We live in an age of frivolity, dopamine, instant gratification, disgrace, cancel culture, separation, polarisation. Are you exhausted by that? I know I am.
The list goes on. We live in the most frantic and scarcity driven society that human culture has ever seen. Individualism has turned into a battleground.
Obsessive thoughts on the bottom line, a culture that drives legitimate consequences if the graph isn’t continually upwards. Losing your job, your livelihood, possibly your marriage if it is based on your career status — hey, it happens.
What is the price for this excess?
The price for consistent doing is health; the need for endless climactic experience pushes us into a fever which ends with sleepless nights, burnt out adrenal glands, ticks, and pill popping. Our relationships suffer under this stress.
Stress response in the body is a different state to the rest and digest from which connection and love come from.
On talking about this state of culture in the Western, and primarily American, world, George Leonard, writing in “Mastery — The Keys To Success And Long Term Fulfilment” says this:
The victory is real and celebration is in order. But so is some cautious self-examination, for there’s perhaps no more dangerous time for any society than the moment of greatest triumph. It would be truly foolish to let the decline of communism blind us to the long-term contradictions in a free market economy unrestrained by considerations of the environment and social justice, and driven by heedless consumerism, instant gratification, and the quick fix. Our dedication to growth at all costs puts us on a collision course with the human psyche.
As you might recognise from the communism reference, Leonard wrote this in 1991. We have had 30 years of exactly what he heeded against. Unrestrained free market capitalism. The power of the corporation and the media have over taken the government. Or the “senate has corrupted”. The regulating triangle of the media, corporation and government have ceased to do their job of regulating each other. They share interests.
Evident in a grossly over-inflated economy; unprecendeted.
We must be careful not to explain away this over-inflation as response to a crisis, or a workable model that suits the modern demands. We created those demands, with our cultural agreements.
There is a lack of moral discussion, we are not making those decisions that would perhaps curb the endless growth in favour of collective good, a health-care system that promotes longevity and proactivity, instead of a sick-care system which responds to crisis, promoting a working culture that also allows time and space to connect to loved ones.
How do we achieve this?
Back to the ways of mastery. Enjoying the plateau.
The way that human beings grow and learn is by a series of short bursts in improvement followed by plateaus:
We are continually shaming ourselves for not progressing, when in actuality, and following completely natural design, we are precisely where we need to be.
“You say you’re ‘depressed’ — all i see is resilience. You are allowed to feel messed up and inside out. It doesn’t mean you’re defective — it just means you’re human.”
~ David Mitchell ~ Cloud Atlas ~
If shame, distraction, or even self-hatred comes in on the developmental journey, we risk the curve plummeting and regressing to an earlier behavioural state.
Honoured as part of the journey in the mastery mindset. A growth is always precipitated by intention, environment and awareness, so what does it entail?
It is following the curve aligned with real and sustainable growth. It is honouring the natural cycle of growth.
See, the plateau may seem flat but it is full of something essential and magical; what coaches call ‘integration’.
Imagine yourself casting the net of knowledge wide out into the universe, you expand into a new subject, full of excitement, full of possibility. Eventually, you’ll reach a personal edge; something that feels limited, and uncomfortable. You might be able to ride the first couple of these waves, but, naturally, you’ll eventually tire and want to pull the net back. All of the fish — or pieces of information, are drawn back to the point of convergence.
Understood through the convergence of your values, purpose, what you intended to learn, your history, the potentials in your future, the phsyical tools you need, and the people you share that journey with).
The plateau is this area of sense-making.
We cannot tread in a land outside of our understanding, our mental paradigm, for long. It’s not in our nature. It evokes fear, panic, rage, resentment.
That is why imagination is so key. If we imagine ourselves expanding into something that we want and need, the journey becomes a much different experience; joyous, accomplished, dedicated, proud.
According to Leonard, the 5 keys to mastery are:
Self-determinism or individualism has taught us to do everything ourselves, when in actuality, there is nothing better than being in the presence of someone who has achieved and embodied what you are setting out to achieve. We live in a long line of ancestry, that is our human story, there will always be a mentor for you. Find them, or they’ll find you.
Purpose is found in action. Practice habituates the grooves of muscle memory and neuro signal firings, we are not looking to keep the action in our intellects, the mind is a poor master, we are looking to habituate it into our emotional and rhythmic experience.
The best masters can react and respond within microseconds, this is not born only from the idolised intellect, it is integrated into the body experience.
Surrendering to the experience and the outcome is vital, if we try to control every step of the mastery journey then we become fatigued and disenfranchised.
Surrender to the demands of the master and the discipline required to build skill and technique.
To imagine, strive towards a mental shift, and notice the aspects of you that want to emerge within this new process. It is all important for mastery, as they align you to a sense of intrepid adventure and a recognition that this process is beneficial and will enrich your life.
In the mastery process you will meet edges of yourself. In Internal Family Systems model, this would be thought of as parts of you that conflict with each other; one might be trying to protect you, the other trying to actualise the change you need to achieve what you need.
Resistance will be present.
In these moments, your relationship to yourself is essential; leading with loving kindness, compassion, and curiosity will get you to a place of integration and peace.
The mastery mindset changes cultural narrative; it is slower and aligned to a longer arc of development. However, it is more likely to be sustainable, breed connection and fulfilment of purpose.
It is a rebellious idea to live slowly in these times. There is an incredible pressure to respond to emails within five minutes or a job request within ten minutes.
Perhaps you could start to practice mastery in your hobby, or sports practice?
The benefits of mastery satisfy all the bodies; mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. I feel more vibrant, resourced, able to give much more, love deeper and more able to commit myself to people and projects I love.
The plateau may seem like a stagnant place, yet it’s not, it’s nuanced and subtle, and if you feel into it, it’s a rich place. Full of aspects and ideas clicking in, feelings of relief and beauty, acknowledging pain, grief, anger, sadness and the messages they have for you, and the emergence of what you always knew you could be.
A beautiful and life-long practice.
This post was previously published on Change Becomes You.
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