The King and the Doorman
(a story that I first saw on Troy Chapman’s’ blog, and which has since been used by Cheri Huber in one of her books. I have changed some of the wording and shortened it, and added a commentary).
Once upon a time, there was a king who lived in a castle. He life was going well for many years, then he appointed one of his trusted servants to be the new doorman, as the old one was retiring. Soon after his promotion, the doorman began to bring disturbing news to the king, of people out there in his kingdom who wanted to kill him and take over his wealth.
When the king first heard these stories he told his new doorman to indicate who these people were and he would personally confront them. The doorman advised the king not to do so, as this was too dangerous. The doorman counseled the king to stay indoors and that he would personally deal with them.
The doorman returned after each outing with even more distressing news. The king initially kept himself isolated in the castle, then, on the advice of the doorman, he began to seclude himself in one wing of the castle. As time went on, the king felt more secure in his bedroom. After some months, the king confined himself to a small closet in the servants’ quarters. He lived there for many years. The door man would slide his food through a small slot in the closet door.
After many years, one of the maids who worked in the castle knocked on his closet door. She said she could not stand by and watch the doorman live like a king while the real king lived like his prisoner. The king vehemently defended this arrangement, explaining that his trusted doorman was protecting him. The maid carefully explained to the king that this was not so, that there were no dangerous enemies the king could not have adequately dealt with. She broke the news to the king that the doorman had been lying to him all these years in order to take over the castle for his own enjoyment. The king was still hesitant. The maid said that she was telling the truth, and now it was time for the king to act on it.
When he finally was able to peek out of the closet, he found a very quiet castle. He made his way to the throne room, and there he found the doorman, with his servants tending to his every whim. When the doorman saw the king, he rushed to his side and began leading him back to his closet, listing the dangers and threats to his safety.
The king ordered his guards to throw the doorman out. In the remaining years of his life the king often thought about the deception and how had it not been for the maid who pointed the truth out to him he would have died in that closet.
This story illustrates how easy it is to fall for the story that our conditioning tells us. It’s dangerous, you are not able to deal with it, and you need to hide. That’s just one storyline, there are thousands of them. We all have these voices of the doorman running at different times in our head. They want you to fail or hide because that way you are safe. Once we see them for what they are—conditioned voices of an ego survival system—we can begin to see that for the most part they have little helpful information to convey.
The key here is how to meet our inner doormen. Through meditation we learn the art of compassionate awareness, of nonjudgmental presence. We meet them with grace and this non-judgmental awareness, and in this quiet, spacious meeting, they see that they have little chance of fooling us, and they leave. One after another.
Meditation allows us the space to see this, to encounter our inner doormen and to send them on their way, graciously yet firmly. If we don’t send them off nicely, they’ll just come back, and next time they just might bring some of their friends along.
These doormen suck our energy. When we are not consumed by fear and the sense that something is wrong with our life, we have much more energy to get on with it – with love, bliss, enthusiasm and compassion. The doormen use fear to keep us locked in their loops. As we turn the doormen away, life starts to be fun again, like when we were kids, and not so troubled with the burden of our conditioning.
But conditioning does not want to die, and it tries to control us through deeper layers of fear. That’s one reason meditation is hard to stay with—deep inside we may find even more wispy, wily inner doormen telling us that meditation is a waste of time. If we hang in there we will soon see that the doormen are like the Wizard in the Wizard of Oz—all show, and they can’t deliver on their threats. As soon as we see this we wake up to our life.
“Life is glorious. Almost no one experiences life. We experience conditioned mind and think that’s life.” –Cheri Huber