Looking for inspiration? Look up. And not to the sky—to the trees.
It’s the three-toed sloth, which may be a guru of sorts.
You may be asking yourself, “what exactly can this smirking, scruffy beast (better resembling a wookie out of Star Wars) with nails to kill and little to no known purpose possibly have to offer in my own personal life?”
Luckily for you, I have the answer. And only because of a brilliant author and his equally brilliant novel, Life of Pi. (If you’ve yet to read it, I highly recommend it—or if you are as lazy as said sloth tends to be, just wait for the movie, rumored for release in 2013.)
“I chose the sloth because its demeanor—calm, quiet and introspective—did something to soothe my shattered self.” ~ Yann Matel
Within the first five pages, a small excerpt about the three-toed sloth appeared before my eyes, with descriptions like “an upside down yogi deep in meditation” that “lives a peaceful vegetarian life in perfect harmony with its environment.”
Naturally sparking my interest, I decided to delve a little further into what could be considered an offbeat path of self-seeking reflection by researching sloths—only to emerge with the feeling that yes, Mr. Martel was clearly on to something and these little creatures might be, too.
Although I’m sure the things we could learn are of infinite number, (including how to hang upside down for the duration of, well, forever), I’ve decided to include my top five —which, in my opinion, qualify this critter as a guru in the making.
1. Relaxation. This single handedly may be the most importance piece of advice the sloth has to give. Sleeping nearly 20 hours a day, every day, he only wakes when fully rested. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way suggesting that we doze our lives away (eight hours is plenty, my friends) but wouldn’t it be nice to listen to our bodies and consistently get a good night’s sleep?
Not only this, but when awake the sloth can move as little as four meters in an hour. Taking in the scenery, perhaps, but all the while taking his own sweet time. In the rush of day-to-day life, try not to take each step as a leap or each stroll as a sprint and give yourself the courtesy of enjoying the view. It’s okay to breathe.
2. Nourishment. I fully support, and adhere to, the aforementioned description of the vegetarian lifestyle, but in no way disapprove of any other choice. Being the wise and encouraging guru that he is, I’m sure the sloth agrees and only aims to inspire making the nutritional choices that are right for you; vegan, meat-eater, you name it.
As a tree dweller, his diet of leaves, fruit and plenty of water makes a whole lot of sense—so the lesson is to forget the criticism and opposition from both ends. Listen to your body and tailor what you eat to what you really need. It’s okay to choose.
3. Independence. We’ve all been there—beating ourselves up over that last break-up, feeding our broken hearts with chick flicks, booze and bottomless portions of some dessert we later regret—but where does this really get us? Why are so many of us incapable of living our lives for ourselves or expressing the ever-so-controversial “I’m single because I want to be, and I’m happy with just me.” Because we aren’t enough like a sloth, that’s why—the adult generally leads a completely isolated existence. And guess what?
“A good-natured smile is forever on its lips.”
So next time you find yourself lacking a relationship and feeling blue, keep smiling—chances are you’re exactly where you need to be with exactly who you need to be with—you. It’s okay to be alone.
4. Imagination. I like to think that when my head is in the clouds, I am untouchable. Living from one delusion to the next, I find that the small things in life that add up to the big breakdowns are much less likely to affect me. Much like human beings, the moment the sloth touches the earth he becomes vulnerable—extremely vulnerable. (He’s slow, has weak hind legs and judging by the amount he sleeps, has poor social skills with outsiders.)
In an attempt to never let life bring him down, he remains in his treetop throne and watches the real world passing by. He is safe, secure, powerful and content in his existence up above—much like the rest of us. It’s okay to dream.
5. Flexibility. Learn to adapt to your environment, take chances and be willing to alter your thoughts when the situation calls for it. I mean, the sloth is so elastic he can swivel his neck 270 degrees around, so who’s to say we too can’t find a little wiggle room now and then? It’s okay to change.
Breathe. Choose. Be alone. Dream. Change.
An aspiring journalist, fashion enthusiast and lover of all things yoga, dance and green, Jamie packed up her life nine months ago and made the big move to Madrid, Spain from little old Ohio. Spending her days as an English teacher and soul-searcher, she is completely fascinated by international languages and cultures and won’t be satisfied until she’s seen it all. And so it begins.
Editor: Lynn Hasselberger