I want to talk with you today about why your thoughts about regenerating our planet matter more than your actions. You can read below, or listen on the podcast.
How you act matters a lot. There’s a big difference between living a lifestyle that cares for Earth as best you can, and one that contributes unnecessarily to her abuse.
But give me a chance to explain why I believe your thoughts and feelings about Earth matter most of all.
I’ll start by making it clear that I’m very aware of our environmental problems. And I’m very aware of how these problems affect women, children, people in poverty, and people of color disproportionately. There’s no doubt that Earth’s health and human health are very challenged right now.
However, I’ve come to believe that we can’t solve these problems by focusing directly on them. Both history and neuroscience show that we create what we think about and focus on. And nothing good has ever been created from despair, as far as I know.
Nothing good is created when we stay in overwhelm or discouragement, either. I hear people saying, “it would be great if we could reduce air pollution or end toxic emissions into water or help the people who live near toxic industrial sites…but it would be too hard. Not enough people would cooperate.” Overwhelm and discouragement keep us stuck.
If we want to repair and regenerate the natural world, we need to begin with how we are thinking and what we are focusing on. I call this Wise Focus.
Modern neuroscience shows that our feelings and actions reflect what our brains are focusing on. Neuroscientist Jeffrey Schwartz has called this “self-directed neuroplasticity,” meaning that each of us gets to choose what our brain is focusing on and how that focus makes us feel and act. You can read about this in books by Schwartz, Norman Doidge, Rick Hanson, and other physicians and neuroscientists.
These authors also talk about our innate ‘negativity bias,’ a protective tendency that evolved over millennia in the human brain to protect us from danger. Now we’re learning to counter-act our tendency to see the negative with what I call Wise Focus: choosing to see the parts of reality that inspire goodness and hope more than we focus on the parts that promote discouragement.
In his book Hardwiring Happiness, Rick Hanson speaks of this as ‘taking in the good to fill the hole in your heart’ that can develop from the painful experiences of life. Hanson points out that we want our brains to be responding in ways we choose, not reacting and creating negative emotions.
For the purpose of encouraging anyone and everyone to participate in regenerating our planet, her life systems, and our relationship to her, I call this work of directing our attention Wise Focus.
We can also find these ideas expressed by people who are teachers of wisdom and mindset. Here are five examples of versions of Wise Focus:
- Medieval mystic Julian of Norwich comforted her peers in 14th century England with her assertion that “All shall be well,” and her visions indicating that Divine Love is always present when we choose to be aware of it.
- Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh explains: “Every one of us…can experience a feeling of admiration and love when we see the beauty of the Earth and the beauty of the cosmos. This feeling of love and admiration has the power to unite the citizens of the Earth and remove all separation and discrimination. Caring about the environment is not an obligation, but a matter of personal and collective happiness and survival.”
- Thomas Troward pointed out in the 1800s: “The law of floatation was not discovered by contemplating the sinking of things, but by contemplating the floating of things which floated naturally, and then intelligently asking why they did so.”
- Reverend Michael Bernard Beckwith states: “We are not merely anticipating a new world, we are participating in the new world by the vibration we are carrying. So before it can even be seen, we are the thing, we are the frequency. Be the frequency now!”
- Mindset teacher Lana Shlafer explains in our interview in episode 9: “All of the most impactful people have been unrealistic because they dared to look at what is happening and then inspire themselves and everyone around them to move toward what they want to be happening. It’s ‘be the change you want to see,’ not ‘sit here and complain about the fact that things are the way they are.’ “
I could go on with further examples, but I think it is enough for today to say that in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, spirituality, and mindset, we can find many assertions indicating that where we place our focus is crucially important, especially if we desire to create something impactful, beautiful, healing, or regenerative. I call this Wise Focus.
So what does this mean in practice? I’ll share some big picture thoughts and then some ideas you can act on in your own life.
We create what we choose to think about, see, and focus on. Wise Focus leads, always, to regenerative, healing, inter-dependent, collaborative action.
You can choose Wise Focus or its opposite.
Right now you can see animals going extinct or people around the world striving to support animals’ survival. Just a few weeks ago, in the midst of record storms and power outages, volunteers in Texas saved thousands of sea turtles from freezing to death in the Gulf of Mexico. You can see carbon emissions being too high or someone developing a new alternative energy device. All are true. You can see women in poverty going hungry, or the microloans enabling them to start small businesses and move into financial stability.
Where you place your attention will decide your feelings, thoughts, and actions. That’s why what you think about Earth matters more than how you act. You’ll choose discouragement or despair and most likely take no helpful action, or you’ll choose active hope, Informed Optimism, and Wise Focus and find your way into helpful action. (For help with choosing Informed Optimism, see my ebook at www.humansandearth.com/courses)
When you look at the world right now,
- You’ll see the processed, sickening foods that are being offered to us, or the natural healing foods that also are available. You can see the dangerous jobs for workers in agriculture, or the safe jobs on organic farms that are growing in number.
- You’ll see people committing violence against ecosystems or one another, or you’ll see all kinds of people saying, ‘this ends now. We are creating a better way.’
- You’ll see decline or renewal, death or rebirth, endings or beginnings, destruction or creativity, perishing or flourishing.
You’ll experience the effects of your focus in your own emotions and body.
In the years when I worried obsessively about air pollution, I developed asthma, and I don’t think that was a coincidence.
Once I realized that worldwide, millions of people are endeavoring to reduce and even end toxic emissions into Earth’s atmosphere, I began to feel empowered to make my own contributions to solutions.
Humans create what we believe we can. We do what we think is possible. We act based on our thoughts and beliefs. This is why Wise Focus is crucial if you want to help Earth and humanity heal: because what you think about Earth determines HOW you act.
What do you choose to think, feel, believe, hope for, and create?
What if you are here to co-create a healed world? What did discouragement, overwhelm, or despair ever accomplish in this world? I advise, act on the side of hope. Act on the side of regeneration.
When you choose Wise Focus, you can FEEL the energy of restoration, regeneration, and cooperative interdependence growing, and you’ll recognize signs of healing everywhere: maybe your neighbors bought a low-emissions vehicle or improved their composting system; maybe there is a new environmental initiative in your workplace; maybe a Transition Towns group has started in your town. Maybe your town or city are moving toward better waste management or open-space protections. When you look at the world through the eyes of Wise Focus, you’ll see many reasons to feel hopeful.
So many of us are feeling the call to transition from a lifestyle that damages ourselves and the Earth to a lifestyle that nurtures both.
I believe you, and each of us, are called to be on a regenerative mission with Earth and all of the natural world. I believe we’re here to heal our relationships with one another and the planet in integrated endeavors that honor all life forms and their needs.
If you feel ‘things can be better here—even a lot better’—and you also feel, ‘I have more to contribute than my current life allows,’ here are 4 steps you can take:
- Practice switching to Wise Focus. When you catch yourself feeling judgmental, sad, despairing, or angry about an environmental or human problem, acknowledge your feelings, which are valid. Then make the choice to explore the Wise Focus perspective that is conducive to regenerative action. Your Wise Focus perspective will probably involve thinking and feeling how the *solution* to this problem will look, how wonderful it will feel, and what steps might enact it.
- Keep in mind that Earth and her many sacred life forms probably would much prefer that we maintain Wise Focus rather than bemoaning tragedies. There is a role for grief and remorse, for sure, but I believe that if you connect to Earth, a tree, an animal, or a nature spirit, they are likely to appreciate how Wise Focus can lead you toward making regenerative contributions rather than sinking into the inertia of depression.
- Make a list of the regenerative solutions that come to mind as you practice Wise Focus. To see the examples others are gathering, subscribe to the free newsletters Optimist Daily Solutions and Good News Network.
- Notice how Wise Focus generates Regenerative Vision: as you practice Wise Focus, you’ll start developing ideas of how you want to contribute to caring for people & planet. This may be on a significant scale in your current work or volunteerism, it may be a new type of contribution you’re going to develop, or it may be on a personal scale in your homelife, something like starting a garden, getting rid of all yard chemicals, composting, changing to less-polluting methods of transportation, planting native plants that feed pollinators, participating in a neighborhood clean-up—the options are endless!
If you would like further support, in May I’ll be opening enrollment to an online course called Collaboration with Earth: Support & Strategies for Your Reverent, Regenerative Service
The course will guide you to discover your next steps in Wise Focus so that you can build Reverent Relationships with the natural world, develop your Regenerative Vision of the contribution you want to make, curate your Soulful Sovereignty and Support so you feel nourished and strong instead of burned-out, engage in Sacred Collaboration, and create Regenerative Outcomes.
If you want to be on the wait list for the course, feel free to contact me. I’m keeping the price of the course very low this year: it will be a 7-week, support-rich course for $89. Make sure you’re on our mailing list if you want to be notified when the course opens.
I believe with all my heart and mind that we are here on Earth at this time to heal her and humanity’s lack of well-being and transform the natural world and human circumstances into beautiful, regenerative realities that honor and include all life and give all life the opportunity to fulfill its sacred purpose in freedom, ease, and joy. If you believe that, too, or you want to believe it, please practice Wise Focus. It will carry us forward into the era of regeneration we are craving.
We need to focus on the aspects of the world we want to live in in order to create the world we want to live in.