We live in decadent times.
With the click of a button, we can get anything we want by tomorrow. We can connect to anyone in the world within seconds. We can eat yesterday’s freshly caught bluefin tuna from Japan today and book a flight this morning that will get us to Dubai by tonight. Our children grow up with instant answers to their questions thanks to Google, and we don’t even have to go outside to check the weather to determine what we’ll wear today.
But considering all we’ve gained, have we lost something too?
The capacity of what we can do in the world right now is extraordinary. These advancements are real and powerful but also have energetic and spiritual consequences that we don’t regularly consider.
With this kind of innovation comes a new pace, vibration and way of being in the world. In an instant, old values are thrown out, and new ones stand innocently untested in their place. And we jump in, unaware of how we, down to our very core, will be affected until after the fact.
Our human needs are ever the same — certainty, variety, love and connection, significance, growth and contribution. And so we take our needs and push them onto this new paradigm to see how they’ll fit and uncover how we’ll manage.
Our human needs are ever the same — certainty, variety, love and connection, significance, growth and contribution.
Seeking love and connection, with a side of variety, we sit lovingly close to our partners on the couch — and simultaneously scan our social media feeds for two and a half hours a day (up almost an hour per day since 2012) while watching TV after a long workday. And this is how we satisfy our need for connection.
Desiring of purpose, and unsure of how to meet our need for significance, we turn to the seduction of acquiring things. This way, at least on the exterior, it appears we have all we need to those viewing our daily play-by-plays.
We order another pair of jeans or search for a new car, a second home, or book another trip and tell ourselves we’ll worry about the financing later. With hungry ghost-like insatiability, we buy more, and more, and more.
With the average American holding four credit cards $10,000 deep in debt on each one, we have developed an ugly, secret habit to attempt to fill our void for significance.
And because spending this kind of money is normal, and we yearn to contribute, we work even longer hours to be able to afford this extravagant lifestyle we’ve built. Eighty-six percent of men and 67 percent of women in America work well beyond 40 hours per week.
We pursue the human need for growth within the confines of our workplace, whether we’re happy or not, because where else could we possibly experience growth when we spend every waking moment at the office or plugged in, reachable and checking email and social media accounts?
Our bare feet rarely touch the earth, our skin doesn’t see the sun, we don’t sleep enough, we hardly know where our food comes from, and we raise generations of children who model our sedentary behavior, who’d rather play Fortnite than hide-and- seek. And we assess our value by how many followers we have and likes we get.
It’s no wonder one in eight young adults in America experiences depression and reports difficulty focusing. With this trajectory, it’s not entirely shocking that suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15- to 19-year-olds. We’re just so dang busy and distracted.
Our poor children are the innocent bystanders of a culture left unchecked. Their anguish is the same as our own, wildly waving red flags, showing signs and symptoms of spiritual distress, younger and younger these days. Their anguish is a sign for us that something is not right in the way we live our lives; they are our canaries, going into caves, many never to come out again, in hopes that we’ll see them, help them, offer guidance.
If the declining mental well-being of our children is not a message that something needs to change on a societal level, I don’t know what is. Unwell children on a grand and increasing scale are litmus tests of our culture as a whole. Mental and emotional health challenges permeate every corner of society. And after months of isolation from each other and overuse of technology because of COVID-19, things aren’t looking any better in this realm.
With our basic need for certainty now in question, our very sanity at risk, we are swept away by the whoosh of life’s tumultuous waves, desperately clawing our way back to the surface for our own air.
It’s no wonder so many of us struggle to feel good at our core. It’s no wonder so many of us feel so depleted. When we live arrhythmic lives — disregarding the critical elements of sleep, movement, rest, and nourishment — our organism cannot thrive; we have no access to deep energy. We feel hollow and beat down, tired and uninspired.
This portrait of American life may or may not be an accurate depiction of your own life. But surely, we all see pieces of our- selves in here. The point is, it is not entirely our fault. We are all innocent, victims to a pace, normalized behaviors, and a society, all of which we cannot entirely control.
The sad truth is, much of what is considered ordinary in our culture today is toxic and unsustainable on a spiritual and energetic level. Our society values progress more than wellness, doing over being. But living this way has consequences, as declining mental health statistics continue to show us.
Yet despite the waves you bump up against now, you do have some control. And it starts on a personal level. You cannot change what is outside before you change what is inside. Whether you’re already familiar with your sense of center and ground or you are caught amid life’s ocean swirls seeking land, retreating is how you find your way back to the shores of yourself. But this is not yet a normalized, societal practice.
You cannot change what is outside before you change what is inside.
Going against that which isn’t standardized by the masses takes courage. You must leave what is comfortable and safe because you know what might have worked before no longer holds true today, right now.
For yourself, your family, and your community, you must prioritize your own mental and emotional well-being. Even when others around you don’t understand or your children are small or your work life is robust. Especially then. You must retreat to remind yourself of your own truth and inner fire.
When you feel an urge or discomfort at your core, know that this is enough of a reason to step away for retreat. When you know there is more for you — you can be more, do more — it is time to step away and go inward.
So trust that which is bigger than yourself. Honor your discomfort, or your inspiration, as a message to seek space within yourself. Acknowledge the call to your own hero or heroine’s journey, understanding that you cannot know what awaits; you can only trust what sparked that initial fire.
Because you know that if you stay put, something in you dies. That toxic track takes hold and rots you from the inside out until your wake-up call is so significant, you may never again see the ocean’s surface.
But you have a way now, a window, an opening. It is simple but not easy. For a weekend, a week, or maybe a month per year, let your spirit hibernate. Go against the shoulds, the needs, the desires and the expectations. Retreat to stabilize the soul against all odds.
You must do it alone, for this is a solitary journey. This is not a slaying of dragons but a slithering out of old skin. A rebirth with brand new wings awaits. No one else can do this kind of work for you. Growing is a solo mission, and if you want to contribute anything of value to your precious self, family, community and world, then you must do the work, at first, yourself.
So Dear One, there is only one question left. Have you heard the call?
This is an excerpt from You Should Leave Now: Going on Retreat to Find Your Way Back to Yourself by Brie Doyle. Copyright © 2021 Broadleaf Books. Reproduced by permission.
Brie Doyle is the founder of She Glows Retreats, LLC, and the author of You Should Leave Now: Going on Retreat to Find Your Way Back to Yourself. She hosts transformational wellness retreats throughout the US and abroad. Brie specializes in curating mental and emotional wellness curriculum for groups, conscious companies, schools and individuals. A yoga and meditation teacher for over twenty years, Brie is a leader in the health and wellness space who helps people heal their past and reclaim their power. She lives in Boulder, Colorado, with her husband and three kids.
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