There is so much talk of sustainability right now, especially relating to Mother Earth, our home. Let’s consider the definition of “Sustainability”, which is the quality of being able to continue over time. Looking at the natural disasters happening around the world, and the scarcity we are confronted with on all fronts, it is hard to ignore the signs of Mother Nature being out of balance and amazingly, we fail to recognise that we as humans are a part of that balance, and so what are we doing to make ourselves more sustainable and coherent every day? Noticing how when we are out of balance, we are not sustainable and that is our contribution to the system being out of whack; whether at an individual, team, organisational, global, or universal level – we are on a collision course with burnout, breakdowns, increased risk of auto-immune disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, mental health issues, addiction and so the list goes on.
How is this NORMAL?
In his book The Myth of Normal, Gabor Mate’ states: I have come to believe that behind the entire epidemic of chronic afflictions, mental and physical, that beset our current moment, something is amiss in our culture itself, generating both the rash of ailments we are suffering and, crucially, the ideological blind spots that keep us from seeing our predicament clearly, the better to do something about it. These blind spots – prevalent throughout our culture but endemic to a tragic extent in my own profession – keep us ignorant of the connections that bind our health to our social-emotional lives.
Another way of saying it: chronic illness – mental or physical – is to large extent a function or feature of the way things are and not a glitch; a consequence of how we live, not a mysterious aberration.
We neglect our nature and our need for embodied presence, deep rest, recovery, and resourcing and instead we sign up to the mad chase for economic enrichment and power, which to me seems a fool’s bargain with momentary gratification before we move onto our next thing. We are normalizing the abnormal. It’s as if we plug into the juggernaut of the 21st century machine and its relentless demands, desires, distractions, and devastation and are bewildered as to why we are exhausted and unable to find joy, peace, and happiness at the end of each day. Living from one breathless moment to the next, relentless in our own endeavours to prove our worthiness, value, success and belonging without taking a nano-second to question the sanity of it all.
How do we reassess the way we are choosing to live? How do we re-prioritise what really matters in our being human?
I observe most people to be completely disconnected from their lived experience, so absent to how the body might be coping with the assault on the senses, totally out of touch with how they feel and think about life and merely hitting start at the beginning of the day, and end, when it’s time to collapse because the body can’t anymore. We choose to be governed by subconscious programmes developed to make us feel safe, that we belonged, and were loved in our early childhood development; that we forget that we have a choice in how we want to live and show up as adults in a way that we trust ourselves to self-regulate despite the external demands that need ever more and more resource to deal. It seems the real disease is the inability to say NO, enough, no more for fear of not belonging, missing out and failing.
When did our being become insufficient? The quality of our energy and presence seemingly less important than the doings. Measured on what we do as opposed to how we make one another feel. How do we get the balance between doing and being right so that sustainability is no longer in question?
The symptoms providing the evidence of humanity operating out of trauma response are mirrored in war, gender-based violence, substance abuse, anxiety disorders, aggression, intolerance, depression, over-eating, binge watching series, and constant scrolling on sensationalized social media (not an exhaustive list, but you get the picture). People are either hyperactivated or completely numb/absent within their nervous system response to cope. Neither is optimal or sustainable because both take us out of our embodied experience.
How do we return to ourselves and build the muscle of being more deeply attuned to our experience and what we might need to practice in being sustainable?
There’s no one size fits all here as each one of us has different degrees of awareness, resilience, and resourcing; the trick is to know where you are on the sustainability spectrum as measured by yourself. Where do you sit on the spectrum of survive or thrive?
If you are getting to the end of each day gasping for breath, feeling overwhelmed, anxious and like life is living you instead of you living it, then the following possibilities are for your consideration:
- Decide categorically how you want to experience your life on every level (physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual) – get crystal clear on what you will and won’t tolerate and set some boundary lines that you guard and protect in the interests of your lived experienced.
- Create a habit of tuning into your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual experience everyday so that you can respond more immediately to what your system needs to be sustainable and move towards thriving. In my view, we certainly want our resources (physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy) to be ahead of the demands on them and so consideration needs to be given to what each aspect needs to be thriving.
- Understand and heal the triggers that you react to in life with the intention of shifting from reacting out of autopilot to consciously choosing a healthy response. These triggers are data points that generally put us in fight, flight or freeze mode, revealing patterns of behaviour established to make us feel safe and secure in the world and which need to be assessed for their relevance in the present moment.
- Consider what you might need to look at in your life to ensure that you trust yourself in every situation. When we trust ourselves, we open territory to be more confident and courageous in our contribution and relationships.
- Reflect on the degree to which you feel like you can be authentically you in place of the masks you feel you need to present to fit in. This in and of itself is energy sapping stuff, so the more real you can be, the less energy you will burn.
- Check in on your relationship with truth and speaking it. Anything we feel the need to contain or deny causes more energy leakage. Of course, we need to be able to skillfully bring our truth into the world, so that we aren’t leaving a trail of destruction in our wake; but speak it we must even if our voices quiver and stomachs turn. The truth allows for real relationships and deepens connection in place of the fragility of pseudo connections built off denying truth.
- Remove all the barriers within you that dulls the absolute brilliance of your light and potential in the world. Make room for your beautiful soul to embody this amazing thing called life so that the most resourced and thriving version of you is present always.
It is imperative that we see our sustainability and thriving as human beings having a direct correlation with Mother Earth’s ability to sustain and thrive. We are in a symbiotic relationship with everyone and everything, we are a part of the whole and we feed the collective with our level of consciousness. If we do not like what we are seeing in the collective experience, consider the contribution you might be making to it by staying in survival mode where we all become reptilian. The call is for each one of us to level up and take radical accountability for our contribution to the whole. Our birthright is to be thriving and making the best contribution we can in each situation and relationship we find ourselves in, and the work starts within.