Change & Development
Nature always changes. Each time I go to the woods there is something different. There is constant development. Growth in the plants or the lichen. Changes in the pattern of fallen leaves along the forest trail. Birds singing different notes from different branches of a different tree. These are just the changes and developments that I see, what of the differences that I do not notice? The imperceptible growth of the ancient oak. The ivy that creeps up its trunk and its cousin sprawled across the floor. How many insects are there? What way does the air move? What is the temperature and how much moisture is there? There is change, there is development. With all the differences that occur in each moment, how can I say that I visit the same place at all?
To be precise about matters, the answer is that I do not. Across all potential fields of measurement, being as technically accurate as possible, how can I say that I am in the same place as before when every, single thing is irreversibly, irrevocably changed, forever?
Of course, I am playing a game here by thinking like this I hope you see, nonetheless it illustrates a point - change and development are ever present.
People always change too. They tend to congregate together and form groups. Members of these groups tend to drop in and out, therefore changing the group. Many groups could be called a population. Many populations could be called an ecosystem. Many ecosystems could be called a planet. I am no biologist and I may have gotten the terms wrong, but the formula is pretty much bang on.
So, forests, nature, trees, ecosystems, people, these are subject to change, right? Where am I going with all this?
I want to see where you and I fit into all this change.
The answer that I have found is right slap bang in the middle of it I am afraid. You, I, and every single person you know are spending their life getting by amidst a timeless cacophony of never-ending change. Does that sound a bit daunting? It doesn’t have to be, in fact, it can be one of the most liberating things in your life. Let me share with you how.
Books change lives
In 2015 The Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu met at the Dalai Lama's residence-in-exile in Dharamshala, India. These two spiritual greats have encountered arguably as much suffering in their lives as anyone; the apartheid struggle in South Africa and the Tibetan peoples forced exile from their homeland by China. Despite this and many more setbacks in their lives these two men have stayed faithful to their chosen paths of non-violence in their struggles for the liberation and rights of their people. Not only that but they seem to have managed to have done this while keeping a smile on their face, laughing along with life and inspiring millions of people along their way.
So how do they do it? Well that’s just what people from all over the world began asking them during their week of discussions - how can we maintain happiness in an ever-changing world? One of the results of this week was a book that documents the events of that remarkable week.
Many months later, in Autumn of 2016, I was walking by a bookshop in Ranelagh, Co. Dublin when that very book caught my eye from the window. At the time I was working with a friend on a startup business of his selling coconut water to cafes and health food shops. During time I had begun making some positive changes in my life; exercising more, eating better food, meditating, and practicing yoga. This book seemed to fit right in to my new direction so I bought it. I had no idea about impact that this book would have on my life.
Great as that book is, this article is not a book review. In fact I can give that to you in one sentence: I loved it and there are great practices and wisdom in there. What I want to talk to you about here instead is the journey that I have gone on with that book and the promise that I made to myself in relation to the teaching of that book, back then in 2016, and what I am doing with that now in 2020.
I loved the book so much, it gave me such a yes feeling in my body that I made myself a promise that I would read it again at the beginning of every year for the rest of my life. Its 2020 now and I have kept that promise up so far. In the book, The Dalai Lama & Bishop Tutu explain that “focusing on happiness alone is the quickest way to miss the bus”, what they mean is that by focusing so hard on “being happy” we can in fact end up making ourselves miserable by trying so hard and judging ourselves when we feel any other naturally occurring emotion that is different. Instead what they advocate is to cultivate the 8 Pillars of Joy. These 8 pillars are virtues or traits of humanity that we can each develop, 4 are of the heart and 4 are of the mind. By focusing on developing these virtues of character within our self then joy simply arrives as a by-product.
Across the intervening years I have worked with that book and its ideas in many ways and I can testify from my own experience that this works. I didn’t know what I was doing at first but one day I began moving through the pillars as daily intentions. I would pick one pillar and focus on that for the day and see what I could learn, so for example, simply focusing on “compassion”, “humility” or even “humour” just for that day. Humour day I must admit was probably my favourite day, I would spend a whole day just focusing on the funny side of life, let me tell you there are a lot of hilarious things going on in the world when you allow yourself to look, smile and laugh at it all.
I have done the daily practice on and off for years now and sometimes changed it to weekly or monthly. Each time I would read the related chapter in the book again, so much so that I feel as if the book now lives inside of me. Now I want to give this gift back to the world.
I am combining the teachings and what I have learned from this book with the professional training that I have undergone in facilitation of outdoor practices to guide people through change & development in their lives.
The powerful tool at your disposal
What I want to point out is something crucial that happened in this story that I wasn’t consciously aware of doing at the time. I made an active choice and my life changed for the better because of it. I could have just read the book and placed it back on my bookshelf to gather dust with the rest of them, but I didn’t, I became aware of the feeling that the book gave me and I made an active choice to invite more of that feeling into my life, subsequently my life changed. Was it not just the book and its message that helped? For sure, that was a big part of it, but how often do we read nice books (especially self-help) and then forget all about them and carry living our lives in the same manner as before?
We as individuals have the most wonderful and powerful tool at our disposal. Its called choice. We use that tool all the time whether we are aware of it or not. The trick is bringing awareness to it. Once you bring awareness to it, you learn to use it. Once you learn to use it, you realise the impact of it. And once you realise that, you can change your life. It’s your choice.
That is what I want to help you do. To help you realise just how much potential you have in your life. I want to help you to figure out how to use the natural born tools that you have at your disposal to make real changes in your life. To show you the difference between passively making choices that might be limiting you and actively making decisions that bring meaning to your life and allow you to follow your purpose.
The best and quickest way to do this is through direct contact and reflection in nature. By going directly into nature, directly into contact with where you belong, where you were born to exist.
You see there is this common illusion out there now that nature is “over there” and humans are somehow separate from it. This is a delusion. For the longest span of our existence we have been walking amongst trees, listening to birds, and learning from rivers. Its about time that we remembered that. Its about time we re-membered our place in the ecosystem.
We have a choice to make, each of us.
Sometimes in life we have to make choices without knowing what their results will be.
This is the place where real change can happen.
This is where more of us need to be brave enough to go.
Because the results can be more beautiful than we could ever imagine...
How do we go forth from today? If you are interested in changing your life for the better, if you are interested in choosing to develop meaning and purpose into your life then I would love to hear from you.
Starting this September, we are beginning the first of these journeys and are looking for participants who are interested in change and development. It is a journey of intention - how to cultivate more joy into our lives. The more of us who do this, the more joy we can then bring to the world. If you are interested in changing the flow of your life and developing a more joyful existence or are interested in spending deep, quality time in nature exploring what truly brings you joy in life while journeying with like-minded people who are traveling along the same path then The Pillars of Joy may be for you. To find out more then check out the link below:
I’ll see you in the woods.