You leave your elephant at home and look for its footprints in the forest


In a fog - bustling about and never getting anywhere

In Tibet we used to say, “Knowing one, you accomplish all.” The modern faddish idea that we can always keep all our options open and so never need commit ourselves to anything is one of the greatest and most dangerous delusions of our culture, and one of ego’s most effective ways of sabotaging our spiritual search.

When you go searching all the time, the searching self becomes an obsession and takes you over. You become a spiritual tourist, bustling about and never getting anywhere. As Patrul Rinposhe says, “You leave your elephant at home and look for its footprints in the forest.” Following one teaching is not a way of confining you or jealously monopolizing you. It’s a compassionate and skillful way of keeping you centered and always on the path, despite all the obstacles that you and the world will eventually present.

from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
by Sogyal Rinpoche
Chapter – Time Matters
quoted: Patrul Rinpoche
image – conskeptical

Is this a destination or a Journey?

Today’s quote and image came to me by way of a Flickr photographer whose work I have used on QuoteSnack before. When I asked Crispin (conskeptical) if he’d like a little thank-you plug, he suggested a link to the nonprofit Sustrans.

Sustrans is the UK’s leading sustainable transport charity. Their vision is a world in which people choose to travel in ways that benefit their health and the environment. They work with individual households and organizations to help increase walking, cycling and use of public transportation.

Sustrans’ TravelSmart holds the key to one of the greatest environmental and social challenges of the 21st Century, reversing the trend towards increased car use and tackling its impacts on climate, public health and quality of life.

TravelSmart achieves this by giving people the tailor-made information and support they need to walk, cycle and use public transport more often. This process is known as Individualised Travel Marketing (ITM). TravelSmart demonstrates that people are very willing to change their travel behaviour when they are given the information and motivation they need so that they can choose to travel differently.Sustrans

I agree! If we can make positive change a simple and reachable goal, people will do their own work. Open a door, walk the walk, keep your eyes open… except, those three things can be a lot to do if you’re already up to the eyeballs in survival – in “bustling about and never getting anywhere.”

Guidance is helpful, which sort of brings me back to today’s quote. It’s like Maslow’s hammer – “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” If you’re running around looking for an elephant, any time without an elephant in view is failure, and indiscriminate hammering starts to look pretty good. If you’re also aware of your environment, the mere possibility of an “elephant footprint” becomes an affirmation of potential. The path, and commitment to it, becomes the promise. Goals become focused and incremental.

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3 Responses to “You leave your elephant at home and look for its footprints in the forest”

  1. clarissa mcfairy Says:

    Good one, Elizabeth, and very visual. And can be applied to most things in life, where what one is seeking, even in the midst of a creative activity, is not just in our midst, but a part of our being. “You leave your elephant at home and look for its footprints in the forest.” Thanks for posting this one. Shall be more caring in future of my resident elephant!

  2. Janet Riehl Says:

    I love this quote by Patrul Rinpoche often mentioned by Sogyal Rinpoche.

    “You leave your elephant at home and look for its footprints in the forest.”

    Janet Riehl

  3. patrul rinpoche Says:

    [...] rinpoche You leave your elephant at home and look for its footprints …In Tibet we used to say, Knowing one, you accomplish all. The modern faddish idea that we can always [...]

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