A young princess walked in the forest by a spring, playing with her golden ball. Being a bit clumsy, she let the ball fall into the spring, where it sank out of sight. A frog heard her cries and said, “I will get your ball for you, if you will let me live with you, eat food from your own plate and sleep in your own bed.” Distraught, and thinking the frog would never be able to get all the way back to the castle, the princess agreed. The frog brought up her ball, and she grabbed it and ran away home, leaving the frog behind.
But that night the frog knocked at the castle door, come to redeem the princess’s promise. The king her father told her she must always keep her word. (Good father) So for three days, to her great disgust, the frog ate from her plate and slept beside her on her pillow. The morning of the third day she awoke to find, not a frog, but a young prince, looking at her with the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen. They rode off to his kingdom in a golden coach, and lived, you know, happily ever after.
How many of our problems are enchanted? They look like frogs, but if we share our meals and our pillow with them, peaceably, as fellow travelers, we can relax enough to look deep into their big, slimy, slitted red eyes and see the prince looking back at us.
This is the purpose of reflection. The struggle to act, to de-frog the world, limits our view to frogs. When we take time to reflect, we look into our problem’s true nature. We look beyond frogginess to insight, to unexpected answers, to creativity, to appreciation. But reflection requires us to treat our problems not with disgust, but with kindness and intimacy, with gentleness and inquiry, and with time. One meal didn’t do it for the frog prince. It took three days.
Sharing this kind of time with our problems is of course sharing this kind of time with ourselves. The part the Brothers Grimm left out of the story is what the princess saw in herself as she slept with her frog. When we reflect, the frog is our mirror. The prince is not hiding in the frog, he’s hiding in us.
My New Year’s wish for us all is that 2011 may be a year with time to reflect. The way forward begins with self-leadership, and the frog invites us.I am indebted to LeAnne Grillo and Reos Partners for the seed of this post. They offer an excellent facilitation tool for reflection in Lessons from the Frog Prince.