|Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst|
As Rev. Michael Beckwith shared at Agape recently (and I paraphrase) "If there's an area in your life where you are unhappy and dissatisfied or stuck, then there is a lie you are telling yourself somewhere along the evolution of that situation."
For instance, when you are disappointed in your child's college of choice, where is the lie you're telling yourself in that situation? When a person feels justified in abusing you, verbally or physically; what is the lie they are telling themselves? When we are disappointed in our nation's leadership, how are we also lying to ourselves?
Our age is one of rampant global data redistribution on the news and in social media, and we are increasingly overwhelmed by the need to "make sense" of situations at many levels. From stories of abuse, to leadership struggles, to health scares, to school shootings and even just family challenges...how can we possibly process it all to find smart solutions for our lives and for our country. How are we to get there? And why is it so difficult to figure it all out?
I say this without blame: begin with yourself. Take some quiet time for a re-examination of your heart, mind and body. We usually believe our "heart is in the right place" so perhaps our MIND needs addressing...are you of a clear and healthy mind, toxin-free? Our environment, substances, and medications often affect our brain synapses, and our ability to think, so take stock of your brain health and adjust as needed, with your doctor's help if necessary.
As for our thought processes: are we thinking clearly about all the issues before us? What is our bias, are we wearing blinders? Are we being "bandwagon" thinkers, taught to mimic our elders' or tribal/teams' beliefs even if they no longer serve us? Are we "reactionary" speakers blurting out defenses to make a point, rather than listening and considering the whole picture? Are we "considering the sources" of our information? Take it from a publicist...there is more propaganda than ever at play in all of our media platforms...learn to recognize the 10 forms of propaganda, and you'll have fun recognizing manipulative messages every day of the week.
On a positive note, there is a huge trend toward embracing yoga and mindfulness for betterment of our selves and our communities.
Why it Matters
I'm concerned that several generations of people in our country have not been taught how to think critically. Why isn't critical thinking - a tool crucial to intelligent decision making - being taught at the middle- and high-school level? In the past, there was an assumption that non-college bound individuals would be laborers, military personnel, or homemakers, and therefore not in need of such information, a convenient assumption at a time when conformity and belonging were emphasized over individuality.
However, today's younger generations are the most individualistic and globally-minded that we've ever seen. At the international level, it is crucial that they, and we, develop our critical-thinking skills to co-exist peacefully and to compete in the world marketplace. On a personal level, we must engage these skills to help our family, friends, co-workers and others to have a better understanding of the world, and to not be guided by propaganda, anger, fear or intimidation. And, case in point, with the pandemic of COVID-19, we must each weigh potentially life-changing choices about work, travel and healthcare in a measured way, without panic.
Finally, even our nation's unity and our civility is at stake until we learn how to intelligently debate, argue, and dissent, or accept as the future status quo the current assault of ranting, raving, seething commentary that bombards our screens today. The latter option is simply too depressing to accept.
Want to think better, smarter, faster? Begin by absorbing the easily digestible guide to critical thinking skills from College Info Geek. If you enjoy the info, there is much more to explore on the topic at http://www.criticalthinking.org/.
With a few new tools, and more open mindedness, we can all engage with less emotion, and with more purposeful response. As the saying goes, "Let it begin with me."
Atmospheric Sounds and Thoughts
My final tip is to curate a sense of calm in your surroundings, especially in stressful times. In addition to exercise, adequate sleep, and meditation, a serene atmosphere contributes to one's ability to relax and think clearly. For some, it's classical music, for others it is nature sounds, ASMR, or space music. While reading or resting, I prefer ambient music with a slightly melodic approach, as found in Spotted Peccary's Positive Vibes/Pure Bliss playlist. If you enjoy piano, flute, guitar, or violin-based music, I suggest checking out the music of Blue Landscapes, Lawrence Blatt, Ann Licater, Fiona Joy Hawkins, Masa Takumi, Jennifer Thomas, or compilations by Sounds from the Circle or the Mindful Music Association.
I hope you'll find some uplifting new music, clarity of thought, and peace of mind!
- Beth Ann Hilton