Tuesday, October 20, 2020

So you believe in something. Why is this important, and what can we do to make it work?

 

‘Night and Sleep’ — Evelyn De Morgan

So you believe in something. Good for you. Makes life more manageable and gives you something to focus on and when necessary, argue about. Beliefs structure our culture and our world. Our day is structured primarily through belief; political, religious, community, commercial, and that belief, regardless of its context and foundations, is not ecological.

Why is this important, and what can we do to make it work?

Beliefs are a way of thinking that by their very nature have very little if any room for movement. When I say: “I believe…”, I have drawn a line in the wet cement, and while the setting cement is ‘going off’, I build neurological structures to support the new belief making sure that it stays in place. The cement goes off, and unless there is a significant shift in the underlying foundations, the belief I have laboured over stays put. Swapping metaphors for a moment; a coastal forest, whipped by constant onshore winds, the belief will dig deeper. Extending its roots, bending to give a little whenever there is a conflicting force the forest will flex, not to change, but securing its future.

The most durable wood will often grow from the tree weathering the harshest winds. Excellent for trees and the cabinetmaker, and yet this is where the analogy ends.

I am living in a world that is changing fast. All around me, there are calamity and innovation, people scrambling to make sense and to make a difference, and all of them holding firm to their beliefs.

Climate change has to be the defining conversation of our time. Every day we are greeted with yet another ‘catastrophic’ event. As I am writing, I am alerted to the bush fires in New South Wales, Australia and the flooding in Venice, Italy. Venice, a beautiful and quite unfathomable city that only months earlier I had visited with my family. Nine years ago, New South Wales where fires now rage, our home for two years. The homes we once stayed in are now either underwater or threatened by the raging fire.

I feel concerned, so I tune in to the discussions. My Twitter feed alerts me to shifts in climate and possible solutions, and yet I notice division: division based primarily upon beliefs.

Beliefs are lazy. There, I said it! “I believe this…” is lazy. When I believe something, I can rest easy knowing that I am right and, believing in something means I am not open to the opposing viewpoint. Thinking that it is CO2 and ‘our fault’ for example, says I am not open to any opposite view or query. If you force your belief upon me, chances are I will dig deeper and strengthen my own resolve. I may also resort to belittling you for holding the alternative view — a standard part of life on social media.

Holding a belief is easy and requires next to no effort other than fighting for it when the opposition becomes fierce. We see this more and more. Hong Kong and the months of rioting. The global climate change marches in every major city. The constant and insufferable reminders of governmental corruption in the American political system. It goes on. Look in any direction and find examples of conflict solely based upon differences in belief.

Belief is not an ecological way of thinking because it is too inflexible. In a time when digging deep to find solutions has become vital to the future of a significant proportion of the world’s population, a lack of creative plasticity has no place.

I have watched the shift of liability. It’s a human need. We require a scapegoat, a place to lay the blame, a reason for the inconvenient alteration in our way of life. Unless we have a culprit, we cannot make the required changes; a solution becomes illusive. However, as soon as the culprit has been named, we build a story. We engage the help of science and develop a hypothesis. From there, we make a stronger belief and arguments in defence; any other contributing factors are moved to the side and considered superfluous.

We are talking about climate and climate change. Climate change is an ecological discussion. It’s about ecology, of which climate is a part. Global conversations are fierce, and they are based on belief, inflexible and robust belief. In this case, it’s CO2 that is the culprit, and CO2 levels are heavily influenced by human activity. But like any global debate, pick your side and dig deep.

On TED Talks, there is a story: ‘How to green the world’s deserts and reverse climate change’. A talk presented by scientist Allan Savory. It tells the story of his mistake. He thought that the desertification was caused by the large numbers of elephants roaming and foraging, so he had 40,000 elephants killed. The upshot: he was wrong. Desertification increased after the ‘scientific killing’ of thousands of elephants. It wasn’t the elephants after all. The elephants, it was realised later, were stopping the desertification from getting worse. But because the focus of blame had been laid, a strong belief generated, ecology suffered. If you have the time, watch the video, and you will notice how he describes his new theory. Watch his body language. It’s fascinating to note his shift to a new belief and how adamant he is about it.

Question: is it ecological to selectively charge an aspect of ecology with the sole responsibility for the health and wellbeing of that ecology?

And, how useful or ecological is it to hold a belief about the ongoing health of an environmental system when that system is ever-evolving?

What if belief, in the context being discussed, took the shape of that context, in this case, nature.? What if ‘belief’ was replaced by decision making predicated by our collective values — a much higher place of mutual connection to base decision making from? And what if this decision making strategy was structured in such a way that it considered other perspectives, not just our own?

Belief won’t do this. It is too limited, and it does not know how to tune itself to an ever-changing context. Decision making needs to more considered; taking into account the multilayered nature of the environment.

The challenge to this way of thinking is this: it’s too complicated. The complexities of a natural system tend to mean that making decisions about it and what to do when something appears to be going wrong, becomes insurmountable.

In chaos theory, there is a term known as ‘Sensitive Dependence’ or ‘The Butterfly Effect’. It essentially suggests that the smallest change in any given system can cause significant developments in the future, within that system. To choose one part of any ‘system’ to be the culprit or the fix of the entire system is a recipe for disaster. It is similar to suggesting: that to ensure our continued good health, simply put all your attention on the little toe on your right foot.

Venice 2019

I recently visited Venice. Walked the alleyways and crossed the canals. Witnessed intense tourism and the massive floating cities being towed through the central channel. Locals are screaming for justice: “stop the boats!” Others are shouting: “build the barrier!” and more are chanting: “reduce carbon”, or “stop oil”, and more. I was amazed that this city still existed, considering it was built on a marshland primarily consisting of sand. Was that a good idea? Maybe at the time.

Where do we lay blame, and, who has a vested interest in where that blame is laid? Will the result be attainable when the focus of our outrage and concern is only a part of the complex system at play.

Why we won’t.

We won’t change the way we approach these problems, and it’s because we can’t. Not yet. We won’t do it because to do it, we would need to be a part of the system. We would need to be connected to it, know the language of communication that it uses. We would have to be fully aware of our own intrinsic place within it, as an essential part of the whole. We would have to hurt when it hurts — to feel and know it’s suffering. We do not.

Somewhere along the way, our language of identity shifted. We started to believe something about ourselves that separated us from the very world we once relied upon, and depended upon us. Maybe we began to think that we were better than it, or more intelligent than it, or more able to wield ‘control’ over it. Regardless, we separated from what many consider to be our mother.

Unlike a child, however, who leaves the embrace of home, we disowned that home — our mother. Over time we forgot our home and our mother. In that forgetting, our original home became either a threat or a pool of resources. Today, after who knows how many millennia, we still believe that we are separate. We cannot make ecological decisions about our home when the foundations of those decisions are beliefs which perpetuate separation.

Until we understand this as a ‘lived’ experience — removing the disconnect — we will always find ourselves lost for what to do.

Language

To me, there is only one place to begin this re-connect: language.

How do we know ourselves within this place we call home, and how do we hold that conversation? It may be as simple as changing our language: the way we describe ourselves, and ourselves in this universe. Perhaps a new, emergent conversation is required.

Thursday, September 10, 2020

What are you making Covid-19 Pandemic mean to you


Apparently, we make meaning out of everything. The sky is blue and that means..., I vote Democrat and that means..., I have this degree and that means..., etc.

The colour of our skin, the job we have, the money we make, the religion we follow: all of these, and all the rest, have a meaning of some sort that we attribute to it. The meaning we attribute to anything  defines so much about how we think and respond to life, especially critical times in our lives, such as a Pandemic.

Meaning however is more often than not a learned experience. Our culture, politics, financial status, family, upbringing, religion and more: all generating meaning for us - meaning that we use to generate responses to our ever changing environment.

Meaning, in many cases, has become a default. How we react, respond, cope, or not, the ways we see and feel our world are, for so many of us, a default setting.

The global Pandemic is a catalyst for emotion where many people find themselves defaulting to positions of fear, anxiety, anger, and of course creativity, compassion, care, love and hope. The MSM would have us believe that it is doom and gloom and yet there are many stories of creativity and success. People seek for stronger footing in times of hardship and the mind seeks solutions.

What if our default position in times of significant change was creativity, trust, compassion and personal wellbeing? What if there is always a silver lining to the storm clouds and this state of mind becomes our default response? The meaning we make out of the shift in our environment defines what happens next, and in times of pandemic, climate disruption, and everyday life-change, meaning is everything.

'This means that', becomes what ever we want it to mean. 'This Pandemic now means I fell even more inspired than ever to create positive outcomes'. 'This crazy time means I can feel more encouraged to trust myself and my ideas’. ’This upheaval now means I can feel  even more empowered to love and act with compassion’.

The narrative that we hear repeated from the main stream media is a generalisations, distortions and deletions of the most negative or extreme responses to the crisis: riots, political upheaval, unemployment, financial difficulty, financial collapse and more. It can feel challenging to not let this constant stream of generalised information to get under your skin, and yet, if we shift our meaning-making perspective, we can take it on board knowing that we are a part of the regenerative solutions that are, and will continue to unfold.

When you notice yourself ‘making meaning’ that does not feel like it is serving you: stop, take a moment and ask yourself; ‘What do I want?’ Name it: ‘I want some inner comfort!’ Now make a statement: ‘I wonder how this crazy situation i find myself in (or witnessing) can mean I can built more and more inner comfort’.

Here’s the thing; your mind does not differentiate between reality and fantasy. Try it; Remember a lovely event from the past and notice how your body responds - your body believes it’s real and happening. That is how horror movies and love stories can generate such strong responses. So, when we shift the meaning and use the words I have suggested, the mind and body simply take them onboard. 

The trick is; don’t expect an answer or an immediate internal response - just consider the idea, shift your perspective, and unlike what the power-broker out them might want, take control of your own state of mind and the behaviour that follows. I call this 'Collateral Freedom' - personal freedom arising from what appears at first glance to be the opposite.

Aaron

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Not Just for a Sunday

Photo by Aaron McLoughlin

“Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.” Winston Churchill
Seriously, if we're lucky, we will make time for a nap on Sunday, however more so than ever before we fill our weekends with 'stuff to do'.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

How to help your children with nightmares and spooky stuff


In this video, I talk about nightmares/fears, worries etc and how to help children with these disruptive challenges.

Structure
The structure or How the child is thinking about the nightmare is the most important factor when talking to them about it. And what we want the child to experience is a lessening of the intensity of the emotion they were feeling so that they can relax and get back to sleep.

The video is just over 8 minutes long, and below is a written transcription of the video. (Click the Read More link)


 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Sleep Makes You Look Younger

Here is an article from the daily mail in the UK  and it talks about how sleep makes you look younger. 
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-51130/A-good-sleep-make-look-younger.html


Apparently, the old adage that an hour of sleep before midnight is worth three after is correct and it because the SWS or Slow-Wave Sleep occurs in the first few hours of sleep. Some research suggests that this will happen no matter what time you get to bed, however, most people get to bed before midnight which backs up the adage. 
https://www.sleepio.com/blog/2014/04/22/sleep-fact-or-sleep-fiction/ 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Emotions and Sleep

Emotions and Sleep

This video (and transcript below) are about emotions and how they effect our sleep and of course some tips for working with emotions for a better sleep.


Transcript (please excuse occasional spelling and grammar issues)

Emotions are a really big thing. I talk about them quite a lot in my book "Better Sleep Sooner", which you can download or buy from the site. Emotions are what drives us and one of the gentlemen who was involved in creating Neuro Linguistic Programming, that's Richard Banner, he often says when he's talking about sales to workshops and to clients that we're selling an emotion when we're selling something and it's like that for ourselves. We are constantly selling an idea to ourselves and the emotional feedback we give or get from that is what sells it and that's what can often work for us and it can also work kind of against us. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

How your anxiety is ruining your sleep

Many people who come to see me for sleeping issues are also experiencing some degree of anxiety.

In this 11 minute video, I discuss anxiety, what it is, how it can negatively affect your sleep, and a few techniques and ideas that may help.


Having experienced heart-pounding anxiety in my own past, especially because of sleeplessness, I can honestly say that it can be a frightening experience and when we are in the middle of it, it can feel like there is no way out. 


Anxiety is a structure of thinking that can become habitual over time, however regardless of how long we have had anxiety, it is still a strategy running within the mind, which means that it can be altered and even released. 


There is a transcription of the video below (Click the Read More link and please excuse any typos). 

If you have any questions about the video or anxiety please contact me.