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