Let your “Wild Chickens” out!

Rod Meade Sperry looks into the power of mindful metaphor in terms of Buddhist practice, with Dr. Arnie Kozak’s book.

Rod Meade Sperry
3 April 2009
Amador Loureiro

Kozak argues that metaphors for mindfulness are “seeds,” that they help plant a deeper understanding of and interest in true mindfulness, and that they can enhance its practice or make it easier. Judging by the authorities who praise the book on it back cover, I’m not the only person who thinks he’s onto something. (Just the least authoritative!) And Kozak’s got me thinking, as I flip around, bit by bit: about the beauty and help that metaphors can lend to our practice.

Our personal metaphors can be anything, right? At least I think so.  That is, as long as there’s good intention and understanding behind our  “use” of them — whether they’re images or stories that we’ve encountered and made somehow our own,  or they’ve arisen wholly from our imagination.

Kozak’s work is a good example of the fulfillment of that criteria: he’s taken stories he’s heard, created his own metaphors,  and presented all of these together to enrich our individual databanks of helpful metaphors. We can then, in turn, use any of them as a means (or at least a reminder) to bolster our effort and intention to keep practicing. And, of course, your practice doesn’t have to be “mindfulness” for a metaphor to be helpful. The principle applies across the spectra of practices and schools — and even if you don’t identify with any school at all.

And our personal metaphors don’t have to make sense to others. As long as they work for us, great. If they work for others, that’s great too.

So what I’d like to know is, what are yours?

What images, ideas, stories, phrases, etc., are meaningful to you in your efforts to practice? Which ones do you enjoy seeing or recalling because, in part, you feel they help reinforce or deepen your intention, your effort, your discipline, or your understanding of dharma?

Please leave a comment and tell us. Or embed a YouTube video. Or include a link to an image of a guru, a wild chicken, or whatever. You can explain what these images, ideas, stories, phrases, etc., mean to you — or not. Up to you.

But I hope you’ll share them either way, because I bet we’ll all benefit from seeing them. When you think about it, no matter how personal, our own metaphors are likely to resonate with others, as they come from and appeal to a truly important, special part of the mind that we each have access to — the part where our practice and our imagination meet and uphold each other.

Rod Meade Sperry. Photo by Megumi Yoshida, 2024

Rod Meade Sperry

Rod Meade Sperry is the editor of Buddhadharma: The Practitioner’s Guide (published by Lion’s Roar), and the book A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation: Practical Advice and Inspiration from Contemporary Buddhist Teachers. He lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with his partner and their tiny pup, Sid.