The Rainbow, Rug and Key

I have spent the past twelve days in the Alps on a spring retreat doing a bit of skiing.  Yesterday we had a enormous thunderstorm and the most beautiful rainbow – like the one above.  Somehow, it got me reflecting on a conversation I had with  John Varney, a reader of this blog, a few months ago.  He told me that he often intersperses his organisational change work with Sufi Teaching Stories.  So I went on the hunt for a good one and found the one below.  I am interested to know what readers think of using this approach to unlock new meaning to our work in the reductionist world we live in.

The Story of the Locksmith by Idries Shah

Once there lived a metalworker, a locksmith, who was unjustly accused of crimes and was sentenced to a deep, dark prison. After he had been there awhile, his wife who loved him very much went to the King and beseeched him that she might at least give him a prayer rug so he could observe his five prostrations every day.

The King considered that a lawful request, so he let the woman bring her husband a prayer rug. The prisoner was thankful to get the rug from his wife, and every day he faithfully did his prostrations on the rug. Much later, the man escaped from prison, and when people asked him how he got out, he explained that after years of doing his prostrations and praying for deliverance from the prison, he began to see what was right in front of his nose.

One day he suddenly saw that his wife had woven into the prayer rug the pattern of the lock that imprisoned him. Once he realized this and understood that all the information he needed to escape was already in his possession, he began to make friends with his guards. He also persuaded the guards that they all would have a better life if they cooperated and escaped the prison together.

They agreed since, although they were guards, they realized that they were in prison, too. They also wished to escape, but they had no means to do so. So the locksmith and his guards decided on the following plan: they would bring him pieces of metal, and he would fashion useful items from them to sell in the marketplace. Together they would amass resources for their escape, and from the strongest piece of metal they could acquire, the locksmith would fashion a key.

One night, when everything had been prepared, the locksmith and his guards unlocked the prison and walked out into the cool night where his beloved wife was waiting for him. He left the prayer rug behind so that any other prisoner who was clever enough to read the pattern of the rug could also make his escape. Thus, the locksmith was reunited with his loving wife, his former guards became his friends, and everyone lived in harmony.

Image of Rug from: Spongobongo


2 Replies to “The Rainbow, Rug and Key”

  1. Hi Lorne,
    Something clicked!
    The point of these stories is not their entertainment value nor even their obvious moral tale. Paradoxically, if you understand the story its meaning is lost on you! It is in the fuzzy area at the edge of understanding that these stories can penetrate the fixed patterns of your mind and enable you to tap into new possibilities.

    I used such stories yesterday with three separate coaching clients.

    I asked each to open a book at random and read it aloud. I then asked them to say how the story they chanced upon related to their own situation. It was uncanny how it almost appeared as if the most appropriate tale had been planted there just for their individual enlightenment. I have a similar technique often with management teams with excellent results, as people voice their inner wisdom in response to what they read. At some level we all have more wisdom than we realise and yet rarely get the opportunity to speak it (apparently because nobody wants to hear).

    I am not sure whether the technique will work in the hands of someone who has not themselves studied the material, as I have done. My take on it is that these stories are ancient and the output from developed masters of personal development (Sufi teachers). One has sometimes to look beyond the difficult names and the religious overtones in order to find the substance. The easiest stories to approach are those around Mulla Nasruddin as translated by Idries Shah (Octogan Press).


    1. Thank you, John. Something indeed clicked!
      If you read this week’s entry on the Universal Relation Field, then maybe there is a way that these subtle energies are, indeed, connected to the ways our more subtle receptors actually pick up more than just the objects we see around us! Intriguing!



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