The sensation of alignment (or misalignment) can be felt most deeply within our bodies and minds. We perceive alignment through our individual qualia programs. Qualia describes our internal subjective awareness produced by the sensory experiences of sight, sound, texture, taste, and smell in connection with external elements. This constantly changing collection of qualia significantly influences our comprehension of reality. We believe that with healthy alignment comes healthy experiences, healthy relationships, and healthy lives.
Our bodies are constantly telling us what works and what doesn’t. Conflict is important for driving action, but friction can wear down our best parts. Awareness of intuition can help experiences transpire more smoothly.
The comparison between instinct and intuition breaks down into a matter of rigidity versus fluidity. Whereas instinct is typically fixed, intuition can shift and turn. Our instincts might tell us that we should help if we see someone in need. Or to run if we sense danger. Yet, a strange thing about humans is that we’re the only species to have the capacity to go against our own instinct.1 This capacity for wires getting crossed in the hardwired application of instinct can cause a series of problems based on second-guessing information we receive. As a result, instinct is often not the most reliable human companion. In comparison, intuition goes with the flow and can actually get better with more experience. Intuition is quick and subconscious, drawing on information we might not even know we’re perceiving to help us make automatic decisions in our favor.2 For these reasons, intuition is best suited to be our guiding principle.
When faced with a big decision, we should ask ourselves: How does this feel? Our hearts can sometimes answer better than our brains. To that effect, our bodies often give us directions for how best to live and what patterns we should no longer repeat. It’s incredibly important we learn how to listen and respond to this built-in advice so we do not miss out on the lessons our bodies know to teach us.
Most people agree that it doesn’t feel good to begin each day with a commute cramped in cars or shoved into packed trains. The gift of life is not to be squandered by being stuck in traffic. Throughout industrial life, the symptomatic aches and pains we feel from repeated, near-mechanical tasks are messages from our bodies telling us we were not meant to operate in this way. We do not need to continually compromise the bodies and minds we are blessed to have. Everybody deserves a better balance of physical and mental demands with physical and mental rest.
We could all do with some more time to reconnect with ourselves. We still have much to learn about our own internal systems. From a collective perspective, we’re just starting to get in touch with listening to our bodies. Mindfulness helps us connect with our intuition. In that slowed down, more intentional space, we have more room to let our emotions dissipate so we can more clearly see what feels like the best way forward. From kindergartens to university research departments, mindfulness is becoming a new standard practice for influencing our behavioral patterns, creating further positive implications for society.
Interoception is the sense used to better understand your body’s internal state.3 Most of us are surprisingly inept at describing what’s going on inside our own bodies. It’s even harder to simply find a common language to explain discomfort. This predicament makes it difficult for a doctor to understand exactly what a patient’s body requires in the short amount of time allotted between the two people. Nurses typically have a better sense of how to help patients because they interact with them to a greater degree and therefore get to know their patients better. If the medical community on the whole were to develop a greater focus on the humanity of the patient, and if simultaneously all people were more encouraged to speak about how they feel, then we could significantly help address challenges of communication going forward in healthcare practices.
The more we can gain knowledge about our bodies—and what they might be telling us through sensations as polar as pleasure and pain—the more we’ll understand how to heal more efficiently. The more knowledge everyone has, the more we can learn from one another as well (rather than solely on text books and specialists). These ultra-systematized modes of learning form just one part of the larger process of sharing knowledge about the mysteries of the body. We must continue to concentrate on supporting holistic approaches for our health.
In America, one of the monetarily richest countries on Earth, the healthcare system is designed to create profit rather than care for the sick. This arrangement has a dismal effect for people in need of care. In the U.S. more money is spent per capita on healthcare than any other nation, and yet the country still has one of the worst health systems in the developed world. This inefficiency is alarming.
How can we not afford to have healthcare for all? Similarly, how can we afford not to have proposed legislation like a Green New Deal, which is designed to confront climate change while at the same time ensuring programs like universal childcare, and dignified wages for healthcare workers? Legislative ideas like these are critical for a sustainable future. We have to direct our intentions, initiatives, and activities toward taking comprehensive care of ourselves and the planet that sustains us.
The path to a better future is inscribed within each one of us. As Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your bliss.” Your heart knows that when energies are aligned an idea can better spark creative action. Our heads are not the only parts of our body with a brain, our hearts and guts each have a brain of their own. We have processing systems all throughout our physical forms. As a result, our internal sensations and intuitions can sometimes be our best advocates. The more we can get in touch with these sensations, the more we access intuition, the more we will place ourselves in beneficial situations.
When imbalance occurs, we feel it quickly. The impact of our repetitive tasks can take a toll. Resist confinement and allow solitary expansion…
Living away from truth is harmful for mind and body alike. A truth we are well served to keep in mind is that humans are collaborative creatures. And in order to work well with others, we first need to take care of ourselves. By giving ourselves appropriate time to be alone, to access our thoughts and feelings, we are able to expand our self-awareness and become better prepared to engage with others.
Simple actions to support wellbeing can help heal wounds and experiences of disconnection. Isolation, lethargy, and negativity are well treated by exercise, eating well, and speaking with others. The cruel irony is that the worse one feels, the more one retreats away from others and into the depths of depression. Yet, this tendency can be more readily countered with increased awareness of one’s thoughts and emotions, combined with a focus on shared purpose and healing.
There are myriad ways to feel centered. Every one of us gets to choose what feels right. There’s visualization, in which you imagine yourself like a tree, your trunk growing from the ground, roots spreading deep below the surface of groundwater, and every other nitrogen-rich nutrient sustaining creative growth. Playing sports or taking on athletic challenges is another way to become present in the moment and generate increased awareness. Surfing requires patience, balance, and oneness with the wave. There’s no shortage of activities that promote alignment.
Right this moment, you might choose to take a break from reading and use that time to reflect silently. Or meditate. A deep inhale, accompanied by a mantra of love, kindness, and positivity, awakens the soul, followed by a slow exhale that releases all that you no longer need, whatever no longer serves. The next breath of oxygen you draw in will fill your lungs, heart, brain…and create a positive effect on the mind.
There’s much to be gained in acknowledging gratitude for this life. When we feel ourselves suffering through the hamster wheel of repetitive computational chores, it helps to pause. Go outside, absorb some sunlight, breathe oxygen from trees, reach into the sky. Jump up and feel your body reconnect with the ground when you land, the earth beneath your feet. Take a couple deep breaths when things feel heavy. Take a moment for yourself, wherever that leads. At night, see if you can find the first star to appear in the sky. Or regard the glow of the moon. Submerge yourself in a body of water, a river, a lake, the ocean. Or simply take a sip of water. The elemental forces of nature can rejuvenate. They can help us understand the relation our bodies have to what the ancient Greek’s referred to as Gaia, or Mother Earth. Revel in the enduring and evolving relationship between yourself and everything else in existence.
Replace poor dietary habits of processed “junk” foods and “junk” content with a digest of healthy fats to feed our brains along with positive narratives to feed our souls and imaginations.
“I do believe you are what you perceive. What comes is better than what came before.” — The Velvet Underground, “I Found a Reason”, 1970
Diet colors our character and shapes our reality. Between the invisible lines that connect what we eat with how we feel, or between what we think and what we experience, there is the inextricable influence of our entire physical and digital diets on how we perceive ourselves.
What we decide to put into our bodies and minds is a very intimate choice. Yet, we are easily overwhelmed by innutritious offerings. Global eating trends are in serious need of revision. Around the world, unhealthy eating habits now cause more deaths than tobacco and high blood pressure. An estimated 11 million deaths were attributable to unhealthy diets in 2017. The causes of these deaths included 10 million deaths from heart disease, 913,000 deaths from obesity-related cancers, and nearly 339,000 deaths from type 2 diabetes.5 Over-consuming unwholesome foods compromises one’s life. The most important realignment we can make in our physical diets is to focus on eating healthier foods. Whole grains, seeds, legumes, fruits, and vegetables benefit cardiovascular health as well as mental health.
Addressing the correlation between food and mood, a New York Times article points out how the majority of Americans take in an abundance of calories while being malnourished when it comes to micronutrients.6 The micronutrients which are commonly found in plant-based foods, are vital, nourishing components required to energize and strengthen our brains. Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables and eating less processed foods is the most immediate way to better regulate our moods. A properly maintained, balanced physical diet has the ability to alleviate depression and anxiety.
The digital space is another area that requires careful consideration when it comes to what we consume. Endlessly scrolling through content arranged by algorithms designed to keep you further addicted to screens will not help improve personal and social cohesion.
“Digital sabbaths” are the quickest way to reclaim attention for oneself and one’s meaningful relationships. We don’t necessarily think that apps designed to monitor the use of other apps is as good of an answer to this problem as simply stepping away from our screens. And, when we return we return to our news and entertainment, we should strive to intentionally seek out uplifting stories and inspiring expressions of creativity to fuel positive mindsets and actions.
We believe that the more mindful we are about nourishing ourselves, the healthier our bodies, brains, relationships, communities, and ultimately society will be.
Humans are good at being humans. Machines are good at being machines. Humans being made to perform tasks like machines erodes humanity. It’s essential that humanity be prioritized in all human activities.
The theory of scientific management, as advocated by mechanical engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor, gained great popularity around the tail end of the 19th century. According to the theory, through the application of scientific methods and empirical verification, productive efficiency can be achieved by breaking down processes into the most clinical and precise steps possible, thereby eliminating wasted motion.7
Labor was still largely performed manually at the time that this theory emerged so the movement of the body itself was often the subject of scrutiny. Every dip, step, grasp, and twist was analyzed, and the human capacity for work was reduced to that of a machine. The quantifiable implications of Taylor’s theory have exerted a great deal of influence on subsequent management theories and have become increasingly visible in labor practices of the present day.
Today’s businesses, supplied with precise tracking and data mining technologies, can create quantified metrics to assess employee performance based on their physical performance. Amazon is one of the most enthusiastic adopters of this practice. Their warehouse workers remain under the watchful eye of their analytic systems at all times. At Amazon, if an employee falls behind painstaking productivity targets, they can be warned, reprimanded, and ultimately even fired.8 All this occurs completely automatically, via algorithm, without the input of a supervisor. This system exacerbates the physical strain of maintaining continual optimized output combined with the mental stress of perpetual scrutiny. One-size-fits-all standardized metrics for employee performance have disastrous effects for the individuals who keep a company running. The resulting work conditions form a toxic concoction for these workers, and not one conducive to satisfaction or connection with one’s work.
Corporate productivity practices represent one area of standardization that can be improved for human benefit. Yet, there’s another more insidious sense of standardization that has creeped into the lifestyles of people in developed nations: an industrially-standardized daily cycle of work-eat-entertain-sleep. This artificial cycle of life pummels our biological clocks with endless computational work, processed foods, streams of television shows to watch, and social media barrages, all of which contribute to loss of sleep and related disorders.9 Stepping away from industrialized standards of daily routines will do much to improve our connection to our own intuitive wisdom.
While standardization can make for certain efficiencies, we also lose the integrity of variation and the potential to receive insights that can emerge by deviating from the norm. We believe in the importance of approaches that work for efficacy as much as we believe in the importance of enabling variation.
Respect for oneself and others creates trust. Trust enables love to flourish.
In our age of great uncertainty, the most important bonds are those we make and maintain between friends, family, and our intimate partners. These are the people to hold onto when nothing makes sense, people we respect because of our deeply meaningful relationships with one another. These are the people whose advice we trust because we know they have our best interest at heart. These are the people we love most.
The bonds of love are as strong as any force in the universe. No matter the shape or structure of love, it has a transcendent quality. When conditions seem unbearable, contact with a loved one can make all the difference to improve one’s situation. Think of this path of transformational change on a personal level. Now imagine the role of love on a global level that restores relationships between people and planet along with essential ingredients of trust and respect.
Self-respect is a pre-requisite condition for showing respect to others. Focusing on our wellbeing, and making healthy choices, is a fundamental personal expression of respect. The more we respect ourselves, the more that sense of respect permeates our interactions with others, as well as with our environment.
Trust secures and supports healthy relationships, and is an empowering force. The more we learn to trust our own intuition, the more we will learn to trust the direction we travel and those who accompany us on our journey. Trust within oneself, and between individuals, is what can make the loftiest goals achievable.
The role of trust, respect, and love is more than just a personal matter. These values can also transform public policy and governance. In an encouraging example of how trust can benefit communities, the California city of Stockton recently rolled out a pilot project to give residents with below average incomes, $500 a month for eighteen months to spend as they see fit. In covering this development, The Atlantic pointedly asked, “What if public policy were predicated on that kind of trust and lack of judgment?”10 The implications would surely mean increased social benefit throughout the lives of community members.
Trust, respect, and love are not one-way forces. They are reciprocal. By showing respect for one’s position and responsibilities, trust grows. Whether our attention is on the actions of elected representatives, leaders of industry, or artists, endeavors that create a culture of respect, trust, and love have the most lasting, and positively influential, effect.
- The Power of Humility
- Healthy Habits
- Environmental Actors
- Economic Priorities
- Lessons Ahead