The Donkey in the Well

Picture of donkey in the well

Many of you may have heard this story, but I was thinking of it recently and wanted to share this time old tale as a reminder for us to “take a step up”.

Once upon a time, a farmer’s donkey fell down into a well that the farmer had accidentally left uncovered. The donkey cried and cried, and the farmer tried to figure out a way to get the donkey out of the deep hole, however, the sides were too unstable to lower someone down with a rope to tie around the donkey, and as the donkey was panicky and thrashing about, he was concerned he or one of his farm hands might be injured and stuck down the hole too.

The animal cried piteously for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do. Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway, so it just wasn’t worth it to retrieve the donkey. He invited his neighbors to come and help, so they all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well.

As he felt the dirt falling on him, the donkey, being a donkey, kicked and kicked. When that didn’t seem to help, he brayed and brayed. Once the piles of dirt hit the donkey, the animal found renewed energy, and brayed even louder than he had before. The men turned their eyes from one another and pretended not to hear the donkey’s pleadings. The donkey kicked up a fuss and made a terrible commotion, but no one came to help. The donkey cried, but as he tired and began to understand the hopelessness of its situation, he began to give up, and got quiet, and then he realized something amazing was happening.

The donkey realized that the dirt was a gift. With each scoop of dirt that fell into the well, the donkey shook off any that landed on it and then took a step up onto the top of the pile of dirt forming at the bottom of the well. More dirt, another shake and another step up.

The men kept shoveling; certain that they were burying the poor donkey. But as they were shoveling, the donkey was shaking off the dirt and stomping it into the ground below him. With every shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey shook the dirt off and took a step up. As the men continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, the donkey would shake it off and take a step up. The men were busy shoveling so they didn’t notice what was happening.

A few shovel loads later, the farmer and neighbours finally looked down the well and was astonished at what they saw. The men were quite surprised to see the donkey, looking right straight at them. It was standing on top of all that dirt that had been dropped on it. Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and trotted off!

This story of the donkey in the well is timeless, and has circulated for a while. Its message is timeless, as many of us have found ourselves stuck in a situation where we just didn’t know to get through. The metaphorical dirt was poured over our heads, and we got buried by the problems, or we shook the dirt to the ground and rise above the circumstances.

We always have the choice to be victim or victor. So if it feels as if you are in that well with no chance of being freed, think of the donkey who refused to accept that his circumstances were beyond his control; he didn’t give up and he didn’t give in.

Life is going to shovel dirt on you, all kinds of dirt. The trick to getting out of the well is to shake it off and take a step up. Each of our troubles is a stepping-stone. We can get out of the deepest wells just by not giving up.

Shake it off and take a step up!

Cora Wen is an international expert on yoga therapy. She is an ERYT-500 (senior) Yoga Alliance certified instructor and is also CYT certified through the International Association of Yoga Therapists. She frequently teaches in S. Asia and Thailand as well as throughout United States. Cora is a favorite of yoga students of all levels due to the extraordinary energy and life experiences she brings to her classes. After sowing wild oats in New York City in the 70s with rockers Deborah Harry and Patti Smith, she had careers in fashion and banking. Cora assisted Erich Schiffmann and Rodney Yee extensively throughout the 90s, while working as a corporate banker. Eventually, she left banking to follow her love and passion for yoga fulltime. Cora’s expertise has arisen from over two decades of teaching and apprenticing with America’s most influential teachers. She has studied philosophy and therapeutics extensively with Judith Hanson Lasater and Patricia Walden. You can find Cora blogging here. The original article by Cora has been reposted with permission.

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