Let’s imagine a conversation between trees: A baby Plant called Plant, Young Sapling called Sapling, Mature Tree called Mature.
Baby: I am tired of just taking in water and sunlight – I want to produce fruits. Producing fruits is so cool – it’s the coolest thing in the world.
Young: I want to grow up and become strong. I cannot wait to spread my roots even further – I don’t like relying on the Mature when there are strong winds and heavy rains.
Mature: (who is humming to himself enjoying the breeze – does not say anything)
Fortunately, nature is a very loving parent and knows precisely what is right for the tree. Can you imagine if the trees were all built to keep giving fruits all year long – even in winter? What if they shot up all of a sudden from a seedling to a mature oak tree – their foundations would not be secure, they might not even survive the first storm.
For humans, there are no such checks and balances except our inner awareness.
In today’s world sitting idle is a bad thing – you have to be always doing something. And in this world of iPhones, internet everywhere – there is no respite from “doing.” As soon as we are done with one thing – we are onto another thing. In most cases, we don’t even know where we are headed, but we have to keep moving even if it takes you in the opposite direction.
We want everything to happen faster – lose weight quickly, get rich in nine weeks, get glowing skin in an hour, learn a skill in a 12-week workshop – the list is endless. There is a reason it takes seed a grow into a sapling; there is a reason why it takes time for milk to turn into yogurt – it gives a chance for full growth resulting in an outcome which is complete in itself.
With all the information that is thrown at us – it is sometimes too hard to put the brakes, hang our coats, sip tea and chill out. Even chilling out is scheduled these days.
What we forget is we are harming ourselves if we do not take the time for introspection, to nurture oneself, permit oneself do nothing. I am guilty of it too – we are taught how to productive – nobody shows us how to relax. And it is a skill – relaxing does not mean avoiding work, procrastination or watching TV – it is a way to unwind every cell in your body so that your entire being is just that – BEING. If you think it is impossible to achieve that kind of bliss then start with smaller goals – If you had a terrible day at work, give yourself a break but a good one. If you spent the day being bombarded with external chatter – watching TV shows is not going to help.
If you ever given up sugar and then eaten a carrot then you know what I mean by the word “sweet” – sometimes doodling, meditating, relaxation yoga or just sitting and staring at the ceiling are better than instant mind-numbing activities.
The Artist’s Way is a book by Julia Cameron. It was a lifesaver for me. I grew up in India where getting a job is more important than following your creative instincts. And as an engineer, my mental model was that – being an engineer and artist was impossible.
We are all creative beings, and as my level of awareness increased, I was drawn to express the creativity. And this is where Julia Cameron’s book helped me. I don’t even remember who told me about it, but I am very grateful to that person for introducing Artist’s way to me. It is a 12-week course that takes you on a journey of self-discovery via morning pages, artist’s date, letters to self and others. It felt very foreign but good – something inside of me felt fulfilled.
I cried a lot too, and that for me is not normal. “Our tears prepare the ground for our future growth. Without this creative moistening, we may remain barren. We must allow the bolt of pain to strike us. Remember, this is useful pain; lightning illuminates.”
And the exercises in the book worked, and I ended up opening up a Bollywood dance class and writing a book called ‘The Lifepod‘. I was very nervous when I published it on Amazon. Even now I feel very unsure when I tell people about the book – it is almost like as if I am a fraud or an imposter. I am afraid that people will find out I am not an author. I am plagued by self-doubts. And it is in times like these that Artist’s way helped me because she explains how creative people feel and most importantly that it is normal to feel that way. It does not matter how confident I am as a program manager at work, but as a writer, I am a budding artist and need a lot of encouragement and appreciation. Any criticism at this point can be jarring to the soul. I protect the artist in me very fiercely. “To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong. JOSEPH CHILTON PEARCE”
I thought that the process would be more natural with my second book – ‘Make Your Life Easy.” It was easier because I felt less of fraud with this genre – I blog about such topics every week, but I am still very vulnerable and scared about how people will view my book. Every time somebody says they are going to read my book – I don’t know whether to happy or scared. “Remember that even if you have made a truly rotten piece of art, it may be a necessary stepping-stone to your next work. Art matures spasmodically and requires ugly-duckling growth stages.”
I find the creative process fascinating because I created something that did not exist before. Like the email at work, dance I choreograph or even this blog – these things did not live until I became a medium for them and let them flow through me.
“But do you know how old I will be by the time I learn to play the piano/ act/paint / write a decent play?”
Yes . . . the same age you will be if you don’t.”
An elephant and its rider are trying to get somewhere
1. The Rider has no clue where he wants to go – he and the elephant meander needlessly.
2. The rider knows his destination, but cannot decide which route to take – he and the elephant stay in the same place.
3. The Rider knows where he is headed and has a path to get there, but the elephant is stubborn and does not want to move.
4. The Rider knows how to get to the destination, the elephant is attuned to the rider, and they reach their goal.
What do the elephant and the rider have to do with us? This is a theory from the book The Happiness Hypothesis (http://www.happinesshypothesis.com) where the author, Jonathan Haidt states that we (humans) have two sides:
An emotional/automatic/irrational side (the elephant)
An analytical/controlled/rational side (its rider).
And in order for us to change we have to keep the two in balance.
It sounds effortless on paper – keep your elephant and rider in sync, and you are in utopia. Every day in our life it is all about maintaining that balance.
Let’s say you want to exercise. If you read tons of book on exercising and watch videos but don’t step outside of your home – how will you achieve your goal. And on the other hand, you are outside but have no idea how to exercise – that also does not do you any good.
How would you apply the elephant and rider theory correctly to exercising? Your rational mind the rider needs a clear goal – Exercise for 30 minutes, five days a week. It is a specific goal for the rider. For the emotional side, you have to appeal the emotions – you can keep an image of what you will look like when you exercise or maintain a visual target of weight that you want to get to or watch videos of people who have lost weight to get your elephant motivated. Once your rider knows where he is going, the elephant is excited for the ride – the next step is to shape the path – which is clear instructions on how you go about doing so. An example of developing the road could be – getting a Fitbit, load up a playlist on your iPod, and keep your running shoes/socks/clothes outside your closet. This way when you come home in the evening, you will have no choice but wear the running clothes and go running.
Shaping the path requires practice – you cannot clear a path in the jungle overnight – it will take time and patience – you will make a lot of progress some days and very little progress on other days – but if you keep at it – you will shape the path for the elephant and the rider. Similarly, it will take time for the elephant and the rider to sync as well – like any good team they will have go through their forming – storming – norming – performing cycle.
Taming the elephant takes time. I am hoping my latest book “Make Your Life Easy” can aid you in that process.