To heal the earth, first look to yourself

A reminder of what you can do. Five-minute read.

These days, it feels as though the earth is going through something of a crisis. We’ve been sounding the alarm bells for a long time now, but the reality of climate change has only really sunk in this past year on a massive scale, and people are panicking.

For some of the older generations, the alarm bells have faded into background noise as they have lived with the sound for most of their lives – they have learned how to ignore them, or they never believed there was anything to be concerned about in the first place. For them, the recent turn of events must have been startling. The result has been a series of confrontations and political standoffs, only adding to the chaos we feel every day.

Many older politicians live in a space of denial, and the leaders of tomorrow aren’t standing for it any longer. People are speaking up, online and in real life. Inspired by the young climate activist Greta Thunberg, millions have taken to the streets to let governments and large corporations know it’s time for a change. Progress is happening, but it’s not happening nearly fast enough, and as scientists continue to publish increasingly bleak studies on the current state of the world, the collective anxiety is rising, rising fast.

What can we do? We ask ourselves. It is easy to feel helpless in a world that seems to be falling apart faster than we can process. It’s easy to get caught up in the chaos, to spend our days worrying and our nights absorbed in the news. We wonder when our governments will finally get their act together and we shout a little louder, hoping they’ll hear us. Or we go through life as we always have, waiting for someone else to solve the problem because we’re just one person, what does it matter, anyway?

When we become caught up in circumstances beyond ourselves, we forget to look at the reason these global issues exist in the first place. We forget to look inside.

We’ve all heard the saying, hurt people hurt people. And it’s true. Someone who is truly at peace with themselves does not feel the need to inflict pain upon another person. All that hurt had to have come from somewhere.

In life, we go through hard things. Challenging things. Painful things. If we’re not willing to examine the experiences that have brought us to where we are today, we project that pain out into the world and continue the cycle of hurt, perpetuating it for ourselves and others, whether we do it intentionally or not.

Much of our pain is learned. Wounds and stories get passed down through the generations; patterns are passed from person to person and energy is a sticky thing. It takes work to clear these things, and a lot of people are simply not willing or able to do the work. We’ve been taught to hide from our shadows, that emotions are ugly things to run from and crying is for the weak. For a long time, we’ve been living in a world where the masculine has been exalted for its strength, while the feminine was told to lie down and be quiet. Patience, intuition, empathy, creativity – these qualities were seen as “soft” and worthless for a long time. Until recently, that is. In the last few decades, the feminine has been bursting into the light with the strength of a force suppressed for far too long.

I am not speaking of feminism here – this is a conversation far larger than the confines of gender or cultural norms. We each carry masculine and feminine energies within us. For a long time, these energies have been out of balance with one another and the result has been reflected in the world around us. The earth itself is suffering. People are suffering. Our collective progress is suffering because we have not given space to the knowledge of more than half of the earth’s population. It is time for a change.

When we think of change, we often think we have to be loud about it. That is simply not the case. One of the bravest things you can do is look inside yourself and sit with your shadows while they struggle to tell you how they got there in the first place. More often than not, the parts of ourselves we want to ignore just want to be seen and acknowledged. They really don’t mean to cause a fuss – it’s the only way they know to get our attention.

A few months ago, I came across the work of Kyle Cease, a comedian turned transformational speaker who helps people in a big way. (I highly recommend his audiobook, I hope I screw this up – he narrates it and it’s just the best thing.) I listened to this podcast where he was interviewed by Lewis Howes, and the ideas he shared connected with me in a new way.

We can hear the same information over and over again, yet it just takes one person saying it in the right way to hit home and inspire us to act.

Kyle Cease did this for me. I found his humour and anecdotes disarming. He explained meditation to me in a way that it finally, finally made sense and felt less intimidating, like it was something I could maybe actually possibly do. I understood for the first time that meditation is just sitting in silence and listening to what comes up. Oh, and before you panic, the things that do come up? That’s not actually you. That’s just your old stories and beliefs moving through you, and meditation has given your brain the space to process and let them go.

I began to examine the stories I’ve been telling myself for most of my life. I began to question things with gentle curiosity. I realized there were people in my life I could let go of and others with whom I’d like to spend more time. I started listening to my intuition, asking if an opportunity feels expansive or contractive in my body, as Kyle Cease encourages people to do in one of his exercises. I began to believe in my worth and purpose as a humxn being. I started taking chances and doing even more of what I love. It’s all been challenging, but it’s also been really beautiful.

Healing is hard work. But is it worth it? One thousand percent.

The startling truth is, we are so much more powerful than we give ourselves credit for. A billion individuals acting for the betterment of the planet do have the power to change the world. I know you may have heard this more times than you can count, but I’ll say it again: change starts with you and me. Change begins with us. It starts with the individual, on a small level, in small ways.

Change is taking the bus or biking instead of taking a car. It’s recycling and composting, reducing and reusing what you already have. It’s checking out your local farmers’ market and choosing to eat more plants. It’s taking a shorter shower. It’s carbon offsetting when you decide to travel and bringing a reusable water bottle with you when you do.

Change is deciding to heal your shit instead of perpetuating a centuries-old cycle of passing along the pain you’ve gone through and sitting with your shadows instead of ignoring them.

There are so many things we can do to make the world a little better – so please do not give up. Please do not give up on us. You matter. We all do. In order to solve the gargantuan problems we are currently facing, we need all the hands we can get.

Now go out there and do something.