Is there anything wrong with you right now?
Newsletter, September 2016
Dearest Quiet Evolutionary,
Here is a request to slow…down…Now…
Don’t you find that the amount of information that is available to us through the internet is so bloody overwhelming? I find myself wanting to skim-read everything these days, especially emails. And I fear that the information revolution is making us ‘skim through’ all aspects of our life, including relationships, including each and every precious moment.
So, although I know your time is precious and I want to respect that, I really encourage you to use my newsletters as an opportunity to slow down, to connect to that quiet, peaceful space inside of your self.
In this newsletter, I want to pose you a very short and punchy question:
Is there anything wrong with you right now?
To answer this, your mind will likely do 2 things:
First, it will scan your current physical and psychological state looking for any signs that something ‘isn’t right’;
Second, it will review your current circumstances (money in bank, sex life, family/relationship problems, self-esteem issues, etc.).
Either way, your mind is very likely to find ample evidence that yes there is something wrong, and yes there is something that needs fixing or at least improving.
But I want to ask you just for a wee moment to think critically about this. How objective is your assessment?
Human beings are primed to look out for negative things. This is called our ‘negativity bias’. My favourite example of this bias lies in our taste buds. Humans can detect something sweet from 1 part sugar in 200 parts of food sample. But we detect bitter tastes from just 1 part in 2 million!
I believe this bias is a big reason why we have ended up becoming one of the most dominant species on the planet. Imagine your caveman ancestor just hanging in his cave practising his gratitude and positive affirmations whilst a big Sabre-toothed tiger sneaks up behind and eats him alive.
So thank you negativity bias for keeping us alive and reproducing.
The problem arises when this bias becomes so ingrained that, even when there are no immediate threats to our life, our minds continue to hunt out problems when there may not really be any.
And the society that we live in has evolved as a perfect mirror to our negatively biased minds. How many times in the last week did you see an advert or an image on a newsfeed that made you feel there was something you needed to change about yourself or your life?
…that you weren’t quite good enough?
…that someone else was enjoying a far better life than you?
The self-help industry is a perfect example of how modern society feeds on our negatively-biased minds. Obvious statement alert: the self-help industry could only thrive if we believed there was something wrong with us.
Well, the self-help industry is the single biggest genre in publishing today: in 2013 estimated at $11bn. Just imagine how many different suggestions ‘that there is something wrong with you’ are contained within that $11bn-and-rising figure. Staggering, isn’t it!
This leaves me in a predicament.
You see, my job is to help people to find peace in their lives – but to do this job properly I need to convince people that they don’t really need me, or anyone like me.
To fulfill my mission with integrity, I have to be honest and say this:
There is nothing wrong with you right now.
But the predicament I have is that I know there is a part of you, just as there is a part of me, that finds this hard to believe. Your bodymind, like my bodymind, is still deeply, evolutionarily primed to seek out the negative.
This isn’t to say that there haven’t been real problems in your life. And I am definitely not suggesting that we minimise or underestimate our very human capacity for creating and experiencing suffering. All I want to suggest is that, with a deeper understanding of the mechanics of our human minds, and especially its negativity bias, we can free ourselves from so much of the suffering that we create in our lives.
I believe that resolving this negativity bias in ourselves is the most urgent work we have to do as human beings on Planet Earth. For as long as we allow our negativity bias to thrive, as long as we continue looking relentlessly, addictively for problems to solve, there will always be war, and there will always be inner war too.
This is why when I teach meditation, I encorage my students to start from a place where ‘you are not a problem to be solved’. Realising this on a deep level is the most radical, revolutionary journey you can undertake.
From this place, meditation becomes a joy and not another neurosis for our negative minds to get hooked on (‘I’m a shit meditator’; ‘I’m not doing it right’; ‘My mind is way out of control’).
So, even though there is probably nothing wrong with you right now, it can be really, incredibly hard to remember this when you are literally surrounded with messages – many of them internalised in your body and mind – telling you otherwise.
My job is to help people remember this, to help us meet our present moment experience with love instead of through the dark and twisted lens of our negatively-biased minds.
So, whatever is going on in your minds, your body, your life right now, meet it with the energy of unconditional love and see what magic unfolds.
I still have 2 places left on my meditation retreat next Saturday. We are going to spend the whole day together bathing in the wonderful experience of being accepted (and accepting ourselves) just for who we are. Let me know asap if you want to come and bathe with us! More info here.
I’m also running two Mindful Parenting groups from next week. There are still a couple of spaces available on this.
Urpillay Sonqollay (which is Quechua for ‘you are the other half of me’)