Western culture has reached a level of material wealth greater than at any time in history. We include in this material wealth, wealth of information as well. At the pinnacle of our ability to manipulate the environment and produce all the things we need, and many that we don’t, it’s entirely possibly that many of our ills are arising as a result of our inability to handle this incredible glut of input, in all of its forms.
Prior to the recent age, when resources and information were scarce and hard to come by, we would never think of turning either of these away. The arrival of this incredible abundance is relatively recent, in the past 50 years or so, with the refinement of industry and the emergence of the information age and the Internet. It has come upon us so quickly that many of us haven’t learned or prepared ourselves to handle this new level of abundance. If indeed it is possible to adapt and prepare ourselves for the onslaught at all.
We haven’t asked ourselves the questions, “How much is enough?” “What do I value over everything else?” We just cannot say “no” to available things and information that meet our fancy. And in some ways, we crave each new thing with the hope that it will somehow set us free. Consequently, we are literally dying from over consumption in one form or another.
More than half the US population is now considered “obese,” while people are starving for renewal of “spirit” and “soul” in their lives and work. People are busier, have less time, and often feel overwhelmed, surrounded by too much stuff and stressed out under the growing burden of too much information.
Get Full Nourishment from Everything in Your Life
How do we cope with the temptation to consume ourselves into oblivion? Our proposal is simple. We suggest two things. First, that you begin replacing the habit of “accumulating” with the practice of “assimilating.” And second, that you make sure that what you ingest in any form is of the highest quality possible. Let’s first quickly define the following terms:
Accumulate: To heap up in a mass; to pile up; to increase; to collect or bring together; to amass; as, to accumulate a sum of money.
Assimilate: To appropriate and transform or incorporate into the substance of the assimilating body; to absorb or appropriate, as nourishment; as food is assimilated and converted into organic tissue.
Proper assimilation and digestion of food, experience, and information will allow us to extract its full benefit and put it to good use. Whereas overstuffing ourselves, in any of these arenas will cause a buildup of unsightly fat, waste, stress, toxicity, confusion, unease, often fueling an unconscious compulsion for more. All of us know how much better we feel when we push ourselves away from the table before we’re full, and the satisfied feeling we get when we give ourselves a little time for our systems to “assimilate” what we’ve taken in. (Hey…this is turning out to be a very appropriate Thanksgiving issue!)
Unconscious compulsions for “more input” seldom satisfy our true needs. Nor will having piles of unread books and magazines ringing our desks reduce the nagging sense that there is some piece of information that will really change everything for us.
Satisfaction comes from fully digesting and extracting the fine nutrients from what we already have, and making choices for new input based on our true values and passions, not our casual likes and vague interests.
Saying yes to only what most serves our needs and resonates with our deepest sense of self, and our chosen mission will go a long way to lessen the burden. So will focusing on what is important to ours and not someone else’s sense of self.
How to Facilitate Assimilation
– Of Information. We often spend a great deal of time looking for that special piece of information or that magical answer to our current problem when more often than not, the answer we seek is right in front of us.
But unless we slow down to see, hear, and process what’s already in our world, we may miss these gifts. In your groups, model this by inviting your participants to assimilate fully the meaning and consequences of every activity.
As a facilitator, observe closely and resist the desire to pile on just “one more” experience to make sure your groups get their money’s worth. Make sure that the desired outcomes of each activity and experience are evident to you and the participants before moving on. And, if you dare, stop before you are faced with a sea of bobbing heads with glazed eyes trying to take that one more step together.
If they seem to need additional information, help them clarify their specific requirements adding just enough to be complete.
– Of Relationships. We rush around so often focused on “getting stuff done” that we sometimes neglect our most precious resources–our friends, associates, coworkers, and family. The benefits in good will, emotional support, new connections and ideas, very often offset the time spent cultivating and maintaining these existing relationships.
– Of Customers. Balance your expenditure of energy on seeking new customers with efforts to deepen and enrich your relationships with existing customers. It takes a whole lot less effort to cultivate these existing relationships where some trust already exists. Share your gratitude for them being in your life, appreciate their trust in you, and seek to deeply understand and respond to their needs.
Become so familiar with their situation that you can act as a trusted advisor and in turn help them assimilate the tidal wave of information bearing down on them as well.
– Of Ideas. If you’re anything like us, you’re a life long student of personal growth and have hundreds of books on your bookshelves. Just imagine what might happen if instead of picking up yet another new title to read, you were to study the principles from just one chapter of a favorite you’ve already read and actually apply them for the next 30 days? This, my friends, is called assimilation.
Create a learning plan with specific goals for the next six months. Include both informational and learning goals into this plan. And, only include that which you know you can assimilate with minimum effort so that you have time to really make the information a part of your very being instead of just being a walking index pointing people to this book or that website.
– Of Food. During at least one meal this week…you may even want to experiment with the (big) one this Thursday, try eating slower than usual. Chew your food just a little bit longer. When you’re talking or listening to someone, stop eating. Take time to really assimilate your food and experience with family. Try just doing one thing at a time. Enjoy the rainbow of flavors and textures, each bite a miniature world of experience.
– Of Experience. We’re all tempted to accelerate our pace of life to match that of our increasingly frenetic culture. But this is a personal choice. Most of the time, we can choose to slow down and carefully select our inputs, experiences, and the speed at which we subject ourselves to them.
There are ways to help make this choice easier. Commit to a practice of “being fully present” for a few minutes each day. Use whatever method appeals to you. Some choices are meditation, yoga, quiet walks, prayer, tai chi, marshal arts, sitting alone quietly, journaling, etc. Or just look out the window with all of your senses. Focus on what is before you and allow it to really enter your being.
These kinds of practices are more and more important as the world accelerates around you. They give our inner selves time catch up with, reconnect with, and properly assimilate with our outer experience.
Now go forth and assimilate!
Pick at least one area of your life, possibly one of those we discuss above, and think about how you can improve your assimilation in that area. We’d love to hear what you come up with. Please tell us what this article inspires in you in the comments section below.