The next day, still cold and tired, he started shouting for help again. Once more, a figure appeared at the top of the hole.
"Please, can you help me get out of this hole?", the man cried.
The figure looked at him for a moment and then said, "What you need to do is meditate. If you do so long enough, maybe you can find a way out of the hole." The figure then walked away. The man meditated for hours, controlling his breathing, focusing on the mantra the figure gave him, but he was still stuck in the hole. Yet again the night drew near and the man suffered through more cold, and this time it rained as well. He felt himself growing ill from the damp weather.
As morning dawned, muddy, wet and now sick, he started shouting for help again. A figure appeared at the top of the hole.
"Please, I've been stuck in this hole for three days. Please help me get out.", the man begged.
The figure replied, "I'd suggest you do your work. You know, work on yourself. You'll still be stuck in this hole, but you'll understand your condition down there better." The figure then walked away.
The next day, the man repeated the process. This time a figure appeared and told him to pray fervently, and maybe God will deliver him from the hole. The man prayed as fervently as he possibly could, but he remained in the hole, and he was losing strength from lack of food and water, and had grown very ill. A few hours later, another figure appeared at the top of the hole and tossed the man down a deck of Tarot cards, telling him to see if the cards would tell him how to get out of the hole, but that didn't work either.
Finally, giving up, he laid down staring up at the sky, waiting for death to take him.
Just then, another figure appeared at the top of the hole, looking down. But this figure did something different. Instead of waiting for man to shout for help, this figure called down to him, and said, "Do you want out of this hole?" The man stood up on shaking legs and said, "Yes, please!" The figure at the top of the hole tossed down a rope ladder, but the man had grown too weak and too ill to make it up the ladder, and so he fell back to the cold earth at the bottom of the hole. He resigned himself again to dying there, certain that the figure would take his ladder and go. But that isn't what happened.
The figure climbed down the ladder into the hole, picked the man up and helped him slowly climb up the ladder and out of the hole, into the light of the sun. And the man in the hole was rescued.
Everyone is in a hole. It isn't a hole we can get out of easily. You've undoubtedly been given all kinds of advice on how to get out of it, but all of them have been half-measures, silly suggestions, or lacking in the right action and right motivation to resolve the problem. No amount of meditation alone, prayer alone, Tarot card readings, or loving and accepting yourself is going to get you out of the hole. Anyone who comes to you with such half-measures will simply leave you firmly stuck in the hole. The real teacher will come to you, give you the opportunity to get out of the hole, and then accompany you as you struggle to get out, even carrying you at times if need be. He will provide a ladder, each rung of which is an important part of the whole ladder, without which you're doomed to life in the hole. Climbing the ladder will be slow going and will get you out of the hole, but you have to really want out of the hole, and you have to want that more than you want your presuppositions affirmed, your laziness indulged, your ego comforted, or the things you prefer to believe echoed back at you. You have to come to the point where you feel like the man in the story-weak and at the end of all your efforts. Only then are you able to respond to the true spiritual teacher when he comes and asks, "Do you want out of that hole?"