I often look out through my office window into a series of trees. I lose track of time, simply staring at stiff trunks and curled branches. Some leaves are flat and wide, others thin and long. As the wind blows smoothly through these trees, they remain untouched – neither agitated nor obstructed.
Trees are one of nature’s most amazing gifts. Trees provide some of the most common and highly admired ways for wind to make itself heard. Listening to the wind can relieve oneself from anxiety, lighten the heart, make one feel peaceful and cause one to wander free through the leaves, into the skies and along the forces of creation. Without any worldly concerns to perplex my mind, I gaze into the trees and can pass the entire day this way.
Granted trees are strong. But they are affected by external factors, both natural and manmade. Trees move smoothly or fiercely as dictated by the wind. No matter how deep and strongly they are rooted into the earth, they are not in control. This got me thinking about our lives. As human beings, are we in control? Or do we sway because of the wind? Is control an illusion?
William Glasser, author of Control Theory: A New Explanation of How We Control Our Lives would say that control is possible. Individuals who resort to drug addiction and other radical behaviours do so to gain control of their lives best way they know how. Glasser explains that by understanding control theory, we are able to take effective control of our lives because then, we will be able to spend our energy attacking the problem rather than blaming it. Therefore, it is possible to make more effective choices when one feels like they have lost control.
Many of us believe in the illusion of control and feed into it. Myself included. We face a chaotic and complex world, and seek to control it however we can. For example, we try to control how our children turn out, we try to control our time, tracking everything from how many calories we have had to how we spend each penny. Many of us are guilty of planning projects, trips, events and our days as if the outcome is one we have total control over. We need to understand that there are many complex factors that influences outcomes, that human beings are complex with many whims and habits that we might not understand.
As the famous old saying goes, ‘if you want to make God laugh, make a plan.’ The thing is, there is no such thing have having total control of one’s life – neither your own mind, your feelings nor your behaviours. For example, if you were in control of your mind, then you would not think of a red balloon when I tell you not to think of a red balloon. Total control is an illusion. And here I stress the word “total control”.
So coming back to the trees outside my office window. Having total control of our lives is an illusion. As trees, we are affected by the forces of the wind. The point is to remain untouched- neither agitated nor obstructed. The point isn’t to control our life, the point is to experience that moment and deal with the flow as it comes. Consider fish for instance. A fish swims in a chaotic sea that it cannot possibly control — much as we all do. The fish, unlike us, is under no illusion that it controls the sea, or other fish in the sea. The fish doesn’t even try to control where it ends up — it just swims, either going with the flow or dealing with the flow as it comes. It eats, and hides, and mates, but does not try to control a thing.
This is a completely different way of living and thinking- that is once we let go of the illusion. This means, we stop looking at the future, and live in the moment, that we accept the world as it is rather than being annoyed and stressed by it or trying to change it to what we want it to be. When we let go of the control illusion, we are never disappointed with how things turn out, because we never planned for or expected anything to begin with.
When reading this, you might think it is a passive way of living, and it goes against our productive, goal-oriented cultural nature. But for a change, just try it. Let go and sway with the wind.