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Coping with Today's Collective Dysfunction

How can we stay grounded and sane in a world that seems crazier and more radical every day? It’s hard not to feel helpless or even hopeless with all the chaos surrounding us. We can easily find ourselves outraged, self-righteous, deeply saddened and certainly anxious about what the future holds for us individually and as a society. Given the state of our collective circumstances, these feelings are understandable especially when it can seem like a secure path forward is nowhere to be seen.

How do we cope with this insecurity and stay centered in the eye of the storm and not be swept away by the madness of society today? Look around and you see that typical “remedies” include overworking, excessive shopping, overexposure to media, and numbing out with drugs, alcohol and food. Similarly, creating personal dramas and being overly reactive and easily outraged are also behaviors that distract us from our discomfort. These strategies appear to work temporarily but we all know that they exacerbate the problem; and one way they do that is by creating and maintaining our disconnection.

What a paradox it is that we have never been more connected by technology, yet we are lonelier and more disconnected as evidenced by the increase in general unhappiness, mental health issues, suicide, mass shootings, not to mention the neglect of our planet; our own life source.

Feelings of disconnection can show up in different ways; as a sense of loneliness even when surrounded by friends, as a feeling of being bound to the rat race or filling our lives with joyless activities. It shows up by overeating and overdrinking, by uninspiring small talk or letting our anxious thoughts wreak havoc on our emotions and general health. In our society, it takes effort and a conscious decision to plug in and get connected; and no, not to the smart phone!

Plugging in through meditation

Often, I see that many of us are living from the neck up. We are numb to our bodies, filling them with poison, and over-identified with our thoughts, beliefs and habits. This is an exhausting and uninspired way to live and is a fast track to burn out, anxiety and depression. Cue meditation.

Some clients I work with share they have tried meditation and it didn’t “work”, they don’t know how to meditate, or they don’t have time to meditate. Fortunately, there are as many ways to meditate as there are people. Each person can find their own unique style and tailor it to what works for them. The point is to begin a practice, even if for just 5 minutes a day or for just 30 seconds before getting out of the car.

Meditation is a reconnection tool. We feel so disconnected from each other because we are disconnected from ourselves. Through meditation we can slow down and communicate with our bodies, and witness the incessant thought process encircling us including the ever present inner-critic with its continual judgement. It also shows us how these thought patterns are keeping us stuck and contribute to our suffering. With a consistent meditation practice, these thoughts and critical voices begin to settle becoming more of a background noise rather than a hard core metal band in your head.

Meditation is a way for us to disengage from the “thinker” and cultivate the space in which thoughts inevitably arise. Thoughts come and go, as do emotions, and of course the body comes and goes too. So what’s left? The awareness that all these things are coming and going. The awareness that all this is happening is the space we cultivate and reconnect with. This space is teeming with vitality, creativity, and joy. This is our well-spring of life and once we become regular visitors, a conduit opens allowing for that energy to flow through us. This is a reconnection with yourself, the most sacred part of yourself; the heart. And what do hearts yearn for? They yearn for connection. 

As we practice nurturing this expansive space within, it naturally seeks out heart elsewhere. And so while our current situation is an anxious World Wide Web of brains and processors, by reconnecting to self and others in a heart-centered way, we can begin to create a World Wide Web of love and compassion. So, I don’t know what the road is like ahead, and yes it is anxiety-inducing, but I do know that by following the way of the heart and reconnecting to self and others, that we pave a path in the right direction.

If you live in the Research Triangle Area of North Carolina and would like to explore ways to cultivate a meditation practice that works for you, please feel free to contact me. My office is in downtown Apex.

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