A Little Prickly
There’s a porcupine parable I’ve had on my mind and it goes like this:
It was the coldest winter the forest animals had ever known. So cold, that many of the animals froze to death. The porcupines, attempting to save themselves from this fate, burrowed underground, nestled together. They had each other’s body heat, but what they hadn’t thought about was how their close proximity would mean their quills would prick each other. Soon, they grew tired of the mutual prickings, and moved far away from each other. On their own again, in the cold forest and singular burrows, many began to die.
The porcupines knew they’d have to either go it alone and weather the outer temperatures or burrow together to endure the inevitable pricks of being in close company with others.
The porcupines in the parable choose to return to each other. And what about us humans? What about me?
I offered this story to a group of yoga teachers this past weekend as we began an advanced yoga training together. Then, I received plenty of opportunities to live it myself through the week that followed.
“Even the best relationships are not conflict-free. Inevitably, we hurt each other. We misunderstand each other. We pull back,” says meditation teacher and psychologist, Tara Brach, “and we react out of our historic wounds.”
As the pricks of various people came to poke me, I found myself doing exactly this. I pulled back.