There is a palpable sense of anxiety in the air these days. In the United States, many people are reconsidering the notion of our country being the moral leader of the free world. What used to be considered the greatest democracy in the world has evolved into a plutocracy without borders which appears to have an agenda to gradually take control of the entire world’s economic and political systems. In terms of the environment, only the most insensitive people could look at the condition that our land, air and oceans are in and not be apprehensive about the future of humankind if we stay on our current trajectory. The media feeds us a powerful concoction of reasons to be optimistic and reasons to be fearful twenty-four hours a day, which contributes to a perpetual state of anxiety and psychological paralysis. Make sure to stay on guard about the next terrorist attack, and, in the meantime, wouldn’t you be a lot happier if you had this new car and this medication? Financing plans are available even for people with poor credit! Buy now!
The global conditions affect the local conditions and the local conditions affect the personal conditions. As individuals, we are inseparable from the rest of the world. The systems that many people have relied upon in order to feel some sense of permanence – a permanent job, a permanent income, a permanent family, etc. – are beginning to decay as we see the inherent design flaws of our political, economic and social structures and discover that, whether consciously or unconsciously, we have been living in a system which often creates more problems than it solves.
For many people, this reality shift feels like being caught between two paradigms. The old paradigm of work hard in school so you can get a good job so you can get married and have kids so you can buy stuff so you can someday retire and die is beginning to fall apart at the seams. Jobs that once felt secure are quickly becoming obsolete. People are questioning the conventions of educational systems, of family, of wealth and accumulation. This restructuring of societal norms has made a lot of people uneasy. Humans fear the unknown.
The new paradigm is beginning to emerge but only if you know what to look for. Some people are realizing that all of these problems are but one giant wake-up call for humanity to learn better ways of relating and taking care of ourselves and our planet. Rather than panic about the old paradigm dying out, they embrace its death as a necessary part of human evolution. Living purposefully in a way that supports the health of living systems is the antidote to anxiety.
The more we try to hold on to the way things were in the past, the more we suffer. Losing what we are accustomed to needing in order to feel comfortable is always traumatic. When I lost the use of my lower body due to paraplegia and went through years of complications, I felt helpless in many ways. This created a deep and lasting emotional and psychological paralysis that affected me for years. I felt broken, unlovable, deeply vulnerable and codependent. I had to learn how to gradually let go of the perception that I had of myself from the past in order to once again feel whole, and that was a process that involved countless hours of coaching and meditation.
While most people do not have to suffer from a spinal cord injury, everyone has some form of paralysis that affects them in life. This feeling of uncertainty, this lack of stability, creates anxiety and can easily make someone feel like they’re going crazy.
The great philosopher and mystic Jiddu Krishnamurti had this to say about impermanence.
The fact is that life is like the river: endlessly moving on, ever seeking, exploring, pushing, overflowing its banks, penetrating every crevice with its water. But, you see, the mind won’t allow that to happen to itself. The mind sees that it is dangerous, risky to live in a state of impermanence, insecurity, so it builds a wall around itself: the wall of tradition, of organized religion, of political and social theories. Family, name, property, the little virtues that we have cultivated – these are all within the walls, away from life. Life is moving, impermanent, and it ceaselessly tries to penetrate, to break down these walls, behind which there is confusion and misery. The gods within the walls are all false gods, and their writings and philosophies have no meaning because life is beyond them.
Now, a mind that has no walls, that is not burdened with its own acquisitions, accumulations, with its own knowledge, a mind that lives timelessly, insecurely – to such a mind, life is an extraordinary thing. Such a mind is life itself, because life has no resting place. But most of us want a resting place; we want a little house, a name, a position, and we say these things are very important. We demand permanency and create a culture based on this demand, inventing gods which are not gods at all but merely a projection of our own desires.
Nature requires us to leave the past behind us, and not try to hold onto what no longer serves us, sometimes even when it served a useful purpose in the past. The intersection of the past and an uncertain future can make one feel like they are going crazy until they realize that this is all part of their own evolution. When a caterpillar forms a cocoon and turns into a butterfly, it must surrender to the transformation. But in the end, it’s more beautiful than ever.