I must start with a piece from environmentalist Paul Hawken.
He writes in The Ecology of Commerce – A Declaration of Sustainability:
“In our pursuit of growth at any cost, we have mimicked an immature ecosystem with unlimited resources. A mature economic system would appreciate an ancient forest or undisturbed grassland as the ideal for qualitative growth – fecund, abundant, dynamic, mature but highly evolved.”
One thing you must know about me is that I’m an environmentalist at heart.
Not the kind that straps myself to old growth trees when logging companies are about to clear cut and not the kind that won’t fly in order to not use up fossil fuels. As much as I do appreciate and respect those causes wholeheartedly, I see a bigger issue going on right now in the world.
One of my main mentors, Peter Levine, the founder of the body of work called Somatic Experiencing and a true pioneer in working at the somatic (body-based) level of the nervous system has often said:
“True human enlightenment will only happen when each and every single person on the planet has learned how to regulate their very own nervous system.”
Not with the help of drugs, or foods or games, or any other kind of addiction, but when we can all listen to the inner landscape of our body and know how to take care of it naturally.
You see, when we hold onto a stressor (hold in an emotion; don’t allow our voice to be heard; ignore and maybe manage our anxiety, depression etc.) we fuel ourselves with chaos and what is called nervous system dysregulation. And when enough of us on this planet are living in this mode, the world feels it.
The earth becomes unwell.
Call it our collective burnout; our chronic fatigue, our low energy, and all the other health ailments and mental illnesses that go with what is a chaotic existence…all of that gets transmitted outwards.
That’s right. Not owning up to and shifting those stored up emotions, like anger or sadness, from years or even decades previous, all of that hurts the planet.
Not getting help with a horrific near-death accident from your childhood that you still have nightmares about hurts the planet.
Avoiding the grieving process of a love lost hurts the planet.
And let’s be honest, all this avoidance hurts us, too.
When we keep massive amounts of traumatic energy inside it creates what we know as PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder. Leave it long enough and combine it with early adversity from our childhood and we have a breeding ground for chronic illness and complex post-traumatic stress disorder, or C-PTSD.
To piggyback off of what Paul Hawken speaks about above…
Our quest for success (in business, life, our family, career – anything that requires due diligence and long term outlook and consistent work) can come at the cost of our own human nature (and the health that goes with it). The domestics of daily life, be it in business, career or family, often masks what drives us forward and keeps us ticking in either survival or thrive mode.
That nervous system I’ve been talking about; that internal world of the body that is pretty much invisible, but runs the entire show, has become foreign territory for most of us. And when it’s foreign to us, it’s next to impossible to know how to help it and improve its function.
When we fail to learn how to improve its function, we not only hurt our basic levels of human functioning (our digestion and our immune system to name a few), we hinder our capacity to do our authentic work because a part of us is constantly living in some form of survival mode: fear, fright, helplessness, shame, uncertainty, anxiety, panic, fatigue, depression etc…
My environmental plea to you goes something like this:
My hope is that as a living, breathing and conscious owner of a body and nervous system that you rise to the challenge and ask yourself these three questions:
- Am I really functioning at my best?
- Do survival and fear fuel my life (with my kids, in my work, with my day-to-day, my partner, the innocent bystander at the restaurant)?
- Could I be better at how I’m taking care of my number one asset, which is me?
Once we have self-awareness of what we do and how we do it, then and only then, can we move forward in a way that has the hope of deep long lasting change.
Change that sticks.
And don’t forget the macro – all humans are the cells of the earth.
When the cells are filled with chaos and shutdown, the organism suffers. Translation, the earth suffers.
But, heal the cells and replace the chaos and shutdown with regulation, resiliency and goodness and the earth heals.
Sounds simple, right?