Tree of Life

Tree of LifeSometimes I envy hermit crabs; they know exactly when to cast aside their shells and search for their next habitat. But we humans often struggle with knowing when it’s time to move, find a new home, a new climate or a new environment.

“What’s Next?” Thinking Now in our empty nest years (Anne Morrow Lindbergh called them ‘abandoned shell’ years), my husband and I have done a lot of “What’s Next?” thinking. We uncovered a strong yearning to find a warm-weather winter getaway. And five years later, we are now getting acquainted with Loreto, in a new community on the Sea of Cortez in Baja, Mexico. Here are some of the steps we took in our process of moving from the abstract to the particular in our quest to discover our next habitat.

STEP ONE: Identify your touchstone as it relates to your home. What’s a touchstone? In her book I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was, Barbara Sher leads you through many exercises designed to help you discover your dreams, and refers to a touchstone as “the delicious core of all the things you want.”

When you sit quietly, pondering or visualizing where you could possibly live your best life, what do you see? Looking out the window, do you see trees, sandy beaches, snowy peaks, a body of water, a bustling street, or a neighborhood coffee shop? Blue skies or gray? Describe the details about this ideal place – the climate, the sights and sounds, your neighbors, your locale, every room of your imagined home. Is your home large and spacious or small and intimate? Light or dark? Cluttered or clear? What color are the walls? See every part of your home. Which rooms feel like pure joy?

STEP TWO: Look at your actual home. What clues does it give you? Is there anything you want to change?Any element that you feel dissatisfied with? Anything that doesn’t support your comfort or activities? Consider Thomas Moore’s theory that your home is a reflection of your inner world, and that each aspect of your living space tells you something about your true essence. Overall, is your home a good fit for your life? Or, like the hermit crab, might you need to change your shell to optimize your growth?

STEP THREE: Get unstuck. Take one step, do one thing. Small or large. As long as it moves you in the direction of your dream. It’s a good way to embark on any project, from a new color of paint to a new place to live. If you find fear in your way, take it along for the ride. One step could mean:

  • Dreaming – it costs nothing and hurts no one
  • Researching – open your eyes to unknown possibilities
  • Going somewhere new – travel can open doors
  • Putting the word out, talking to friends
  • Taking a leap of faith
  • Whatever it takes to get your juices flowing

You can’t always see way off to that dream place from right here, right now–until you take the first step. Then the view opens up. Shifts happen. Change comes along as part of living.

Follow your own breadcrumbs. Stop for a moment, check in, and ask: does this physical place support my best possible life? Or has my life evolved, and like the hermit crab, is it time to look for a new shell to inhabit?

Photo credit: Ana Adi, Flickr.