NLP Life Training - 10 Years

Tip: Enlightenment, Animal Style - by Michael Neill

Michael Neill tells the fable of the lion who thought he was a sheep. A powerful metaphor for all those interested in change work, and an amazingly uplifting and simple tale.

"I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand."  - Confucius
Enlightenment is often talked about as a mystical, rarely attained state, but in my experience it can be a nearly daily occurrence - those wonderful moments in which you recognize that you're more than a physical body and your life is about something other than the continual pursuit of bigger, better, and more.
The following story is my version of an old Hindu myth of enlightenment and discipleship - while the story traditionally ends with the lion's roar at the lake, I decided to see what might happen next...

The Lion Who Thought He Was a Sheep  

Artwork by Neil Brady
Once upon a time, there was a baby lion who was born into the world alone and afraid. A family of sheep found him in their home in the green grassy valley at the bottom of the mountains one day, and because he was so beautiful and because they were so kind, they decided to raise him as one of their own. It was his sister, who had a highly developed sense of irony, who suggested they name him 'Leo'.
So they taught Leo the baby lion how to walk as a sheep, and talk as a sheep, and taught him all the ways of sheep, and they loved him with all of their hearts. They taught him to fear what all sheep fear, and that whatever he did he must stay away from the mountains, for lions lived up there, and no sheep who had ever gone up the mountain had ever returned.
Eventually, Leo became so good at acting like a sheep that even his own family forgot that he was really a lion. Sure, occasionally some of the other sheep teased him for his unusual size and his bushy haircut. But Leo did what he could to fit in, and he made good friends, and eventually he became a good, productive member of the sheep community.
The years passed uneventfully until one day an old lion from the mountains came down into the green, grassy valley in search of food. Leo was the first to sense his presence, and as soon as he yelled "Lion!" all the sheep began to run in panicked circles. In the midst of the chaos, the old lion noticed Leo.
"Hey, you!", roared the hungry lion.
"" whimpered Leo, terrified but at the same time fascinated by this magnificent old creature.
"What are you doing here with all these sheep?" the old lion demanded.
"They're my family," said Leo proudly.
At this, the old lion laughed. "Then who are you, young one?"
"I'm Leo, and I'm a sheep", Leo bleeted.
Suddenly, the old lion's face turned fierce. "Come with me!" he roared.
Leo didn't want to go with the old lion but he thought that by doing so, he might save his fellow sheep. So with a last look back at his herd, he followed the old lion off into the mountains.
They walked for many miles until at last, high up in the mountains, they came upon a beautiful crystal clear lake filled with smooth, blue water. The old lion beckoned for Leo to come to the edge of the lake. By this time, Leo was exhausted - not so much from the climb, which he found surprisingly easy, but from the constant fear that at any moment, the old lion would eat him. So with a final reluctant 'baaa', Leo made his way to the edge of the lake and looked where the old lion's paw was pointing.
To his amazement, he saw not a sheep, but the reflection of a strong young lion. In that moment, he knew who he really was and let out a mighty roar that shook the mountains all the way down to the green, grassy valley...
After the shock of discovering his true identity, Leo realized that he was hungry - really hungry. And grass just wasn't going to cut it anymore. Fortunately, Leo knew where he could get food, and plenty of it.
But when he got back to the valley to where his old herd was still grazing, he stopped in shock. For what he saw was not a herd of sheep, but a pride of lions, each one grazing and bleating and acting for all the world like sheep. It was his own mother who saw him first, and though Leo could see that she herself was a beautiful lioness, she cowered in fear, not recognizing him and bleating "Lion!" at the top of her lungs.
"Mother!", he roared, but the sound just made the sheep/lioness run even faster amongst the increasingly agitated herd.
Finally, Leo noticed that his sister was looking at him with a faint hint of recognition, and he knew what he must do. He put on his fiercest face, and he roared at her "Come with me!"
And though she was afraid, she followed him on the long journey up to the clear blue lake in the mountains...

Today's Experiment:
1. Think of a time in your life where you became aware, however briefly, that you were more than your physical body. Reflect on that experience until you begin to recreate that awareness (generally of love, peace and power) now.
2. Identify at least one daily practice (meditation, journalling, walking in nature, etc.) which would enable you to access your 'inner lion' on a regular basis.
3. Begin it now!
Have fun, learn heaps, and remember - the next time you see a lion, it might be you!

Michael Neill is an internationally renowned success coach and the best-selling author of You Can Have What You WantFeel Happy Now! and the Effortless Success audio program. He has spent the past 18 years as a coach, adviser, friend, mentor and creative spark plug to celebrities, CEOs, royalty, and people who want to get more out of their lives.  He hosts a weekly talk show on, and his daily and weekly coaching columns can be read on his website at 

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