Understanding our energy envelope
The story that follows is an excerpt
from Thomas Oates’ audio
book, Recovery, The Peace that Heals. For more information, please see his web site at
Fourteen years ago while I was touring
the tropical mountains of
Sri Lanka, I ran across an Indian elephant chained to a small stake in the ground. It was a big bull in
his prime who could have easily yanked the stick up and trampled the nearby huts. I could not understand
what was keeping him from twitching his hind leg and freeing himself. After all, this elephant had been
chained because he had been aggressive and hard to control.
I asked the owner how this could
be, and he said that long ago they had chained him to a palm tree. At first, the elephant pulled
and pulled against the trunk of the tree for many days. Finally, he grew weary of the tug of war and linked
the shackle and chain with no hope, no freedom, no life. The elephant had learned to be helpless. By the
time I saw him, he had been chained so long that the thought of pulling against even a small stake was
While in the middle of CFIDS, I kept this image in my mind when I felt like things were
hopeless. I knew some day the tree would turn into a stake stuck in the ground and that I must continue
to gently pull on the chain, testing it by pursuing joyful, heartfelt activities. When the chain cut my
leg, I knew I had pulled too hard and that the tree was still there. I learned to maneuver within
the limits of the chain’s length, occasionally tugging and testing its anchor.
We must not give
up, but also must not pull in vain. We should count the links in our chain and follow our joy within those
limits. We should not waste time heaving against a tree. I still think about the elephant and the valuable
lesson he taught me. My tree became a teacher that turned into a peace that I now carry with me.
chains are now gone. However, like the elephant, I was never able to saw the shackle from my leg,
and now I do not want to. It serves as a reminder of the peace I came to know from being tied to a palm
tree in paradise. Just as the elephant eventually became peaceful and learned the ways of his master,
so have I, and now I am allowed to roam free.
This lesson may have relevance for others. PWCs must
be very sensitive to the amount of energy we have in general and maneuver within those limits. If we know
there are only a few links in our chain, we must not try to wander off when we have a particularly good