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Dr. Michael Finkelstein Headshot

Tough Nut to Crack: A Lesson From the Humble Squirrel

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As fall comes into full swing, we can expect all the pleasantries that follow, from gorgeous foliage to the feeling of a playful frolic in a heap of leaves on the lawn. This is nature's cue for the animals who live harmoniously among us to start preparing for the colder weather, and the acorns we often pass by in indifference are the fabric of what sustain our furry neighbors and the habitats we share with them. Unlike tomatoes or other plants that get stopped in their tracks with frost, nuts are inherently storable, as if they were designed specifically to be preserved all winter long. And unlike grains that provide us with only moderate amounts of fat and protein, nuts contain considerable amounts of both, accounting for the ability to tap into tremendous substance, with little to no expiration date.

However, what is especially fascinating is how practical and strategic these animals are in storing their nuts. In anticipation of the future, they are, first and foremost, taking mindful action to help prepare for the upcoming months... but in a skillfully conservative manner, they don't gather excessively more than what's needed in the foreseeable future, establishing a wise and critical balance. Instinctually, they think ahead for survival and store the most substantial energy source available, but they stay conscious of the present, knowing that if they try to gather too much, they will overexert themselves and ultimately not survive, leaving behind all of that valuable preparation to no use.

This message we learn from the squirrel's sustaining hustle is twofold. Firstly, we must not ignore or avoid thinking and preparing for the future, as it is part of living a skillful, mindful life. And second, we need to manage our current resources and stay in the present.

Regarding the first, we seem to do that easily. But, on the other end, there is the message that has taken on considerable weight lately, which is to not forget about the now. This theme, growing in popularity, is pointing out the problem with being overly concerned about the future. But we can take that too far, as well. Sometimes, even these ideas can be taken too far to one side of the spectrum and over-intensified, making future planning or thinking about what's to come seem unnecessary and invaluable.

The pull from both causes understandable tension, but the nut moon reminds us of the importance of both. And, in the end, maintaining the delicate balance between the two allows us to live well now and forever. So, gather your nuts wisely and enjoy all of your days.

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