In my private sessions and workshops, people increasingly lament the overwhelming stress of their lives. Just getting by in today's culture often stretches us to the breaking point.
We humans, it seems, have manufactured a way of life completely out of sync with our evolution as a species. Our bodies can't handle what our minds have wrought. Many of us have the chronic illnesses to prove it.
And now, with the Western economic collapse and the shrinking middle class, the crisis has grown significantly worse. Most of us are forced to work far longer for much less. Our standard of living is a far cry from that of our parents. We have almost no opportunity to relax, play or just be.
Plus, the rise of cellphones and similar devices makes it incredibly addictive to live in the land of elsewhere rather than in our immediate surroundings.
To remedy this, we head to retreat centers, yoga classes and meditation groups. But as soon as those experiences end, we head back to our hyper-speed lives. Ironically, our time-outs help us better tolerate what we don't want and can't sustain.
We've become like those slowly boiling frogs of legend, who keep acclimating to the rising temperature of the water instead of just jumping out. While some among us keep hollering about how hot it's getting, the majority of us in the developed world show no signs of the rebellious fervor suddenly so prevalent in the Middle East.
Which puzzles and troubles me.
Back in the '60s and '70s, all kinds of people branched out from mainstream culture to experiment with alternatives. They founded communes, ashrams and organic farms. These ventures, though often deeply flawed, provided an opportunity to live more in accord with one's vision, values and natural rhythms.
Today, it's easy to make fun of these alternative communities for all their excesses. Yet much of what we now esteem as "well-being" grew directly out of these experiments.
So where are today's similar experiments? When people have had enough, when they want to jump off the careening treadmill of contemporary life, where can they land? Where can they support one another in presence, connection and the breathing room necessary to, well, breathe?
In my experience -- and to me this is truly troubling -- such places are few and far between. People don't really feel like they can stop careening, like there's anywhere to go, without taking a vow of poverty or dropping out of society altogether.
Does this trouble you, too? If so, I'd love to hear from you.
I'd also love to hear your recommendations for conscious, grounded, alternative communities currently open to individuals and families anywhere in the world. If you know of such communities in the planning stages, please share that info, too.
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