Open any newspaper or news magazine – online or in print – and within minutes of reading its contents, one starts to get overwhelmed and nervous with the negative and unsettling information that is reported. The ugliness, the widespread violence, the lack of justice, disappearing jobs, the political theatrics, the effects of climate change and the general absence of uplifting or inspiring stories, leave one cold and worried. I’m sure you’ve experienced this. So do millions of people around the globe – irrespective of where they live.
Today, Information and Communication technologies, and the ubiquity of affordable devices that can offer us information, and which enable us to create and share rich content on our own, have dramatically changed how we use information. Unless you choose not to look at your smartphone/device, you will be blasted relentlessly, and 24/7, with lies, opinions, half-truths, fact and fiction in equal measure – all in real-time – with much of it intended to cause alarm, fear, and anxiety; or energize a specific and often narrow and divisive point of view.
It should come as no surprise therefore that people view the world today, as being highly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA). A mere 180 years ago, so-called “earth-shattering” information from around the world would take months to get anywhere; today the speed with which news travels is instantaneous, in addition to being graphic and often intended to rattle and agitate people.
Another matter of concern is that the technological advances that we are bringing forth – along with the choices that we collectively and individually are making – seem to be pushing societies and nations into greater turmoil and uncertainty. There are far more weapons of mass destruction in the world today than ever before; and even the number of batty leaders around the globe seems to be on the rise.
All these factors – and the shifting of focus on all things unpleasant – contribute greatly to magnifying and enhancing our angst and sense of helplessness
However, as humans we all wish to live our lives in ways that are fulfilling, joyful, creative, productive and peaceful. We want to love, and be loved. We want to live in harmony with others, celebrate life’s gifts, ensure that human societies are places where everyone is involved, safe and active, with justice prevailing for all. We also wish to enjoy the great bounties that our beautiful planet makes available for humans and animals alike.
What news providers rarely report, and something that we too take for granted, is the fact that Life’s own wonderful and intelligent processes are continuously ensuring our well-being. Seeds planted in fertile ground sprout to feed the world, while trees and shrubs, which provide fruits, resources and wood, also ensure that they keep the levels of oxygen in the atmosphere at the right levels. The tides in the oceans and the seasons come with a dependable regularity, and our own beautiful planet gives us days and nights to work and to feel rejuvenated.
So, what can we do to change our focus to that which is Life affirming? What may we do, individually and collectively, for the desirable states – that we yearn for deeply – to manifest?
As individuals, citizens, employees, followers, teachers, leaders, change-agents, facilitators, story-tellers, artists, musicians, chefs, or whatever we may have chosen to be, and in whichever spaces we use our gifts to serve, there are three essential things that we all need to do, to manifest the kind of world that would fulfil our desires for peace, tranquillity and prosperity for all.
These have to do with, a) Being b) Seeing and c) Acting.
‘Being’ implies understanding, remembering and celebrating our inextricable connectedness with all of Life, and being completely present in the ‘Now’ at all times. Each one of us is a part of the whole. And life happens in the ‘now’, so being in it is being fully alive and living. The sense of ‘separateness’ and divisions that exist in us – which get hardened if left unchecked – develop in our small, ego-centred minds, which is also the space from where fear, labels and anxiety emanate.
‘Seeing’ requires us to consciously train our awareness and attention to the reality that all of Life, and every creation, every molecule, every organism, is pulsating with the life-energy that animates the whole universe. All of humanity is connected, and is pursuing the same goals of peace, harmony and happiness. By tuning to this idea 24/7, even as we are fully present in the ‘now’, enables us to collaborate, ask questions that unravel complex issues; and work around problems that come from seeing a fragmented, unconnected, and competitive world.
Finally, ‘Acting’ is about taking swift, decisive and beneficial actions that uplift the greater good of all, while being rooted in the states of ‘being’ and ‘seeing’. Obviously, there would be some things that we can’t change. But there are many things that we can, and we certainly can pursue to transform those areas with boldness and confidence.
This three-fold transformation in our interiority – individually and collectively – is the way to stimulate beneficial global change – even in a VUCA world – that is life-affirming, wholesome, and nurturing for humanity.
(I’m grateful to my brother Arun Wakhlu for his insights on this piece)
Cf. “Navigating the Maze – Simple, Smarter Strategies to Fast-track Success”, by Bharat Wakhlu and Savita Wakhlu, SAGE, 2017