If there were such a thing as a duck with a human mind, we could clearly see how holding on to our personal stories causes endless suffering. This is a short story with a powerful lesson: all power lies in the present moment.
“Although the body is very intelligent, it cannot tell the difference between an actual situation and a thought. It reacts to every thought as if it were a reality.” – Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
How often we limit ourselves through our grievances, regret, hostility, and guilt. We get so caught up in our emotional stories that we actually think that’s who we are; we identify with patterns of beliefs and emotions that are all conditioned by the past.
What a heavy burden the past can be, and how long we carry it around with us in our minds and bodies.
When we experience any kind of confrontation–whether it’s with another person, circumstances, or an event–we tend to prolong that experience far beyond the initial conflict. For human beings, this is normal; look around, and everyone is doing it.
As Albert Einstein once suggested, if we were to look deep into nature, we might understand everything better.
If you’ve ever watched how ducks behave after they get into a fight, you may have noticed how they release the energy they’ve built up during the fight: they flap their wings. Then, they float on their way.
The duck’s lesson is a simple yet powerful one in letting go of the stories that would otherwise become accumulated negativity in the body.
The whole idea of the duck with a human mind is inspired by Eckhart Tolle’s book, which I’m reading (again) right now, entitled A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. In Chapter 5 of the book, Eckhart shares this simple story about how we might understand ourselves better by observing the the natural world.
The story struck a chord with me, so I felt compelled to share it with you.
The following is a brief excerpt from A New Earth.
The Duck with a Human Mind
In The Power of Now, I mentioned my observation that after two ducks get into a fight, which never lasts long, they will separate and float off in opposite directions. Then each duck will flap its wings vigorously a few times, thus releasing the surplus energy that built up during the fight. After they flap their wings, they float on peacefully, as if nothing had ever happened.
If the duck had a human mind, it would keep the fight alive by thinking, by story-making. This would probably be the duck’s story:
I don’t believe what he just did. He came to within five inches of me. He thinks he owns this pond. He has no consideration for my private space. I’ll never trust him again. Next time he’ll try something else just to annoy me. I’m sure he’s plotting something already. But I’m not going to stand for this. I’ll teach him a lesson he won’t forget.
And on and on the mind spins its tales, still thinking and talking about it days, months, or years later. As far as the body is concerned, the fight is still continuing, and the energy it generates in response to all those thoughts is emotion, which in turn generates more thinking. This becomes the emotional thinking of the ego. You can see how problematic the duck’s life would become if it had a human mind. But this is how most humans live all the time. No situation or event is ever really finished. The mind and the mind-made “me and my story” keeps it going.
We are a species that has lost its way. Everything natural, every flower or tree, and every animal have important lessons to teach us if we would only stop, look, and listen. Our duck’s lesson is this: Flap your wings–which translates as “let go of the story”–and return to the only place of power: the present moment.
Please share your thoughts on this short story about the duck with a human mind, or any inspiring stories of peace and presence with me in the comments.
Share this story with a friend who might appreciate the duck’s lesson.
Flap your wings, and float on.