Doom and Gloom or Fine and Divine?
Is your glass half empty or half full? Is the sky partly sunny or partly cloudy? Are people fundamentally good or bad? These questions offer clues for determining how we view the world and our circumstances. Plagues, contagious diseases, stock market crashes, food and housing shortages, wars, climate change, natural disasters, flooding, droughts, over-population, terrorism, and more—there have always been crises in the world.
And, if we aren’t not concerned with a crisis that is taking place in the world, we are encumbered with a crisis taking place in our personal lives. Raising children, sibling rivalry, aging parents, quarrels with our partners, physical and mental health issues, drug and alcohol dependency, and financial hardships are just some of the issues we face on a microcosmic level.
Why then—if there have always been crises and personal problems—are we feeling the stress so much more intensely now? What is creating such an existential crisis within many of us that we feel as though we are suffering from more anxiety and depression than ever before?
LIFE WAS SIMPLER BACK IN THE DAY
Each generation has argued that life was simpler back in the day. “We didn’t have all the issues that we face today.” But do we really have more to be fearful and negative about today than we did decades, centuries, or even millenniums ago?
Would you argue that having to flee from a dinosaur was less stressful than dealing with the issues we face today? Would you prefer to risk life and limb to hunt food for your family every single day? How does dying from a common cold or flu sound compared to today’s medical miracles? Would having your baby in the fields while you were working be less stressful than at a sanitary hospital full of professionals? It’s almost funny to think that the things that stress us out the most today—injury and disease, personal and professional responsibilities, finances, relationships, loneliness—have always been a part of the human experience. And, today we have more support, help, and resources than ever to deal with them.
IS IT ILLOGICAL TO BE TECHNOLOGICAL?
Advances in technology have made it possible for us to keep a pulse on events taking place globally now. We are incessantly and ubiquitously bombarded with exposure to information that, if we allow it, can wreak havoc on our nervous system.
The news media relentlessly focuses on events that impact us negatively. For every “feel good” story, there are 100 devastating stories being transmitted. This reinforces negative bias—people tend to pay more attention to bad news than good news. Therein lies a driving force behind what could be catapulting so many of us into deep states of anxiety and depression. Newspapers, radio, podcasts, social media, and email inundate our nervous systems with toxicity and possess the capacity to shapeshift our rainbows and unicorns into clouds and dragons.
There isn’t more “bad” in the world, we’re just more aware of it, connected to the pipelines feeding it to us. There’s the quote from Thomas Gray’s 1742 poem, “Where ignorance is bliss, ‘tis folly to be wise.” While it might feel as though you are sometimes just better off not knowing, that’s just not true. Not knowing means we can’t react, rectify, make change, heal, and connect, but with that definitely comes some real pain. So how to cope?
IS YOUR GLASS HALF EMPTY?
Many of us experience a lot of the same trials and tribulations so, how is it that our beliefs and opinions vary so greatly when it comes to how we view the world and our circumstances? Why do some of us seem to float around without a care in the world, while others feel stressed the majority of the time? Why are some of us driven to see our glass half empty and believe that the world is full of doom and gloom, while others see a glass half full and believe that the world is fine and Divine. (Take note of the capital “D” in Divine, more on that later!) It’s all about perspective.
DO YOU LEAN TOWARD A DOOM & GLOOM OUTLOOK ON LIFE?
Ask yourself these questions:
1. When you are stressed and things look bleak, do you seek external validation for your actions and how you are feeling? Are you inclined to reach out to the friend who you know will commiserate with you and find yourself saying things like, “Well, that’s how everybody is these days, right?” or, “I have no choice—all the other parents are letting their kids do it, so, I have to let my kids do it”.
In an effort to confirm that there is nothing we can do to change our lot in life, we seek external validation because we may not yet be ready to do what is necessary to alleviate our stress. The self-study or work involved for such an undertaking can feel daunting. The overwhelm that comes from not knowing where to begin, can paralyze us with fear. We end up taking the path of least resistance and remain stuck in a rut. In the heat of the moment, this may seem like the easy way out but the post-digestive effect ends up driving our imbalances deeper within us, creating more difficulty to heal.
2. Do you find yourself uncomfortable with the idea of changing something in your life even if your current situation is making you unhappy?
It’s our nature to be drawn to what is habitual for us even if it is negative because change can be scary! This is one of the reasons why, when given the opportunity to improve our quality of life, we can’t quite bring ourselves to do what we need to do even if it is apparent that we will benefit from taking action.
3. When something goes wrong, is it your first instinct to place blame on someone else?
This reaction can fall under the heading of victim mentality. We need to take a good look in the mirror and face the fact that, in the majority of instances, we are not victims. We are responsible for where we end up in life.
4. Do you find yourself complaining about your problems more than doing something about them?
When we are complaining about our problems instead of taking action, nothing gets done. Hence, the saying “all talk and no action”. We keep coming up with excuses as an avoidance tactic for the discomfort we feel around not knowing if the action we take will be the right one. No one wants to fail, right? Just remember this acronym: FAIL=First Attempt In Learning. So, don’t worry, even if the action you take is the wrong action, it will eventually lead you down the path to where you need to be.
5. When someone suggests a solution to your problem do you give it a half-hearted attempt and when it doesn’t automatically work, eschew it for yet another suggestion?
This is especially true for those of us who have had things come easily to us in the past. If we are not able to perform the suggested “exercise” right off the bat, we tell ourselves that there is something wrong and we need to try something different instead. Many of us ignore the answers to our problems because the work entailed seems insurmountable or churns something up in us that we’d rather not be exposed to. However, the more we expose ourselves to challenging situations, the more resilient we become. And if we keep resisting what we need to do, the lesson will continue to present itself and persist until we address it. In short, what we resist, persists.
WHERE ARE YOU POINTING THE PROJECTOR?
An object that is used to project rays of light, especially an apparatus with a system of lenses for projecting slides or film onto a screen.
When we point the projector onto the screen outside ourselves (someone, something, a situation), the rays of light refract back at us. This obstructs our vision, making it hard for us to see, like an oncoming vehicle that flashes its high beams at us while driving. Without being able to see what is in front of us, we may lose our way and end up in a ditch..
When we direct the projector at our own screen (ourselves), our Divine rays of light refract out to illuminate what we need to see. Our Divine rays of light are whatever we perceive as our Highest Good. Some names for our highest good are God, Gods, Source, Spirit, Energy or, the Divine.
The essence of focusing the projector onto your own screen (yourself) allows you to connect to your highest good and inner knowing and refract your Divine rays of light out into the world. Your light will provide you with guidance and support.
FACTORS THAT INFLUENCE HOW WE THINK AND FEEL
Gut health and good digestion. The gut and mind are inextricably connected. Practices that benefit our gut health also serve to help alleviate mental stress. It is said that the gut manufactures at least 90% of serotonin-a neurotransmitter that benefits cognition, mood, memory and more. Balanced digestion is paramount to the health of body, mind, and spirit.
Ditch the devices and negative influences. If we are constantly bombarded with toxic information that is causing stress, we need to ditch our devices. This is not to say that we should stick our heads in the sand altogether. Rather, attenuate the amount of time spent on devices and moderate the sources from which the information is being derived.
Revamp relationships. Many of us spend a lot of time in the company of others. Are your partner and friends supportive or sabotaging? Relationships should uplift and expand us, not put us down and contract us. Do you need to detox from an unhealthy relationship?
Therapeutic practices/yoga/meditation. A great way to build a solid foundation that helps you navigate tough times and ease anxiety and depression is by seeking professional help. This can come in the form of therapy, yoga, workshops, online programs, and retreats.
METTA MEDITATION FOR TRANSFORMING EMOTIONS
There may be times when we must accept our circumstances as they are, without trying to change them. Metta meditation is a great tool for learning how to feel at ease with what is and transform negative emotions.
Metta meditation is the practice of offering loving-kindness. It can be directed at the Self, others, or the universe in general. It is an especially useful practice when you are experiencing negative feelings toward someone or a situation.
If it is the case that a situation cannot be changed for the better, metta meditation can support your ability to cope. If you’re struggling with overcoming intense feelings of anger or hatred toward others, metta meditation can provide a powerful panacea for dissolving those negative emotions. Overcoming these feelings is not only important for the person for whom they are directed at, but equally important for you because it is not possible to direct those feelings at another person without having them coarse through your veins. According to Buddha, “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
Try this this simple, yet effective metta meditation while seated comfortably with eyes closed:
May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be at peace with whatever I am given.
May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be at peace with whatever you are given.
May we be happy, may we be healthy, may we be at peace with whatever we are given.
If you prefer a guided approach, here is a beautiful loving-kindness meditation with Sharon Salzberg.