Political turmoil, Covid-19, global warming, mass extinction, social unrest...this is just a small sampling of what we are all being confronted with, on a daily basis.
If you are anything like me, this has been an overwhelming time. But let's be honest here; I have ridden the wave of overwhelm and existential dread at various times in my life, but this time in our history has been my "big kahuna". As a sensitive person, who cares deeply about the fate of our planet and all of it's inhabitants, I find myself wondering about the best way to help move things forward in a positive way. How can I best be of service, and leave the world better than I found it? These are big questions, ones that I have wrestled with on and off since I was a young child. I was the little girl who would lie awake at night, trying to understand space and the far reaches of the universe. Other nights I would cry myself to sleep, pondering the plight of the rainforests and the faces of starving children that I had seen on TV. And don't even get me started on animal cruelty! Yes, I have been carrying the burdens of a lot of our collective suffering for a very long time. I guess you could say that I "have the t-shirt" on worrying about the challenges that we face as humans.
This is not to say that I haven't experienced a lot of joy in my life...I have been blessed, and am a firm believer that there is so much joy, so much good to be had in this human experience.
So, how do we respond in the face of the challenges we face at this point in our history? How do we avoid being paralyzed by fear, overwhelm and powerlessness? Where is our power to change things for the better?
I would like to suggest that we revisit the advice of Hazel Henderson when she coined the phrase "Think Globally, Act Locally." While Hazel was using this phrase in the context of economics, I would suggest that it is perhaps even better used as a mantra for personal and social welfare.
As we are inundated with overwhelming information coming from all directions, the temptation to give in to feelings of hopelessness and powerlessness is great. This can lead us to a place of experiencing difficult emotions, which can become a habit. Anxiety and depression are both examples of such "habits." The mainstream narrative that suggest that these "disorders" are a result of chemical imbalances has it backwards, in my opinion. It is chronic, negative, disordered thinking that leads to the chemical imbalances that result in these states. Obviously there are other variables that come into this equation...too much screen time, trauma, poor nutrition, lack of restful sleep, and lack of exercise are all important pieces in the puzzle of well-being. However, what we do between our ears...the thoughts we choose to think, and where we put our focus, is in my belief, where our real power lies.
Did you know that every thought we think has a corresponding biochemical reaction in our bodies?
So, when we think thoughts that give us feelings of joy, happiness, and peace, we produce neurotransmitters that are consistent with these thoughts. When we think thoughts based on fear, shame and sadness, then we produce chemicals that will produce more of the same in our minds and bodies. So, while we can't control a lot of what happens outside of us, learning the skills to take control of the "supercomputer" between our ears can have a profoundly positive impact on the quality of our lives.
Learning these skills has improved my life in innumerable ways. I am healthier and happier than I have been in a long time. I have also come to a place of realizing that I do have the power to have a positive effect on the course of how things unfold around me. I can't single-handedly fix global-warming or social injustice, but I can choose to show genuine love, compassion and empathy to myself. I can show myself understanding and forgiveness, and as I do this, I learn how to do the same for others. My true power starts with ME! I can only treat the earth with the same respect that I show to myself....our power to make things better resides in us.
How would things be different if we all learned to genuinely love and respect ourselves? If we treated ourselves with gentleness and love and then taught others to do the same through modelling that behaviour, and then the people that we have impacted went out and did the same thing? How would our world look different if this body of self-respecting and loving people reached a critical mass? Can you imagine??
This is where our true power is, folks...In learning to genuinely love and accept ourselves, and then teaching others to do the same. Sure, let's protest and give to charity; let's rescue animals, plant backyard-gardens, and do beach clean-ups, but most importantly, let's clean up what is happening in our minds, because that is where we are the most powerful.
As the brilliant Byron Katie says, "If you want to clean up the environment, start with your mind. It starts there."
If you would like help learning how to clean up your mind using simple, effective neuroplasticity techniques, send me message at pattinorris.com.