Once upon a time there was a bird in a forest. The bird had several friends, squirrels, badgers, and mice. One day there was a forest fire. There hadn’t been any rain in a while so the fire spread fast and quickly as it surrounded the forest. The bird didn’t want to leave his friends, but his friends insisted he fly away because he could. Knowing there was a lake on the other side of the fire, the bird decided he was going to do what he could to help his friends.
The bird flew over the fire instead of away from it. The bird could feel the heat of the flames and had to fly higher. He dove into the lake and got his feathers wet. He then flew over the fire to release as many drops of water as he could.
The spirits in the sky were observing the bird. One said, “look at that silly little bird”. He noted the bird would fly back and forth over the fire into the lake. The little drops of water barely slowed the fire as the fire kept spreading.
With curiosity that one spirit turned himself into an eagle and flew down to see what the bird was doing. He caught up with the bird who was so focused on his task. “Why are you flying back and forth over the fire to the lake?” The eagle asked.
“My friends need my help.” replied the bird.
“You are too little.” said the eagle. “The fire is spreading regardless of your efforts.”
The bird stopped for a moment, he caught his breath, then smiled at the eagle. “This is not a good moment for you to be giving me such advice.” And the bird continued with focused determination.
The eagle chuckled for a moment, but noting the look of determination on the bird he followed the bird out of curiosity. The eagle curiously joined in and went into the lake a few times.
The fire was getting hotter. The eagle observed how at times a feather of the little bird would catch a flame. The eagle started to fly higher over the flame to avoid his feathers from getting singed, but when the eagle did that the water that he carried would dry out and would never make it to the core of the fire. The eagle then understood why the little bird was flying lower and lower.
The eagle was moved by the act of love and kindness for his friends. Feeling compassion for the little bird the eagle started to cry, of which when a spirit cries it returns back to the sky. The other spirits observed the eagle’s journey and they too were moved and started to cry. A rainstorm of tears of compassion ensued, which then put out the fire uniting the bird back with his friends.
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This story resonates to me personally. I have a message to share about sleep health and stress management. I have a focused plan and determination to do it. Yet I see news feeds in the media getting more and more negative. I see more and more children and their families coming to me with problems with anxiety and stress that affect their sleeplessness, and they have never been taught methods of self-regulation.
The forest that we live in today has such splendor and beauty. It also has flames of teasing, road rage, bullying, which at times the flames of pain may spread to school shootings or even suicide. But just like the lake, there are resources out there that can help quench the flames.
Like the bird, it is common to feel the flames of burnout. And when trying hard, we all have to catch our breath from time to time so we don’t get compassion fatigue.
As per me, my friends, my family, and my children live in this beautiful forest and I refuse to watch it up go up in flames of negativity in our high stress society.
At the core of the story is spirit. One’s inner spirit is powerful. The ability to connect to another’s spirit is immeasurable. The union of collective spirit towards a common goal can make this world a better place.
There is also a metaphor of doubt, as the eagle was quite doubtful initially. Who is this one little bird? I feel that way when I contact my local colleges, organizations and figures of the media to spread the message of sleep health and mindfulness. There never seems to be a time or place in their stress filled lives to stop and listen to a stress reduction lecture. There never seems to be time in medical curriculum for a sleep health lecture even though 1/3 of your life is in sleep. — I know the word discouragement, but I don’t know the feeling. Instead with resolve I’ll keep flying to different lakes until the human spirit collectively joins.
My last observation that resonated with me is how stubborn the one little bird is. Not because he going back and forth to save his friends, that is determination and conviction. Rather the bird is stubborn because he never asked for help. Why didn’t the bird ask the eagle for help? He could have even asked the eagle if he had any friends that could help as well. Why don’t I ask for help more often? — Friends, I ask for your help. Please help the message of compassion spread by sharing this post on your social media. As well as sharing this YouTube video that gives an explanation of how meditation and self-regulation skills can be learned:
Encourage others to encourage others.
Jose Colon, M.D., MPH