Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

Here’s a story I’ve heard… Every morning, while sitting in the porch of his farmhouse, the man would watch his cows leave the barn and go to the pastureland for grazing. He noticed that they always took the same path to get there: a turn to the left, a turn to the right, another turn to the left through the woods, and a final turn to the right. Day in, and day out, the cows would walk the same tortuous path, over and over again. One night, there was a huge storm, and many trees came down, revealing a much straighter and shorter path to the pastures. He imagined that the cows would notice how much easier it would be to go directly from the barn to the grazing fields. But rather than taking the more direct route to the feeding grounds, he witnessed that the cows continued to use the same old path as before.

When I think about this story, I immediately think about us, human beings, and how set and inflexible we are in our behaviors, just like the cows in the tale. And I ponder, “Yes, old habits die hard.”


Mindfulness allows us to see ourselves and our behavioral patterns more clearly. With practice we become better able to observe our thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations, and also see our habitual, conditioned, repetitive reactions to the challenging situations in life. We notice how we react when someone pushes our buttons, and how we behave during certain difficult interactions. We become aware of our choices to fight, freeze, or flee, and realize when we have been aggressive, passive, or assertive.

The jewel of the mindfulness practice is that it gives us more control over our lives, control to enhance the space and time between stimulus and response, control to choose the wisest responses, all of which enhances the quality of our lives and our overall well-being. We realize that we can choose, and that we do not have to always follow the same path. We can choose different ones.


Autobiography In Five Short Chapters

Chapter I

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 me forever to find a way out.

Chapter II

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’m in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III

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

Chapter IV

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

Chapter V

I walk down another street.

~ Portia Nelson

There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery


Piero Falci is an author and educator who believes that the inner work that leads to personal awakening and transformation is indispensable to create a wholesome world. He is an explorer of the mysteries of life who loves to observe, reflect, and write, and who not only strives to live a life that matters, but also hopes to inspire others to do the same. He is a promoter of peace who believes in advancing the idea that Heaven is here if we want it to be. He teaches mindfulness meditation, mindful living, and the acclaimed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program as taught at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Healthcare, and Society of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He organizes Silent Peace Walks.


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