I don’t know about you, but maintaining a balanced state of being is my greatest challenge in life. As if it weren’t already difficult enough to deal with my own monkey mind, it’s an even greater challenge not to allow the words or actions of others to affect our emotional state of being. Like a pendulum, my mood can swing from one extreme to another. It’s enough to give one mental whiplash!
It seems that one of technology’s greatest strengths—the ease of sharing information–is rapidly becoming its Achilles heel as humans are now being bombarded on a daily basis by an avalanche of data, information and imagery. Personally, I’m consciously aware that the chatter and inner conflict I experience has become more pronounced as I’ve delved ever more deeply into the realm of my online existence.
For those of us who already possess a tendency to be high strung and internalize much of the world’s suffering, this information overload sets us up for both emotional and physiological challenges. In our 24/7 online world, how do we sort the chaff from the grain in our search for truth and meaning—two quantities that appear to be in meager supply these days?
This is especially true for anyone who’s still paying attention to the political rumblings coming out of Washington, D.C., London, Moscow and a number of other world capitals. Like many, I often feel helpless to bring about what I see as positive changes within systems that are rife with corruption, infighting and corporate one-upmanship.
Risks of being overwhelmed
Being overwhelmed by unsettling external stimuli without having the ability to channel that energy in a positive way is one of the greatest challenges I see for humankind currently. Whether it’s mass shootings in the USA or mob violence in India, we are bearing witness to the effects of not being able to process all this input.
If a society is already sick—as I believe is the case with the USA—then it’s even easier for unbalanced individuals (usually male) to show their frustration by lashing out at the very society that has created them. In other words, we all share complicity in such outcomes. The rapid changes in the way we interact are happening at a time when our mental healthcare systems seem completely inadequate for the task at hand.
The stress produced by our unnatural lifestyles and constant consumption of ever more information can also take a toll on our physical health. I’m convinced that the Crohn’s disease I live with daily was activated by a very stressful period I experienced just prior to being hospitalized and diagnosed while living in Thailand.
Is it any wonder that autoimmune diseases are on the rise in the West, along with skyrocketing rates of heart disease, cancer and diabetes? Humans are now spending an inordinate amount of time sitting in front of and gazing endlessly at a dizzying variety of electronic devices.
So, the big question becomes: How do we keep ourselves open to an adequate awareness of our world (and ourselves), while maintaining some sort of balance between the contradicting forces that are constantly swirling around us?
Can a seeker of knowledge—the infinite, spiritual kind that surely exists in our universe—maintain an emotional equilibrium while interacting daily with a world that appears to be spiraling out of control?
A means of escape
Perhaps this is the reason some groups choose to isolate themselves from the wider culture in an effort to control the constant external feed. Society often labels such groups as ‘cults’ without fully comprehending their reasons for rejecting the accepted norms.
Still others–many others in fact–choose the more immediate escape route available via pharmaceuticals and other chemical and natural substances, seeking anything that will ease their worries and dull their pain temporarily. Some also see suicide as the ultimate escape from the acute pain caused by an overtly complex world.
While I think it’s necessary to self-regulate the input we receive on a daily basis, escaping from it entirely means that we remove ourselves from being a part of the solution to the problems we’ve all helped create.
As I’ve said many times on this blog, there are no easy answers to the havoc we humans continue to produce. All I can do is pose questions and write about my own experiences in the hope that it will help me figure out my own place in all this chaos. If in some way my words have a positive influence on others, then my time is being well-spent.
Seeking a healthy balance in life
I decided many years ago, after going through bouts of depression and self-loathing, that I wanted my life to be as healthy and emotionally fulfilling as possible. I also made a personal commitment to putting in all the work it would take to make it so.
I also realize that as a white Western male, it’s much easier for me to put all my little ducks in a row than it is for much of the world’s population, but I still believe that we all can become trapped on the wrong side of the same walls.
Modern humans, despite our technological advances (and possibly because of them) seem to be finding it more difficult to achieve a state of balance than was the case for our not so sophisticated ancestors.
What are we missing and where can we look for answers?
There’s a reason why stress-reduction practices such as yoga and meditation have become ever more popular world-wide along side the rise of the internet, social media and major changes that are taking place in both the workplace and at home.
Instead of bringing us promised happiness and freedom, many new technologies have simply added more possibilities to our already complicated lives, in turn producing the feeling that we can never catch up or do enough. While possibilities can certainly make life more interesting, feeling pressured to make ever more choices can be very disorienting and cause confusion which then becomes stressful for our bodies and minds.
Belief in a higher power
In an effort to find comfort and a degree of stability in a rapidly changing world, many people look for guidance within the fold of one of the world’s great religions. Through their various teachings, these philosophies may have different methods of achieving their objectives, but they all seek a common goal—an end to the suffering (both physical and psychological) we encounter while trapped in these mortal bodies.
For Christians, accepting the grace of Jesus Christ guarantees them a heavenly home after death. Muslims believe that by proclaiming Allah to be the one and only God and by following certain principles—the 5 pillars—they will also have a place in paradise after death.
On the other hand, Buddhists see this life as a continuous loop of birth and rebirth and seek freedom from this cycle of human suffering which they believe is gained through meditation and a freeing of the inner consciousness (‘soul’ if you like) known as reaching nirvana.
Hindu’s find comfort through participation in a rich pattern of ancient traditions that involve elaborate ceremonies and festive celebrations of colorful deities along with a variety of practices, including the affiliated practice of yoga.
Some people worship the forces of nature and have historically imbued all living things—trees, rocks and especially animals—with supernatural powers. Elements of these animistic belief systems can be found in present-day Christianity in Mexico and Buddhism in Japan.
No one group has the market cornered on truth
I’m not someone who believes there’s one path or way to reach a higher consciousness or freedom from human suffering. I leave it up to each individual to seek their own truth and decide when they’ve found it.
Nature is a soothing balm
In my youth, I escaped the double whammies of peer pressure and hormonal imbalances by escaping into the natural world of the farm where I grew up. As sad as it may sound, the only times I have ever felt completely whole and at peace is when I’ve been surrounded by the calming rhythms of wilderness, be it in the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific NW, the tropical rain forests of SE Asia or the vast deserts of the Middle East.
I’m consciously making an effort these days to unplug when I feel the chatter becoming too oppressive. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not going to remain engaged in the discourse. There’s too much at stake not to actively participate.
But in the end, it’s important for us to recognize your limits and have a refuge where we can go for solace when we’re in distress. After all, we’re more likely to affect positive changes within our communities and world when we are emotionally and physically healthy ourselves.