If you want to transform anything in your life – your body, your relationships, or the way you view the world – it’s more effective to focus your energy on the foundation of who you are than directly on the results you want. Let me explain.
Think of the roots of a tree. They provide structure, solidity, nutrients from the ground, and a foundation from which the tree can grow upwards into the world and not only help to cleanse the air but also provide a space for birds to hang out. The glorious leaves and branches of a tree inspire us, please our eyes, and provide us with fresh growth – like the beautiful cherry blossom, or the symbolic maple leaf – at the dawn of a new spring season.
While it’s the leaves, blossoms, and outer appearance of the tree that are so gratifying, it’s the roots that make it so.
“As the seed is, so the fruit will be.” – Buddha
A friend of mine was teaching the yoga class I attended yesterday. There is no drama with this girl. She shared a quote with us that she said really impacted her in her earlier days of teaching, and because she is not in the habit of filling space with redundancies, I listened carefully.
“You can’t force a transformation.”
I agree. Before retiring very recently, I taught Bikram Yoga for over nine years. And if there’s one thing Bikram Yoga can help you do, it’s transform. I know this from my own experience, as well as from having watched countless students transform over the years. But what I’ve noticed is that the students – myself included – who have created real transformation (the kind that sticks around, and isn’t just a phase) have not forced their transformation, but rather their outside merely shifts to reflect what’s going on inside.
Because transformation is a subject that fascinates me so much, I ask a lot of questions. Without fail, the students who have truly transformed themselves always say that they experienced some form of profound internal shift, which gave them a new way of approaching their external actions. From there, eating better, being more positive, and depending relationships just…happens.
We can go about trying to lose weight, trying to get glowing skin, trying to be more positive, and trying to find a partner or more meaningful friendships, but when we sit and reflect on our roots – and make changes from the inside out – these blossoms of life have a way of transpiring much more naturally.
What do I mean by roots? I’m talking about the base of who you are and how you show up in the world. A good model for this in my experience is sila – which translates to Morality. The first three sections of the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism are concerned with building a foundation of morality.
1 – Right Speech
2 – Right Action
3 – Right Livelihood
Morality, as far as Vipassana meditation is concerned, is less about imposing proper behaviour on ourselves, and more about building a strong internal compass of what’s right and wrong – or what is harmful to oneself and to others, and what brings light to oneself and to others. Honouring sila creates an internal environment of trust, respect, and security.
You can’t force a transformation. Watch your words, watch who you are, and be aware of what you’re bringing to the world around you.
Real transformation will blossom as a natural result of your healthy roots.