Fairy tales often convey deep meaning. Take Hans Christian Andersen’s story of the ugly duckling. A baby swan is orphaned and raised by ducks. The ducks know he is not one of them, and the little creature suffers a lot of abuse from them.

fundamental confusion

The baby swan then leaves in search of where he feels he belongs. He comes upon some hens who tell him “You are not a hen.” It goes off very lonely, sad and confused, thinking to himself “I don’t belong anywhere.”


He sees a flock of swans on a lake, and in despair decides to throw himself at the flock of swans deciding that it is better to be killed by these impressive birds than to live a life of ugliness and misery. He is shocked when the swans welcome him, only to realize by looking at his reflection in the water that he has grown into one of them.

The flock takes to the air, and the now beautiful swan spreads his wings and takes flight with the rest of his new family.

awakening to what we are

This story may resonate with what many of us reading these newsletters are up to: searching for deeper sense of who we are, and awakening to our true nature. It’s poignant this awakening happened when the swan recognized who he was in his reflection in the water.

The meditative path provides a very reliable compass that points to a profound inner knowing of ourselves, as Socrates implored. At his trail, Socrates uttered “the unexamined life is not worth living.” His life was about encouraging people to profoundly understand themselves and give meaning to their lives.


In the Buddhist teachings, the three poisons of ignorance, attachment, and aversion keep us hostage to samsara, repeating over and over unskillful actions that cause us grief and confusion, and keep this liberating inner knowing out of reach.


The meditative path helps clear this confusion, allowing a profound recognition of what we are not – an isolated, confused, orphaned entity. Like the little swan in our story, we take flight in the sky of inter-being, manifesting as pure and total aliveness, surrendered into a non-grasping, radically inclusive, loving presence.


The basis of our problem is ignorance. Ignorance is not a state that we find ourselves in, but an inability to recognize our wholeness. Our culture teaches us to believe in things which are not true. We are caught in a story of me and mine, and obsessed with self-protection and aggrandizement. The ego is hungry and guarded.

James Low claims that “all psychiatric disorders are forms of preoccupation.” We just can’t seem to let go of this preoccupation with self and all its manifestations. In yesterday’s Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin reported that the Dalai Lama was worried that, under Trump, the United States was becoming more “selfish, nationalist.”

our practice: a priceless jewel

We are living in tumultuous times, a perfect storm of catastrophes, a list of which is too long to include here. Our practice is a priceless jewel that cuts through all the bullshit, recognizes our inter-being, and manifests as self-less love and compassion.

Our very survival may depend on it.


Katina and I are here to support your meditation practice in any way we can, just contact us through the Contact Page on this site. Or if you live in Honolulu, or ever visit, feel free to drop by our free, weekly meditation evenings.

join the Aloha Sangha familywe all need a little support sometimes

Enter your best email below and we'll send you our weekly support newsletter to help keep you moving forward on this journey of a lifetime. You can easily unsubscribe anytime.

About Tom Davidson-Marx

Former Buddhist monk, now father of two and full time registered nurse, my passion is sharing what I have learned from a life-long love, study and practice of the early Buddhist teachings. Thanks for reading.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.