January 12, 2016

Can We Cultivate Peace in our Emotionally Consumed Culture?

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It’s astounding how a simple walk—with no desired goals or destination in mind—can expand the universe inside of you.

During one such walk, I reflected on everything that has been preventing me from being truly happy and satisfied with the immensely blessed life that I have.

I pondered on the culture that surrounds me and the behaviors that are accepted as normal in our society. I wondered how many more children are adopting attitudes of apathy, violence, obsession or hysteria based on the media that they are exposed to daily.

I evaluated my own lifetime of qualities like these that have taken over my consciousness and connection with myself. I explored ways I could help my children when they feel victimized by their own emotional irrationalities and insecurities.

I am not defined by my emotions. However, it seems as if they generally control my urges, decisions, focus, and perceptions.

For example, I am constantly obsessing about ways I could be a better mom. Alongside this obsession are the other overwhelming emotions—the ones that send me across the world yearning to see all I can and what I can do to try to understand it enough to figure out my place in it. This ultimately leaves me feeling like I’m always missing something. It’s what I’ve considered a pervasive emptiness that nothing available could fill.

I can feel that years of self-pity have been not only useless and destructive but purely and undeniably selfish. What could I have done with all those hours of self-inflicted suffering? Was it really self-inflicted though, or was it because I was born into a culture that shoved unattainable images of perfection in my face that everyone else was able to achieve except for the deep thinking, authority questioning, unconventionally dressed, nature worshiping rebels like me? Living with unreasonable expectations will always be at the expense of genuine happiness.

When my rage overtakes any hope of serenity, I can see my daughter’s unchanged expression and peaceful eyes staring like a nonjudgmental Buddha. I can hear my son yelling at me to stop saying bad words. Once the rage dissipates and I can talk and see clearly again, I tend ask for their forgiveness. Sometimes I’m so possessed by the hysteria that all I can do is stare at them with blurred eyes full of tears that won’t let me be. I hold their little hands. My daughter always, in these situations, gently says, “I love you mama,” and gives me the sweetest, toothy grin. My son just looks out the window (these things usually happen in the car). He’s unfortunately adapted my behavior when he gets frustrated over little things that he can easily fix but doesn’t have the patience to.

When we are absorbed in our own self-pity, feelings of helplessness, regret, and guilt, we are selfishly depriving our children of security, comfort, good role modeling, and peace.

I wish I could pinpoint exactly what we need to stop destructive emotions from consuming our lives. It’s not as definitively prescriptive as trauma release or behavioral therapy. No matter how much I’ve learned in my 20 years of schooling and researching, I can’t find any medical modality available that can treat the disease of culturally ingrained dysmorphia.

We live in a time where people judge themselves harshly. They judge themselves based on the standards set in ubiquitous modern systems that can be potentially poisonous, emotionally charged, and unavoidable—television, public schooling, and organized religion.

We live in a society that values perfection at the cost of soul degradation. We are a part of a culture that values the next new novelty products over life itself. We are also more likely to emulate behaviors that are rewarded by our society. This can be as seemingly harmless as the affordability of commonly advertised products made overseas and as horrific as the exponentially higher salaries granted to major CEOs who govern these products at the expense of their workers…who live in unfair conditions. These products always need to be replaced and can never fill our human need for genuine connection and love. The pervasive emptiness cannot become fulfilled with any object, no matter how rewarding it may seem to have it.

It’s so easy to ignore the atrocities that the industrialized lifestyle we are bred into produce. It seems we don’t have to be accountable for our actions because they are also the actions of everyone who surrounds us. In fact, the system that runs our lifestyle is set up so that there is no way out of it. If we want to live truly self-sustainably and not ever have to buy a factory made product again, we’d have to not only learn all the skills to make daily necessities but also cultivate the materials to make them. These materials have been colonized, bought, and branded by thousands of years of oppression and evil ideals that entitle certain people with self-proclaimed power to control all they possibly can.

How does all this historical oppression, possession, and power obsession have anything to do with our mass depression?

No matter how much I’ve read over the years, from all different points of views—anarchists, environmentalists, humanitarians, saints and sages, religious leaders, political leaders, researchers, scientists, anthropologists, biologists, professors, and philosophers—I still cannot understand how pervasive emotions such as power-lust and lack of simple fulfillment can cause people to want to destroy each other, including themselves.

Sociopaths are controlling our world’s resources and causing endless warfare in these critical times of peace vs. death. We can perceive them as a reflection of our culture’s insatiable need for more, whether it be power, resources, or whatever is defined as success. No matter how we see it though, the fact of the matter is that our planet is being destroyed by irrational emotions and distorted ideals.

Is there even a practical way for us to deal with all of this?

The answer I received on my walk was this: only by appreciating the experiences we have right now will we have a chance to fill our pervasive emptiness and release ourselves from the servitude of our emotions. This means the life that is right in front of us. This means the happiness of the children that are looking up at us with loving eyes and saying, “I love you mama,” no matter how incomprehensible mama’s behavior was to them.

We can save our perceptions. We can master our fears. We can look at ourselves in the mirror every morning and say “this is who I want to be now.” We can turn off—or get rid of—the TV and find a more meaningful way to spend our time and define who we are. We can walk, just for the sake of walking, and listen to the sounds of the spirits in the wind, the plants, and the animals we encounter. We can remove ourselves from whatever is invoking the rage and depression and become ourselves again.

Whatever happens in this world, in our ever changing culture, or in our media can be separated from what is happening in our hearts. I can’t be ignorant to the atrocities that my country’s luxurious, comfortable way of living is causing, but I can be content within myself and cultivate an eternal peace that will persevere beyond this life.

No matter how we were raised to see ourselves, where we are living, or where we are going, we can all equally achieve this personal state of unconditional self-security and bliss.


Relephant read:

The Quest for a Quiet Mind: Five Keys to Inner Peace in a Hectic World.

Author: Eleyah Knight

Apprentice Editor: Lois Person/Editor: Travis May

Image: Author’s Own

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