and congratulating her for the first brave step. The fish began to swim back and forth gradually make his way up and up. The accent wasn't as quick and rapid as the octopus thought it would be. The big fish guided her in such a way that the little octopus was learning how to manage on her own if ever she got out of her depth again. The story goes on about the accent and the journey. Finally the big fish said "From here on you are ready to go on by yourself. You no longer need me to accompany you. You have learned the way back to where you came from". The little octopus thanked the fish and noticed that the water she was in continued to grow brighter and warmer. Something had changed, she felt different. She crawled onto the beach and basked in the warm sun.
Her rest was time for consolidation and validation. Feeling her strength returning and knowing that she needed to move own she looked at the cliffs in front of her. They were steep and craggy. She started to climb, pulling herself up and navigating the difficult areas. The going was not easy but the octopus felt challenged by the unfamiliar. At times she really struggled and at others she did not. At the top of the cliff there was a refreshing breeze that blew in from the ocean. She spread her tentacles out like wings and the breeze began to lift her as though she had been doing this all her life. Life an eagle she soared into the air, riding the gentle currents, gliding on the thermals and re-experiencing the pure enjoyment of flying to new heights.
The 101 Healing Stories by George Burns
The very well known Sands story – truly part of all our heritage.
I felt myself drift off into another world and Reda the carpenter began. 'Once there was a stream,' he said, 'a lovely cool, clear stream. It was created from melted snow in the high mountains and it flowed down through all kinds of rock, until one bright morn¬ing it reached the desert. 'The stream was worried, but it knew that its destiny was to cross the sand. So it called out, "What am I to do?" And the desert answered, "Listen, O stream! The wind crosses my sands, and you can, too." 'The stream didn't listen. He let his water roll forward. The first drops disappeared without trace. '"Desert! Desert!" he called. "You are sucking me up!" The desert was old and wise and grew angry at the foolish young stream. "Of course I am sucking you up," replied the desert, "because that is what deserts do. I can't change. Please listen to me and allow yourself to be absorbed into the wind."
The stream was far too hot headed to listen. He had his pride and was happy being who he was. "I am a stream," he shouted, "and I want to stay a stream!" The sand, growing in impatience, replied again: "O foolish stream! You must throw yourself into the wind and you will fall as rain. Your droplets will cross mountains and oceans and you will be far greater than you are now. Please listen to my words!" 'The stream did not believe the sand and cried, "Desert, desert, how can I be sure you speak the truth?" The desert rose up in a sandstorm and called, "Trust me, O young stream, and think back: surely you can recall being in another form." The stream thought hard, its waters swirling as its memory worked. Then, gradually, it did remember ... it remembered a time when it was something else. '"Let yourself rise up!" cried the desert, "Up and up into the wind!" The stream did as the sands ordered and let himself rise in a curtain of mist, until he was absorbed in the wind. It felt wonderful, and right, as if it was meant to be.'
Monsieur Reda thumped his chest and coughed 'And that is how the stream which is life continues,' he said, 'and why the tale of its great journey is written in the sands.'
Pat Williams, one of the original Human Givens teachers who taught us all of the power of stories – to be spoken and not read.
Tahir Shah, his son
Rob Parkinson, also Human Givens and a writer and proselytizer of stories.
"No, no!" said the Queen. "Sentence first - verdict afterwards.”