it’s all #fakenews …

As human beings we live in two worlds.

There is the external physical world. The world where we can touch a tree, watch a wren dart from shrub to shrub, scratch our elbow when it itches.

Then, there is the world of our mind and imagination. The world where we can feel hurt by what that person said and imagine what they meant. We can dream about our tomorrow and recall distorted truths of our past. A world where we believe the stories and myths of our mind. Our own fake news generator, if you will.

This second world is a virtual reality that can appear and feel just as real as the external physical world. The shoulds and musts are powerful, motivating, compelling.  Indeed, when it comes to your emotions and your imagination, the virtual world of your mind can be more real than the real world.

Our mind seems to muddle these two worlds. What is true? What is real? What is imagined? What is story? What is fake?

It seems too that our society is slowly shifting to value this second virtual world more than the first real, physical world.

For now it seems, in our modern media enabled world, we not only create our own virtual stories and myths, not only listen to those of our family and friends – those we might meet within the real world – now, we are bombarded by the stories, myths and imaginations of billions of others from around the globe. Real people we will never meet, with all their distorted stories of self and associated experience.  And we believe them. Or respond to them. Or worry about them. Or take them on as ours.

Recently, I read that more than 15% of Twitter’s 319 million users were not human. So not only are we engaging with the thoughts of other people, people we don’t know; we are listening to robotic programmed outputs from 48 million unknown devices. All adding to the melting pot of real and unreal, true and imagined, solid and distorted.

Yet each interaction is enhancing our own virtual sense of the truth. Augmenting our own thoughts and emotions. Building a more complex, layered perception of self, our place in the world and all its global dangers and intents. Causing us to be more curious, more mentally stretched, yes. Enticing us to respond, to debate. Yet also to worry, to feel pressurised, scared even. It drives a need to know. A need to be part of. Inclusion not exclusion. Powerful emotional draws deep within our ancient animal brain.

I wonder if this contributes to the rise in mental health and well-being issues? I wonder what this holds for our future as a species?

The internet increasingly drives our lives. You’re using it now to read this. We read reviews of products from unknown people and trust them. We read tweets from unknown people and respond to them, emotionally, cognitively. We scan page after page of Facebook posts, skipping across our timeline like a never ending movie.

You are reading this blog. In one sense it’s not real.

I am of course.

But these thoughts are the creations from within my mind, my virtual world. True, you can choose to ignore them. You might see reason in them. You might concur. You might though, above all else, wonder what else you interact with in the world that isn’t real?

Challenge yourself to be curious; to question what you hold in your head and how that in turn impacts your thinking and how you feel. Is it real? Is it your imagination? Or is it a distortion of someone, or something, that doesn’t serve you well in maintaining your mental and emotional well-being? Maybe anything that does that, whether true or not, is the real fake news?

Maybe take time to stand with your hand on a tree.  Ground yourself.  The tree is real.

Go well people.

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the things we provide to keep us safe…

safe vulnerable
Much in our world is provided to keep us safe.

Black and white stripes on a road just one mechanism to make crossing a road safer. “Beware of the dog”. Safety shoes to prevent damaged toes. Safety glasses to prevent damaged eyes. Policies to ensure we don’t get sued, laws to allow us to sue. Use by dates to alert us to the dangers of eating food that might harm us. Bans on games of conkers to avoid bruised hands or worse. Maximum dose eight tablets in 24 hours. Road signs warning of adverse camber, liability of freezing, low bridge or simply to ‘give way’. “Don’t run”. “Slippery when wet”. Barriers at the end of footpaths to ensure we don’t inadvertently run out into the road. Safety belts. Medical screening for illness and disease. No standing upstairs on the bus. ‘Safety’ matches. Fire extinguishers, expensive sprinkler systems and fire drills. Warnings for children on who to talk to and who not to. Fire guards, safety catches, automatic cut-offs. “Eat five a day”. Jabs for our holidays. Pinhole glasses for solar eclipses. Masks to filter our breathing. Catalytic converters to trap pollutants. Helmets for bike riders and sportsmen. “Contains 20% of daily saturated fat”. Life jackets. “Smoking kills”. The list is endless.

Yet when we engage with the world as a human being, put ourselves at emotional and psychological risk. When we show ourselves. When we face judgement. When we risk belonging. When we make mistakes. When we face fear. When we feel lonely. When we show vulnerability …

… then we are on our own.

We have to work it out for ourselves. Try things. Get hurt. Learn quickly. We have to look after our own wellbeing. We work out our own policies and rules. We build our own safety mechanisms. Tell ourselves what is acceptable and what isn’t. Build our own beliefs, values and behaviours to act as barriers to keep us safe. Talk to ourselves, reassure ourselves, beat ourselves up.

Where is the support really needed? I wonder if we have the right balance, the right focus?

is it vital to be alive?

alive vitality

Take a moment to reflect on your year so far.

On what occasion, in what scenario, did you feel most alive?

I mean truly alive. Alive in a whole body way. Physically and emotionally buzzing, an energy coursing through you like you were plugged in.

Maybe you achieved a work goal, maybe you experienced an adrenalin rush on your first parachute jump, maybe you were walking alone in the forest at dawn, maybe you had a deep realisation about yourself, maybe you completed your first ever triathlon and felt on top of the world, maybe you presented to a group something important to you and won them over, maybe you had a tender moment of love with someone close to you…

Vitality.

If you can’t find something. Go further back. Look for it like it’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Seek it tirelessly. If you can’t find a single experience, look to understand components, smaller parts that provide clues to where your vitality rests, then build, add, try, experiment.

Maybe you find it easier to locate the opposite? A sense of fatigue, of being drained, of a kind of deadness? Somehow we have become conditioned to notice this more. The drudge of the commute, the dull but necessary task, the unfulfilled aspiration, the tiresome social gathering…

It’s a useful exercise to list down how you spend your time and then reflect on what nourishes you and what depletes you. Simply getting better balance in your life will improve your state of mind, your sense of happiness or fulfilment, your well-being – swap some draining activities for ones that inspire you, lift you, nourish you.

But more than that, be curious about the nature of that nourishment. Score them. Look at ones that deliver most. Why is that? What properties do they have that align with who you are, what matters to you, what gives you pleasure, what gives you meaning and purpose?

Here lie clues to that vital experience, that vitality, that sense of aliveness experienced in a whole body way – psychologically, emotionally, physically

Never stop looking. It’s vital.

You think you are alive because you breathe air?  Shame on you, that you are alive in such a limited way

Rumi