Has the residue of this election season left you feeling a bit "unsane"? Or is it just life in general that has many people teetering on the edge of "unsanity"?
As Jon Stewart said last weekend at his Rally to Restore Sanity, "We are living in difficult times, not end times." If you can access the distinction between "difficult" and "end" in this context, chances are you don't watch a lot of cable TV and therefore, you might still have a few shreds of sanity left. Congratulations!
What I'm calling "unsane" refers to the everyday, garden-variety, crazy-making-kind-of-world we live in, and the kinds of challenges we face in order to stay afloat and keep our lives on some kind of even keel, as opposed to the mental pathology we usually associate with the word "insane." The DSM-IV does not have a category for "unsanity," but if there were one, its symptoms would simply be 21st-century life.
Last weekend's rally brought together a crowd of over 200,000 people in an effort to remind Americans that in spite of the stories we're fed by the 24-hour news cable organizations (also known as the "perpetual panic conflictinator, henceforth referred to as the PPC), we're really not as divided as the media would have us believe and that outside our nation's capitol, we can and do extend civility and respect towards each other every day.
To illustrate this assertion, Stewart showed a live camera shot of automobiles making their way through an ever-narrowing maze of lanes approaching the Holland Tunnel, merging from the many to the few in an orderly manner. He narrated:
Every one of the cars that you see is filled with individuals of strong belief, and principles they hold dear -- often principles and beliefs in direct opposition to their fellow travelers'. And yet, these millions of cars must somehow find a way to squeeze, one by one, into a mile-long, 30-foot-wide tunnel, carved underneath a mighty river.
And they do it, concession by concession: you go, then I'll go. You go, then I'll go. You go, then I'll go. "Oh my God -- is that an NRA sticker on your car? 'Is that an Obama sticker on your car?" It's okay -- you go, then I go.
And sure, at some point, there will be a selfish jerk who zips up the shoulder and cuts in at the last minute. But that individual is rare, and he is scorned, and he is not hired as an analyst!
Because we know, instinctively, as a people, that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light, we have to work together. And the truth is there will always be darkness, and sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn't the Promised Land.
Sometimes, it's just New Jersey.
In the midst of what seems like an insane world, in which we are bombarded by messages 24/7 warning that we are on a path of self-destruction and our country is being taken over by communists, socialists, or wacko, right-wing nut-jobs, perhaps sanity is having the ability to look through this morass and find what's right and what's working instead of magnifying our fears about what's wrong, what's threatening and what's evil.
Stewart's message bears repeating with at least as much frequency as we hear from those who peddle fear. But sincerity and good news don't seem to sell as well as fear. They don't bring colossal ratings to the cable news organizations.
We need more voices reminding us that, as human beings, at our very core, who we are is love. We cannot survive without love, yet we appear to think it is not readily available. You'll find many such voices right here on the Living Page. Bloggers like Cara Barker, Anne Naylor, Ed and Deb Shapiro, Jason Mannino, Kari Henley and others here are consistent voices that lift up the human spirit and remind us of who we are.
It is the separation from knowing who we are that has us lose our grip on sanity. When we come to define ourselves according to political and national ideologies and forget that we all share common roots as members of the human family, sharing the same wants and needs, we stray from our deepest truths.
We may appear to be separate, but in truth, as Arianna Huffington said on CNN last Sunday, "there is much more that unites us than divides us." This awareness is lost in the midst of our collective unsanity. If you asked 100 people what it means to be "sane" in today's world, you'd get 100 different responses. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "The sanity of society is a balance of a thousand insanities." So the question is: What is sanity for you? And more importantly, what can help you get back on track to your own Promised Land, even if it is "only New Jersey"?
How about constructing your own little "sanity restoration project"? It could be just what the doctor ordered for weary times such as these. Here are seven tips to help you get started, but don't stop here. This is the tip of the ice berg, so get creative, and let's hear your ideas.
1) Step away from the TV. Turn off the news and learn to cultivate other interests to stimulate and expand your mind. I recently went bowling for the first time in over 25 years and was amazed to rediscover how much fun it was! I'm also devouring books on my new Kindle, taking a meditation class, stepping up my daily exercise routine and exploring vegan cooking. Take a break from your addiction to TV and/or the internet and your body/mind/spirit will thank you for it.
2) Silence is golden. Life is challenging and complex, which is all the more reason to set aside time each day to put on the "pause" button. Unplug from everything, and become still, even if it's just for 10 minutes. Start with several slow, deep breaths. Stay right there in your awareness of the breath. It's the essence of your sanity. On the next new breath, know that all is well. On the next new breath, know that who you are is love. On the next new breath, know that all is love. On this new breath, know that all is connected in love, through love, as love. Stay here for as long as you like. When you return to normal activity, see if you can maintain this awareness as you go about your day.
3) Learn to accept and appreciate differences. There are 6.5 billion people who share this planet with you, each of whom has his or her own unique way of seeing the world. Your way of seeing things is not the only way. Allow others to have their different points of view without making them bad, wrong or the enemy because of it. You might even learn to appreciate their differences! Needing to be "right" about the way you think it is prevents you from ever learning beyond what you already know. And trust me, those who think they know it all have no way of discovering they don't. This is definitely unsane thinking.
4) Cultivate a curious mind. Nothing closes the mind and turns it against itself faster than one that has hardened to new possibilities. Know that on every breath, you are born anew. Everything is changing every moment, including you. What seemed impossible a moment ago could be the beginning of a whole new creative endeavor. Aren't you curious about what could be possible now?
5) Consider your blessings. Nothing can restore you to your "right" mind faster than contemplating the things in life for which you are grateful. What and who are your greatest blessings? It's physically impossible to be depressed, angry or otherwise unsane while experiencing and expressing gratitude. Even if you just argued with your wife, your boyfriend left you, you didn't get the job interview, or your hours just got reduced, there are things in your life to be grateful for. Find them. Begin and end your day by counting your blessings and saying "thank you" for that which sustains you in these difficult times. It might sound too simple a thing to do, but trust me, it works! And besides, Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Why wait to be thankful?
6) Honor your calling. Whose life are you living? Are you attempting to fulfill other people's expectations for who you should be and what you should do? What secret dreams have you put on hold because the time wasn't right, you didn't have the right credentials or enough money to pursue an education?
If you've lived a life that does not honor your deepest calling in some way, if you've not expressed your deepest truths, you've become "out of balance." Restoring balance to your life, however that occurs for you (e.g., spending time with your loved ones, taking care of your health or your physical needs, expressing your talents, having plain old fun fun), is a big step towards moving in the direction of wholeness and thus sanity.
7) Speaking of having fun, have some! Life is too short to wear tight shoes. Take a break from taking yourself so seriously. Let your hair down and risk looking less than your put-together, polished image. Does anyone besides you really care? I doubt it. And when it's all said and done and the journey is over, what will you regret: not having lived it up more or not having eaten your spinach?
But don't take my word for it. Check out this video about Alice Herz Sommer, who, at age 106, is the oldest living Holocaust survivor in the world. She was a well-known concert pianist living in Prague. In 1942, at age 39, she was deported to Theresienstadt, a concentration camp for artists, designed by the Nazis as a propaganda tool for convincing the international community that the Jews of Europe were being well treated by their Nazi captors.
"They [took] our belongings, food, and clothing, but music is the one thing that they could not take away from us, music that evil could not destroy," Alice said.
Alice's world was not just unsane; it was insane. And yet she not only survived and maintained her sanity; she triumphed. At nearly 107, she still plays the piano for at least two hours every day. Here's her amazing story, and it is restorative:
Alice's 107th birthday is this month. You can send her well wishes on her Facebook page.
And as for you? How are you staying sane in this unsane world?
As always, I wish you many blessings on the path.
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