4 Ways to Actually Change The World
I originally wrote this post while pregnant, anticipating the world I wanted create for my son. Instead, I now see this as the world I want to create because of my son through his life and death, and have edited it accordingly.
When it comes to healing the world small changes are very important, but I believe that it’s time for all of us to embrace big ones too. And so this isn’t a list of things you should recycle or how to shop more sustainably (though, those are totally great things to work on, also). This is a list that goes much deeper, since if we’re going to create real, actual change in the world, we have to go beyond superficial and small steps and into the really big, really serious ones. We have to get down to the root causes of disconnection and mindlessness, down to the very reasons why we – all of us – have ended up with a planet and humanity that is so wounded, and how to ultimately heal it.
In our quest to change the world it’s important to remember that only person who needs to be criticized, corrected, or changed is… yourself.
Actually you shouldn’t criticize yourself either. But, in a world where we looooove to point out what’s wrong with everyone else (“that person is intolerant” “that person needs to grow” “that person said something I disagree with so I must insert my own opinion!”) it’s good to remember that nothing is ever really about anyone else. I know it’s (vegan) cheesy, but it’s true. When we view others as being wrong for whatever reason, it’s actually a major waving bright red flag that we need to check in with ourselves and fix our own areas of ignorance and blindness first, because ultimately those are the only things we can actually know to be true, and that's the only area we can really change.
This is not a new idea. As some old wise men have said: “Let he [or she] who is without sin cast the first stone” (Jesus) and "You must be the change you wish to see in the world." (Gandhi).
I realize that this path usually doesn’t feel as good as deflecting onto other people, and that you don’t get the rush of righteousness and rightness, and you will have to instead face some of your own less-than-perfect areas and then ideally work on them, which can be kind of sobering…. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned (and there may only be one thing), it’s that we can’t change others. Like, at all. Shaming them doesn’t ultimately work. Inspiring them doesn’t ultimately work. The only person who can decide when someone will change is…. that person. And so our work is to change ourselves, first, foremost, and only. And when we do, that’s when real change starts to happen in the world.
I know meditation doesn’t seem all that exciting (you’re just like…. sitting there, right?), but I truly believe it’s the most transformative thing each of us, as individuals, can do.
Meditation is the process of really getting to know yourself, know the world, maybe even know the truth. Most of us – despite what we think - actually have no idea why we do the things we do, why we believe the things we believe, and why we are here on this planet, but luckily meditation helps to clear all that up. It helps shine a light on the deeper inner workings of our minds and bodies so we can start making decisions from a place of awareness and empowerment and start living in a way that is a reflection of our most compassionate choices instead of our reactions, or our desires, or our fears.
Meditation can be a slow process. It does takes time, and patience, and most importantly bravery, since most people would prefer to do almost anything than sit quietly inside their own minds for any length of time. But think of it this way: if you don’t even like being around the inside of your own head, how can you expect others to take the things that come out of your head seriously? (see #1 above)
The great thing about meditation is that you can start right now. Yep, right this moment! And while yes, there are plenty of fabulous courses and retreats and apps and classes and guides and like, a ton of different types of meditations and all sorts of props and things you could buy, the simplest way to start is just:
* Find somewhere comfortable to sit
* Set your timer for 20 minutes (or longer, if you’re feeling very adventurous!)
* Close your eyes
* Then let your mind do whatever it does.
Let your feelings be whatever they are. Just sit with whatever is happening. Learn to be comfortable with your own mind, your own thoughts, your own body, so that they can become a places of truth, compassion, and acceptance, which may in turn inspire others to start on the same journey.
Violence is… everywhere. It’s embedded and accepted throughout our language, entertainment, meals, fashion, news, and politics. And I really believe this does great harm to our spirits, emotions, and ability to connect with others.
I’m intentionally leaving this one a bit open ended for you to explore how you define violence and how much you are okay having in your life. Obviously I recommend a non-violent diet (and write about it often, like my Totally Painless Starter Guide to Veganism). And non-violent fashion (and also write about it often like my Ultimate Guide to Vegan Fashion). But there are all sorts of other ways to resist violence too. Our words are one powerful way, which I was reminded of when Leah from StyleWise recently wrote about war language in social justice (this practice of using non-war language in general is something my mom has been doing for years, and I’m only now starting to take it seriously). PETA made this great observation about how we so often use violent phrases about animals, like "killing 2 birds with one stone" and how we could instead find other creative, non-violent ways to get across the same message. And our culture perpetuates violence against women through the ways we describe men’s tank tops, or how we’ve turned words for female dogs and female genitalia into insults, and I could go on, but the point is that our language matters, and if you start paying attention you’ll notice violence is everywhere, even amongst us peaceful pacifists.
Peace starts within us and our choices in words, entertainment, food, and fashion can be powerful ways to truly start shifting away from violence, because that’s when real change starts to happen in the world.
I worry that we’ve become a culture of critics instead of creators. We’ve forgotten how to build things and grow things and make things, instead resorting to the lowest dominator which is judging things other people have built, grown, or made. And the reason I think this is an issue (besides that it’s just…. not very inspiring or interesting) is that I think this hurts our humanity and our collective consciousness. I think all this unspent creative energy finds ways to come into existence by manifesting into behaviors that are controlling and hostile, and feelings that are anxious or depressed.
And part of this might be because perhaps we've lost site of what creation and creativity actually is, having confused actively creating versus being adjacent to creation. We think it’s enough to be around creation, to be near those who are creating, to enjoy watching others create (or enjoying tearing down what others create, which seems to be more common). But to heal ourselves and the world we each need to start actually, actively, personally creating again. And it doesn’t really matter what what it is: a garden, a painting, a song., a love letter, a solution, an invention. It can be anything – it just has to be something you bring to life, and often.
When we start creating instead of critiquing or by-standing, that’s when real change starts to happen in the world.