THE SMALL MAN BUILDS CAGES FOR EVERYONE
The small man Builds cages for everyone He Knows.
While the sage, Who has to duck his head When the moon is low, Keeps dropping keys all night long For the Beautiful Rowdy Prisoners. – Hafiz
These scared words from the great Sufi poet, Hafiz, are timeless. Two weekends ago I assisted in graduating a fresh batch of Yoga Teachers and these were the words I shared as I wished them well on their way into the world. Side note – if you get the inkling to do a Yoga Teacher Training, JUST. DO. IT. PERIOD. It doesn’t matter if you want to teach. It is one of the most fruitful experiences -- filled with opportunity, growing pains and connection. And you don’t have to be “good at Yoga,” I wasn’t.
Hafiz’s words hold a very good lesson on nurturing and confidence – which together make one admirable and strong. We are taught a few things through societal conditioning (in extremes, of course). Today I will hit on just two.
The first is to GIVE, GIVE, GIVE. Make your parents proud. Find a partner. Fall in love, and cherish them. Then have children. Give all your love to your children, so they know how much you love them. This is the framework for codependency.
Yes, give love, but not at the detriment of emptying yourself completely out. You deserve to give equal parts love to yourself and those around you (dare I say you should give yourself MORE love?).
Disappoint a few people. It might sting at first, but you won’t be bitter, drained or tapped out of life. This is the extreme of what Hafiz is talking about when he references the Sage dropping keys. Now that we understand the extreme, let’s take a look at the true meaning of the latter part of the poem.
The latter is encouraging us to give to others, to raise people up. It is teaching us not to give at a detriment, but as an act of love, connection and humility. It is saying, "you go learn this stuff and once you’ve learned the stuff spread the knowledge so other people have the stuff and can give it away as well." He is speaking to abundance. Hafiz is saying, “don’t be scared of keeping knowledge for yourself, transfer it to others, even if that means the student becomes better than the master.”
When you have the opportunity to experience or learn something truly powerful, don’t hold it for yourself, spread it like wildfire and it will always come back to you in full.
The second thing we tend to be conditioned to believe is to be confident means you must be arrogant. Also, not true. While it is important to teach our children to be powerful, assertive and self-assured, we do not want to create little narcissists that seek and need validation through their body image, status or superficial objects – i.e. One-Uppers, Show Offs, etc. The old saying, "An ego manic with an inferiority complex."
This is the extreme that Hafiz speaks of in the first stanza – it is when people operate from a space of scarcity – fearful that someone may steal their idea, that someone may be better at something they are good at – i.e. the building of cage. “Let me place you in a cage, so that I can see I’m better than you because I find validation in being better.” This is the refusal of the transfer of knowledge. In both the yoga world, friend world and therapy world, my hope is people do become better than me, at any of those things – yoga, living life, providing therapy, etc. because more GOOD people in the world is exactly what we need.
So, as you enter into your week, ask yourself one thing, do you want to be the small man or the sage?