The story of Chicken Little – respond or react

Chicken Little is a favourite fable that has been retold numerous times for the simple reason that it has much to teach in terms of maintaining equanimity and calm even if the sky were indeed to fall down around us.

The Story of Chicken Little

This story epitomises the saying that running around like a headless chicken won’t do you any good if things go awry except that in her case, Chicken Little very much had her head on but certainly not her wits when on that fateful day, just as she was minding her own business, an acorn fell and hit her on the head.

Question: How would we react if the sky was indeed falling down around us?

An acorn falls on Chicken Little

“Oh, no!” cried Chicken Little. “The sky is falling and I must go tell the king.” So off she went.

Along the way, she met Henny Penny who asked, “My goodness, where are you going in such a hurry?”

“The sky is falling!” cried Chicken Little, “And I must go tell the king!”

“Wait for me, I’m coming, too!” said Henny Penny and the two set off at a trot.

Chicken Little's band of friends

And so in that manner, Chicken Little was soon joined by Cocky Locky, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, and Turkey Lurkey.

The fox shows up

Wherever there are chickens there’s bound to be a fox sooner or later. And that’s when they met Foxy Loxy who laid on his smarmy charm, “And where are you all going in such a hurry?”

They all cried, “The sky is falling and we must all go tell the king!”

“Ah, I see. But the king is over the other way. Follow me and I’ll show you exactly how to get there.” said Foxy Loxy.

And they all happily trotted after the fox who led them deeper and deeper into the forest and straight into his lair.

Ever since that day, no trace was ever found of Chicken Little, Henny Penny, Cocky Locky, Ducky Lucky, Goosey Loosey, or Turkey Lurkey. Well, neither did the king get to hear about the sky falling down. All was as it should be.

Moral of the story

Indeed, so much of our reactions in life’s situations are based on perceptions when the more important question ought to have been how accurate were those perceptions. Are our perceptions coloured by the filters we wear due to our own biased and righteous beliefs? Were our blinkers inherited from our parents and teachers or other caregivers and did we ever question if we really want them or not? Or, have we simply built up mechanisms to help us cope? Mechanisms that might no longer serve us well and needs updating? Will we pause to rethink? Human nature is such that no, we tend to like to hang on to our perceptions like precious possessions. But question we must. Half the time, my work as a counsellor is to challenge someone’s perceptions. As for the moral of this story, how one should react or respond, well, here’s a tip.

Look for the pause between stimulus and response

Between every stimulus, like the acorn hitting Chicken Little’s head, to the response, as in her assuming the sky was falling and then running off to tell the king, there is always a pause. Learning to rest in that pause is what wisdom is all about. Wisdom to carefully choose the right response. If indeed she had paused or all of them had paused to consider the situation, they might never have met the fox and we might never have this story either!

Meditation helps you lengthen the pause

This is why learning to meditate is a life-saving skill. Meditation teaches us to dwell in that pause. Start with just 5 minutes a day spending quiet time with yourself doing nothing but being an observer of your thoughts, and a watcher of your breath. Breath in, breath out. Not going anywhere, not being anybody. Slowly, increase the time you sit. Then one day, you’d come to realise that the mind’s churnings aren’t really a part of who you truly are. Like a cloud in the summer sky, a bolt of lightning at night, or a dew drop in the early morning, all churnings are ephemeral and will soon pass. Nothing can bother you much anymore. As wisdom grows, we come to realise that the acorn was an acorn and the sky was never in any danger of falling down. It was all a matter of our perception. And in that wisdom, we will finally know what to do, what to change about ourselves and have the courage to do it.

Related article: Meditation – how to manage the 4 aspects of the mind.