As I type these words, it’s hard not to feel startled with the state of the world, where we stand as a society.
It’s even harder to try and reconcile it with the contrasting sense of vibrance I feel every day in my own skin.
My sense of perspective means that I do see an invisible order in the chaos, but my sanity pulls me towards calling out the profound level of dysfunction of the times we live in.
You can be peaceful, vibrant, fully alive AND still recognise insanity when you see it.
But simply recognising it isn’t enough. I believe it’s our purpose and duty to take action towards steering the ship in a healthier direction. Starting with ourselves first.
Today’s post is not a philosophical ramble, but an attempt to make the case for personal healing and carving out a vibrant way of existing in the world, no matter how broken it seems.
Not just as the only sane way to live our lives but as a vehicle to bring about much needed harmony to our communities.
So today I pose this question:
Is a vibrant existence possible inside our toxic culture?
The answer is a definite yes.
In fact, it’s the only way to shape our culture away from pathology, into the supportive, healthy, nurturing and empowering structure it needs to be for us to thrive.
But here’s why it seems out of reach for the majority of us…
We’re being collectively sucked into a hollow way of existence, at head spinning velocity.
Every day life is being stripped out of meaning, integrity, purpose and connection. It’s hard to be alive today without feeling exploited and unprotected in some way.
Materialism is taking hold at uncontrollable speed and almost every aspect of our lives is being commoditised.
Mostly as a byproduct of an economic system that relies on and pushes a deep disconnection with our own humanity and our true essence.
We’re being reduced to data points, zombified with superficial thrills. Our very consciousness exploited for profit and highjacked to keep us addicted, alienated, lonely, stressed, unhealthy, disconnected from one another and asleep.
I can’t think of a bigger assault on our humanity than what’s happening before our very eyes; what’s worse, with our willing participation.
We’ve bought into ideas about ourselves and each other that completely contradict who we truly are as human beings.
It’s as if we’ve collectively forgotten the power of the human spirit, imagination, ingenuity and what we’re truly capable of.
As Deepak Chopra says, “we’ve traded the true self for the selfie.” What an accurate description…
The only way forward is to learn, realise or perhaps simply remember, that we have the power to change this paradigm.
Our frazzled, depleted state is not normal
Running around like headless chickens, doing things we don’t love, chasing the next external pursuit, uninspired and out of energy. Racing mind, broken heart, trying to keep our heads above water, longing for something better.
Entrenched in our positions. Divided, fearful and anxious. Feeling average at best; hopeless and in despair at worst.
This state is not how we’re meant to operate but it has been completely normalised. And because there are millions (perhaps billions) of us living like this, we’ve been tricked into believing this is just the way modern life is. And the best we can do.
This is such a harmful, pervasive perspective, not only because it’s not true, but because it’s making many of us ignorant and complacent when it comes to our own wellbeing and that of those around us.
I’ve recently finished reading Dr Gabor Maté’s latest book “The Myth of Normal” and, while it’s hard to single out any particular parts (because of how brilliant and deep this book is), I’ll share this passage with you:
“Lacking, we might say, by design: qualities like love, trust, caring, social conscience, and engagement are inevitable casualties – “sunk costs,” in capitalist argot – of a culture that prizes acquisition above all else. A society that fails to value communality – our need to belong, to care for one another, and to feel caring energy flowing toward us – is a society facing away from the essence of what it means to be human. Pathology cannot but ensue. To say so is not a moral assertion but an objective assessment. “When people start to lose a sense of meaning and get disconnected, that’s where disease comes from, that’s where breakdown in our health – mental, physical, social health – occurs,” the psychiatrist and neuroscientist Bruce Perry told me. If a gene or virus were found that caused the same impacts on the population’s well-being as disconnection does, news of it would bellow from front-page headlines. Because it transpires on so many levels and so pervasively, we almost take it for granted; it is the water we swim in. We are steeped in the normalized myth that we are, each of us, mere individuals striving to attain private goals. The more we define ourselves that way, the more estranged we become from vital aspects of who we are and what we need to be healthy.”
There’s so much to unpack here, more than a humble blog post affords. But there are a few key points I want to bring to you here.
Just because there is a strong pull from our culture in this direction, it doesn’t mean we can’t counter it. In fact, it’s urgent that we do so.
And we must remember that we have the power to do so, no matter how hard our circumstances are.
We must start by acknowledging that the way we feel is not normal; it’s rooted in unprocessed pain and trauma we carry from childhood and compounded stress from life experiences.
Add to it every day stressors due to the way we live, the way we work, our culture’s programming and you have a recipe for how we experience life as a result.
All of this has a huge impact on our wellbeing. The heavier the load, the less we experience joy, connection, passion, inspiration, love and everything that makes life worth living.
Does it really have to be that way? Definitely not! Yet we’ve collectively bought into disempowering ideas that are keeping us stuck in our suffering.
It’s time we wake up.
Reclaiming your wellbeing
It’s tempting to look away from our pain. In some ways, it’s almost easier to cope with it in the many unhealthy ways we do. Including our hiding behind labels, diagnosis and beliefs that we’re so broken that we’re beyond healing.
But we’re fooling ourselves. On giving up on ourselves and the quest for a beautiful life experience, we pay the ultimate price of wasting our lives to drama, negative patterns and suffering. And what’s worse, we help perpetuate our collective status quo.
The truth is, no matter how awful, harsh and unspeakable our life experiences might have been, we CAN recover, heal and go on to create a whole and beautiful experience.
We just have to seek the support that’s right for us and go on to do the work required.
And this includes sometimes trying things that don’t work. This is where a lot of us can lose faith in the process and mistakenly believe that things will never get better.
But if we keep asking questions and doing the work, we will eventually find the tools and support that will bring us back to wholeness.
This work requires confronting the disempowering (often debilitating) meaning we assigned to difficult experiences, process them fully and assign a new meaning that will free us up and allow us to create a new future.
It also requires liberating the body from the impact of these experiences (the work of Dr Bessel Van der Kolk and his brilliant book “The body keeps the score”is an excellent reference if you want to understand this better).
But here’s the good news. We come equipped with everything we need to heal as science is starting to demonstrate.
Taking a step further: transcending stressful thoughts and embodying a new state
On our quest to create a more peaceful, joyful and vibrant internal state, we must go beyond managing difficult emotions.
Yes, these tools can be useful, even life saving, but we must go beyond them.
Whatever work we do, must be in service of our personal liberation from a stressful, fearful mind and the weight and influence of our past conditioning.
When the goal is total freedom from our pain (instead of managing or soothing it), we encounter a different set of practices and answers to get us there.
Some of them can be so simple, within reach and will create, over time, a completely different internal landscape.
Your wellbeing is in your hands
If you’ve felt unwell, stressed, anxious or depressed for an extended period of time, it would be easy to fall into a state of hopelessness. In fact, many people do, looking at the sobering mental health statistics around the world.
Equally, if certain destructive, unproductive patterns in your life keep repeating themselves over and over, you might just believe that that’s all life will ever be for you.
But the truth is you have the choice and the power to start reclaiming your wellbeing today.
It starts with the decision, commitment and conviction that you will do and find what it takes to get better.
Are you ready to draw a line in the sand?
Start today: 4 gentle, yet powerful ways to reclaim your wellbeing
There are so many gentle, yet powerful and effective ways you can start transforming your internal state.
- Start meditating – I can’t emphasise this enough. Meditation is a powerful tool that can have a profound impact on your wellbeing. It has countless, scientifically proven benefits.
For example, it turns off fight or flight, calms your nervous system and floods your brain with neurotransmitters associated with happiness. Start with 5 minutes a day and build on from that.
- Create an intention for your day, every day – As soon as you wake up, create an intention for your day. State it in the present tense, for example; today I am joyful, today I am compassionate with myself and others, today I make choices that empower me.
This gives your brain the task of creating matching experiences and uses the power of your attention and imagination, which in turns influences the actions you take. It also gives a more productive direction to the mind, even for brief moments.
- Take 5 to 10 minutes a day to reflect – Sit quietly for a few minutes and quietly ask yourself these four questions: Who am I? What do I want? What is my purpose? What am I grateful for? This will start connecting you with your awareness and start stripping away your identification with the issues you’re facing.
It’s like a meeting with your wiser self, where the only aim is to notice what arises in the body and your experience as a result of asking the questions.
- Use your screen time to watch/listen to experts in wellbeing – We’re all on our devices these days, that’s a given. So take time to listen, read or watch at least one in-depth piece of content by experts in the fields of mental wellbeing, spirituality, neuroscience or personal empowerment (preferably bridged with science).
Some suggestions: Dr Deepak Chopra, Dr Gabor Maté, Dr Joe Dispenza, Eckhart Tolle, Esther Perel, Dr Shefali Tsabary, Dr Bruce Lipton, Byron Katie (add your favourites to the list).
Curating the content we consume can drastically improve our outlook on life. Add to this reducing the amount of time we spend on social media.
Your life is so precious. Are you living your days well? Are you experiencing joy often, are you doing things you love, are you enjoying fulfilling relationships?
If not, and if the tape of life is playing repeated negative scenarios, it’s time to use your power, creativity and imagination in a different direction.
If you start with intention and some of these practices, the how will be shown to you along the way.
And if we all start living in a more wholesome way, our communities and the world will start to look different too. This is the way our toxic culture can heal.