The Flea and the Elephant

April 2, 2012

On the eve of the release of Code to Joy, I thought I’d share this excerpt.

Once upon a time there was a flea who believed that he was king of the world.

One day he decided that he wanted to go to the beach for a swim. But the western shore was many miles away, and on his own, the flea could travel only inches at a time. If he was going to reach the shore during his lifetime, he would need transportation.

So he called out to his elephant. “Ho there, Elephant, let’s go out!”

The flea’s elephant came to his side and kneeled down. The flea hopped up and, pointing to the west, said, “That way—to the beach!”

But the elephant did not go west. He rather felt like taking a stroll in the forest to the east, and that is what he did. The flea, much to his dismay, could do nothing but go along for the ride, and spent the day being smacked in the face by leaves and branches.

The next day, the flea tried to get the elephant to take him to the store to buy salve for his face. Instead, the elephant took a long romp in the northern mountains, terrifying the poor flea so badly that he could not sleep that night. The flea stayed in his bed for days, beset by nightmares of thundering along mountain roads, certain he would fall to his death, and awoke each morning in a cold sweat.

After a week, finally feeling well enough to rise from his bed, the flea beckoned the elephant to his side, clambered up, and said, “I’m not well. Please, take me to the doctor.”

But the elephant merrily trundled off to the western seashore, where he spent the day swimming. The flea nearly drowned.

That night, sitting by the fireplace and trying to warm himself, the flea had a thought. He turned to the elephant and said, “About tomorrow … um, what are your plans?”

You’re probably wondering what the moral of this story is. It is simply this: if you are a flea riding an elephant, before you make any plans, you might want to check out what your elephant has in mind.

This point is more important to your life than it might seem—because in fact, you are a flea riding an elephant. The flea of the story represents your conscious mind, which includes your intellect and power of reason, your ambitions and aspirations, your ideas, thoughts, hopes, and plans. In short, everything you think of as you. And the elephant? That’s your subconscious mind.

To understand how these two work together—or don’t, as is often the case—let’s start with the flea…

1 Comment

  1. The flea and the elephant are powerful archetypes that help us understand our small mind and Big Mind.
    I’ve started reading Code to Joy and am totally digging it! We can all deepen our happiness, which is a never-ending process… this book is a blessing for our times.

    Reply

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