Earth Day 2019

Happy Earth Day sweethearts… in the past Earth Day has always been a day where I try to “get out in nature”, allow myself to bask in gratitude, and treat it like an ecological thanksgiving.

But this Earth Day, April 22nd 2019, I really realize that’s nowhere near enough.

My love affair with nature began as a young child, I was fortunate enough to have amazing parents who took their holidays in the summer months, packing me, my brother and our cat, Cuddles into the truck and taking off for a month of camping in beautiful British Columbia.

All I wanted was to be among the trees, on the lakes and rivers, sitting fireside under the stars and breathing fresh mountain air. I remember thinking to myself “I’m so lucky I’m just a kid, I have my whole life to do this every summer!”

(Clearly unaware that a short decade later wildfires would be ravaging my beloved province and enveloping us in thick inescapable smoke for a month each year)

Then came time to decide what I want to do when I grow up. Having been taught by literally everyone that money and status are the most important career considerations, but being a nature lover at heart, I decided I was going to be an environmental lawyer. 

Yes, that would be the perfect job for me! I would get into law school to get money, power and status so that I can stop companies from doing terrible things to the planet (I’m embarrassed to say I naively thought the law worked this way, that I could just point out how flawed our systems are in court and have a judge use the power of the law to force them to change).

So I buckled down and studied extra hard, got straight A’s, won the Law award by having the top mark over 112 of my peers, won the Social Studies award, got mulitple scholarships to my first choice uinversity and enrolled in the philosophy program to give me the best chance of acing my LSATs.

And I slowly started to realize two things…

a) the idea I had for my career isn’t an actual thing, it doesn’t exist. No one pays you six figures to take down capitalism, to restructure powerful systems and to fight for ecological justice.

b) I don’t want to be a lawyer, I actually couldn’t imagine a worse lifestyle than 80 hour workweeks living in a city trying to outcompete my colleagues for a spot serving the interests of the “partners” which are likely going to be rich, powerful, white men.

So there I am, age 20, loving my university studies and having no clue how they’ll be useful to my career because a) what career? and b) who hires philosophers?

I dropped all my electives and enrolled in as many environmental studies classes as possible, I loved those classes as much as my philosophy and ethics ones, and I noticed something very interesting…

The only reason the environmental crisis is getting worse, not better is NOT because…

a) we don’t have bright minds or caring hearts on it, because we do

b) we don’t know what systems would be more sustainable, equitable and just (and have the case studies and research to back it up), because we do

c) we don’t have technologies that are either already invented or in the process of being brought into being, because we do

d) people, small groups and individual communities haven’t been able to take a broken system and rebuild it from the ground up, because that has happened and continues to happen…

but simply because 

e) people’s minds are in the way

What do I mean by ‘in the way’?

People are extremely wedded to their current way of thinking because it doesn’t look like thinking – it looks like reality – which keeps perpetuating the same world and resulting in the same behaviours.

None of my professors knew much about how to change people’s minds but all agreed this was a vital (albeit confusing and poorly understood) piece of the puzzle.

One of my courses thought the answer must lie in meditation, since meditators have higher than average rates of peace, love, success, gratitude, empathy, wellbeing etc.

So in that class we learned meditation and looked at the mind in a way that was consistent with the current public dialogue around the mind: what you think is coming from the outside world because the mind works like a camera, but fortunately you have the power to train your mind to be above the influence and shift to positive thinking, to be better, to be empowered, to work to cultivate the states of being you want to live in…

And so, overly long story short, I graduated feeling hopeful that the environmental crisis HAS clear solutions, and super hopeless that the mind piece is an impediment that is so damn complicated.

Fast forward a year later to early 2016 and I’ve just discovered some literally mind-blowing truths about the mind that has dissolved my decade-long struggle with chronic anxiety. 

And so naturally I thought wow if my life has been so transformed in such a short amount of time, not by doing, but simply by understanding that what we’re taught about the mind is completely wrong, imagine what would happen if the entire world knew this???

And so I realized that this is the missing piece my professors hadn’t known about.

This is how minds change. This is how people get out of the way. This is how people find immense freedom and transformation without devoting years to a disciplined meditation practice, let alone self-help, personal development, tools, techniques and “working on ourselves”. 

I realized so clearly: this is the missing puzzle piece of how the environmental crisis is going to get solved.

Now this is the part where you’re expecting me to say: and then I started getting the message out there and doing something about it. But I didn’t. 

I was 22 and believed what I’ve been told by society: that you’re only qualified if you have lots of advanced training and degrees and education and titles. And if you have none of that, well then maybe you could help people if you have personally gone through what they’re going through.

So to get this understanding out into the world in the best way I knew how, I got trained and started working as an anxiety coach. After all, anxiety is my “wheel-house”, I used to suffer from it daily, along with panic attacks, physical symptoms, chronic migraines, and the like for so long that I genuinely believed…

a) I would never be free from that life and 

b) now that I am free, the only thing I can confidently offer the world is the fact that I was intimately acquainted with the problem (for a decade) and the solution (understanding the mind)

In the dark quiet of 3am it’s sometimes easiest to hear our hearts speak. My heart’s desire hasn’t changed, my soul’s calling has stayed persistent since I was that young child canoeing on the pristine Atlin Lake under the midnight sun. 

The same pull I had 12 years ago to be an environmental lawyer is the same pull I had 6 years ago to study the environment at university and is the same pull I’ve been ignoring ever since my amazing colleagues Mara Gleason Olsen and Eirik Grunde Olsen proposed that there’s one solution to all the world’s problems: an accurate understanding of the mind.

Why have I ignored my heart’s calling for so long, you may be wondering?

Truthfully, I was scared and I’m still scared. 

I have no idea how to effectively go about this; no idea what it will look like. I have no clue how to reach the millions of people that need this missing piece of the puzzle. I don’t know what I’ll need to do, who I’ll need to partner with, how it will look and when it will unfold. I have no idea how much criticism, contempt, rejection and futility I’m opening myself up to.

But really, there’s no time left to keep caring about that.

Because I have a dream…

and I have some inspired ideas in the direction of that dream…

and perhaps most importantly I know how people’s minds can change, instantly and effortlessly, giving them a new reality, just as I was given a new reality when a decade of chronic anxiety melted away.

I can hardly relate to how I used to see the world. And there’s nothing special about me, that potential is within all of us, always.

There is no more time for respecting my fears of what will people think of me. There is no more time for playing small. No time for brushing it off because someone else will do it for me. No time for believing it’s not my problem. No time for hopelessness, apathy, and sobbing daily over the state of the world while standing by and staying silent. No time for playing it safe.

This is me throwing my hat in the ring. Announcing my intention. Going boldly in the direction of what I know is possible for us.

This isn’t about me (thank god), this is about us and what’s possible when we come together for the common good of all, clearing away the divisions and the fear and the misunderstandings to support and nourish every being on this beautiful planet. There is no planet B.

Sometime this year I’ll be launching a podcast interviewing speakers who also see, as I see, that this understanding really is the missing piece. I’ll be writing about it, and speaking about it, and supporting others who share this dream. And inevitably so much more, when those next steps become clear to me.

Happy Earth Day lovelies, thank you for being here and thank you for doing your part. Namaste <3

Giving Up

There’s a paradox I’m seeing more deeply lately, that brings with it an enormous feeling of relief: giving up is how I get what I’m looking for.

I’ve been spending a lot of time lately hanging out and exploring the unknown. Asking the big questions. Getting quiet. Going inwards.

The unknown is this gorgeous space of pure possibility. It’s essentially what we have yet to discover, to learn, to be made aware of.

It’s a place where all my ideas of myself, others, life, work, and health are getting gently placed aside so I can see what else there is to see.

Something outside the box of everything I already think, believe, assume and “know”.

And as often happens when I’m sitting in the unknown, new things eventually become known.

That space gets filled with so much clarity, love, peace and joy that I sometimes find myself in tears.

But what I’ve come to see is that the more I “try to hang out in the unknown to get my answers” the less answers I get.

The more I try to think different thoughts than what I currently think, the more I tend to keep thinking the same things.

The more I feel like I need to figure something out, the less figuring out happens.

The more I feel I need to know like right now because time is of the essence and I don’t have days, weeks or months to wait, the longer the wait is and the more my urgency gets in the way.

The secret? Give up.

If I want answers I have to stop trying to get answers.

If I want different thoughts than what I’m currently getting I have to stop trying to get different thoughts.

If I want to figure something out I have to stop trying to figure it out.

If I want to know anything that’s currently unknown I have to stop trying to know anything.

It’s so simple it’s almost too good to be true.

When I’m sitting at my desk with my notebook trying to make a plan, get some answers, figure some things out, I end up feeling more stuck, more frustrated and more hopeless than when I started.

As soon as I resign, the magic happens.

When I truly accept that I don’t know and that’s okay, I go for a walk to get pizza, or put on some music and take a shower, or sit by the fire and just let my mind go blank… and that’s when I get what I’m looking for.

The answer appears. The solution is obvious. The new thought shows up. The situation gets figured out.

And I didn’t have to do a single thing but give up and go enjoy my life, however that looks in the moment.

There’s a reason I have my best ideas on the chairlift. Or why I often pause the tv show to jot down a brilliant idea. Or why hiking through the forest does wonders for my clarity of mind.

New, fresh thought is the default. When we’re not getting in the way by “trying” to get it, we just simply get it.

Could life be any more simple? 😉

Why Am I Not Getting It?

This week I got emailed the really good (and really common) question: why am I not getting it and how can I improve my chances of insight?

I wanted to share my response because there’s something all of us can see in this, whether we’re feeling mega stuck or like we just want to get out of our way more:

Hi lovely,
What a great question! I think a lot of people wonder this and I’m going to do a video on it for the new program (A Fresh Life) because it comes up so often!

Here’s how it looks to me: Most of us try to take in this understanding as we do subjects in school.

We try to remember the key points, take notes and compare/contrast it with what we already know… oftentimes we don’t even know we’re doing this because it’s simply how we were taught to learn.

But what keeps it from sinking in at a deeper level is we’re not listening to get impacted, we’re listening to learn it intellectually: as facts, information and concepts.

What I mean by listening to learn is that we’ve been taught to use our personal thinking to learn things.

Yet our personal thinking is the very thing that’s keeping us from deeply feeling the truth of who we are. The only thing that gets in the way of love, truth, beauty, aliveness, our true nature… is our personal thinking.

So we’re using our personal thinking (aka our intellect) to learn about our personal thinking (aka our intellect), and then wonder why can’t see beyond the intellect.

Can you see how that’s counterproductive?

It’s really not our fault… we were taught to think about everything even though thinking about everything is the worst way to learn anything.

Take young kids for example, they don’t know they’re supposed to “study” or “learn” or “remember” so they just go through life being curious and open and before you know it they’re talking, walking, creating, and fully engaging in life.

They learn like sponges, soaking up the world around them. They never took notes or stopped to think about what they’re learning or how to process the information.

As a result learning happens naturally by osmosis, by feeling, by the ‘click’ of common sense that’s built-in to all of us since day one.

As adults we forget how to listen and learn in this very natural way. So we try to listen and try to learn which is counterproductive. But for the trying it would naturally be happening without our input or effort.

Trying to learn is the main thing getting in the way of learning.

But for our trying to get it, or trying to learn it, or trying to have insights, or trying to let it sink it, it would just be sinking in, we would be having insights, we would just be getting it more and more.

So as counterintuitive as it seems, if you want to “get it” more, you have to stop trying to get it.

You have to hear the things you’re hearing and read the things you’re reading as though you’re listening to good music or reading a fiction novel: approach it full of fascination and curiosity instead of analyzing and thinking.

The actual timing of insights is totally out of our control, you cannot make them happen but fortunately you don’t need to: they’re built-in to the system and bound to happen when we get out of the way.

So if you’re trying to “get it”, give yourself a huge break and then another, even bigger break for good measure. Give yourself the biggest break you’re humanly capable of.

There’s nothing to get. There’s nothing to see.

It’s a paradox because everything you’re looking for is already within you. When you give up trying to “get it” and can be content without it, it tends to show up right before your very nose 🙂

Lots of love xx

Shannon

The Future You Think

The thing with thought is it’s tricky… And sneaky… And convinces us it’s reflective of reality when in fact it’s the projector, not the camera.

So when our thoughts tell us future predictions, they rarely look like random predictions. They look like what just is going to happen, give or taken a little bit of unpredictability.

But holy moly there’s so many assumptions hidden in our future thinking.

Assumptions like…

We know what kind of person we are (and we’ve always been like this).

We know what we like or dislike (obviously).

We know what we’re capable of.

We know what we’re not capable of (thanks, past).

We know what’s hard, uncomfortable, unpleasant, undesirable for us (never going there again).

We know what’s easy, natural, effortless for us (and therefore should stick to that).

We know what other people will do and say, so that needs to be taken into account.

We know what’s safe and reasonable and rational and going against that is just asking for trouble.

Etc, etc, etc… there’s no end to all the hidden assumptions that don’t look like thought, they look like reality.

And then we wonder… where did the joy in life go? Where is the zest? The aliveness? The bliss? The wonder? The mystery? The magic? The fun? The adventure?

The good news is that it’s all already here. Seriously, right here. The bad news is we rarely see it because we have a head so full of thought that doesn’t look like thought.

Just underneath the ideas, assumptions, predictions, and predictability we put on our future is the natural joy of life. The natural mystery. The natural fun.

The future is unknown. We all know that. But what’s really cool to see is it’s just a blank slate waiting to be created. Waiting to be lived. Waiting to be discovered.

If nothing you thought about your future was true, what would you love to do with your precious time here on earth?

That’s the question I’m reflecting on lately and I encourage you to do the same.

If nothing you thought was reality, it just just appeared as reality because that’s the nature of the human experience, would would you love to do with your precious time and energy?

Where Love Lives

Love is already here. Seriously.

It’s the very energy that’s already beating our hearts and breathing our lungs. It’s the deeper feeling of our true nature. It’s the space we all live in by nature.

And then we all innocently think our way out of it.

We think “but if someone loves you, they wouldn’t do *whatever thing you don’t like*”

We think “but they never said *whatever they were supposed to say* to me, and they used to!”

We think “things have changed and life shouldn’t be like this”

And then we wonder why we don’t feel the love. Where has the heck has the love gone and how do we get it back?

All that’s happened, in truth, is we’ve clouded the sky. We’ve put stuff in the space. In the wide open space of love our personal thinking comes in and takes centre stage.

And the trick is… it doesn’t look like thinking. Our expectations look valid. Our opinions look solid. Our preferences look respectable. Our thinking looks right. Our feeling looks justified.

So it doesn’t look like the meaningless static of personal thinking coming in stage left and clouding the sky of love.

It looks like life, other people, circumstances, situations happen, and love exits stage left.

But love never goes anywhere. It’s always here. Always present. Always waiting for the cloud of thought to flow through it so it can be felt again.

Can you start to see that your thinking is not as real and true as it appears?

Is it possible that maybe the judgements, preferences, ideas, beliefs that you hold so dear are really only temporary thoughts floating through our minds?

Because once that’s seen for what it is, we see where love lives.

Love lives here. Now. Always.

The Life Changing Magic

I rarely binge books anymore. I like to savour them like fine chocolate, enjoying bits and pieces here and there as treats.

But I heard a lot of talk about Marie Kondo’s Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and once the book was delivered to my iPad my whole evening was consumed. I couldn’t stop reading because there was so much truth in what she was pointing to.

Yes, she’s talking about it in the context of our physical environment, our “stuff”, our surroundings, our belongings. But her mandate to only keep and cherish what “sparks joy” and discard the rest rang awfully familiar.

Although the wording is different, the essence she conveys by the feeling of joy is the deeper essence of our true nature.

It’s the default setting of peace and joy within us. It’s the rush of inspiration. It’s the feeling we have no words for but all we know is “yes. this.”

That feeling that she’s pointing to is the essence behind life. The energy of being alive. Love. Joy. Bliss.

I teach clients that the beautiful thing about our feelings is that they serve as a reliable guide for what we should discard and what it’s nice to “keep”.

Your mind’s telling you you suck, no one likes you, you’re a loser and you’ll die alone? Discard.

Your mind’s playing up scary “what if” scenarios, trying to convince you to control life and telling you to fear life? Discard.

Your mind’s telling you your partner doesn’t find you attractive, you need to buy nicer clothes and do fancy things to impress them? Discard.

Your mind’s telling you you suck at writing blog posts, criticizing your abilities and making you doubt your deepest desires? Discard.

You feel the rush of inspiration, the joy of the present moment, or the love that naturally exists within you? Keep. Cherish. Enjoy.

Can it be that simple?

I think what hooked me so deeply about the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (even though I have yet to put my house in order) is that I recognized the truth in it.

The truth that yes, it really can be that simple.

What Just Is & Why That Matters

I wanted to share a metaphor that came to me out of the blue (as the best things do) while on a call with someone recently.

As a three principles coach and teacher, I sometimes get asked “how can the principles help with x” or “I’m not seeing results with the techniques/strategies I’m currently trying, how is this different?”

The beautiful thing about this conversation is it rests on (or more accurately, under) a deeper level than whatever technique, method or concept they’re contrasting it with.

It’s the difference between comparing forms at the level of form versus stepping back and looking at that which creates form.

I know that this conversation is unique and impactful because it’s looking in the direction of universal truths.

No dogma, no tools, no how-tos, no beliefs, no blueprints, no steps, no strategies…

I’m not interested in giving people more helpful ways of thinking about things. I’m not interested in redirecting or reframing their thinking. I’m not interested in switching their oranges for kiwis.

I’m interested in showing them the buffet and introducing them to the kitchen.

Imagine there are these beautiful mountains sitting in the wilderness.

These mountains have existed since before we were born. They’ve always been there, solid, stable, permanent… they just haven’t always been visible to us.

One day you’re on a hiking trip in the forest and you catch a glimpse of them between the trees. You keep walking towards them until you reach the edge of the forest and stand on the shore gazing in wonderment at these mountains.

These mountains don’t care what you do with their discovery. They don’t care if you know about them. They don’t care if you worship them. They don’t care if you tell others about them. They don’t care how often you see them, what your opinion of them is, or how they fit into your life.

They simply are.

Every person who views them will describe them differently. They’ll use different language. They’ll have different views depending on where they’re standing in relation to them (literally and metaphorically).

Everyone will have a different relationship to them.

Everything from not knowing they even exist to thinking they’re the most beautiful things they’ve ever come across to being completely indifferent to them.

And yet, they simply are.

Our relationship to them is our relationship to them; it impacts us to see what’s always been there, always been true, always been in existence.

But our knowing of what’s there doesn’t change what was always there, it simply changes our knowing.

What’s there is just what’s there. Truly, it’s not about us.

Gravity is because gravity is. Gravity’s pull doesn’t depend on our “discovering”, “naming”, “theorizing”, “analyzing”, “studying” or “mathematically quantifying” in order for it to be true.

The principles are because the principles are.

This is why I find it hard to answer the “how does this compare to the Linden method?” type questions, because one is looking at an apple (the form) and the other is looking at how apple trees grow to produce apples (the formless constant behind life).

And when people ask me “how will the principles help my anxiety/conflict/drinking/weight-loss/health/depression/work-life balance/creativity/stress/relationship/performance/sleep, etc, etc… I have one simple answer.

No matter what people are up against, humans do really well when they understand how something works, and really poorly when they don’t.

The principles are simply a description of the everlasting, impersonal, universal forces that operate human beings.

They simply are, and seeing what simply is tends to be profoundly impactful for human beings. It’s as simple as that.