Yes, iPhone Separation Anxiety does seem to be very real. To me, it’s the ultimate sign of the times. This post offers a detailed analysis as to why this might be, at least according to evolutionary psychology (often referred to as modern Darwinism). We’ll peer into to the Stone Age, to the genetic programming that was both hardwired and conditioned into the human species, which may be the basis of many of our behaviors today.
To me, the world often felt overwhelmingly large, while I felt overwhelmingly tiny. I wondered how anyone could make their way, find their place, or settle on a singular passion that carries them through their life. There were times I’m so overwhelmed all I wanted to do is crawl under my blankets and hide from it all, waiting for time to pass, waiting for the desire to well back up inside me to do something, anything.
At the same time, my isolation began to increase. I felt increasingly out of place in a world I felt I was connecting with less and less, as friends and colleagues retreated further and further into MySpace, then Facebook, and now, mobile devices that most of us wouldn’t know how to get through our days without.
I wondered how we all manage to go through our days without saying something, anything, as many grow more disconnected each day, as we become more distracted from our true selves. If we take a minute to truly ask ourselves the question, it’s likely we feel more powerless, more manipulated, and often more lost than ever before. Many people seem to be so easily upset these days. Patience seems to be a thing of the past, especially for what is being called the “Me Me Me Generation” (which followed the “Me Generation”. We can’t figure out what the heck is wrong because we feel that there’s no reason we shouldn’t be grateful for our lives, yet there is a growing discontent as seen in numerous statistics.
Believe it or not, you are far, far from alone. In fact, you’re part of a growing shift in humanity as a whole; in a few short years (barely more than a decade), we went from expressing a general satisfaction with our lives to an intense dissatisfaction with our lives, the government, and the world at large. Oddly enough, this disconnect runs nearly perfectly in parallel to the explosion of the internet, social media sites, and the proliferation of personal tech devices such as iPhones.
It’s shocking to see how we quickly went from a society that interacted with each other on a personal level, to a world of hyper-transparency and hyper-disconnection at a social level. Many of us know we are increasingly agitated, angrier and easily up-settable than we’ve ever been before. But I hadn’t connected the dots to truly understand why until recently. And, when people hunger for a means of dulling our deeply-felt ache and discontent, we look for ways of burying that discontent as deeply as possible.
Our discontent can be seen externally in the most obvious of ways. Supposedly, the incidence of narcissistic personality disorder is multiple times higher for those in their twenties as the generations that’s now 65 or older, as 58% more college students scored higher on a narcissism scale in 2009 than in 1982. (For an interesting read on this topic, see 7 Reasons Millennials Are Such Narcissists by Hannah Klapp-Klote.)
Beyond that, though, Facebook, Instagram, and other billion member social accounts wouldn’t be the worldwide sensations they are if we weren’t hungry for connection, even if it’s a false version of connecting. Ultimately, few would argue that the endpoint of these kinds of activities add little, if anything to the “Big Picture” of our lives. We’re learning that no one really cares what we eat for breakfast or the awesome item we found in a store or something we saw on tv. Ultimately, statistics have also revealed that most of our “social” activity on social media sites is a selfish activity to placate our own inner hunger for connection. We want to feel special, unique. We want to feel that we have status, that we have something that no one else has.
Ultimately, though, those activities only further isolate us. It further feeds our feelings of disconnect, whether or not we’re consciously aware of those feelings. We find even more intense ways of distracting ourselves from ever having to spend any time on thoughts of the loneliness and isolation that bubble up whenever we’re feeling weak or vulnerable.
And this is where things get complicated: Those who don’t choose obvious means of escape such as social media, drugs or alcohol, choose other distractions, often more insidious, such as hoarding, excessive shopping, or intense efforts to convince everyone else that they are not deeply troubled, disconnected, and unhappy. Some of us even go so far at burying our denial so deep, that we can’t believe anyone would dare suggest that we’re unhappy! (See an interesting Huffington Post article on Happiness Statistics.)
So, we live in a quiet desperation, smiling outwardly, while doing one of two things:
- We keep our discomfort and disillusionment to ourselves in fear of being slapped with overly-used labels such as “depressed” or “manic” or in fear of simply not being accepted. I would bet that those who are discontent make up a vastly larger majority than those who are truly content. Yet we rarely seem to talk about it, which makes it impossible to fix it.
- We distract ourselves so efficiently and so completely that despite others seeing that we’re not at peace with our lives, we will get angry at anyone who even suggests that we might not be as happy as we think.
The question then becomes; How can any of us hope to stop this tidal wave of dissatisfaction?
Worse yet, seemingly fewer and fewer of us seem to be able to find the energy to do anything about this dissatisfaction. Doesn’t it seem slightly odd that the food that makes us lazy, complacent, and fat, is also the food that is the cheapest? Anyone who believes for a second that an entire hamburger, with lettuce, tomato, pickle and a sesame seed bun could possibly cost less than a bunch of carrots by accident has already lost the battle.
Take a look at the documentary; FOOD, INC. if you want to take the first steps towards understanding what were truly are up against as a race. One of the many points discussed is how the government tried to shut a manufacturer down for processing food in Mother Nature, instead of processing it in a bacteria-infested facility that is never truly clean or sterile. (In response, this manufacturer performed bacterial count of his product versus those processed in commercial FDA-approved facilities, and the results were nothing short of astonishing. His product came up nearly bacteria-free, and the commercially processed meat came up with a bacterial count so high, that it’s difficult to believe it’s deemed fit for human consumption.
We have been quietly conditioned to believe that heavily processed foods are better and safer for us than whole, natural foods. We have been conditioned to believe that if it doesn’t have a name brand on it, it can’t be trusted, when the opposite is almost always true. This works out great for the mega-corporations who are feverishly working to change the very laws that are supposed to govern them.
Over years of self-guided self-examination, formal study into human behavior, and years of self-examination with the aid of a mental health professional who also happened to be a deep psychologist and Buddhist practitioner, I realized that I have amassed nearly 20,000 pages of journal entries to seeking answers to the most fundamental questions in life, such as: Why am I here? What am I most passionate about? How do I find peace? How do I find true and lasting happiness? How can I make a difference in some way?
One of the first amazing things I discovered is that the answer couldn’t be any simpler: We are all distracted, and in ways we’ve never been distracted before.
And, we’re so distracted that many of us have forgotten who we truly are. We are so much more than we’re led to believe. We have so much personal power but have simply been conditioned out of believing it in order to make us the perfect, complacent consumers who never question anything. I’m not saying there is a deep conspiracy to separate us from our true nature, what I am saying is that we have been separated from our true nature as a result of modern society, and that just happens to be perfect recipe for keeping us distracted and disconnected.
We all want to feel important, we want to feel like we matter, we all want to love and to be loved. Social media has allowed that to appear to happen, while its true function is to further isolate and separate us. Selfies and the “Me Generation” is reaching epic proportions, and, as mentioned earlier, has evolved into the next generation, known as the “Me Me Me Generation”. It’s been said that the scale of distraction in our modern world is unlike any other.
For those who lust for money and power, most of us have become the easily directed sheep in this new dystopian dream. We truly are becoming easier to manipulate, and becoming more complacent by the day. Personal freedoms are being taken away at an alarming pace, and fewer individuals are trying to do anything about it, partly because we figure that someone else will do it, and partly because we’re being trained to believe that we can’t make a bit of difference anyway.
THE STONE AGE
How could such a massive assault on our sensibilities be so effective, and is something on that grand of a scale truly possible?
Quite scarily enough, the answer is not only “Yes”, but we are far easier to manipulate than we ever thought possible. If you’re curious into looking at this, take a look at “Brain Games” available on Netflix. It’s an entertaining and interesting way to see how easily we can be distracted.
If you want to take it a step further, let’s look back to our roots for a minute: In a still-emerging field of “evolutionary psychology” [https://hbr.org/1998/07/how-hardwired-is-human-behavior], researchers are discovering that you can take the human out of the Stone Age, but you can’t take the Stone Age out of the human. This is a profound realization, and it is helpful in understanding how to distract us humans today. The more we are distracted, the less we think for ourselves, or question authority, or think outside of the box, or remember that we were all born Enlightened, with direct access to our highest spiritual selves in every moment of our lives.
In turn, we become easier to market to, to turn into the perfect consumer, to shape us into dispassionate people who don’t even notice when our personal rights and freedoms are taken away, as we don’t even bother to protest when we find out how grossly we’ve been violated and manipulated as a nation by our government or massive corporations like big pharma.
According to the evolutionary psychologists, the basic structures of the human mind that are hardwired into each one of us. Unfortunately for us in many regards, much of this hardwiring that allowed us to climb to the top of the food chain, is also the very hardwiring that is turning us into these dystopian sheep:
- Emotions Before Reason – Long ago, it wasn’t always rational thought that allowed us to survive; it was often instinct and emotion. Early humans needed to make split-second decisions that could spell life or death. As a result, emotions became the first screen to anything humans perceive in the massive world outside. And, when we’ve been conditioned out of our natural, healthy minds, when we trust our emotion and our instinct, the results can be disastrous. Humans were faced with predators equipped to kill, as well as natural disasters and outside invaders. Those who were able to rely on their instinct got to reproduce and pass their genes onto the next generation. Although we like to think that we’ve evolved beyond our Stone Age selves, there is a great deal of merit to understanding and accepting some of the hardwired behavior patterns every person has ingrained in them. One simple modern day example: Telling someone they failed at a task still triggers the fight or flight response. Telling someone you appreciate their effort, but there’s ways we can improve has a completely different effect. Give it a try sometime.
- Loss Aversion Except When Threatened – Our early ancestors weren’t explorers or risk takers because taking risks often meant death. We were genetically programmed to be conservative and fearful of the unknown. Not surprisingly, the most successful religious systems in history cater to those who are conservative and terrified of the unknown. Statistically speaking, most people reportedly avoid loss when comfortable with life and fight furiously when survival requires them to do so. When we are already dissatisfied with life or feeling powerless, the irrational behavior can ratchet up almost logarithmically. When we add in our curiousbuilt-in Propensity for Life, it’s easy to see patterns of behavior begin to emerge that can drive us in unconscious ways to feel that we’re not in control of our individual lives. As Robert Wright says in “The Moral Animal”; “Understanding the often unconscious nature of genetic control is the first step toward understanding that we’re all puppets, and our best hope for even partial liberation is to try to decipher the logic of the puppeteer. The full scope of the logic will take some time to explain, but I don’t think I’m spoiling the end of the movie by noting here that the puppeteer seems to have exactly zero regard for the happiness of the puppets.”
- Confidence Before Realism – We used to live in harsh conditions. Many of us still do. Evolution greatly favored those who believed they were going to survive. Combined with brute strength, that confidence would likely make them the alpha male. That attracted mates and followers and increased the likelihood of survival. Ask women today what they find most important in a potential parter and it’s rarely looks; it’s confidence and/or power, which often equates to money. (That may cause backlash, but I’m just the messenger, not the multiple scientists and phD’s who have spent lifetimes decoding our genetic programming. And, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we may find this to be far more accurate of an assessment than many would like to believe.) We size up potential mates before the first words are ever spoken. Whether a man appears to be in a position of power or has a lot of money, those are all signs of confidence. This isn’t being superficial; this is millions of years of evolution ensuring its own survival. It doesn’t mean we can’t find deeper connections, but there is so much that goes on behind the scenes in our minds, distracted or unhealthy minds can quickly give way to living on only the surface of life. And, we revert to looking for those superficial qualities that we think will bring us happiness. (For those interested to learn more, read or listen to my book called “Awakening to Your True Nature“.)
- Classification Before Calculus – We had to know, in an instant, who to trust and who not to trust in order to survive. We had to know which plants we could trust to not kill us. This gave us a deep and intimate connection with our environment, whether it was sorting the berries that wouldn’t poison us, or simply knowing who to let sit at our campfire. It’s difficult for us to fathom, but ancient peoples had an intimate knowledge of every single plant, animal and person in their environment. Early humans were experts at body language, at paying attention to the minute details that often go unnoticed today. As a result, at least according to evolutionary psychology, humans became hardwired to stereotype people based on very small pieces of evidence. Calculus wasn’t nearly as important as knowing your environment. Our bodies are on a singular mission (whether or not we’re aware of it) to ensure the survival of the species, whether it’s individually or as a whole. Split second decisions could literally mean the difference between life and death in our early history. Our genetic coding doesn’t take that reality lightly and has programmed in all kinds of safeguards to ensure our survival. One of those survival tactics is to make split second assessments of people after just a few moments of interaction with them. Think about how much you feel you know about a person by simply greeting them. How they respond, the tone they use, the words they choose, the time it takes to respond, their comfort level, the look in their eyes, their body language, their outward appearance, their personal hygiene, and so on; these are the numerous clues we take in and process both consciously and unconsciously with every encounter.
- Gossip – Evolutionary psychology contends that human beings have stayed alive and increased their chances of reproducing by knowing key information about people and events. We need to know who we can trust. We need to know what the next clan over is doing. We need to know if a storm is coming, if people are dying from diseases, where the best place to gather berries or where the best hunting grounds are. Gossip wasn’t just a way to interact and pass the time, it was another survival essential for humans in general. Controlling gossip was an early means of control, by creating rumors that would get circulated, or squashing information before it had a chance to spread.
- Empathy and Mind Reading – Here is an interesting one, and one I find particular fascination with. It’s believed that people are programmed for friendliness because it was another means of ensuring the survival of the species. We needed empathy to build connections with our families, social group, or the world at large. We need to know if someone can be trusted, if what they are telling us is true or not. We need to have the ability to decipher these things at a most instinctual level. For example, one of the earliest means of instilling trust with strangers was an offer of food. This can be seen in dramatic display in a modern day clip of Jean-Pierre Dutilleux offering salt and sugar to a tribe that had supposedly never seen a white man before. He was facing several bow and arrows pointed and cocked. The members of the tribe had to make a split-second decision about whether or not he could be trusted. Jean-Pierre very carefully chose to offer two food items that are only found in trace amounts in nature, and can be an intensely flavorful experience for those who can’t go to the local grocery store to buy all they want of it. And, in some of my favorite moments of drama ever, it worked. (Some have contested that this was a staged encounter, but it illustrates this key point nonetheless.)
- Contest and Display – As described in “How Hardwired Is Human Behavior?” by Nigel Nicholson: “To establish status in early human societies, people (especially males) frequently set up contests, such as games and battles, with clear winners and losers.” This one practically speaks for itself as we are a contest-obsessed society. And, we’re not alone, in a fascinating read called “Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes”, key aspects of establishing dominance is by contests and often aggressive displays of power and prowess. And, this seems to be a trait that is slanted heavily towards the male population, and not the female. This is one of the most primitive core aspects of the subconscious genetic control that can often run our lives far more intensely than we’d like to admit. I’m not a fan competitions as a means of establishing dominance in my personal life, and that simple character trait alone has led to some curious results when simply interacting with other males, friend or foe.
- Organizational Design – Humans were never loners. Loners would not have nearly as great a chance of survival as those in packs. We are genetically programmed to yearn to belong to a community in some way, no matter how radical some of them may appear to us. We organize ourselves socially, and are held together by community bonds. We are also most loyal to a single community at a time, and typically to one we feel most connected to. In the end, though, we seem to prefer one to one connections more than group connections, and an iPhone screen, computer, or television screen, believe it or not, can provide that dual connection to both the one on one intimacy, as well as the connection to the larger whole.
PROXEMICS – OUR FOUR ZONES
Why have I spent so much time on these details? It’s because all of the points above were hard-wired into us long, long before there was prepackaged foods, electricity, or blinking screens. Much of our evolutionary past involved simply ensuring the survival of the species, and many of those early genetic controllers are in direct opposition to building meaningful, lasting connections today as the genuine bonds that occurred throughout every aspect of our lives are being replaced with a few things so insidious, that the majority of humans cannot make it through their day without interacting with at least one these things.
Psychologists have discovered that we have 3-4 primal zones; intimate, personal, social and public. The study of these nonverbal zones is called “Proxemics”. Intimate zone is within touching distance; which is the space our cell phone occupies. Next is out personal zone, from two to 4 feet. That’s the space our laptop or tablet occupies. Next up is our social zone, which is four to twelve feet away, which is exactly where our televisions are. I like Edward T. Hall’s personal reaction bubbles the best, included below:
These zones are now being researched intensely by programmers and marketers to modify how we are presented with information. Apple and Microsoft didn’t just randomly alter their operating systems because they thought the interface looked cool and modern. They have altered their systems to modify how we interact with our devices.
And to what end?
Understanding these zones and how they affect us psychologically makes us better consumers. It makes our compulsive consumption far more accessible to us, custom tailored to each of our 4 zones. This is no different with Google; they know exactly what drives us, they spent amounts of money never before seen in history, to learn how to manipulate our searches, to modify what we see in the results and how, and to narrow what the results and websites will look like when we do search.
Already, a massive shift in the internet occurred in early 2015, when Google declared that non-mobile friendly websites would begin to rank lower on Search Results. This led to a massive shift in Google rankings, especially for existing websites. It also forced what websites needed to look like in order to fit this new paradigm into a very narrow look and feel. (Look to www.Kava.com and www.Florascience.com as an example.) Uniquely individual websites that clearly reflect a person or brand, as we march towards uniformity and the fulfillment of a marketer’s wet dream, may now be a relic of the past.
Speaking of; those ads that follow you everywhere when you visit a website? That’s just the beginning. There is now technology that will present ads to you based on proximity, reminders that will pop up when its a loved one’s birthday, ads that will appear in very specific locations, and so on. Yet no one seems to have any problem with any of this mass manipulation. Could it be because their primal needs are so perfectly being met?
Advertisers have figured out that we’ve got those distinct interaction zones, and they are in a mad dash to figure out how to best market to each of those zones. None of us are any the wiser, as our freedom is getting taken away from us on a nearly daily basis, as we truly do become the avid, ravenous and distracted consumer that every government and marketer hopes we’ll be, as we blindly click, swipe, and press, to fill what is becoming an increasingly large void in each one of us.
The sociobiological history regarding these zones offers startling revelations. As humans, we have a need to connect with each of these four spaces throughout our days and our lives. And, how we connect with each of these spaces is quite different. Coupled with evolutionary psychology, the reasons why so many of us are addicted to our blinking screens is becoming vividly apparent.
THOSE BLINKING SCREENS
From an evolutionary psychology perspective, this is what comes to mind when attempting to connect this modern phenomena with our ancient selves:
- Helps us feel connected and alleviates feelings of powerlessness (Organizational Design)
- Allows us to transmit information far more effectively (Gossip)
- Makes us feel more important (Confidence Before Realism)
- A gauge to trust others (Empathy and Mind Reading)
- Outlet for stress
- Lowers anxiety in many cases
- Provides false sense of connectedness
- Instant gratification
- Decreases feelings of loneliness
- Prevents us from ever having to truly sit with ourselves
The needs that our mobile devices and smart phones are handling for us is a powerful and intoxicating recipe. The bell curve for this phenomena also peaks with millennials. The millennial generation is interacting all day but almost entirely through a screen. You’ve seen them on dates, with both people staring at their cellphones. You’ve seen them texting each other even though they’re sitting right next to each other. You’ve seen them They might look calm, but they’re deeply anxious about missing out on something better.
In several recent studies, it’s even been decisively shown that many humans may now suffer from a condition called “iPhone Separation Anxiety”. It turns out that we may make Stone Age judgments about ourselves and others based solely on our and their mobile devices. In clinical tests, those who displayed iPhones were instantly trusted more by their peers and others. Those who belonged to a social network were instantly trusted more. Those who not just displayed a public profile, but were actively using it were viewed in a more positive light than those who didn’t.
On the flipside: Those who had their phones taken away in the middle of studies not only had a marked increase in anxiety levels, but when the phone was activated with a phone call, text, or email during that separation time, anxiety levels shot up dramatically. Read all about that in “iPhone Separation Anxiety” or “iPhone Separation Anxiety Is Real”, as well as many others starting to emerge from the field of psychology.
The overwhelming consensus is that anxiety levels increase dramatically when a smartphone is taken away, which is the very definition of addiction. It seems many of us are becoming addicted to our smartphones. A massive shift in human consciousness is occurring — just 10 years ago, none of us carried around miniature devices in our pockets that were connected to an infinite stream of data. Now, just a few years later, many people will actually become ill if they don’t have their device within touching distance. (I imagine someone sitting in couples’ therapy, with a person in one chair and their mobile device in the other.)
WHAT CAN WE DO?
It’s going to be interesting what the next few decades hold for us. With more than half the planet already buried in electronic gizmos, and technology only increasing in sleekness and psychological effectiveness, while massive corporations pour countless dollars into figuring out the best way to manipulate us from “cradle to grave” — this is becoming an increasing behemoth of an issue with fewer and fewer people seeming to notice.
The internet empowers each one of us to find the truth for ourselves. Yes, it’s still obfuscated, denied, and buried, but the truth is also out there as well. We can learn about how fast food is killing us. We can all find out why diabetes has now literally reached epidemic proportions in the USA (See “The Diabetes Epidemic” for details). We can see what Facebook has single-handedly done to secure our disconnect by largely stuffing us with what is ultimately empty and meaningless connections that are devoid of any true intimacy.
We have the power to step away from Facebook, to designate time in the day to shut off our iPhones, to learn how to not have our blood pressure raise and anxiety level go up when our phone has lost its charge, or when we can’t find it.
We can actually pick up the phone and connect with other people’s voices. Or, better yet, we can choose to meet up in person and have a face to face conversations about everything that makes us feel isolated and afraid. What would the nearly immediate result be? An instant decrease of our feelings of frustration, isolation, and of being so alone.
We are all being distracted on a scale that history has never seen. The means and methods to distract us from our original selves, to prevent us from trusting our own hearts, is increasing at an alarming rate. What could any one of us do to combat what seems like overwhelming and insurmountable odds?
I know it seems that the answer couldn’t possibly be that simple, but it truly is. Meditation is the pathway to remembering our true nature, it’s a means to help us find solace in an ever-increasing array of distractions. If we want to reject the idea of meditation as new age nonsense, that is one of the truest tests that we are not in touch with our true nature. Anyone who has awoken to their true selves, who has remembered the powerful being that they truly are, would recognize meditation as a tool toward discovering ones path to personal happiness.
For those who say; “I gave meditation a shot, but didn’t see any benefits from it” — this is another indication of denial of our true nature. How could I know this? Because one of the most direct paths to one’s fully awakened self is the practice of self-examination, of sitting quietly with oneself for long enough periods of time that the mind and its many distractions quiet down enough for us to start to remember who we truly are.
This practice is commonly referred to as meditation, and now; mindfulness as well.
Mindfulness is a word typically used differently than it was intended to be understood in Zen Buddhism, but it’s comforting to know that some important practices are making their way to the mainstream. (See “The Skeptic’s Guide to Mindfulness” to find out more.)
As Stephen Batchelor says; “When Buddha spoke of awareness and mindfulness, he spoke of it as starting with the process of breathing. Once one becomes confident and able to be still, yet fully alert with one’s breath, then one can move into the awareness of the body as a whole. Now, when we say ‘awareness of the body’, this doesn’t mean that we pretend to have a bird’s eye view of our physical body. It means an awareness of the body as the body discloses itself to itself. Just as the breath is a series of rhythmic sensations, without any borders. It vibrates through the entire torso and limbs — it brings us into the sheer sensual physicality of the body.”
As I discuss in “Awakening to Your True Nature” in regard to what mindfulness truly means; “This isn’t so much a reference to being kind and compassionate to those around you, as it is about slowing down. How many of us actually enjoy the food we eating, or enjoy the sunshine or a flower blooming? How many of us truly appreciate the person across from us? How many of us really listen to the conversation we’re having, without calculating what our next words are going to be?”
In the mainstream, mindfulness seems to refer to the idea that we remain mindful of others or that we take time out of our day to meditate. It’s through empathy towards others that true compassion is born. And it’s through compassion that we discover our own true nature. So, whatever leads one to a closer intimacy with themselves works for me.
And, in order to sit with oneself for extended periods of time, it requires a healthy mind. Without a healthy mind, most practice of mindfulness and meditation will be lost; like pouring water through a towel. Until our minds are free of their dysfunction, of the deeply imbedded indoctrination, of the biases and abuses that have been hard-wired into our minds, we can never truly awaken.
So again, how can we make this happen? Who can we trust? How can we possibly know where to begin?
It all begins with a question or two or ten:
- Am I more than I’ve been led to believe I am?
- Do I believe in a religion that is based on mediating my connection to god?
- Is it possible that fast food being cheaper than fresh food isn’t an accident?
- Does the government and big pharma truly have our best interests in mind?
- Do I feel disconnected from what I feel might be my true self?
- Can I remember a time where I was truly happy?
- Do I feel I am distracted or is my finger on the pulse of my true self?
- If someone cuts me off in traffic, is my immediate reaction anger?
- Does it seem I’m less patient than I used to be?
- Am I feeling more and more powerless to make a change in my own life?
- Does the world seem overwhelmingly large?
Once we begin to ask the right questions; the questions that might lead us to a place of awakening, we have begin a lifelong process called “The Hero’s Journey” that has been talked about in all of mythology. Some of us still believe that mythological tales are about demons and dragons, but in every single case, they are about our true nature, about our fall from grace, and about us fighting our own inner demons to remember those true selves.
Once we start to ask the questions, we can start to make a change. We can begin to make room for genuine intimacy in our lives. We can truly listen to our partner, we can take time to truly enjoy the moment we’re in, to actually taste that sip of coffee or that lunch we are looking forward to eating. We can interact with each other in person, we can put away our cellphones and sit in awkward silence as we figure out how to carry on a real-life conversation again.
As we start to rediscover our center, a whole bunch of amazing things starts to happen:
- Our anxiety level goes down
- We have more energy
- We start to make healthier decisions for ourselves
- We start to trust our heart and our opinion
- We begin to remember that we are powerful beings
- We begin to accept that power and integrate it into our lives
- We begin to see a decrease in sadness and an increase in joy
- We begin to see our well-being jump dramatically
It’s through this Hero’s Journey that we face our fears, that we face seemingly insurmountable tasks in order to slay our own dragons, that we awaken to who we truly are, allowing us to shine as brightly as we can, to inspire others to wake up, to remember who they are, to begin to make a positive difference in their own lives, and eventually; a positive difference in other people’s lives, simply by being exactly who you are.
And that is something that is so underrated these days; authenticity. So many of us are becoming better actors, better manipulators without even knowing it. We are becoming better at convincing ourselves of things that aren’t true, of telling lies to ourselves, and consequently to others. So many want what they want for themselves, that it gets more and more difficult to know who to trust.
Authenticity is infectious. It breeds all kinds of amazing things like compassion, integrity, and scruples. Authenticity also automatically encourages accountability. Accountability gives rise to compassion, and once we have compassion, true, authentic compassion, empathy is born and our worlds change in an instant and forever.
So, meditation and mindfulness truly is an extremely powerful weapon at our disposal. It can single-handedly provide is with the space to remember our true nature, to remember that we are all Enlightened, from the day we’re born until the day we die, that we all are truly connected, and that what we do to ourselves truly does affect others. It’s incredible to see it in the mainstream, to see clinical studies being conducted in relation to it. The results are nothing short of stunning, but this is something that Buddhist monks have known for thousands of years.
All it takes is a cursory look on the internet to see how meditation and mindfulness can alter our unhealthy relationships with food. In the April 2009 issue of “Appetite”, an interesting read is “Exploratory randomised controlled trial of a mindfulness-based weight loss intervention for women“. It shows how powerful mindfulness-based approaches can be for weight loss. Even Google and Twitter have realized The Power of Meditation and Mindfulness, and now have training for their employees on exactly how to do it.
I’ve always been drawn to writing about the journey to finding our true nature. My life was transformed when I made the choice to seek help for my unhealthy and emotionally abused mind. Within that time, I discovered that finding my way to emotional health is the exact parallel path to awakening to our true nature as has been discussed in countless spiritual texts, including Taoism, Zen, Buddhism, and many other spiritual traditions and texts. Through continuing to clarify my own truth, I hope to help others escape the indoctrination and abuse that we’ve been subjected to, of explaining why we’ve become so lost, and what it is we can do about it in some small way.
The project I have been focused on for years is slowly evolving over at www.MyZen.org. It’s a 10 hour course called “Awakening Your Buddha“, which teaches us how to have a healthy mind, in step-by-step and practical ways that we can actually use and implement in our daily lives.
We can do far more than we think. We need to find a way to be inspired to investigate for ourselves, to remember, for even a glimmer of a moment that we are all truly amazingly awake beings who can shape our reality in ways we never imagined. The moment we begin to trust our hearts wholly and completely is the moment everything becomes possible.
SIDE NOTE: “Even with the convergence of findings in these disciplines, the field of evolutionary psychology is controversial. Some scientists, for instance, believe that evolutionary psychology overstates the biogenetic origin of cultural mores and norms and understates the capacity of learning and language to shape human nature. Further, evolutionary psychology clearly challenges what some religions, including Christianity, believe about the creation and free will. And finally, the tenets of evolutionary psychology also directly dispute a great deal of popular management theory, which contends that people can change their personalities if correctly trained or motivated. Thus, evolutionary psychology may not be the only lens through which managers choose to view their work and their world, but it is a challenging perspective that calls for a closer look.” – How Hardwired Is Human Behavior? by Nigel Nicholson
Buss, David. Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind, Fifth Edition. 5th ed. London: Psychology, 2014. Print.
Barkow, Jerome H., Leda Cosmides, and John Tooby. The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture. New York: Oxford UP, 1992. Print.
Wright, Robert. The Moral Animal: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology. New York: Pantheon, 1994. Print.
Pinker, Steven. How the Mind Works. New York, Norton, 1997. Print.
Ridley, Matt. The Origins of Virtue. New York, Viking, 1998. Print
Nigel Nicholson. “How Hardwired Is Human Behavior?” Harvard Business Review. Harvard, 01 July 1998. Web. 28 Feb. 2016.
Joel Stein. “Millennials: The Me Me Me Generation” Monday, May 20, 2013 – Time Magazine