In a Facebook post yesterday after the gradeschool shooting in Connecticutt, I wrote, “We live in a toxic culture that glorifies violence and conflict and does precious little to foster love and compassion as a cultural norm.”
I was challenged to go beyond talking about the problem and offer some specific steps people can take to start kicking a cultural detox into gear.
And with that, a blog post was born! Here are eleven ways each of us can contribute to a collective cultural detox.
Gandhi famously urged us to “be the change you wish to see in the world.” If the change we want to see is more love, guess what we need to be? (Hint: It rhymes with glove and starts with an “l”).
Gandhi’s quote is great, but really it’s nothing more than a platitude if we don’t actually do something with it. So the question is, how do you “be love?” Spend some time with that question. Explore it with friends. Make it a habit to ask, “How can I be love here?”
Being love isn’t a fuzzy, pie-in-the-sky wishful idea. It’s something you can do in a very clear and intentional way. The more aware you are of what that means to you, and what that looks like, the more potential you have to live it.
If you really want to be love, here’s where it starts. I was going through old journals recently, and came across something I wrote that sums this one up nicely:
“I can’t be a voice for what I’m not.”
How effective do you think your efforts to spread love and compassion in the world are going to be if your inner critic is constantly reaching for the cat-o-ninetails? How realistic is it to expect others to respond to you from a place of love if you’re working from behind a carefully constructed facade that hides self-loathing. How authentic and unconditional is your kindness to others going to be if you can’t be kind to yourself?
Do a 30-day “be love” experiment
Want to put that “be love” concept to work in your life? Try a 30-day “be love” experiment. For 30 days, explore making “being love” the organizing principle in your life. You might, for example:
- Ponder the question “how can I be love today” before you get out of bed.
- Check in with yourself at various points throughout the day to ask the question, “Have I been love? How could I be love?”
- Keep a journal exploring the days events and how you showed up in your efforts to be love, any observations (kindly, compassionately expressed of course) on how you could have been love more effectively, a laundry list of possible ways to be love in the future, etc.
- Enroll others to do their own love-being experiment, and reinforce it with each other as you go.
- Give at least one unsolicited compliment each day. Even more, as you get comfortable and they start to flow.
Do a 30-day “be self-love” experiment
You might actually want to try this one before exploring the “be love” experiment (or you might want to simply make it part of your “be love” experiment). Some ideas for making self-love your life’s organizing principle for thirty days include:
- Notice. Commit to watching how you talk to yourself. Does it build you up or does it tear you down? Is it productive or destructive?
- Do an end-of-day review each day, looking back at how you treated yourself. Scan the day beginning to end. Where were the choices/actions/self-conversations aligned with self-love? Where were they out of alignment? Pick one thing each day that was out of alignment and ask, “What would self-love have looked like here?” Be sure you don’t use this as an opportunity to bash yourself for not being self-loving enough!
- Enlist friends in your experiment. Set a weekly date to talk about the experience.
- Challenge yourself to write down one new thing EVERY DAY that you like about yourself.
- Take time for you.
Listen to someone you don’t agree with
Think back to the last time you talked with someone you drastically disagreed with. How open were you to hearing what they were saying? If you’re like most of us, your knee-jerk reaction is to club their opinion over the head and show them just how stupid and wrong they are. Sounds like a recipe for peace, doesn’t it?
Instead of going into attack mode, stop and be curious. Ask questions (but not questions with an agenda – you know the ones, where what you’re really after is more information so you can launch the mother of all smackdowns). See if you can understand where they’re coming from. There’s usually more to it than, “They’re stupid and selfish and evil.”
You might find that you learn something from them. You might also find that they’re more open to being curious about your views if you’re not trying to club theirs into submission. At the very least, you’re not throwing more aggression and conflict into the world.
Get out of your ideological ghetto
Most of us live in increasingly isolated ideological ghettos, conveniently isolated from “those people” who have different opinions and different worldviews. We start to mistake the resulting echo chamber as reality, and demonize anyone whose views deviate from that reality.
It’s comfortable to be surrounded by people you agree with, but it’s also limiting. Challenge yourself to get outside your ghetto. Look for ways to come in contact with others who see the world differently than you do. (Then refer to the previous point about listening!)
Stop feeding your brain toxic goop
A culture is built in part by the way its participants perceive it. And a big part of the way those perceptions get built is what we choose to open up our heads and pour in.
Most people feed their brains a steady diet of toxic goop. TV news, violent movies, online news sites with the latest tragedy and scandal, divisive and conflict-ridden talk radio – they all create a view of a world based on what’s wrong.
If you want to live into a different reality, first you have to see that reality. The less toxic goop you absorb, the less toxic your perception. And the less toxic your perception, the more peaceful you feel. You are also less likely to have a reactionary response when your view is challenged.
Refuse to spread the toxic goop
Have you ever checked Facebook and felt like you just got splattered by big gobs of that toxic goop? Or maybe you came away from a conversation with a friend or family member with toxic goop dripping off you? What impact does that have on your day? Over time, what impact does that have on your world view? I’m willing to venture a guess that it’s not a positive one.
Next time you find yourself tempted to go on a rant or spread yet another article about something that pisses you off, ask yourself if that’s really what you want to spread in the world. It might feel gratifying to vent, but what about the people you’re splattering. Is that really the impact you want to have?
Stop voting for violence
Consider this. Every time you click on a headline in the online news, you are voting to be fed more of whatever it’s about.
News organizations are businesses, and their goal is to get the maximum number of people engaged in their products. Traffic volume affects what they focus on. So in a very real sense, every click is a vote for more of the same. Think about that the next time you are about to click for more information about the latest violence, scandal or tragedy.
Look for the light in people
Start building a habit of looking for the light in people. It’s too easy to get caught up in superficial caricatures of who we think people are. When you catch yourself doing that, use it as an opportunity to look for the light. Ask, “What can I appreciate about this person? What can I admire about this person? What does this person care about that I agree with?”
Start by practicing with people you like who don’t trigger any kind of negative response. Then expand that to cover people who give you little irritations. Move from there to looking for the light with people who would ordinarily kick up a big old heap o’ negative reaction in you.
Whatever your perception of someone, I can almost guarantee you that it’s wrong, at least in the sense that it’s incomplete. If you’re going to react to someone, practice reacting to them as a whole person, not as a caricature.
Enroll a friend, and encourage them to do the same
This is where all of this has the potential to get traction. Enroll a friend in your culture shift. Better yet, enroll five. And get them to commit to doing the same. Incorporate it into your conversations. Check in with each other on how it’s unfolding, and what you’re learning. Spread the word, and live it. Who’s with me?!
Add your ideas
That’s my initial run of ideas, but it’s really just scratching the surface. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. What here resonates with you? What other ideas do you have?
Want to join the Ripple Revolution TM?
Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM