Monday, February 20, 2017

Freedom on the Micro Level or Macro Lessons from a Bird

I recently took in a big, beautiful cockatoo in need of a new home.  A cockatoo is the big, white parrot the TV character Baretta had on his shoulder.  They are beautiful, beyond loud, and formidable.  That beak can really hurt!

This has not been easy and I have been reduced to tears more than once. Luckily I keep learning and receiving new tools and insights.  The latest insight is that I had let the bird have dominion over me.  I didn’t realize that having him on my shoulder or stroking the soft, warm skin under his wings could translate that I was giving him dominance.  I did however feel how bad it was to be dominated when he bit my neck or screamed his displeasure. Not a pretty feeling! Also he was getting more and more stressed in his pursuit of dominance.

The interesting thing though was not so much that I allowed him to dominate, but that I had given up my freedom to have dominion over myself.  I found myself running to appease him when he screamed because well it’s really, really loud and disturbing.  I found myself spending way more time than I wanted to in the office where he lives to the detriment of meal prep and family time.  I had given over my freedom and happiness to a feathered tyrant.  He didn’t ask me to.  I had given it over and the more I gave, the more he demanded.  Naturally this has not been conducive to a loving, mutually beneficial relationship.  It has built stress and resentment in both of us!

You would think the solution would be for me to dominate him and traditional thinking would say exactly that.  But it doesn’t have to be like that.  I don’t need to dominate him.  I just need to take care of my freedom to be my authentic self.  When I do that; when I am fully, powerfully, vibrantly myself, I do not give the bird dominion over me or my freedom.  I go to the office when it feels good for me to do so, taking in the birds need for company, but also my need to balance how much I am in there. I find creative solutions like taking him with me to other rooms but not allowing him my shoulder.  I offer him other perches instead and I keep offering them rather than giving my shoulder over to him which feels unsafe and impinges on my freedom.  I persevere and am firm in what I am willing to offer.

I’m sharing this bird story because it feels like such an important lesson in the current times.  Whether in relationship, work or politics responding by trying to dominate the other only makes a bad situation intolerable.  Conversely taking care of each of our individual rights and freedoms, our authenticity and power, while finding solutions that honor the common good is a doable way for us all to thrive.

We are never truly able to dominate others.  It is not our right to do so.  It is abhorrent to our souls.  Taking care of our right to be free and powerful and authentic is what each and every one of us can do, at home, at work, in community, in communion, in communication, and in action.  It is a sacred contract for us all to learn how our freedom and power enhances the freedom and power of others, how to be true stewards of our good and the common good as one.

I don’t need to dominate the bird I take care of in order to take care of myself. I just need to stand up and make adjustments that don’t allow him to dominate me and honors both our needs. In the negotiation process we have both found peace and balance, safety, esteem and love.