Spirituality * Culture * Self-Expression

Category: Storyteller

Sour Grapes

sour grapes

The great classical story teller, Aesop, tells the tale of a hungry fox looking for some food.

One hot summer’s day a fox was strolling through an orchard. He came upon a bunch of grapes just ripening on a vine high above his head. Feeling hungry and not seeing much else around him he said, “this could be just the thing to quench my appetite.” He took a few steps back, ran and took a jump up at the grapes but just missed the bunch. Turning round again with a One, Two, Three, he took another running leap at the grapes but still missed catching them. Again and again he tried after the tempting morsel, but at last he had to give it up, and walked away with his nose in the air, saying: “Ahhh, those grapes were probably sour anyway.”

This reminds me of those fellows who go to bars trying to pick up girls. If a girl rejects them they walk away making some crude comment about how unattractive she was, anyway.

It’s easy to despise what you cannot get.

This is also the case with mysticism. Many people go into the practice expecting some specific result and when they fail to achieve it, condemn the whole system. The enlightened state is attainable and worthy of attainment but it requires a degree of commitment that many people are not willing to make. Failing with one approach the committed mystic makes adjustments and gets back to work. The grapes of mysticism are not sour but they do require effort to taste.

The Master Jesus said, in declaring himself One with the Mystical state: “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”

How do you attain this state? You make the effort, continuously, as though your life depended on it. Wake yourself up. Wake yourself up any way you can. Wake yourself up and then wake up everyone else. Don’t be like the fox; keep working until you succeed in tasting the sweet fruit of the mystic.

Wake Up

A Grandmother’s Advice



A young woman was having problems with her life and went to her grandmother for some help and advice. “I don’t know if I’m going to make it,” she said. “Life is getting too hard. There’s one problem after another. I’m tired of fighting and struggling; I just want to give up.”

Her grandmother took her into the kitchen and sat her down at the table. She then filled three pots with water and placed each pot on the stove. When the water came to a boil, she put some carrots in the first pot, eggs in the second pot and ground coffee beans in the third pot.

carrot egg coffee


She let everything sit and boil, without saying a word. After about twenty minutes, she turned off the burners. She carefully fished the carrots out of the first pot and placed them in a bowl. Then she pulled the eggs out of the second pot and placed them in another bowl. Finally, she ladled the coffee out of the third pot and placed it in a third bowl. Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, “Tell me, what do you see?”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” the young woman replied. The grandmother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. She then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, she asked her to sip the coffee. The granddaughter smiled as she tasted its rich flavour. The granddaughter then asked, “What does it mean, grandmother?”

Her grandmother said, “Each of these items have faced the same problem, the same adversity: they’ve all been thrown into boiling water and left to cook. However, each item reacted differently. The carrots went in strong, hard and unrelenting. But, after being subjected to the boiling water, they softened and became weak.

“The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after spending time in the boiling water, its inside became hardened! The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they actually changed the water.”

“Now, which are you?” the grandmother asked the girl. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?”



Like the young woman in the story, when we find ourselves in difficult situations, it might be useful to consider the grandmother’s advice. We could ask ourselves: Which am I? After a death, a break up, financial hardship, illness or any of a thousand other problems people face – Which am I?  Am I the carrot? Do I start out strong and sturdy but with pain and adversity do I wilt, become soft and lose my resolve?

Am I the egg? Do I start with a malleable, flexible heart, and fluid spirit but with the heat and pressure, though I look the same on the outside, do I become bitter and tough on the inside with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?

Or am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the bean’s fragrance and flavour. When things are at their worst, the bean makes things better by adding something positive to the situation . When the hours are the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate to another level? How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?



Deceived by Appearances



We are often deceived by appearances and end up making snap decisions about a situation without taking into account what we should know to be true as a result of our past experiences or insights. Many people are ready to assume the worst about a person, even a person they know quite well, without considering all the relevant evidence. In the heat of the moment, with emotions flaring, some are likely to jump to conclusions before they’ve evaluated all the facts. When only the senses and intellect are being used – only what is being seen and experienced at the moment is evaluated – it is easy to be mistaken about the true nature of a situation. If there is time to reflect and analyze the issues, then, of course, the intellect can help reach a well formed and clear decision. But when there is no time for a studied response, the mystic has the advantage of using intuition. Practiced intuition, strengthened by regular meditation, allows for a more cosmic view of the world and the events transpiring before us.


cosmic view

Unfortunately, not everyone is prepared to rely on intuition in the heat of the moment – it is not within most people’s comfort zone. Far easier just to react to the world rather than being one with the action.

Take for example Aesop’s fable of the Beekeeper and His Bees:



Once there was a kind and generous Beekeeper who took special care or his bees. He always made sure the bees had everything they needed to make their honey; he never took more than his share and always tried his best to protect them from any harm.

One day, when the Beekeeper was away, a thief got onto the property and plundered the beehives, breaking up the honeycombs and stealing all the honey.


When the Beekeeper returned, he saw the empty hives and all the damage and was very upset. He stood staring at the wreckage with tears in his eyes.

Just then the bees returned from the pastures and seeing the damage for themselves and the Beekeeper just standing there they viciously attacked their caregiver, stinging him without mercy.



The Beekeeper cried out “Why are you doing this? I’ve always taken such good care of you. You let the thief who plundered your hives get away without harm while you direct all your rage against me.”

The bees, for all their beauty and industry, are simple creatures. They can do little more than react to what life throws at them. It is to be hoped, however, that we can assess situations with a little more depth.


don't judge

Rocks, Pebbles, Sand, Water

focus on what matters

This is an old story and I’ve seen it in many places in many versions. I’m not sure who wrote the original (if you do, please let me know), but it has a kind of timeless quality about it. I want to share it because aside from the more mundane, though still important, meaning that can be derived from it there is also a deeper, mystical layer to it – one that goes along with the words of Jesus who said:

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ … For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matt. 6:31-34

seek first the kingdom

A teacher walks into a classroom, stands at the front of the class and sets a large one gallon wide-mouthed Mason jar on the table. Silently and carefully, he places a collection of fist sized rocks one at a time, into the jar. When the jar is filled to the top and no more rocks can fit inside, he asks the class if the jar is full.



The class unanimously agrees that the jar is full. The teacher says, “Really? Are you sure?” He then reaches under the table and pulls out a bucket of pebbles. He dumps some pebbles in, and shakes the jar, causing pieces of the smaller stones to work themselves down into the space between the big rocks. Then he asks the group once more, “Is the jar full?”

By this time the class is on to him. “Probably not,” one of them answers. “Good!” he says and reaching under the table again he brings out a bucket of sand. He dumps the sand into the jar, and allows it to get into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asks the question, “Is the jar full?” “No!” the class shouts. “Excellent!” he replies and taking out a pitcher of water he proceeds to fill the jar to the brim.



The class laughs, and it is clear to all that the jar is now finally full. The teacher smiles and steps around to the front of the table saying, “Now suppose this jar represents your life, what does this experiment show you?”

A bold student replies, “No matter how busy you think you are you can always take on more.”

“That is one view,” he replies.

Then he looks out at the class making eye contact with everyone, “Here’s how I see it. The rocks represent the BIG things in your life – what you will value at the end of your life – your family, your partner, your health, fulfilling your hopes and dreams. The pebbles are the other things in your life that give it meaning, like your job, your house, your hobbies, your friendships. The sand and water represent the ‘small stuff’ that fills our time, like watching TV or running errands.”

Looking out at the class again, he asks, “Now, what do you think would happen if I had started with the water, the sand or the pebbles?”

“The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.”


“What are the ‘big rocks’ in your life? Your children….Your loved ones…Your education… Your dreams…A worthy cause…..Teaching or mentoring others…. Doing things that you love…Time for yourself…. Your health….Your significant other – Whatever they are remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first, or you’ll never get them in at all. If you spend all your time worrying about the little stuff (the sand, the water) then you’ll fill your life with these little worries that don’t really matter, and you’ll never have the real quality time you need to spend on the big, important stuff (the big rocks).”

So, what are the “big rocks” for someone on a mystical path?  As Jesus, and indeed all spiritual masters, would instruct the “big rocks” are Enlightenment, the Kingdom of Heaven, Awakening, Awareness, and Self-Realization. Other things – material things – are certainly worthy of consideration. They are fun, entertaining, challenging, and productive – but if you have chosen the mystic path you must make the quest for self-realization your primary task. This is the “big rock” that must take precedence in your life. Once this is achieved you will find all your other needs and desires gratified.

So, therefore, wake up! Wake yourself up anyway you can. And then you can proceed to wake up others.

man in praise

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