Front cover of book - Can't see the wood for the trees? Landscaping your life to get back on trackCAN’T SEE THE WOOD FOR THE TREES?: Landscaping your life to get back on track

Alison Smith

[Findhorn Press, 208 pages]

Can’t See the Wood for the Trees?: Landscaping your life to get back on track is a book about how we can use common metaphors to help us get unstuck from our present real-life problems; in essence, this involves landscaping our lives by using nature as our tool of transformation.

The author, Alison Smith, has more than 20 years of experience training, coaching and facilitating inner change for individual clients, as well as business organizations. Over her career, she’s increasingly used unconventional nature-related tools, along with the insights she’s gained through her own personal journey, to help others get themselves unstuck.

Metaphors make things clearer

Metaphors contain universal meanings that allow us to quickly understand what the speaker is trying to convey through each one, in a concise amount of words but with a deeper meaning than that of just the words themselves.

Metaphors are so effective because when we speak about an issue literally, we often get mired in the details. This can confuse the issue or cause us to be too attached to our beliefs about a particular situation, whereas metaphors bring simple clarity.

Nature offers a plethora of metaphors that are rich with meaning, but peaceful to contemplate. Some people would say we have a spiritual connection to nature and an instinctive need to be linked to it. Due to this intrinsic relationship, nature simplifies our thinking by keeping us focused on the natural order of things, rather than on the often-discombobulated details of our personal realities.

Throughout this book, Smith relates her belief that the metaphorical solution lies in the problem of the metaphor itself. If we accept the three fundamental beliefs that a) our language mirrors our perception of a situation, b) we unconsciously know the answer to our problem(s), and c) metaphors allow us to link up with our consciousness without getting mired in literal details, we can leverage the metaphors we use to become unstuck in reality.

The process of landscaping our lives

Landscaping our lives by using nature-related metaphors to explore the problem we’re stuck on actually helps us find the solution within the problem.

The main metaphors that the author uses to guide the reader are:

  • Making mountains out of molehills
  • Stuck in a rut
  • Can’t see the wood for the trees
  • Up the creek without a paddle
  • Like a fish out of water
  • Head in the sand
  • Out on a limb/In at the deep end
  • Treading water/Going round in circles
  • Missed the tide
  • Going with the flow

The reader is directed to use the metaphor that most closely relates to their current feelings about the issue at hand. But instead of focusing on the literal “real-life” problem, we’re instead told to visualize the metaphor itself—how it looks, smells and feels—or physically immerse ourselves in it through nature, when appropriate. We then can ponder how to get unstuck from the metaphor, based on our interpretation of its landscape.

Once we’ve come to a conclusion about what changes we’d make within our metaphorical landscape, and have implemented those changes (either mentally or out in nature), we can then consider what parallels can be drawn in order to help ourselves find a solution for our reality-based problem. Our subconscious mind is what makes the link to this solution, and this metaphorical exercise helps our conscious mind apply it.

An example from the book

Woman swimming in lake with head out of water - Can't see the forest for the trees? Landscaping your life to get back on trackThe excerpt below is one of many examples the author uses to explain how we can explore and play with the natural environment of the metaphor:

If you’re treading water, the question might be:

  • How are you treading water?
  • What water — river, lake, sea, swimming pool, bath?
  • What depth of water — are you out of your depth?
  • Where’s your head in relation to the water?
  • What about the time of day or year?
  • Describe the water — for example, if it’s the sea, waves, current, temperature, wind speed and direction?

The idea is to get a better representation of the landscape. Once you have this perspective it’s much easier to be able to plot a route.

Smith goes on to say that the route can be very different for various people; perhaps, in this case, it might involve swimming out to deeper waters, or trying to place your feet on the bottom of the body of water you’re in and walk out of the water. Metaphorical solutions such as these can then represent literal applications, such as taking a risk in reality or realizing that you have a simple but effective option you may not have considered previously.

A different perspective can put you back on track

Regardless of the metaphor we feel our current situation relates to, this exercise can help us look at it in a different, more natural and peaceful way—to step away from reality and into nature and allow our subconscious mind to help us find a solution.

Although some people may find this method of landscaping their life through nature-related metaphors to be silly or strange, giving it a try may make finding a solution to current issues feel less complex and thereby lighten the process. We can also play with the metaphoric sayings we use to make the exercise more fun.

However we approach it, the author assures the reader that this method can be used fairly quickly and painlessly—it’ll take less than an hour if done visually/mentally, and only a day if it’s done in physical nature—and the results can help us get unstuck, the potential of which is definitely worth the time!

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