On Unchaining Yourself and Breaking Free

In India, elephants don’t just roam royally in jungles and zoos. You will find elephants in temples and festivities as well. They are considered to be very auspicious and wise.

Grandpa TVS told me many stories when I was a child. One of those was about an elephant named Jumbo.

Grandpa’s story started out with a baby Jumbo being brought to a village by his mahout. Jumbo has got lots of energy and curiosity. Every day, the mahout trains Jumbo. The mahout ties down one of Jumbo’s foot to a big stone pillar with a big chain to prevent him from running away. For the first several years, Jumbo is constantly tugging at the big chain…trying to break away. He cannot break away because of the big chain that is holding him down. Meanwhile, Jumbo learns all the things the mahout wants him to learn.

Jumbo grows into a young strong elephant. He is well trained now. He knows how to follow his mahout’s directions and cues. Jumbo begins to do all the things the mahout wants him to do. Jumbo moves heavy pieces of log and turns huge stones over to build a huge temple. Jumbo is still trying to tug away from the big chain that is tying him down to the big stone pillar. But, he is unable to break free.

Jumbo matures and becomes an adult elephant. He helps the mahout move heavy pieces of log and turns huge stones over to build a huge bridge. The mahout puts a smaller chain on Jumbo’s foot. Jumbo is now strong enough to tug away the smaller chain that is tying him down to the big stone pillar and break free. But, he has forgotten to pull at the chain. From years of trying, he has “learnt” that there is no use tugging. So, he doesn’t tug anymore.

Jumbo matures further and becomes an aged elephant. He still remembers his family and jungle that he left behind. He remembers the watering hole and the fun that it represents. He would like to go back there. The mahout now puts a smaller jute chain on Jumbo’s foot. Jumbo has become weak. But, can pull at the jute chain with just one tug and break free. But, remember, he has forgotten to pull at the chain. So, he doesn’t tug anymore.

Grandpa TVS ended the story there. For many years during my childhood, I continued to bug Grandpa about whatever happened to Jumbo. I hypothesized various endings and proposed them to Grandpa. Grandpa continued to hear all my versions with great interest. But, he never did tell me what actually happened to Jumbo. As always, he left it up to my imagination.

Does that story sound awfully familiar to you?

Remember the unbridled energy of your own baby years?
Remember the unwavering hope of your own youth?
Remember all your dreams, beliefs, and wishes?
Remember all your losses, pain, and failures?
Remember, every time you tugged at the freakin’ iron chain and you couldn’t budge a freakin’ inch?
Remember how you kept tugging?
Remember that?

Hold that thought.
Can you go back to when you stopped tugging?
Can you?
I bet you are struggling to remember that moment.
It is very difficult for all of us.
Because, none of us remember when we forgot tugging.
It just happens.
One day.
We stop tugging.

Now, here is my ask: As the year draws to a close and you go through your pensive moments, try to think about what old beliefs are chaining you down that don’t serve you anymore? Have you forgotten to tug on an any chains (that don’t exist anymore)? Think about it. Don’t have to pick many. Pick just one chain. Just one.

Go ahead.
Break away.
Come on.
You can do it.

Unchain yourself. Break free.

That is my wish for you and wish for myself in 2018.

P.S. While you are it, for some inspiration on unchaining yourself and breaking free, read or watch “The Shawshank Redemption” during the holidays. Andy Dufresne is one of those guys who didn’t give up tugging after nearly two decades.

Also published on Medium.

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