For those of you unfamiliar with the Tar Baby, it is a character from Uncle Remus’ stories about Br’er Rabbit. These were some of my favorite childhood stories, folklore told through a fictitious, kindly old plantation worker. Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear are always trying to trick Br’er Rabbit and one day Br’er Fox made a life-like figure out of sticky tar and dressed it up and sat it on a log. When Br’er Rabbit comes along, he politely says, “Good Mornin,’” but the Tar Baby doesn’t answer back. Br’er Rabbit eventually gets fed up with the Tar Baby’s silence and throws a punch – effectively embedding his fist deep in the Tar Baby. Then he throws another punch and a few kicks and a head-butt and he is inexorably trapped by the Tar Baby.
Programming is the result of other people telling us what reality is and how we should think, act and feel in it. It starts when we are born (and possibly in the womb). Programming is how we become “socialized” and it differs from culture to culture. Heck, it even differs from family to family. It is well-meaning for the most part, but whatever programming we accept becomes our reality and keeps us from discovering the world on our own and creating the life we came here to create.
Ironically, it was Br’er Rabbit’s programming around social niceties that got him into his predicament with the Tar Baby in the first place. He’d been taught that it was rude and offensive to ignore a friendly greeting, and this programming convinced him he needed to strike back against this uncouth interloper who was surely disrespecting him with his silence. The more he railed against his problem, the worse it got.
Lucky for Br’er Rabbit, it was Br’er Fox’s programming that got him out of his predicament. The clever rabbit, at home in thick underbrush, begged the fox not to throw him in the briar patch. Br’er Fox, told since he was a kit that the stickers in the briar patch would rip out his thick fur, figured it would be just the torture he wanted for Br’er Rabbit and he threw him in. The tricky rabbit used the prickly underbrush to pull off the Tar Baby and escape. What is one person’s programming is not always reality for another!
What has your programming been? What have you been told by your parents, school, religion, doctor, government, media and even friends and beloveds that you have adopted as your reality? What compels you to do things you really don’t want to, or holds you back from living what you’d love to? What do you rail against like Br’er Rabbit against the Tar Baby? What offends you? What do you use to tell yourself you’re not worthy?
Programming is software for the personality and the physical, mental and emotional bodies. It is how we have been taught to operate. It is what we believe is “reality” and we often blindly defend it as truth, burying our fists in what we believe we must defend ourselves against. Our beliefs, dogmas, shoulds, rules and morals all fall within our programming. It keeps us from being truly free. And it feels so darned apparently true, because we have operated from our programming all our lives.
But I will lay a bet that if you’re reading this blog you have, at some point in your life, made the choice to break away from something that had you trapped. Maybe it was a relationship or a job or a religion or even an academic teaching that came to feel so not-right that you chose to break the rules and expectations and ignore the shoulds and leave whatever the programming tried so hard to convince you to do. In that act you learned to listen to yourself as Spirit.
When we are not living as Spirit in our bodies, the only software the body and mind have to work from is our programming. Like a knee-jerk reaction we respond as we have been taught instead of taking a breath and a moment to retreat to our neutrality and make a conscious decision how we want to act in any given situation. How we want to be as Spirit in the world. The saving grace is that we almost always know when we are not being true to ourselves. It just doesn’t feel right, and that red flag of confusion comes to the fore.
All programming isn’t bad. It is useful to have the hardwiring not to walk in front of moving trucks or eat glass or touch red hot burners. The key is to free ourselves from any programming that keeps us from living from Spirit, that keeps us trapped in concepts that may not be congruent with the reality we want to create. One of the reasons people walk on hot coals is to break out of their programming, to prove to body and mind that we shouldn’t believe everything we think! If you can walk on hot coals, then maybe you can sing, or paint a picture, or start a business, or… the possibilities are endless.
So, congratulations on whatever you have freed yourself from. It probably took more than a little courage. You must have had faith, blind or otherwise. You had to have loved yourself more than your programming. And you absolutely found yourself - if only until the next wave of programming kicked in - living as Spirit in your body.