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heron

a heron swallows a frog whole, symbolizing overcoming self-doubt and resistance on the journey to self-realization Perched on slender legs, the mighty Heron stands motionless at the edge of the pond, peering intently at the expanse of sky before him. His long wings ache to spread and take flight, to soar high above the jungle on the mission he has contemplated for so long. A noise echoes through the jungle. A faint croaking, steadily growing louder. Ribbit, ribbit. Heron pauses and glances around. A bloated grey Frog sits on a lily pad, peering at him with murky eyes. “It is not a good time,” says the Frog. “You are not ready”! Heron nods slowly as the hesitation wells up inside him. “What if I fail? What if I’m not good enough? Maybe I should just stay here where it’s safe…”

The Frog’s croaking grows louder, like an alarm bell ringing in Heron’s mind. Heron shakes his head, trying to silence the noise. He wants to embark on the journey, though the path ahead seems daunting, he must battle so many obstacles and stay focused on his purpose. Taking a deep breath, and closing his eyes, he visualizes himself soaring high above the trees. The cool air streams beneath his wings. Below him, the landscape unfolds in a stunning panorama. The vast blue sky opens before him, beckoning him onward. His heart thrills at the beauty and freedom that await.

Heron opens his eyes, with a gentle thrust of his legs, he takes flight. His wings slice through the humid air as he climbs higher and higher. He feels the warmth of the sun on his back and his spirit soars. Looking down, Heron sees the Frog still roosted on the lily pad, but growing smaller. The croaking fades away, drowned out by the rush of the wind. As he marvels at the endless expanse of the canopy stretching out in all directions, details come into focus. A monkey swings from a vine, chattering with delight. Colourful parrots flit between the towering mahogany trees. Far below, a river snakes through the landscape, glistening silver. The jungle is alive with beauty. The Heron’s excitement builds. “This is what I was made for!” — he thinks — “exploring new horizons, pursuing my dreams”.

Up ahead, mountains pierce the clouds, their rocky peaks dusted white. Heron angles towards them, unshaken by their imposing height. He tells himself that with patience and persistence, he can scale even the steepest cliffs. Step by step, wingbeat by wingbeat, he will make the ascent. As he nears the mountains, dark clouds gather. Thunder rumbles in the near distance. Heron’s heart pounds, he attempts to steel himself. Though the path ahead seems treacherous, he will not allow fear to turn him back. If he aims for the heights, he must be ready to weather the storms.

The first cold raindrops spatter his feathers. The wind buffets him from side to side. Remaining focused amid the storm, Heron pushes upward. He keeps his eyes fixed on the light breaking through the clouds ahead. Suddenly, a powerful gust knocks him off course, sending him into a perilous spiral. Heron struggles to right himself, fighting against the buffeting winds. For a moment he falters, doubt rising. Shaking off the hesitation, he refuses to give up. Heron reminds himself of his purpose. “Let the fear wash over me. Let the failure wash over me.” With determined flaps, he steadies his flight and continues the climb. The winds pummel him again and again, threatening to dash his hopes. Each time, Heron recovers and pushes onward. His wings ache with effort, but his spirit remains unbroken.

With a final mighty pump of his wings, Heron bursts through the gloom into dazzling sunlight. Below him, the storm rages on, but he has risen above it now. As he glides over the mountain’s craggy peak, he feels the thrill of triumph. Though the way was fraught with setbacks, he proved his courage to follow his dreams. The journey ahead may bring more trials to test his resolve. But Heron feels ready to embrace the challenges, to pick himself up each time he falls. “I have found the inner strength needed to achieve my highest aspirations. From this hard-won peak, I am determined to keep doing the dangerous things with style” — he says.

Heron spots a small lake nestled amid the cliffs below. He spirals down gracefully and lands at its edge with a contented sigh. He drinks water and feels grateful for having conquered his doubts. He acknowledges to himself that his epic flight has left him feeling tired but stronger. “After resting by these serene waters, I will be ready to take to the skies once more” — he says. Heron rests and allows the cool mountain air to soothe his weary wings. As his breathing slows, he notices a disturbingly familiar sound — the faint croak of a frog. Ribbit, ribbit. There, sitting on a lily pad just as before, is the same bulbous grey Frog gazing at him with unblinking eyes. “You barely made it through that storm,” croaks the Frog. “It’s too dangerous to go on further”.

With calm acceptance, Heron stays put, he rests. But the Frog’s croaks grew louder again, like clamouring alarms in the Heron’s mind. Heron closes his eyes and returns to his breathing, recentring himself on his true desire. When he opens his eyes, he sees with clarity what must be done. With lightning reflexes, his slender beak darts out and snaps up the Frog in one smooth motion. The croaking silences instantly. The Heron’s body comes to a stillness in satisfaction, as he swallows the wriggling toad. He now had cleared his path forward, and fortified himself with a nourishing meal. With the potent sweeps of his wings, he takes back to the skies. Gazing out into the breathtaking view, he knows that each completion is only the new beginning.

It has been a while since I published a newsletter. I’ve been ‘busy’ with some worthy but mostly profane distractions. I made the drawing of the Heron back in the bustling streets of Bangkok, but first imagined it when I watched the live bird in Bali. Now, I wrote that little tale sitting under the fig tree in the backyard of my transient home in Cape Town. I used to love changing places. Post-Covid — not that much! Travelling fast can be very distracting, and I’m not happy that I keep doing it. Sadly, I have to do it.

In his book “The War of Art”, my teacher Steven Pressfield  — I refer to him as my teacher because I am learning from him, and therefore he is teaching me — personifies resistance as an active, sinister force acting against people engaged in creative endeavours. In the sequel, “Do the Work”, he graciously appends “entrepreneurs” to “the people” and enforces the life-changing perspective and motivation with a tactical plan to apply introspective insights to complete and ship a creative piece that is meaningful and rewarding. Okay, that was too much! To make it short: “The War of Art” diagnoses the problem, whereas “Do the Work” prescribes the treatment. If you are choosing which one to read — do both. It’s even better to pour the intensive and passionate narration into your pods and enjoy a dramatic flair in his voice.

Pressfield warns against falling victim to resistance and allowing it to stop meaningful work from being accomplished. He advocates that the way to do meaningful work is to engage in an internal battle with resistance. Pressfield is the ultimate life coach! Any of his ‘resistance series’ books provide more transformational coaching material than any book that states ‘transformational coaching’ on the cover. I began using the term ‘distraction’ in my journaling years before reading ‘The War of Art.’ It is interchangeable with the ‘resistance’ but has a slightly broader sense for me. It serves as a catch-all for ‘busyness’ and ‘obligations’ that lack in psychic nutrition, as well as the reluctance and avoidance of doing what you chose to do.

In “The Eye of the Heron”, Ursula K. Le Guin’s characters must find the strength to stand up for their beliefs and work towards a better future. Luz and her allies face tangible obstacles like the bosses of Shantih Town who oppress the poor. Yet, their real fight is also intrinsic. To overcome resignation and apathy and create the change, they must first break free of limiting beliefs and gather courage to envision the change they want for themselves.

Luz draws strength from her connection to nature, she values justice and sustainability. She persists despite self-doubt and the temptation to quit, pushing past resistance. Lev builds his self-trust and shift to an abundance mindset, bolstering his self-determination. They do not blame others and take responsibility for their future. Approaching hardships with openness, they use setbacks as lessons. Trusting in their path, they persist through difficulty, stubbornly defying the bosses.

By “shipping their vision” of the new town, Nueva Vista, they gain the power to create change. The outward fight Luz and others wage is much the same as the inward fight of us — creatives and entrepreneurs. “The Eye of the Heron” inspires us to be courageous and bring out our gifts in the best way we can. Battling resistance and fear, grounding ourselves in purpose, learning from failures — we complete meaningful creative and entrepreneurial work. By aligning our creativity and meaning — we realize our potential. When we “eat the frog” — ship our vision — we build the self-trust to live fully.

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