Swerve to avoid a pothole.

That’s the advice my driving instructor gave me after a harsh winter created deep pockets in the roads.

Sensible advice for a learner driver.

But for a human being there are distinct advantages to falling into holes.

One of the simplest and most powerful explanations of the benefits I’ve come across is a Portia Nelson poem: Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

For copyright reasons I’m not going to quote her poem in full, but here’s the gist and the juice of it.

Chapter One

I walk down a street.
There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost…I am helpless…..

But it’s not your fault.  You’re just learning to walk.  You are innocent.

No matter how careful your parents were in warning you about the dangers in life.  No matter how prestigious your education.  Wisdom is born out of experience.  Falling into holes is Life’s way of shaking you up.  To wake you up to your magnificent potential.

Hold on to the notion of innocence, though.  We’ll return to that in a moment.

So you continue on the path of life – hurt and bruised – the scab from your wound barely healed….

Chapter Two

I walk down the same street.
There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I’m in this same place…..

You’ve done it again.  You’re in the same hole.  You’ve had that argument with your partner, again.   You’ve overeaten, again.   You’ve said yes to your boss, when you really wanted to say ‘no’, again.

You know something needs to change.  But, you avoid that difficult conversation.  You put off getting that health exam.  You dismiss your dream.  You tell yourself that things really aren’t that bad.

And you curse.  The hole.  The sidewalk.  Your shoes.  The Universe.  Yourself.

Fair enough.  It isn’t fun to fall, be hurt and wounded.  There’s no enjoyment in repeating painful patterns.  But blaming leaves you feeling bitter.   And even after the bruises on your shins and knees have healed, blaming leaves an invisible scab of resentment that won’t go away.

So, now you continue on life’s path with an invisible scab of resentment and a limp.  Walking is slow and painful.

Chapter Three

I walk down the same street.
There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fall in…it’s a habit…but,

Now, it’s serious, you’re in the pit of life, again.   It hurts badly.  But this time something is different.

This is the moment your entire life is about to change.

How so?

You recognize that you started life as pure innocence.   You were not to blame for your first fall.  You’ve come to see that blaming and shaming doesn’t work.  And and you have a faint glimmer of insight.

It begins to dawn on you that your fall down the hole is not your downfall –  it’s your path to freedom.

The moment you stop blaming and shaming is the moment you become responsible.  Not responsible as in; falling into holes is your fault.  Responsible in the sense that you become more response – able.

Able to sense when you’re about to repeat an old painful pattern and side step it.  Able to recognize what needs to be done, or undone, to move through life with genuine care and love.  Able to identify your needs and ask for what you want, without manipulating or controlling yourself or others.

Claiming responsibility for yourself feels good.  Reconnection with your original innocence is balm to your body and being.  The invisible scab of resentment drops away.

You climb out the hole with energy and a ripple of excitement…

Chapter Four

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

Yay!  You recognize the hole in front of you and step around it.  What a relief.  You’re walking a new path.  You no longer repeat painful patterns from the past. You’re creating a new future.

You’ve allowed the down times of life to be your teacher.  You’re no longer interested in blaming or shaming others, life or yourself.  Now you’re listening to your intuition, receiving and heeding your insights.  You skillfully side step what used to trip you up.

The story could end there.   It’s a happy ending. Yes?

But there’s more.

Chapter Five

I walk down another street.

Wow.  Didn’t see that one coming.  Will this new street have holes?  You bet.  That’s the nature of streets.

And when, not if, you fall into a new hole, you have the skills to climb out, and the knowledge that this tumble is designed to grow your inner muscle of response-ability even more.

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