A decade ago I moved from northern Virginia to a small town in Colorado with just a carful of belongings. I left behind a marriage and a job and joined some good friends who were living what I saw as a conscious and sane life. A part of me was looking for time in the mountains to deprogram and start afresh. With more space and quiet, in a gentler town, perhaps I could get down to some wiser ways.
Did that happen? In many ways it did. The East is so dense with people, buildings, and culture that a girl sometimes can’t separate her own values out from those of the society. In the cacophony, the quick pace, the getting and spending, one doesn’t even have time to think. The attitudes of society soak in through her pores and affect her thoughts and behavior.
When I settled in Colorado, I found a job with odd hours, and I hiked up many a mountain. I sought out yoga classes, then a yoga teacher training. Slowly I began to unwind my physical patterns, my muscular tension and my defenses against the world. In a hakomi, or body-centered psychotherapy, training I sat with peers in mindfulness and observed my core beliefs emerge. I found an outstanding yoga teacher whose classes took me on an ecstatic journey, and after all this, I could feel my feet on the ground, my animal body engaged in the world, my heart open so that I engaged more easily with others. I hoped work and love would flow more easily. And they did, especially love. Work? I’m still progressing on that front.
Presently I find myself wondering how we in this country developed the mindset we have and the belief that we must work excessively and purchase new gadgets regularly. I wonder how our environment, healthcare system, and political system all became so toxic or dysfunctional. There is an armoring and network of habits at the national level just as there is at the individual level, of course. We buffer ourselves against remembering another set of values by escaping into entertainment and the pursuit of status, or things. I see a clinging to old beliefs and habits. I see a belief in the dominance of a market economy above all.
I turned to history to understand more, and I read about the founding fathers and their ideas, about Christian fundamentalism, about the decline of intellectualism, about our perspectives on the body and about the evolution of psychology. How, I wondered, did we become so materialistic? How did a business mentality so thoroughly permeate medicine and education? How did we get to this place where we must work such long hours and commute such long distances to have enough money for expenses?
At the same time I wonder what might help us to loosen hold of those beliefs and reconsider. Let some new ideas in. Would it be a change in education? More yoga and less time on treadmills? More time in nature? That’s my prescription! But each of us thinks we know what would be best, and none of us knows the whole truth about our troubles and what to do about them.
The good news is that younger people are coming up with new ways of doing things. Whether it is because they are facing less abundance than their parents or just seeing what the world is now, they are already trying something different. Generation Y, for example, is said to want a shorter work day and more time for family, more flexibility in their jobs, and meaningful work or lifestyle that includes work. They want to support their communities.
I see this trend evolving in this small town I landed in. Many young people are starting small businesses, collaborating to build a counter economy. There are people making a living as web designers, social media managers, artists, and healers. They find ways to network, or share office space, to promote one another’s businesses. When our society can sustain these folks well, or if they can sustain themselves, we will all be healthier.
There is so much that is rich in life that becomes buried in business and striving. I am a baby boomer with the values of Generation Y. A yoga teacher in need of a job, a job in which I work with others for something I believe in and yet also have time for family and creative work. Time to be outside. Time for prayer and mediation and the study of history. We need to really think about what we believe, what we feel in response to the world around us, and where we need to go. Because if we don’t change course, we will pay a big price.
Can we not examine the bundles of assumptions and beliefs wrapped around us so tightly that we can’t notice? It is time, right now, to slow down, to look both inside and out and consciously choose the values we will live.