🎧 Bedtime Story Podcast #47
A man was walking in the forest, and he was exhausted. On his back he was carrying many large and heavy bags, and he was hunched over, looking like he would soon collapse. Despite his exhaustion and the discomfort that he felt, he was determined to keep walking. Rest was for the weak, and the more rest he took would mean he would take longer to reach his destination, and at his destination he could surely rest. Once he reached the next forest, he would finally be able to put down his baggage.
He had been walking for a very long time. There was a great degree of beauty around him, the trees accompanying him along the path, the sunlight that filtered in through the tallest trees in the distance, and the twitters of birds that seemed to be dancing all around him. But he did not notice any of that. He just wanted to reach the next forest, where he could finally put down these bags, and be happy. He couldn’t even remember what was in these bags anymore, but he was nearly there, so close to rest…
He was struggling along the forest path, when he heard a voice…
“What are you doing?”
The man noticed that he was being watched, but he could not see anyone…
“What are you doing?” asked the voice again.
“…Errm…nothing, leave me alone,” said the man, looking around at the trees whilst speeding up his walk.
“What are you doing?” asked the voice once more.
The man became agitated and slightly afraid. Who was speaking, and why could they not just leave him alone?
“Look!” exclaimed the man, “Please leave me alone, I’m…” as he put down his bags so that he could move and exclaim more freely, he suddenly remembered how great it felt to not be carrying all of that weight. How light he felt, how free he felt!
“I’m just on my way to where I’m going, that’s all,” he said more pleasantly. “I’m taking these bags with me, and when I get there I can finally put down these bags and be free from them. I will have a good rest!”
“Oh, Ok,” said the voice, seeming to come from nowhere.
Then there was silence.
Feeling that the matter was resolved, the man reached down to pick up his bags again. His fingers were about to grasp the heaviest one, when he was again rudely interrupted.
“Wait,” said the voice. “What are you doing?”
“Picking up my bags,” said the man, hauling a huge sack on to his back.
“What’s in the bags?” asked the voice.
Immediately the man thought he may be robbed of his bags. This simply could not happen. He could not lose his bags, otherwise his very purpose would be negated, who would he be, what could he do without his bags?
“Nothing, just my stuff,” he said hurriedly as he picked up the rest of them and began walking briskly away, trying to escape his follower.
“Nothing is in your bags?” asked the voice, seeming as if it was no distance away from him now. “You mean your stuff is nothing?”
“Yes, well…” as the man attempted to formulate his reply, he remembered that he really had no idea what was in the bags. They just felt so heavy.
He dropped everything. He began opening his bags on the ground to be sure of their contents.
The first bag was empty. The second bag – empty. The third, fourth and fifth bags – all empty. What was going on? Why did they feel so heavy? He scrambled around the bags to find some kind of explanation, but he could make no sense of it.
“What are you doing?” asked the voice.
“Tying to figure out what’s going on here, how can this be?”
Then he noticed one more bag was still on his back. He put it down.
The voice spoke, “All your life you have been carrying these bags, thinking they were helpful. Everyone else carries their own baggage, and suggests that you do the same. People have strange ideas that not carrying these bags will mean they will be unsafe, or worthless, or just too free.”
“But surely they must have a purpose…” proposed the man, feeling bewildered, but very light.
“Only that they feel heavy,” explained the voice. “They make you feel like you are carrying so much, that you are strong, meaningful, when really in themselves they are nothing, and have no purpose.”
“But I thought I could only put down the bags when I reach the destination, when I reach the next forest?”
“Where are you now?” replied the voice.
The man looked around. He was in the forest.
“I’m in the forest,” he admitted, “but the next forest should be coming up soon, that’s where I’m going. To get here I came from the previous forest, and now I must reach the next one.”
“Have you ever really given your experience any attention?” asked the voice. “This whole time you have been walking within the same forest. The scenery might change from step to step, but it is all within this one forest. There is no next forest, it is all this forest, everything is within this forest.”
“But people have always told me about the next forest…” argued the man.
“Yes, but who ever said that anyone else’s word was worthy of trust? You must inspect your own experience, not anyone else’s interpretation or opinion of their own. Look at your experience. Have you ever left the forest? Do you really think there is a ‘next’ forest?”
“Well…” enquired the man, “perhaps not…no.”
“Everything you do is within the forest,” continued the voice, “it is everywhere, caring for you and supplying you with everything you need. People think this forest is not good enough, and always imagine they must reach a next one before they can put down their baggage and be safe. You can do anything you feel like doing, but be aware that everything you do and achieve is always within this forest, and this forest is not something to be escaped. There is nowhere else to go.” What a relief. The man looked around joyously, no longer believing that he needed to carry his bags. He put them down, not needing to be drained of energy anymore, and he lay down to finally have that rest he had been after.
Story written and read in English by Adam Oakley, Copyright © Adam Oakley