It might seem like a loaded question, but when was the last time you stopped to really ask yourself if you're making positive changes in your life? For some of us, this question might come up more often than we'd like to admit. 🙂 It is natural to evaluate choices. Part of learning requires some deliberate & sometimes brutally honest self-assessment and self-reflection.
But, how do you know if your steps are taking you in the right direction, and is it better to stay put? Movement, taking steps, leads us away from where we are - change. It can be difficult to take steps toward change, even if change means abundance. In my course on Design, one of the first topics highlights that Design begins by taking stock of the current situation and evaluating the necessity for change. This can be done in any number of ways; asking “what is?”, conducting qualitative and quantitative research, and ethnographic interviews, for example. Not to get too wonky, but in terms of the scientific method, this is how we form our hypothesis.
Invariably, very little fuel starts this heated discussion, which if not carefully facilitated, can digress into a good old-fashioned bitch session and airing of grievances. We can all list a long number of things that we don’t like. This part is easy. The phenomena in this exercise is what happens after we conclude that change is required.
This is usually the point that I introduce the analogy of “seeing the forest for the trees.” Most of us have heard this expression, “He can’t see the forest for the trees!” I like to take it a little further when the laundry list of complaints starts to pile up. I call these the acorns on the forest floor.
It is surprisingly easy to become enamored with counting the acorns on the forest floor that we forget, or maybe just stopped caring that we’re actually in the forest surrounded by trees. Worse yet, we can easily forget that our goal was to move toward abundance, not to take up residence in the forest as “acorn mongers.”
As humans, Maslow argued we have an instinctual necessity to be part of a tribe while also yearning to realize our self-worth. Sometimes these two needs can create an internal competition, and even a struggle. Many of us want to be independent free-thinkers, masters of our own domains, while simultaneously needing others to recognize and value our awesomeness. The best teams find ways to optimize the awesomeness within the diversity of strengths.
The decision point – the proverbial fork along the forest road – is here. The competition between the stasis of acceptance and our own self-actualization can lead us toward creative tension or just more suffering. It’s up to us to decide. Do we find the path out of the forest, or do we suffer under the weight of an endless supply of acorns?
The promise of abundance on the other side of the forest may be grand, a pot of gold could actually be at the other end of the rainbow. However, the chatters in our mind convince us that we’re not worthy. These are the acorns, and the acorns in your life can consume you. The golden meadow beside a cool, fresh, flowing river on the other side of the forest may be alluring. Yet, it can seem impossible to stop collecting acorns.
The question is not whether or not you’re in the forest, and it’s not a matter of eliminating the acorns. We’re all in the forest, and sometimes it’s dark, and the darkness can be scary. And, you know what? It’s ok. Walking in darkness can help us appreciate the light, just like the lotus grows in mud.
The question is whether or not we believe in our heart of hearts that the acorns, the trees, the forest – the struggle – leads us to abundance. If you don’t want to be an acorn-monger living in the same forest forever, then you have to be willing to let it go. That doesn’t mean avoid challenge or tension. It does require a level of consciousness to know what is helping you grow, and what is causing the pain and fear that leads to decay.
Here’s the challenge - create your vision of abundance, be deliberate about your choices, and be mindful of your footsteps. If you take inventory of your life, and realize you’re carrying a rucksack full of acorns, maybe you can plant a few. Maybe a few can be ground into fuel for your campfire to light the way and create a beautiful aroma to help others find their way in the dark forest. Maybe a few can even be discarded.
And, maybe you decide that your vision of abundance is the best darn acorn-monger the forest has ever seen. In this case, you may actually find the shortcut to nirvana by finding the peace, acceptance, and even happiness with whatever, whoever, and wherever you are. This is Why we practice yoga.