Sitting out on my deck earlier this week, I looked up to see something totally unexpected. At first, even worrisome.
Hiding out behind my hammock in the corner of the yard was a bright patch of yellow. Daffodils! A full week before February had ended, which is perhaps three weeks earlier than usual.
At first it bothered me. We've had an unusually warm winter this year and early daffodils in Washington, DC can mean two things...frozen daffodils, which is always sad because too much of that can shorten the lifespan of the blooms. And it could also mean early cherry blossoms.
We don't talk about it, but many Washingtonians secretly worry about the cherry blossoms each year. They ARE a national treasure, after all. They make our region special. And they are a HUGE tourist attraction. This being the 100-year celebration makes the timing of 2012's blooms even more critical, as it's a month-long festival this year. The official site is mum on this year's projections. But my pear blossom looks like it's a week or so from blooming, so I worry for the festival.
But you know what? The daffodils aren't concerned. Neither are the cherry trees. Today they're enjoying a 60 degree spring day full of nourishing rain. The buds and blooms will survive tonight's wind and tomorrow night's cold. And, looking ahead in the forecast, they'll have enough sun and rain to live their normal lifespan, albeit a few weeks early.
Daffodils and cherry trees and every other plant on this earth have an innate wisdom that tells them just what to do and when, in order to optimize their survival. They're programmed to find water, follow the sun, adapt to changes in the environment and reproduce. They don't try to out-think these processes. They just do them. And they don't give a fig what month it is. They just follow nature's cues.
Animals have that innate wisdom, too—an intelligence that not only helps them survive, but communicate, as well. As animals, our bodies innately know when to go into defense mode to fight illness. They know how to sense danger and fear, as well as safety and love. And we have a sixth sense that also allows us to sense things despite a lack of rational evidence. A well observed example of this is the phenomena of dogs who know when their owners are coming home.
But humans are unique among all living species in that our critical thinking skills cause us to second-guess and/or cast aside our instincts and intuition. We have these wonderful, factory-installed capabilities that we override all the time. Something tells us to turn left and we turn right because right is the fastest way. When the doctor tells us everything is OK, but we still feel things are wrong, we defer to the doctor because he knows best. Something tells us not to trust so-and-so, but we do it anyway because we don't want to be rude.
These critical thinking skills are valuable, because they drive problem-solving and invention. But they can also steer us away from higher wisdom we could be accessing. Instead of sensing weather or using natural cues, we measure it with instruments we deem greater than our own—and our instinctual intelligence around weather atrophies. Instead of asking our body which choice is best for us, we consult our rational mind and ignore our gut instincts. Instead of listening to that little voice in our heads, we follow habit and diminish the value of inner knowing.
Each day, all around us, there are whispers guiding back us back into balance, not only within ourselves, but within the natural world. But between our iPods and TVs and even books and knitting, we occupy our heads with "noise" that drowns these whispers out. So this week, see what happens when you reconnect to that voice within. Here are five things to try:
You don't have to do everything above. Just choose one exercise to play with this week and see what happens. Like any skill, even an innate one takes practice when it's something you haven't used in a while.
There's so much we have to be grateful for as humans. Living in this time is a privilege. But it could come at a great cost if we lose touch with that part of us that is in sync with universal intelligence. The more we push instinct and intuition aside—or develop algorithms that handle our thinking for us—the further away we move from what is natural for an organic species. These gifts were given to us for our survival on this planet. But our critical thinking skills tell us we can outwit those silly tools and create better ones.
The result? We form a false sense of security predicated on our ability to control our environment. But that, of course, is an illusion. We are the only species alive on this planet that has forgotten who is in control. We are the only species who purposely separates itself from the rest of the natural world. And we are the only species who relies on non-organic technology. Everything my daffodils need to survive is encoded in their bulbs. If we lose touch with what's encoded within us in favor of what's encoded into the myriad devices we use to run our days—if we lose our connection to what REALLY runs our days—then those days are certainly numbered.