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? 😉

On Pink Fluffy Lives

Somehow, somewhere, we’ve all picked up the idea that life should always be great and we should always feel amazing.

Always happy, always loving, always peaceful, we all get along, never get sick, are loved by everyone, have lots of money, no one dies, taxes don’t exist… etc.

We all have our own personal ideas under the category of “this is how life should look”, but on some level we’ve all bought into a misunderstanding that it’s a problem when life sucks.

That it’s a problem when we feel uncomfortable physical symptoms because we shouldn’t feel that.

That it’s a problem when we’re heartbroken, sad and lonely because surely it means something is wrong with us or our lives.

That it’s a problem when we’re struggling financially, it’s a problem when people we love leave our lives, it’s a problem when we could have done better than we did, it’s a problem when we don’t perform as well as we could or should…

The only “problem” that I see is that we believe that things – normal, everyday, human, safe, temporary, totally fine things – are problems.

Life was never meant to be all sunshines, rainbows and fluffy kittens.

Now I love fluffy kittens as much as the next person and I would love if every day could be Play With Fluffy Kittens Day, but that’s not the nature of life.

The nature of life is that there’s ups and downs. Dark and light. Misery and bliss. Sickness and health. Richer and poorer. 

(I just realized this is starting to sound like wedding vows but perhaps the inherent predictability of these things is why those sayings became cliché)

My point is this: if we expect life to be something other than what it is, we’ll be disappointed, confused, and bothered by the totally normal, totally predictable, totally safe parts of life when they inevitably arise.

The human body gets ill sometimes. That’s what bodies do.

I’ll suffer tremendously (and I know this from years of personal experience) if I add a whole lot of resistance and fighting against the already unpleasant sensations of fever, sore throat, stuffy nose and sleeplessness.

If I believe “I shouldn’t be feeling this” or if I’m under the impression that it’s somehow wrong or dangerous or not okay to feel under the weather, I’m going to add a ton of suffering on the pain of a body fighting infection.

But if I know that it’s totally normal, totally safe, common and universal for people to catch colds, I can have a level of understanding, acceptance and grace while my body resets.

Our minds work the same way.

The human mind gets bogged down with insecurity, anxiety, low mood, dissatisfaction and upset from time to time. That’s what minds do.

I’ll suffer tremendously (and I know this from years of personal experience) if I add a whole lot of resistance and fighting against the already unpleasant sensations of feeling like life is hard and unfair, that I’m less than, that I have all these problems, that things or people are causing my anxiety, etc.

If I believe “I shouldn’t be feeling this” or if I’m under the impression that it’s somehow wrong or dangerous or not okay to feel that life sucks or I suck, I’m going to add a ton of suffering on the pain of a mind bogged down with distorted thinking.

But if I know that it’s totally normal, totally safe, common and universal for people to feel like everything sucks, I can have a level of understanding, acceptance and grace while my mind resets.

And allowing what is to just be, with no resistance or fighting, is what allows it to change quicker than we ever thought possible.

On The Ease of Forgiveness

Why does it sometimes feel so hard to forgive?

We all have times when forgiveness feels difficult, sometimes even impossible. Because surely better could have been done, and it wasn’t, and that’s not okay.

But seeing the truth of how the human experience works shines a whole new light on forgiveness because it illuminates a key fact: our reality is created through thought, therefore we can only do the best we can with the thinking we have in that moment.

The ‘better’ that could or should have been done is only what we now see from a higher level of consciousness.

Hindsight 20/20, they say.

From a settled mind the big picture is obvious. When our thinking is clear our actions reflect that clarity. When our thinking is cloudy, our actions reflect that confusion.

We all share a default setting of love, peace and well-being that gets reflected in behaviour naturally and effortlessly when thought isn’t distracting us.

But when we’re caught up in insecure, distressed, agitated, anxious thinking… clarity temporarily eludes us.

We see life through the filter of unclear thinking, and act on that temporary reality.

As naturally as healthy behaviour stems from healthy thinking, unhealthy behaviour stems from unhealthy thinking.

Which brings us to the truth that we’re always doing the best we can given our thinking in that moment.

Sure, if we were seeing more clearly we would likely do differently, but we truly, honestly were doing the best we could given how life looked to us in the moment.

In a state of mind of stress, anxiety and depression, the things that occur to us will be very different than what we feel inclined to do from peace, stillness and connection with others.

Seeing the truth that what we all do is directly linked to that moment’s temporary thought-created reality allows us to understand the innocence.

Yes, in theory, better could have been done. But it couldn’t have been done in that moment, from within that temporary reality, at that level of consciousness.

This is why we apologize, express remorse, try to make amends. Because we have the ability to see differently once our mind has settled… but not before it has settled.

We didn’t see it at the time so we did the best we could with what we saw at the time.

Forgiveness, for ourselves and others, doesn’t have to be impossible or even difficult if we’re willing to see the truth of this for ourselves.

Forgiveness is simply the recognition of innocence, the seeing that we’re all up against the same thing: thought masquerading as reality.

We all get caught up, tripped up, fooled, taken for a ride… welcome to the human condition. Having a deeper understanding of what’s going on behind the scenes allows us to reconnect with the truth of our innocence, and forgiveness is the natural result of that realization.

What Do We Do About Major Problems?

I received a message today from someone asking me how this understanding can help with major problems.

She feels that perhaps seeing the truth about our human experience can maybe help us with minor problems, but major problems just are major problems.

So what do we do about them?

Well firstly, it’s really helpful to know that “major problem” is made up. Now I don’t mean the situation, circumstances or things in the world of form aren’t happening, I’m sure they are or at the very least they could be.

But for a situation to be a “major problem” we need to take seriously the thinking that says it’s a major problem.

If we don’t think something is a problem, we don’t experience it as a problem.

If we don’t experience it as a problem, it’s just simply not a problem to us.

I know, I know, this may sound too simple.

But truly: without believing the thinking that says a circumstance, situation or event is a problem, there is no problem. It just is what it is.

Most of the time I think climate change is a a major problem. When I’m thinking about it in that way I feel scared, hopeless, fearful, distressed, upset, angry and stuck.

When I don’t see it as a major problem I tend not to feel those things.

Climate change is still happening in the world of form, regardless of what I think, believe and experience about it.

Yet when I allow my thinking to shift and change (as it naturally is designed to do, thank goodness that’s not our job) I see climate change differently.

I see it as the by-product of a low level of global consciousness. I see it as an effect of self-consciousness, greed, insecurity and fear on a massive scale.

When my mind isn’t taking seriously all the fear, hopelessness and distress that comes along with the “major problem of climate change”, I have room to see it differently.

In that space something new occurs to me. It makes sense for me to do certain things and cease certain things. It might occur to turn my attention inwards and see where I’m innocently part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

I get answers and solutions that were previously unknown to me. I see the same events in a deeper, broader, more interconnected way. I have ideas that I didn’t have when I was staring down at the “major problem of climate change”.

And in that space, I have access to the unknown. Since my mind isn’t totally bogged down with all my “major problem” thinking, I get fresh thinking. This may take the form of ideas about anything: innovation, technology, education, personal change, societal change, global change, etc.

The important thing is not nailing down what the solution might be, it’s seeing where solutions come from.

Solutions come from where all new thinking comes from: the unknown. The not yet created. The not yet formed. The nothing (no thing) out of which everything (every thing) arises.

If something is looking like a “major problem” right now, the good news is a) you don’t have to take that thinking seriously, and b) you can go back to the drawing board and allow yourself to have fresh thinking about it.

We’re designed to see things differently when we don’t take seriously the current thinking we have about it.

So what do we do about major problems? We realize that “major problem” is an unhelpful label that we don’t have to buy into, and we rest in the space of pure potential that is the birthplace for answers and solutions.

On Wisdom and Personal Thinking

Lately I’ve been getting asked the question: how can one tell the difference between wisdom and personal thinking?

If everything from our most anxious, depressed experiences to our most helpful natural guidance comes from the power of thought, how does one distinguish them and know which one to trust?

And for a long time I really thought this question could only be answered by looking at the content of what we think.

I thought I needed to compare my current experience to similar experiences in the past and assess from there.

Or even that I needed to compare it to other people, if it was “aligned” with what I noticed from the behaviour of others, I could guage how likely it was that it was wisdom.

Not only is that exhausting, it’s not even effective.

Fortunately, it’s so much more simple than that.

Human beings are beautifully designed and part of the kindness of the design is that we have a perfectly reliable feedback system as to what thinking we should take seriously.

It lets us know what thinking we should be listening to, acting on or following and what thinking we should be ignoring and allowing to change into something new.

The super helpful reliable feedback system is the feeling that accompanies the thinking.

And it’s a hard to describe a feeling because words have so many meanings but I’ll do my best.

When our experience feels expansive, light, free, airy, curious, playful, fun, inspiring, fresh, new, loving, interesting, open, helpful, fascinating or just downright obvious: a good feeling accompanies it.

When our experience feels heavy, tight, constricted, restricted, boring, monotonous, repetitive, habitual, closed, stuck, frustrating, stale or just downright unpleasant: no good feeling accompanies it.

Acting on the thinking that comes with a good feeling is how we know we’re operating in line with this greater intelligence that we’re all connected to: the very energy behind life that’s beating our hearts and breathing our lungs.

It’s how we know we’re coming from the space of our true nature, instead of coming from the space of biased personal thinking.

The feeling is designed to be our guide.

Red means stop. Wait. Take a pause. Breathe. Let something else come. Thought by nature is fluid and transient and it will bring us something new if we allow it to.

Good feelings are green. They tell us to proceed, to go forward with whatever it is, whether it’s creativity, inspiration, a helpful solution, a new perspective, a fresh thought… it’s all safe to trust and act from.

So we needn’t concern ourselves with the content of our thinking. It’s unnecessary and unhelpful to analyze, compare or contrast our thinking with other thinking.

If the thoughts bring a good feeling with them, go. That’s our wisdom shining through. Whether it’s subtle and ordinary or bold and inspiring, it’s simply a higher quality of thought that is wise and responsive to life.

If the thoughts bring a bad feeling with them, stop taking them seriously. Stop listening to them. Stop buying into their reality.

That’s a surefire sign you’re in distorted, subjective and untrue personal thought, and if you continue thinking about that thinking you’re bound to suffer, get in a tangle and innocently feed that experience.

Knowing that feelings are our built-in guide is incredibly helpful. Wisdom comes with a good feeling, personal thinking doesn’t.

On What We’re Not Seeing

I was hosting a group call recently and when I opened my mouth to speak I heard this sentence spoken:

We’re under the impression that we’re looking out our eyes through clear glass and seeing life as it is, when in truth we’re looking out our eyes into a mirror that’s reflecting thought back to us.

Where that came from, I have no idea. (Okay, I have some idea. It came from the unknown. So like I said, no idea.)

But even though I’ve never discussed it using that analogy before, it points to something fundamental about how the mind works. We live in a world of thought that’s so pervasive that it’s invisible to us.

It so seems like we’re looking through glass; that our mind is picking up thought, feeling and experience from the external world.

It looks like we’re seeing life as it is. It looks like we’re seeing reality as it truly exists, independent of us. It looks as though things are solid and fixed. But it’s simply an illusion.

That’s not how the mind works. We can’t ever see life as it is, we can only see it how we are.

We’re like a fish in water, born into the very thing that we’ll live in until we die. It’s so rudimentary to our experience that it goes unnoticed, unrecognized, and unseen even though it’s a constant.

Because we misunderstand this, we tend to get ourselves stuck believing that what we see actually exists.

We think seeing is believing; that if something looks a certain way to us that it must actually be so.

We assume that we’re seeing life accurately, and all of the things that look real are real.

This isn’t the first time I’ve made this point. But the reason I’m bringing up this friendly reminder is because I see people refuse to look in the direction of their innate well-being simply because they have a lot of thinking that they must not have it.

They have all these very logical-sounding (though fundamentally untrue) reasons why they’re not wise, well and healthy by nature.

They believe what I share about how human beings universally operate doesn’t apply to them; so they try to explain to me why they’re the exception.

I’ll hear things like:
“Well having a homebase of peace of mind, well-being and wisdom is all fine and good… but I suffer from past abuse/low-self esteem/a shitty childhood/severe anxiety/messed up brain chemistry/emotional baggage/panic attacks/controlling people/PTSD/extreme phobias/unfair life circumstances/medical diagnoses/any other problem you can possibly think of/ therefore I’m the exception. Sure, some people may have innate health… but not me.”

If this sounds familiar I invite you to consider that your very sensible, logical, common sense reasons why you’re the exception is simply misguided thought that you don’t have to take seriously.

It feels compelling because we’re under the misunderstanding that we’re seeing life through glass; that what we see simply is.

I know the reasons seem real, look real and feel real. I know they seem very perceptive, sensible and socially agreed upon.

But they’re not true. The mirror is reflecting what’s behind it (thought) and making it look like we’re simply seeing life as it is.

The only thing keeping you from seeing how absolutely fine you truly are is all the thinking you’re listening to about why you’re not fine.

It’s a mirror, not a pane of glass.

Once you catch on to the trick, you’re home free.