“Take an Axe to Your Prison” – 13 Quotes that Can Change Your Life, Part II

rumiAlmost 800 years ago, a Sufi mystic and poet lived and penned the wisdom of his age. In the Muslim work he’s known as Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī, but in the English speaking world he’s known simply as “Rumi.”

13 Quotes that Can Change Your Life, Part I

For me, Rumi’s pithy statements aren’t just ‘feel good’ inspirations, they’re ways for me to navigate my inner space and do a little clean up. While I might have instincts to buck the system and live as I desire, do I REALLY agree with the statement to “Forget safety… Destroy your reputation. Be notorious?”

Rumi puts into words what it’s going to take to get to where I want to go. Had it been up to me to put language to what’s coming down the pike for me, I probably would have sugar-coated it. Now it’s just a matter of doing the inner work necessary to keep congruent with my life mission.

And Rumi can help with that, too.


VI. “Work in the invisible world at least as hard as you do in the visible.”

VII. “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

I’ve written quite a few blog posts on changing the world, or as I’ve referred to it tongue-in-cheek “Saving the World.” There are a few (rather compelling) schools of thought that indicate changing yourself and the changing the world are the same things. There are simple concepts like “perception defines reality,” meaning the act of changing yourself will naturally change your perception of the world, and thus redefines (or changes) the world. (Make sense?)

Another (related) concept indicates that you have no direct experience with the world per se since everything you experience goes through an astonishingly elaborate filtration process set up by your mind. Meaning, if you look at a painting you are actually not experiencing the painting directly. Your eyes are taking in reflections of light and making meaning from them, inferring color and shapes and filling in everything else that can’t be deciphered by adding what’s been ‘seen’ (or, inferred) in the past. (Get it?)

allegory-of-the-caveThere is also a school of thought that everything we experience in the world is actually just a puppet show, that we’re chained to our world like the people kept captive in pods in The Matrix, and an elaborate story is being presented in front of us as if it’s reality. We don’t know we’re trapped, so we play along with the story, working in it, falling in love in it, marrying and having children in this story, but never realizing that we’re prisoners. (See, “Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.”)

And then there’s the paradigm most of us have been handed, which is that material reality IS reality, and to be a better person you need to learn to navigate the material world in a way that respects the infrastructure that’s been set up for you.

But no matter how stratified beliefs become, there seems to be one constant among them – to have an impact on the world, to make any substantial change, you have to start with yourself. Or, “Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

Even the most staunch Fatalist, believing all things that unfold are entirely in God’s hands, still understands the need to become a better person in order to have a better outcome.

It seems to be a no-brainer. And yet, how many people do you know that run away from themselves, run away from personal development? They get terrified at what they see and the sheer amount of work required to reach their potential. They turn to distractions and anything that will anesthetize them, unconsciously choosing to waste the only possession that really matters – time.

“Work in the invisible world at least as hard as you do in the visible.” For many religionists, this is ‘storing up treasures in heaven’. For others, this is the human potential movement, connecting with the spiritual or the universal. It doesn’t matter what you call it, it’s imperative that focused, directed, intentional time and energy be allocated to personal development.

mirrorWho are you? What are your core values? What do you want to do with your life? Where are you now, and where do you want to go? How much time do you spend covering the basic necessities of life? Are you putting in equal time in knowing the above questions? Life will never slow down enough to present this time on a silver platter. To truly change the world, it’s going to require you to carve out substantial time and resource to change (or, develop) yourself.


VIII. “You were born with wings. Why prefer to crawl through life?”

IX. “Become the sky. Take an axe to the prison wall. Escape.”

So, here you are. A clock-punching wage-slave who weaves through traffic to get home, eat some prepackaged chow and watch a reality show where people who you don’t know vote on the relative talent of other people you don’t know and think, “This isn’t a bad life. This is pretty good.”

Now, I can’t really think of any context in which gratitude isn’t a good thing. Realizing you have it good – a fridge full of food, comfortable shelter, a world that isn’t filled with post-apocalyptic zombies trying to eat your brains – is entirely appropriate. Yes, this life IS pretty good. Most of the world goes to bed hungry and most people don’t have adequate shelter. I don’t know anyone who actually fights zombies, but there are a lot of people in seriously war-torn parts of the world dealing with high levels of trauma and stress, the kind that will kill you early even if the war doesn’t. YES. You have it good.

But is it good because it’s ideally suited to help you reach your highest levels of potential, or is it good because you accidentally were born into a time and place with a lot of advantages? Are you capitalizing on these advantages to become the best version of yourself?

There are a lot of prisons. There are the kinds that people physically throw you into against your will, and there are the kinds you create for yourself. There are prisons of the mind, which generally are created by other people and that which you go along with willing.

“Become the sky. Take an axe to the prison wall. Escape.” Which prison are you in at the moment?
prisonI’ll share my prison. At some point I picked up that a woman’s net worth is based almost entirely on the way she looks and that if I’m not radiantly, spectacularly beautiful then I will never amount to anything. As someone who has never been spectacularly beautiful, the result was that I determine I would never amount to anything and I subsequently (and willingly) walked into a mental prison cell, closed the door behind me, locked it from the inside and then swallowed the key.

It took years for me to work that key through my system and unlock the door I’d willingly locked behind me. Sometimes I still run back into that cell, as the programming inside my brain is strong enough to mistake ‘dark, dank, dangerous belief’ with ‘safe and cozy’.

If your belief system (or, as Robert Anton Wilson would call it, your B.S.) is creating a prison, Rumi says the solution isn’t for the weak. He says TAKE AN AXE to your prison. Don’t wait for a passerby to unlock the door for you. Don’t wait for the door to miraculously swing open. TAKE AN AXE to it, and when you’ve obliterated the door of your unhealthy, imprisoning belief, escape! Take flight! Don’t look back, don’t return.

You were born with wings. Why do you prefer to crawl?


p.s. Of course, Part III of 13 Quotes that Can Change Your Life is coming. Keep your eyes peeled.

p.p.s. I’ve gotten a few comments about my proclivity toward swearing. For most of my life I pretty strictly followed the social convention of avoiding swearing to be above reproach and sensitive to other people. As part of my development in using Accuracy, my decision-making Genius which sheds social truth for data-driven truth, I realized I found absolutely no reason why swearing was inherently wrong. The syllables, the phonetics, the way the consonants fall… there is nothing intrinsically offensive. They are offensive based entirely on social convention. Obviously, I use swearing to emphasize phrases and underline points, so clearly I still acknowledge their power. I’m not so delusional as to think they are ‘just words’. But while I believe social truth carries as much weight as ‘objective’ data-driven truth, at this stage in my development and growth I’m embracing those things that feel more congruent to me and shedding elements of myself I’ve developed purely for the sake of social convention. Who knows, maybe in my development I’ll find myself going back to my previous position of being ‘above reproach’. Just not right now.

If, at this stage of your development, this choice of mine costs more than the any benefit that could be derived, that’s okay. Ships passing is a perfectly viable solution, and there’s a LOT of development available online from people who don’t swear. We don’t all have to be BFF’s.

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Showing 35 comments
  • Rolando Street


    I am following!!~[:-))


  • Pam

    Antonia do not change for no one but yourself! Other than if for you in your development feel the need to for your benefit… do so! People get hung up on words, it’s pathetic! I myself have a sailor’s mouth… For me i felt the need to curb it… Now i didn’t say i completely denounce it, i said curb! Lol! Words are used to express one’s self…Sometimes words are used to get attention, hurt or bring to a level or degree to reach a person or group. As silence is used also to express how one feels…It can sometimes be deafening and pierce right through you and hurt more than any word spoken verbally! It’s all in how you do and how it sounds. Sometimes one only hears the way words are expressed, and not the message itself. Because of how one applied it, spoke louder than the words itself! Now if people can just get this simple concept: Change only means transformation to something better and or you becoming a better individual…Life is a school of on going learning regardless if one goes on to higher education for higher degrees. Mind you those degrees don’t make you the smartest person…That’s just man’s definition of higher learning. Once you get out those doors of structure, one’s real learning begins… Life happens only when there is interaction with something and or someone. Lessons are learned and repeated like history repeats itself… Each time it comes around, hopefully we have become smarter and learned the secrets to using the tools given by the lessons we go through. And hopefully not repeat the mistakes, but glean and perpetuate the good from them! Tweaking the mind is like tuning a car…

  • Janet

    And thank you for your genius in helping my genius awakening!!

  • Janet

    Love it that you are liberating into swearing. I too now swear ‘when needed’ after following the ‘religiously-defined’ – (in my world anyways) – correct form of speech. Using these hugely xpressive and delightful forms of emotion are so, well … just Fun! Hugely freeing to come to that point where society no longer ties us in ‘yet another one of its’ knots of correct behaviour, Celebration!

  • Lynnette

    I, for one, find you to be utterly refreshing in your views and how you speak. I’m sick to my core with political correctness, the rules they try to box us in with for their bid for controlling others’ lives to suit themselves so as not to have their sensitivities offended. I love your ability to say what you really think and feel. If swearing ruins your reputation, so be it! You aren’t excessive and I’ve yet to see you use the “f” word, which I’ve been known to use quite freely when the occasion demands it.

  • Marie Melite Kaajan

    Thank you Antonia, I did take an axe to break that cage and ended 10 years of imprisonment ! My cage was a desperate unhappy marriage ! This is so painful but for the best……but not over yet. I had a dream one night that I was an eagle souring up into the sky….That is when I got the courage to take an axe and break the prison wall. It is not easy, specially if you are not young. Never to be encaged again, but set free to create what You were born to do. Life does not promise you no setbacks, it is how you overcome them, your escape to just take in the fresh air once more. Again….Imagine to not only think out of the cage, but break free. I do pray that every one will have that courage. Run free,
    You were born free, no price is to high to break free. Take the Axe and break the cage !

  • MsR

    Thanks for the good read! Very special.

  • Patrick

    Thanks Antonia! It push me back again inside. Home. Inspiring the great thing that allows me to get inspired. Imagine If the whole school system would be based on that “Work in the invisible world at least as hard as you do in the visible” then no Axe would be needed…

  • Lana

    You are brave and bold to address the profanity issue…language and writing are an “art”… as much as music and painting are! If your art requires you (moves you) to use words that may be offensive to readers, it is their choice not to continue to read your piece, just as listeners can flip a switch or viewers can walk away. I have never been particularly fond of your column, but now your honesty has peaked my interest. I will be back to read more of your “raw” truths (as you see it…in your own words)…BRAVO!!!

  • Sayth Renshaw

    Interesting concept regarding ‘prisons’. There is a great movie ‘Barfly’ with Mickey Rourke, it’s old now but he plays a chronic alcoholic, he is always in fights has no possessions.

    By chance he meets a beautiful wealthy women, after several interactions she invites him to stay in her nice apartment . When he says no, she says ” I take it you don’t like my world” .

    He responds “Well, baby, look around. It’s a, it’s a cage with golden bars.”

    I was too young to understand this when I first saw it but I love it now.

  • Doris

    Antonia , you are beautiful inside and out ! I love your work ! I am so grateful for your sharing . It feeds my soul and is helping me be the best me ! Thank You ! Doris

  • Evelyn Eaglesong

    Always proud of you. Expletives are delightful and in another language even juicer..The content and brilliance of how you present is why they who read your material and complain should consider themselves fortunate you even bother with them. This just proves you are getting closer to the peak of excellence.

  • Chohan

    Antonia Dodge you are simply great. You are changing the world with your research. I am convinced you are doing the best for the mankind. I pray for your excellence.

  • Terry

    Thanks so much Antonia…I will try to translate these into Chinese (verbally only of course) and put it in my up and coming pep-talk session for the young offenders on probation where I work part time as a volunteer for the Chinese New Year function on 12 Feb. I am sure this will help them!
    Thanks again….keep it coming.

    • Chohan

      Why my comments to the last and the present mail are not adding up.

  • leo

    I am on part two these are truly great quotes.Please keep it coming!

  • Scott

    Great stuff. This is right in line with a lot of thoughts I’ve been having lately so this is good timing for me. And I love your writing style. You have a great way of explaining abstract concepts.

    I’ve gone back and forth on the whole swearing thing too. Tact is something I peg as a ‘development opportunity’ for myself, so I’ll be working on learning the rules and then decide if I want to break them later.

    Anyhow, this has become one of my favorite blogs. Thank you!

  • André

    Mao Tse-tung wasn’t so wrong with his idea about upholding a cultural revolution, in order to keep your consciousness alive and kicking. His problem was his personality, that was fed out of the wrong well. The axe like the great broadsword are mighty weapons, be aware of how to use it. If you can’t handle it properly, the energy might go into the wrong direction.

  • renisha

    Wow amazing , i hate swearing aswell , but we came onto this earth to experience lesson an learn from them , and understand bad wrong is only in the mind , our souls are love God an freedom they interchangable , so when u give a soul freedom u giving them love an God , least off all have dont have expectation cos u need not to expect then u would be disspointed , just believe in love from ur heart and go with it thats who u truely are is love , the rest come from the mind which is jealously hatred an agreession , love all equally an expect nothing becouse u come onto earth too experience freedom an not ur mind , freedom an love is who we are !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Nalini

    Correction: Tough love or fierce love for others and one’s own self is an AXE that one needs to take to the “stratified” prisons that we sometimes lock ourselves in.

  • Roberta

    Been a fan of Rumi ever since the mid-60s when I read his line concerning the need for structure and boundaries in our lives: :The river would never reach the sea were it not hemmed in by its banks”…Would love to see this one appear in your work sometime soon.

  • william

    Thanks so much for your blog.
    I have found that an axe is not as strong as True Love. I have tried both. Many, many times over many years. I am learning that yes–of course, the axe will immediately destroy the wall. However, it still leaves the foundations of that wall. It is through the heart that those foundations are rendered useless.

    • antonia

      I like that neither the ‘prison’ or the ‘axe’ are defined. They are abstract by intent.

      A prison is anything that confines your mobility and potential, and an axe can be any tool that gets you out of said prison.

      I see no reason why you can’t beat the hell out of an imprisoning belief with love. 🙂


      • Nalini

        Yes. As Antonia says even love or the idea of love that we are conditioned to can become a prison. I think the axe stands for Action of Xtreme Effect ( I am a prisoner to word play 🙂 Tough love or fierce love for others and one own self is an AXE one needs to take the “startified” prisons we sometimes lock ourselves in. My prison is perfect motherhood having been a single mom all my life. Trying to poop that key out. :-))))))))))

  • K.Gomathi Reddy

    Awesome!! I want to read more…Keep it flowing. 🙂

  • Jengiz

    I would like to connect with you.
    Perhaps talk business &spirit connection.

  • Roy Erwin

    Great article keep them going.

  • Matthias

    Antonia, I have learned these lessons many times, and still go back to getting struck in my old reality. This was a good reminder to toss off the “prison” of social convention and start again to live properly. Thanks!

    • antonia

      The world is designed to keep itself going. Which isn’t a bad thing, but in order to keep it from going stagnant some of us need to misbehave. 🙂


  • Emily

    Thank you. The perspectives are so helpful.

  • Malcolm Manby

    Spiritual power overcomes every difficulty as it is the sole of reasonning, the love of being, the eternal truth of life.
    Spiritual power is the only thing in exitence that has one side which is light, so there is no darkness anywhere.
    Each individual has a mind for the purpose of thinking, if understood this will secure results which are undreamed of, benefis and rewards for our growth.

  • Shyaam

    These were some of the most profound quotes that I have come across!
    Thank You for sharing 🙂

    • Denise Antonia DeStefanis

      Thanks Antonia! I have been a long time lover of Rumi. I seem to have missed the first e-mail great quotes though…Can you resend? Blessed Be! Denise
      P.S. You are beautiful

    • Chohan

      Antonia Dodge you are simply great. You are researched. You are natural and significant. I wish you excellence; for you are bettering the life of others.

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