The Hole We Dig for Ourselves

Becoming aware of ourselves and our patterns

I have several dogs. One day, I noticed a huge hole near the fence. This wasn’t just any hole; this was a hole big enough to fall in, big enough for a large dog to sleep in! I had to laugh; apparently it was a communal hole — a space all the dogs contributed to, whether by digging further, sitting in it, or flat out lying down for a nap in it. In all, the hole looked like many paws had been there.

Their hole reminded me of the poem by Portia Nelson, “Autobiography in Five Short Chapters.”

Chapter One
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost . . . I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault . . .
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it there.
I still fall . . . it’s a habit . . . but,
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter Four
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter Five
I walk down another street.

I love this poem for its simplicity in highlighting the holes we all fall into at one time or another! We get ourselves into situations, predicaments, or relationships over and over, and we can’t figure out how we got into them, much less how to get out of them! In many cases it becomes a pattern, one that we adjust to slowly over time.

“That’s just what I do,” we say to ourselves. “I get myself into things and then have to figure a way out.” Or “I’ve always been this way.”

The “way out,” as the poem indicates, is becoming aware of ourselves and our patterns. Life is a process of self-discovery, not self-condemnation for falling in the first place! The holes teach us contrast. We know what we don’t want when we fall in, which in turn shows us what we do want — to change our patterns or alter our course. Are the holes a necessary component for us to learn? Perhaps. I know there is no better teacher than direct experience.

So, the dogs already know what we have to learn: you can dig a hole for yourself; you can even hang out in that hole for awhile, which is fine. But always know this — it’s just a resting spot to guide you to your next step.

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