[Man] sacrifices his health in order to make money.
Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health.
And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present;
the result being that he does not live in the present or the future;
he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived. ~ Dalai Llama
Next email. Next appointment. Next task.
Next relationship. Next dynamic within relationship. Next phase of relationship.
Next celebration. Next mourning. Next development.
Next day. Next month. Next year.
Next breath. Next moment. Next phase.
So many people are swiping through life as if it were live-action Tinder: next next next next next next next!
This paradigm and way of moving through life is causing grave damage to our psyches, bodies, lives, and the planet at large.
In many if not most ways, now is the best time ever to be alive (as a human, at least). And, living in the ‘developed’ world, I/we have it the best of the best.
For most of human history, there was much to do: ensure there was food, water, shelter, safety, family, community, etc. Sometimes this likely required ‘burning the midnight oil’ — putting in long arduous hours to bring this harmony into fruition. For the rest of the time, when things became settled and stable, the only ‘work’ left to do was to be: to sing, to dance, to share stories around the fire, to take care of each other; to be.
In our (western) modern reality, for the privileged amongst us, all of our ‘needs’ are met. And yet, it feels like we have less time than ever to be. It feels that many have forgotten this key skill all together.
The technological, infrastructural, convenience developments that were meant to set us free — instant digital communication, computer processing, transportation and access, abundance of resources — have shackled many of us more than ever.
We are living in an economic structure that very much perpetuates and relies on this paradigm of constant doing. Because being is bad for the economy.
Being does not generate buying. Which does not grow the economy. Which is what is needed for our economy to be healthy. Always be growing. I.e. always be consuming, more and more every year. (As if that’s the solution for our planet right now).
The fact that the 8 hour work-day is still the modus operandi for most businesses/jobs/individuals is shocking. (Note: this is assuming that it is only an 8 hour work-day — which is rarely the case for most high-paying corporate jobs. Also that we start priming children for this reality by having them sit in attention for many hours a day is even more disturbing).
This economic paradigm creates a scarcity loop — we trade in our time to make money, then we pay our money to compensate for the lack of time we have. We eat out because there’s no time to cook, buy items because there’s no time to make, throw away goods because there’s no time to fix or mend.
Ditching one’s corporate job does not inherently guarantee a shift in this, either. I have witnessed many people experience an ‘awakening’; leave the corporate world to pursue their passion of arts, entrepreneurship, soul purpose; only to operate within this same paradigm in their new pursuit.
It’s an ironic thing when the painter, singer/song-writer, conscious event producer, spiritual coach, healer, or other entrepreneur — the one who left the corporate world to pursue their highest calling and (presumably) create their greatest freedom, health and joy — ends up in the same shackled, self-deprecating, no-time-for-self, guilty-if-I-don’t-log–8+-hours-a-day loop.
So they dilly-dally in front of their computer, because this is what ‘work’ is. Or they fill their plate with endless tasks, meetings, commitments — many of which are not in true highest service to their agenda, but rather fulfill the illusion of ‘work’ — doing. This programming runs deep in us.
The end result is we sacrifice our exercise, diets, health, relationships, free-time, happiness — our very humanity, the only ‘work’ there truly is to ‘do’ — to the incessant doing beast of our economic paradigm.
This incessant doing state wreaks havoc on our nervous systems — and thereby our bodies, health, happiness, well-being.
Every animal in nature knows the value of rest — most species spend most of their time in this state. The lion pride musters all of their energy to engage in a hunt — and then rests for 18+ hours a day otherwise. Our chimp cousins build a bed in the trees each night, and get 10 hours of shut eye. Even our feline and K9 friends are constantly setting the do-rest-balance example for us.
We humans are not separate from nature — we are nature. And we are operating in disharmony with our own design. To our own detriment — and that of everyone and everything around us.
As we lose the capacity to simply be — without needing to reach for our phones, work, food, distractions — we put our nervous system in a constant sympathetic state. In contrast to the parasympathetic state of rest and relaxation, the sympathetic state is activated in emergencies to generate energy (i.e. fight or flight).
Our nervous system is constantly on, engaged, primed for a ‘fight’ — it is constantly being told to ‘do, do do!’ Drive through traffic, get here, this needs to get out now, do this, here is another distraction, non-stop-incessant-every-moment-all-the-time!
We are the product of the accumulation of every experience we go through: every conversation, connection, relationship, and moment imprints into our being and adds up to cumulatively create our whole self. At a certain point of incessant doing, sympathetic nervous system activation — this becomes all we know. Our baseline setting rises up so that we actually ‘forget’ how to be; we become so addicted to the doing that the being becomes uncomfortable.
It’s as if we’re constantly driving our cars 60 mph — in 1st gear. Indefinitely, most moments of every day. Is it any surprise, then, when burnout occurs? That a common cold will penetrate us and knock us out for a week? That we feel the need to numb out with food, alcohol, drugs, sex and/or media? When the nervous system never gets to enter rest, we pay the price for it — in our bodies, health, spaciousness, attention span, relationships, etc.
That is then the version-of-self that is showing up in the world — at work, with family, creating the collective energetic field and creations of our species, culture, and planet.
Slow Down into Now
Just like waves of the ocean, there will always be what comes next — so is the blessing of life. Each life ‘wave’ lasts a moment, a while, or a lifetime — all is finite.
We’re all heading to the same destination — none of us are making it out of here alive. The way to maximize the value of this fleeting life, from what I can see/feel, is: how much can we slow down, be present for, feel each and every now moment.
How much can we savor that next drink of water, every bite of our next meal?
How present can we be in this now communication — email, phone, in person — without mentally wandering to what comes next?
How much can we stay in the stimuli of sex, without rushing through the finish line?
How much can we train our mind to come back to this moment, right now?
How much is our consciousness elsewhere: thinking about play when at work, thinking about work when out with friends, telling ourselves self-deprecating stories and feedback at every opportunity along the way?
How much are we unconsciously reaching for our phones, computers, food, even connections and activities — in avoidance of feeling and being exactly where and as we are?
With this awareness, how much can we mentally and physiologically upload gratitude and presence of how great this and every now moment is? After all, we have chosen to be exactly where we are — otherwise we wouldn’t be here. How much can we step into appreciation for right now?
Speaking it forward aloud, fully acknowledging it, this breath — without any need, attachment, nor haste to get to the next one. There is nowhere to get to, after-all.
This is how we cultivate greater peace, joy and love in our lives. This is how we restructure our culture, society, planet in ways of greater health and harmony. This is how we create and live our greatest lives.
The time for the next moment will come. Right now — we get to fully be in this one.