Crushed by Pebbles

Article by Mary Be a Sullivan, Edited by Dee DeWitt


The longer we live, the longer our potential list of “certainties.”  Through our unique experiences, we unconsciously accumulate “stories” about all aspects of our lives.


Imagine you were given an empty bag and every time you chose to adopt a “certainty” or a “story,” a small pebble was placed in your bag …


At first, carrying the bag would be a minor inconvenience, but over time as the bag became weighed down by more stones, it would prevent you from doing certain things.


So … what are some of these pebbles we have placed in our bags?

We tell ourselves stories about ourselves that limit our ability to stretch and grow:  “I have never liked exercise and I know I never will.”  “I have to have a closet filled with shoes.”  “I’m too fat.”  “I’m too skinny.”  “I’ll never leave this community.”


We tell ourselves stories about other people and set up roadblocks some people are not allowed to pass.  The other day a friend with a southern accent told me that her customers up north treat her as if she wasn’t very bright.  I have also heard comments about “pushy Yankees” as if that were a given for all folks raised above the Mason-Dixon line.


We develop beliefs about the way the world works that blind us to any information that doesn’t fit our story:  “If you give homeless people money they will just drink it away.”  “All big businesses are corrupt.”  “If I go to a good school, I will find a good job.”


And so some of us bumble along without realizing we are limiting our ability to respond to life because we are dragging a heavy, lumpy sack of stones behind us.


Not everyone though.


I’m inspired by a dear friend, Joe Elmore, a retired minister well into his 70’s.  Rather than getting more rigid as he ages, he softens–open and yielding to new ideas, new possibilities, and willing to listen to new ideas.  His blue eyes are light with love.  He doesn’t seem to be burdened by the weight of accumulated “stories.”


What if we want to be more like Joe?


How do we lighten the load before our love of life is crushed by pebbles?  Perhaps awareness is the first step and we can simply acknowledge the beliefs we have been carrying around.  From there, we could create an intention/pray for the ability to open our hearts to new ways of seeing.  Finally, what would it be like to create opportunities to challenge at least one of these “stories” or beliefs with an open mind and an open heart?


In Joe’s honor, am going to seek out someone who is different than me and approach the conversation with wonder and curiosity.


The point isn’t to have to agree or adopt their “pebbles” … rather it’s to be open to what life is serving up in this moment with enough fluidity to see the Sacred in all moments and experience what is truly happening, not a belief-riddled distortion.



“We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.” 

-Joseph Campbell


Mary Bea Sullivan is the author of Dancing Naked Under the Moon – Uncovering the Wisdom Within, a compelling story about her pilgrimage toward wholeness.  She facilitates spiritual retreats and workshops for women’s groups and faith communities.  Mary Bea lives with her husband, Malcolm Marler, and their yellow (white really) lab, Daisy, on Smith Lake in Alabama. For more information about Mary Bea Sullivan and her work, please visit


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Posted on 12 May, 2010 in Balance, Happiness
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