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Tree House

The Cycle of Discontent and Creation

This past weekend I did something on my bucket list: I slept in a treehouse. Yep, it was a goal of mine for a while and I finally did it. It was amazing and everything I thought it could be.

Ever since I had seen photos of amazing looking treehouses and bizarre luxury hotels on Pinterest years ago, I had this lingering desire to sleep in something exotic. I saw the show Treehouse Masters and I was in love. After a quick Google search, I found that there were in fact several of these luxury treehouses within a two hour drive from me. Sold!

Old Pine Treehouse
Old Pine Treehouse

I decided to go solo because I wanted it to be more of a meditative retreat rather than a vacation. I wanted peace and quiet. I wanted stillness. I wanted to be in nature. I spent two nights in the treehouse without access to TV or Internet. A lot of time to think and ponder.

I ventured out on an 8 mile hike into the Mohican forest in Ohio. Hours of solo hiking allowed me to clear my mind and just be in the present moment. I’m able to be more present when I’m doing something out of the ordinary routine.

Quintessentially Me

 

Me on the trails
Me on the trails

During the hike, I noticed a lot of thoughts about my childhood kept popping up. Most notably what it was like to “be a kid” – sleeping in the treehouse and being outside in the wonder of big trees, rocks, rivers, and waterfalls will do that to you. I had fond memories of periods of my life where I felt quintessentially ME. You know, the best times of my life kept coming back into focus as little vignettes.

I thank my friend Elz over at Living Discernment for initially bringing the idea of being “quintessentially me” to my attention. It was a great reflection exercise in discovering your true self or purpose.

I got to see all these “eras” of my life as snapshots into who I am. I felt nostalgic for how things used to be, but when I saw them all together, it helped me paint a broader picture of how my life tends to work out. It gave me a greater appreciation for where I’m at in my life right now. 

A Common Pattern emerged

I noticed a pattern emerge that characterizes just about all those “eras” in my life.

  1. A period of discontent or jadedness with what is. A feeling of alienation.
  2. A reaction to my discontent. A strong desire to change, create, or start something new.
  3. A period of flourishing creativity, refreshment, inspiration, new ideas, and new relationships.
  4. A peak, a high point, or some sort of big accomplishment or memorable moment (new business, a book, new relationship, etc).
  5. A period of grind-like work, trying to keep things going, trying to sustain the high or recapture the magic
  6. A decline into discontent and jadedness that fuels the desire to change.

Contraction and Expansion - The Cycle of Growth

Being jaded tends to be a precursor to being inspired and creative. That certainly makes the difficult times in life seem much more purposeful doesn’t it?

I noticed that whatever environment I was in fails to nourish me or support my goals, I fall out of resonance with it and begin to find resonance elsewhere. The lack of resonance feels a lot like wearing old clothes that are no longer “you.” And the new resonance feels like relief, satiation, or refreshment. Until it doesn’t, which could take years or even a few months or less.

Discontent is valuable?

It seems to be. I actually wrote about the state of discontent a few years ago but this insight brings new meaning to me. This pattern is a cycle of GROWTH and EXPANSION.

Without this period of discontent, there would be no desire to change. I was responding to my discontent with an impulse to change and to CREATE.

This was a brilliant “aha” moment. 

Synchronistically, I opened up to the where I left off in the book The Happiness of Pursuit (hadn’t read it in months), and the start of the chapter was about how discontent is what fueled the big surges of inspiration (and life quests) for the people in the book. Aha, yes, that is what I was just thinking about! 

The Trails
The trails

Breathe in. Breathe out.

While I was nostalgic for the old eras in my past, I remembered it’s just a cycle, a natural flow of contraction and expansion. Breathe in, breathe out. In order for me to actually be inspired to create, I have to go through periods of contraction.

Even in my best eras, I still got jaded in the end (which I never like to remember those parts, everything always seems so great and I wonder why it ever ended). Well, the truthful reason is because I am constantly growing and expanding, and that era no longer serves my expansion. There’s a reason why I started to feel jaded – because I was out-growing it.

Inside the treehouse

I was constantly creating ME in reaction to my surroundings. 

This realization also answered the common question of why I don’t draw much anymore. Why doesn’t drawing interest me as much as it did ten years ago?  I felt this guilt that came with not having the same desires as I had when I was younger, as if my present desires were somehow tainted or not as romantic or innocent. But alas, they are. I just don’t see it from the same nostalgic lens. 

Reacting to my Environment

My friend Elz suggested I get a Human Design chart to determine my “type.” I was a “Generator.” One of the defining characteristics of a Generator is “reacting” as the primary impulse to create.

I drew a lot as a kid because it felt good then. It brought me joy to see my talents emerge as I reacted to my chaotic environment by escaping to my sketchbook for relief. I became a straight-edge, nice-guy artist in school as a result. I gravitated towards work in computers and art as opposed to manual labor that was so common in my family. 

Later, my music and film tastes were shaped largely by a reaction to the mainstream as I gravitated toward punk rock and cinéma vérité. It just felt more “me.” I chose to become a freelance graphic designer instead of getting a “real job” after college because I was jaded with the animation industry and the job hunt bored me to tears. And of course, I started WMC Fest after feeling alienated and discontent with the punk scene. Enough to instill this desire to start my own fest and create anew. 

There were many more examples, but you get the picture. The cycle repeats itself.

Old Pine Treehouse
What a cool treehouse!

All of this brought my present moment into a fresh perspective. It actually reframed my entire life in a way that provides a peaceful feeling of contentedness, even during periods of discontent. How about that?

Look at your own life, do you notice cycles of contraction and expansion? What state are you in now?

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10 Comments

  1. I’m glad you’ve noticed this. I don’t know if everyone experiences this. Probably only the most creative and productive do (or at least to the fullest extent). I’ve noticed this pattern to my life as well. I first noticed it when I would go into cycles of playing computer/video games for weeks. I’d feel great at first, almost like a vacation. Then I would eventually get satiated, bored, and disgusted with myself. This would spark the cycle of productivity and creativity. I wonder to myself, can we control (or hack) these cycles, or should they be left to their natural state? I draw the analogy to an economist who might theorize injecting money here and altering interest rates there to alter the cycles of growth in the economy, but then have unintended consequences. Some of which may be worse than the naturally state. Should we just go with the flow? Does the body/mind know best?

    • Jonathan, great insight! Your question is actually really pertinent. In the book The Ascent of Humanity by Charles Eisenstein, he talks about the world we live in today, with all the war, violence, ecocide, etc is a result of the belief that we are separate from nature. And that we must conquer nature, control it, measure it, and transcend nature. Throughout history, we have been trying to find cures for diseases and inventing new technology to make our lives better. But what I believe in my heart, and the book puts this into words much better than I can, is that the solution isn’t more technology or more control – but a shift in consciousness to be more aligned with nature. To realize we are not separate from nature and eachother. Not to go back to the stoneage, but to bring the stoneage to the future. To align ourselves with the processes of nature, because with nature there is always beauty and balance. In your example, I think you can certainly try to control it, hack it, or use technology or force to get yourself to do what you believe you ought to. Or you can let go, go with the flow, and have a more intimate relationship with the self and it’s natural cycles. Then make your decisions with respect to that.

      A life lived more in alignment with our natural, organic self brings more peace, joy, and fulfillment. A life lived with more control, dependency on the synthetic or artificial leads to anxiety, depression, and further separation. This can be boiled down to the mind/heart as the leader. The rational, logical mind has been in command for centuries and it’s gotten us this far. But it’s exhausted and can’t think it’s way out of the problems we have today without creating more problems. The heart is going to take the lead and that’s how we’re going to evolve into the next level of human. Living a more heart centered life. But to let go of control and follow our hearts is scary at first, we don’t know where it will lead us. But bit by bit, you’ll see that it will bring you to places of imagined joy and enlightenment. And you’ll soon be able to trust it and then use the mind to reflect, analyze, and understand. Live in alignment with your true self!

  2. What an a.w.e.s.o.m.e. capture, Jeff! *Love* the graphics – so much added with the visual representations. Everything here speaks to the core of who you are, how you express, and your openness to listen for the beat and rhythm of your life. So so cool! As we each heal and coalesce our fractured selves, we also mend our community…whoever and wherever that may be. Thank you! Your shift is massive and palpable and so encouraging (heart strengthening). Have added a treehouse experience to my bucket list! Happy happy! <3!

    • Thanks Elz! Your comments add so much to these posts, they really do. Readers can see how other people are growing and expanding. There’s also a noticeable rhythm to your words that’s distinctly Elz too. It’s so cool!

  3. Check this Jeff – this is how shit works … :)
    I had a reverb inspiration from your “Tree House” share… catching another Jeff Wave…and have now looked, as Spring explodes here in Hunterdon County New Jersey, to see my house and yard as my/our Tree House, Playhouse and Playground. Back to being a kid and fixing up a place to hang and play… and gather in fun! All of a sudden cleaning, clearing clutter and all related fixingupedness is play and ton’s of fun!!! Thanks for phase 2 of the MAGIC of the Tree House :)

  4. We went there for a wedding last year and have wanted to go for a weekend and stay in the treehouse, this article gave me even more reason to go!

  5. Thanks for this amazing share Jeff! I’m so resonating with the cycles of creativity – yes! from “meh” – to desiring something new – to creative explosion – and repeat… I think though that for me I seem to land at another plateau in each cycle – I reach the summit, only to find a new horizon that would not have been visible before – a whole new set of wonderings… and then yes, a new “meh” :). The feelings are familiar but there is a whole new context… It is so helpful to hear your discovery of this process. I also feel the truth in the opening that I give myself when I intentionally slow the F#%k down – like hanging in a tree house for a few days…. Can’t wait for your next post! Thanks!

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