Meditation is Useless If You’re Skipping This Last Step
Back in the early days of my self-development journey, I read an article that contains a deeply relevant metaphor about soil, trees, and fruit.
Soil = What you say and think;
Tree = What you do, your actions;
Fruit = Your life, as a result of your actions.
Basically, it comes down to this:
“What you say becomes what you think. What you think becomes what you do. What you do becomes your life.”
There are many iterations of this across different religions and philosophies. If you ever took a Philosophy 101 class, you’re probably familiar with them.
An issue that I come across is that people meditate to make themselves feel like a good person. It’s performative in nature. They meditate for the self-image of meditating. It becomes a personality or identity trait, rather than a path to lead somewhere. They meditate so they can tell their friends at a party that they meditate, and talk about how enlightened they are. They do it to look good.
The problem is, after meditating, they don’t change anything about what they do or how they live. As a result, they keep falling into the same patterns, and keep finding themselves in the same situations. If you do this, meditation isn’t making a bit of difference in your life. Let me explain.
In this metaphor, the soil is your thoughts, feelings, emotional reactions to things. Other times it can be an intention, or a commitment. These are not directly related to the results of your life, just as the soil is not directly related to the fruit that the tree bears. Neither does tending to just your thoughts, feelings, and emotions necessarily yield any changes in your life, just as having nutrient-rich soil does not yield any fruit if there’s no tree to grow in the soil.
Many people spend years, or sometimes their entire lives, cultivating the soil. They meditate, they study and read, they purify their thoughts and intentions. These are all great practices, but sometimes people can fall into a trap of self-righteousness: they’re doing all of these things to make it sound like they’re pure and great, yet none of their intentions, commitments, or meditations result in any kind of change in their actions.
According to the metaphor, there is no tree growing in their soil. The soil is fertile, the soil is ready to provide, but there’s nothing growing there. Fertile soil is only as useful and valuable as the trees that are growing in it, which brings us to the next part of the metaphor.
The tree is the actions that you take. Sometimes these actions come from your thoughts or feelings (the soil), but not necessarily. You can definitely take actions that are not in line with your initial reactions.
Feeling angry and want to yell, scream, and throw things? If you don’t want the results of yelling, screaming, and throwing things, then don’t do any of that. Inaction is an action. Not doing anything will yield the results of exactly doing nothing, rather than the results of yelling, screaming and throwing things.
Or maybe your initial reaction is to go silent. I know that’s what it is for me a lot of times, and I can stop that pattern or cycle by doing the opposite: say something. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to make sense, and the first thing to do is take an action that stops the pattern.
Taking different actions will yield different results, which brings us to the last part of the metaphor.
The fruit are the results of your actions. Please keep in mind that some trees grow for a while before any fruit appears. Be patient. Also, not every tree bears fruit, even if they are fruit trees.
What This Means for Your Life
You will take actions where you don’t see immediate results. You will take actions that don’t get you what you want. All of these things will happen. Be patient. If you’re consistent with your actions, the fruit will come eventually. And if what you get isn’t what you wanted, plant new trees (ie- start taking different actions). Remember it will take time before those new trees start bearing fruit.
A lot of life is trial and error. Not only are you learning what works for you, but you’re also learning what works for the people around you. Take other people’s advice with a grain of salt. Their life and the people around them are not the same as yours. And vice-versa, when you give advice, acknowledge that their lives and the people around them can be very different from yours.
In the end, the fruit and the results of your life are what creates your life the way it is. Some people say that this is the only thing that matters, but if you ignore the other two (The Soil and The Tree), it will be like trying to grow an apple orchard in salt flats: not very productive (also time-consuming and frustrating).
Your thoughts, emotions, intentions, and commitments are valuable, and are worth tending to. But all the tending, meditating, and purifying is only as useful as it impacts the actions you take. And if the actions you’re taking are not leading you to where you want to go, take different actions.
It’s that simple. But nobody said it was easy.
Did you see how this metaphor applies to your life? Do you now have different actions to take?
Please tell me, I’d love to know!
You can email me: Steve@CoachSteveYang.com
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