We spend a lot of time educating our children and ourselves so that we become more powerful. It’s that “Knowledge is power” thing. Education can help us to get a better job. It can help us to out perform our adversaries. It can give us a sense of safety. It can help affirm that we are right.
When we are hurting or sick, we can feel like there is an answer out there somewhere. We just need to figure out the diagnosis, apply the right treatment, and the problem is solved. If we’re not performing as well as we could, that’s all about education too. That’s why enrollment in self improvement and spirituality courses is booming. We think there is something we don’t know. If we just get that education, learn that skill, or do that thing, we will be successful and happy. This type of thinking creates human doings. If you want to be whole and happy, you’ve got to be a human being. That’s where culture comes in.
Culture is a shared language, religion, cuisine, habits, rituals, music, and art of a people. So, it’s Starbucks, high school football games, the Boy Scouts, Levi’s jeans, and Sunday brunch. These things are a part of life that are accepted and passed on without thinking about it. Everyone has a culture, but not everyone cultivates culture. That’s what I am talking about. If you live in American and aren’t mindful about the culture you adopt, you’re going to adopt thinking and habits that cater to the lowest common denominator. Why? Because we get huge part of our culture from the media. The media pumps sensationalism, sex, scandal, and fear into our lives. That’s what sells. What your surround yourself with becomes normal and acceptable. So surround yourself with things that create a culture of honor, respect, love, truth, and other values that are life affirming.
When you honor other people, you can’t curse out your mother when she tells you to do your homework. You can’t feel good about yourself if you are taking from people and not giving anything in return. You can’t feel a part of something when you give nothing. Behaving with a lack of honor creates low self esteem. Whether you are aware of it or not, we’re all part of a single whole. What you do to others is felt within you. Honor others and you honor yourself.
Respect is not just about showing respect to people, but to all of creation. Everything is energy. Everything vibrates. The law of resonance says that when two like things come into contact with each other, the one with the weaker vibrational field will begin to follow that of the stronger one. What does this have to do with respect? Well, people tend to have pretty strong energy fields. When we are respectful of animals, crops, fields, the air, the waters, and places, we affect them. This may seem insignificant, but we get our oxygen from the air! We get our food from the earth. The earth’s waters sustain us all. We have a duty to keep all these things clean and healthy so that all of creation can thrive.
In 2015, almost 50% of Americans used at least one prescription drug in the previous thirty days. That’s shocking! We are not a well culture. How can we be when we have no respect or relationship with nature?
And what about love? Romantic love used to be what inspired songs, poetry, and literature. Now young people seem to have completely lost the idea of courtship. It’s about finding someone who has a nice picture online and seeing how quickly you can sleep with him or her. It’s about getting sex when you want companionship or intimacy. When you have your face in your phone all day, is it any wonder that we don’t have the social skills to carry on a date? Love takes time. Courtship is about getting to know someone. Marriage is the foundation of a life commitment and kids. Choosing your parental partner is the most important decision you will ever make. You’re choosing the DNA and protector for your child for the rest of his or her life! Starting from a place of love is a great choice. So cultivate love. The effects ripple out into society in ways you cannot imagine.
Cognitive dissonance is a term that describes what happens when your beliefs and values are in conflict with your desire or behaviors. It basically means that uneasy feeling that you get when you are not consistent with yourself. When confronted with this, many times people resolve it by lying. The more you lie, the more normal it feels to be out of alignment. Soon you lose the ability to tell what balance feels like.
When society accepts lies as normal, there is no incentive to stick out and be different. Lies have energy. They make you off balance. The more lies you tell, the more off balance you are. This can lead to dis-ease, not knowing yourself, and living a completely disconnected life. What’s the point in being here if you are not connected and not really here? When you live in your body, it will tell you when you are eating, sleeping, working, and relating well. You will feel it in your bones. It’s like an inner compass that guides you. Who doesn’t need that?
I am daring you to be different from the mainstream. Start a new trend. Culture is created by people. I remember when the idea of bringing your own bag to the grocery store was not the done thing. I also remember when it was normal to leave your shopping cart beside your car. I remember when kids walking home from school or playing on the playground unaccompanied was an every day occurrence. All those things changed because of culture. It started with one person, then two, then a neighborhood, then a city, then the country. You can make a difference.
How? Here are some tips?
- Think before you click. When you click on an internet story or like a post, you encourage the creator to make more of the same type of content. If it’s hate speech, racist, inflammatory, discriminatory, or just plain ugly, think about whether you want more of that out there. Remember that the dominant energy brings the weaker energy along with it. Imagine what the internet would be like with pictures of puppies and kittens!
- Meet negativity with a state of nonjudgment. It might feel disingenuous to stay calm and peaceful when we are hit with negativity, but almost everyone can get to a place of nonjudgment when this happens. This respects the other person’s point of view without allowing it to influence you. It also keeps from adding fuel to the negative fire. It’s not your job to change people, but by maintaining your cool, you just may influence them to change themselves for the better.
- Think before you speak. If you feeling unbalanced while in the midst of conflict, ask for a moment to clear your thoughts. Don’t speak until you are centered, calm, and can speak from a place of love. This may take a day. It may take a week. It’s better to wait so that your relationships are always are respectful and loving. Your feelings in a moment of anger may not be your feelings once you are calm again. When you speak, speak kind words. You can express anger, fear, exasperation, or confusion using language that is respectful.
- Give thanks regularly. One of the reasons for prayer is to give thanks. People adopted regular times to observe the world, get in touch with nature, and give thanks for the things that enhanced life – like food, family, good weather, and the rewards from hard work. Gratitude keeps you humble and connected to others. Positive psychology has proven that gratitude is a component of happiness.
- Speak the truth. Many people consider it polite to tell white lies. They don’t want to hurt other people’s feelings. There are ways to be truthful without being dishonest. Like anything, it’s about skill. Once you start accepting lies, you tell little lies. Then you tell bigger lies. Lies are lies. Honor yourself and others enough to always speak in truth. But remember, this can’t be a one sided proposition. You have to be able to hear the truth as well. If you punish people for telling you the truth, they will stop being truthful. Speaking hard truths comes from respect – for self and other. It’s an honor.
- Value yourself. Don’t give your time and attention to people and things that do not enhance you. Thoreau said, “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” Is getting high, having sex with someone you don’t care about, staying in bed all day, listening to gossip, or not pursuing your dreams worth whatever you are getting out of it? If it is, find another way to meet that need that is more fulfilling. There are lots of ways to get your needs met. Self-destructive ones are not your only option. Self- destructive ones create low self esteem, shame, dishonor, and other things that keep you separated from others and yourself. You’re worth more than that.
- Slow down. Most people are so busy being human doings that there is no time to be human beings. Slow down. Meditate. Write in a journal. Do yoga, qigong, or tai chi. It’s so easy to get wound up. Our lives are fast paced. We live in a constant state of stress that we don’t even recognize because it’s just become normal. Slowing down can help your nervous system to restore itself. It can help you to get back into a natural flow of things. When you are living in a natural state, you become more attuned to when you are out of alignment with nature. This flows into your work life, personal relationships, and spiritual relationships.
If you want happiness, you can’t just read about it. You have to cultivate a culture that supports it. Happiness does not come from ideas. It doesn’t come from saying words, going to classes, or doing certain rituals. There has to be an underlying value system to support that knowledge and those actions. It’s a lifestyle.
You can’t have peace and love if you are watching reality tv shows that promote abuse and violence. You expect to find love when you say yes to meaningless sex. You can’t expect to have a happy, connected relationship if you’re calling your partner names and controlling what he or she does. Everything you do creates your culture. If you want happiness, cultivate a culture that is balanced, harmonious, respectful, and life affirming. Pair that with education. Happiness will follow.