Once upon a Metaphor

met·a·phor n. [met-uh-fawr]

a figure of speech in which a word or phrase literally denoting one kind of object or idea is used in place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy

In our school we search for and develop metaphors so that we can use them as tools in our everyday lives. Each one has to do with something we have seen or experienced this year and then they are translated into tools we can actually use. They help to reinforce positive thoughts. There are eight metaphors we use regularly, though I am sure there will be more of them before our year is over. This is the nutshell description of each one.

Parrot Talk: Have you ever gone to a friend’s house who has a parrot that says random things? The parrot may say to you,  “you’re ugly, you’re ugly” over and over again. Our first metaphor is about that kind of parrot talk that goes on in our own heads…a voice that keeps repeating negative comments in our minds, so we call this parrot talk. That voice is just like the  parrot who says random things to random people. The parrot doesn’t mean it at all and we know it, so we don’t even care. In fact, we even think it is funny. We can know that about the random negative things that cycle around in our minds, too…we don’t need to give it attention. If it is a thought that puts us down, we can know immediately to pay it no mind. Instead we should focus on the lighter things or the good qualities about ourselves.

Tennis Match: Picture yourself in a tennis match with someone else. You both keep hitting the ball back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Then all of a sudden you just stop and say “ I don’t feel like hitting the ball back anymore.” After doing this you lose the game, and eventually the match. This is where the metaphor comes in. It’s similar to doing math or any other project that is tough. If, when things get really hard or you feel tired, you just give up and think that you’ll never be good at it so you might as well quit, you will NOT ever get good at it. Some things just take a consistent and persistent effort, like hitting the ball back over the net. The point is to not give up, but instead to keep going even when the going gets tough. Whatever you give up on is going to come back to get you, so it’s important to hit the ball back and keep going.

Rocks in our Backpacks: We have all had to carry heavy backpacks at some time in our lives. Imagine having a backpack full of heavy rocks. It is a struggle to carry it. One even walks differently, all bent over because of the heavy load.  We use this example as a metaphor. Imagine that the backpack is your mind or consciousness, and the rocks are negative thoughts. You wouldn’t want to carry a head-full of heavy negativity, would you? It would be much easier to have a backpack that is light and full of positive thoughts. The negative thoughts are the heavy rocks, but the positive thoughts are the light and easy things to carry. The moral is to keep your mind clear and light with positive thoughts. Drop the rocks on the ground.

Get Some New Pants: Unless you’re pretty unusual, you probably wear pants. Some people have animals that shed, like dogs or cats, and they are continuously trying to get the dog hair and random lint off of their pants. Some pants, no matter what you do, just collect lint and there is nothing you can do except to throw them away and get some new pants. That’s where the metaphor comes in. Your mind, like your pants in this metaphor, attracts lots of “lint,” negative thoughts and temptation that you just can’t seem to get rid of, can’t get them off. The only thing you can do is just change your “pants,” which means to change your attitude. Change your mind to an optimistic attitude so you won’t attract the negative thoughts — the lint.

Feed the Birds: Close your eyes and imagine being in a bird sanctuary. You are sitting still with bird feed in both hands. Think about waiting for a bird to come, with birds all around. You must remain completely still with your hands wide open and be patient, letting the birds come to your hands. Once a bird lands, you have to remain completely still and refrain from calling out to a friend, or the bird will fly away. This is a good metaphor to use when thinking about getting good ideas and positive thoughts. Letting your mind represent your hands that are open wide and very still, as you would if you were feeding the birds, your mind will be able to receive the thoughts and ideas you need. You will allow the birds, the good thoughts, to come to you. Being still will help you receive positive things when you are frustrated or in need.

Walk Like a Donkey: Have you ever seen a donkey and how it walks? It is “surefooted.” That means that it is used to mountain-climbing treks. It is so confident and careful with each step. It is used to going up and down mountains and huge canyons, loaded down with heavy gear while it is climbing. It isn’t the fastest walker but it walks slowly and carefully because it needs to be a surefooted walker because of the work it does. We can be surefooted, too. Most of the time we speed through things without taking notice of them. If we walk slowly and carefully, like a surefooted donkey, we can stop and take notice of the good things in life and be able to make our way up and down the difficult paths in our life, one sure-footed step at a time.

Tend to Your Garden: A while ago we were all  remembering planting seed bulbs in plastic cups at the start of our school year. They were small brown bulbs that hadn’t started to root or bloom. We didn’t even know what they were. But we were told they would grow. Every single week someone from our group went up to the greenhouse, where we kept all the seeds, to care for them. Even though for weeks they looked the same, someone still went up to care and water them, having faith that they would grow. Pretty soon roots started to appear, then sprouts. Then the bulbs burst open and within a few weeks flowers came out. On each of the bulb planting cups we each had written a character quality. These qualities said things like “kindness” or “discipline”, etc. If you tend to your mental garden, your thoughts, you can bloom into a better person and show your true colors.

Machu Picchu: We have been studying South America. There were the Mayans, Aztecs, and Incas that lived there long ago. The Mayans, however, built a city along the Andes Mountains and called it Machu Picchu. It’s a really long haul if you want to see the city yourself because it’s high up in the mountains. Being a tourist, you would probably really want to climb that mountain to see the ancient city. Imagine if you were climbing that same mountain, carefully and mindfully, with your best effort and happen to finally get up there. We use that scene as a metaphor. What if you were working on a project or homework? You can climb to the top of that mountain, your goal or achievement, no matter how steep the climb is or how tough it gets, because you know you will reach the top. It is hard work, but it is worth the view, the perspective from way up high. It feels like that after you have worked hard and you will have finished that job or achievement or reached your goal. What is your Machu Picchu right now?

All these metaphors are great tools. They help you have a picture in your mind that you can use when you need it. They are meant to help keep us calm, confident, and collected even in rough situations. In our school we practice acting these metaphors out and talking about them so that we have concrete ways to meet our goals and feel better about ourselves. It is something I would recommend to anyone, old or young, so that you can have tools for handling things that come up during your day and can keep a positive outlook.

written by Josh Gendelman, senior at Scholars Together Learning Community, Inc.

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