Fixating on what you think is bad and wrong, dictating how others should behave and having high expectations of how you think the world should be is not helpful for anyone.
Life is hard and really fucked up in a literally infinite number of ways and fixating on a negative idea is not helpful. There will always be something really negative to shout about.
Many more people die from hunger every single day than Coronavirus
This obviously doesn’t mean that we can’t listen to the challenges and engage with the world to try and make it a better place.
Friendliness and Passion, the active versions of the natural states of the heart, are the ways with which we can engage with the world in a helpful and meaningful way.
There is a strange paradox to global modern life where we exist in a vast system that creates everything that happens and we don’t control it, yet we also are that system. It is our daily actions that creates it.
The challenge of our modern world is that we have to find a way to engage with it, in a meaningful and productive way that doesn’t cause hatred, despair or burnout.
In order to do this we need to approach problems with an open mind and open heart. This is really hard to do because problems are the things that hurt and if we sincerely express our heart’s desires of how we want things to be, even to ourselves, we have to face the disappointment that we feel if and when we don’t get it.
To deal with this we negotiate. This is important – we can’t move through the world expecting all our heart’s desires to be met exactly as we want – but when this process happens subconsciously, we get very fixed ideas about how we need things to be.
We have already done the negotiating in our heads about the minimum we expect from ourselves, other people and the world so we think that it should respond and meet us in that place. We get mad and offended when this doesn’t happen and we aren’t open to co-creating our understanding of reality and our response to it.
One of the hard truths of life is that the world and other people don’t owe us anything. We didn’t sign up to be in this world, but neither did anyone else. We’re all just trying to muddle through together and sometimes it’s really hard and really shit.
If we want a better world, we are the people who are going to build it.
Hearts are where we are naturally young – unlike brains they’re very simple, sincere and emotional. Unless we go through a process of learning to engage with our hearts in a mature way, they will cause us to be reactive, naive and demanding.
If we don’t make space to listen to what our hearts are telling us, they will start manipulating our behaviour. They will either subconsciously create perceptions that make us feel safe because ‘we know we are right’ and feel we can tell everyone else how they should be, or you will consciously use your emotions to manipulate people into doing what you want.
We develop a mature relationship with our hearts through making space to listen to them, learning humility and practicing patience.
This comes from embodying the understanding that our emotional needs and wants are valid, but we aren’t the centre of the Universe and good things can take time and hard work to manifest.
This also buys us a huge amount of freedom – understanding that each one of us is only one person on a planet of 7 billion people in a vast Universe means that we don’t have to decide what is right and wrong, you just have to show up in this moment and do the best you can.
Show up, feel what you feel, want what you want and engage with care and consideration with the opportunities you are given.
Meaningful action comes from recognising our deepest desires and finding small ways that we can take steps towards that based on realistic information and data.
It is the balance that comes from the wisdom of a relaxed, open mind and the passion of what our hearts really care about.
Hearts are where we aren’t separate from other people so normally what we recognise as something we want, we notice that other people also need or want too. We often find it for ourselves by giving it to others.
When this is short-circuited by an immature heart and a fixed mind, we end up getting dictatorial views about what should be happening in the world. This behaviour happens at all ends of the political spectrum and in most organisations.
Developing maturity in our emotions takes time, effort, energy and learning just like learning intellectual intelligence does.
I believe that this is one of things the world needs most. If only we could spend half our school time learning emotional intelligence, the world would be a lot more of a pleasant place to exist in.
How to Do This
This is the steps for engaging with an open mind and open heart, from a mature and realistic place that allows us to take meaningful steps towards the issues that matter to us.
- Start by taking some slow breaths. Put your hands on your belly, breathe in to your belly so that your hands move out and then do an out-breath through the nose that lasts at least 4 seconds. Repeat a few times. This will engage your parasympathetic nervous system and take you out of your fight or flight system. It’s really magic. We are being triggered all the time with bad news and it’s not helpful unless we are in literal immediate physical danger.
- Once you are relaxed, be considerate about the information you are consuming and passing on. It’s important the information you are taking in is relevant and a realistic picture of what is happening – not just fear-mongering or manipulating. Be ruthless about what you trust and what you pass on.
- Once you have taken this in, take time to put it into perspective. How does this fit with my existing world view? How does this fit in with other issues? Accept that you can only do what you can do – you can’t fix the whole world or situation. The issue that you are being faced with right now is only one tiny piece of a vast and complex puzzle.
- Give yourself space and time to process the emotions that this brings up in you. Name them.
- Be sincere about your desires. What do you really want from this situation? What do you want for yourself? What do you want for others? I’ve added a list of desires below, which are the main things that people want and need.
- Be honest if this something just for you. Lots of people are afraid to ask for what they sincerely want, so they wrap it up into complex political ideologies and ideas. It feels safer to demand that the government changes something than to recognise that we feel insecure in our current circumstances. Part of maturity is learning to be with your difficult emotions.
- Be helpful. Now you have identified what your sincere desire is, either for yourself or others, what are the steps you can take towards that? Is there anything you can do? If not, is there anyone you can ask for help or offer your time to?
- Be realistic. You don’t need to fix the whole system. Contribute something positive, minimise negative impact. That is all we can do. Identify skills that you have and things that you enjoy doing for ways in which you can best contribute.
- Be courageous. Be willing to say the thing that matters, even if your voice shakes. Speaking out for the people and things that we really care about is one of the hardest things to do and takes a lot of courage.
- Be patient – real, meaningful change takes time and effort. Don’t expect to be able to change everything overnight. This requires getting more comfortable with being out of our comfort zones. Practicing this skill is one of the things that is most important for emotional maturity. Accepting that you may feel unsafe for the foreseeable and bringing in things to help you manage that emotionally is more productive than constantly being in flight and fight trying to get to a safety that doesn’t exist.
- Reflect. Be honest about how helpful your actions actually are and get feedback from people to find out about if the outcome is genuinely helpful. This includes getting feedback from yourself if the action is to help you.
- It’s really nice to hear when your actions have been helpful for people – it’s very resourcing and motivating. You also need to be open-minded to receiving the idea that your actions, while well-intended, may not have been helpful for people or yourself. Be willing to change.
- Give other people feedback when they have been helpful to you. This creates a positive feedback loop in the system. Not only will people take more helpful actions but they will feel good while they’re doing it, which is ultimately the point. Belonging is one of the most satisfying human experiences there is and when we appreciate people it gives them a sense of belonging.
- Take time to appreciate the successes you’ve had and the ways in which you’ve contributed and grown. If you don’t take time to do this then life is just an endless slog.
We never arrive anywhere, we only get to take part in the process.
Here is a list of words that may help you identify and focus on what you sincerely want for yourself and others: