Peace, Love & Complexity

How we can salvage our nervous systems, embrace the chaos and build a world founded on love

Safety is the ground that peace can land on.

That thought came to me in conversation with a friend about a personal situation, but it struck me afterwards that it highlights the core problem we have in our time; we live in a culture of fear. We’re taught to be scared of almost everything from the get-go (particularly of not doing what we’re told), in adult life the media reinforce the fear narrative, and as often as not even well-meaning world-savers share their information through the lens of fear.

When there is no safe ground there can be no peace, because a population that doesn’t feel safe will continuously search for causes to blame for their perceived lack of safety.

No peace in the individual heart means no peace in the collective. So our current predicament in this Covid-19 pandemic, in combination with the deep layers of unresolved personal and collective trauma we all carry means that for many people the options are;

  1. Resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms / opt out (the most vulnerable in society)
  2. Adopt a binary perspective whereby the mainstream narrative is either untouchable or the actual antichrist (this involves extraordinarily high levels of self-righteousness but apparently there’s an abundance of it in our culture)
  3. Attempt to be with the divisive narratives, hold all the possibilities simultaneously, focus on staying anchored in love

I’ve been trying #3 but to be honest there have been moments in the last few months where #1 has seemed infinitely preferable.

Partly because the majority of people are deeply committed to the black and white, binary system of relegating people who question the mainstream narrative as being conspiracy theorists whose only value would be cannon fodder in the wars of yesteryear, and partly because staying anchored in love requires maintaining a healthy energy/frequency, which, despite all my practices and resources, has proved challenging.

To me the most striking thing observing our collective response to this pandemic is the lack of willingness to be with complexity. But of course to be able to do that we would first have to get past our pathological fear of death, and that (as we all know) is utterly taboo. Death = BAD, full stop.

An embarrassing case of developmental stagnation

So clearly the whole death-avoidance thing is an issue, but it’s an old one; the one that feels like a point some people might actually pay attention to, is the complexity-avoidance.

In developmental psychology, the tendency to view the world in black and white and to fastidiously relegate all things to a binary position in one’s worldview, is normal at the adolescent stage of development.

The thing is, we’re meant to grow out of it into a way of being with the multitudes of perspectives that all hold a piece of the picture.

Humans want security, and feeling that they have the answer and anyone who thinks different is an idiot, provides an astonishingly strong sense of it, even if utterly misguided. And unfortunately, as we’re all aware, our friends in the mainstream media are greatly tickled by divisiveness (does anyone else feel echoes of the Jerry Springer show??) and therefore encourage it.

More than anything this worries me because I have seen this refuge of binary thinking affect even people and communities I would have thought knew better.

What hope is there if even people who rationally understand that polarised thinking cannot lead to integrative, holistic, systemic solutions, fall into it?

And to find it endemic even in those who call themselves “spiritual”; this I-know-better, moralistic, condescension towards other perspectives. Where are the principles we know to follow in our hearts?

Humility, surrender, honouring the process? Remaining respectful and bearing witness to each others’ experience no matter how different from ours?

In many ways this pandemic feels like the ultimate test of our spiritual development and I’m horribly afraid that it’s not looking good (I should probably admit at this juncture that I have absolutely had my moments of thinking some perspective or opinion is cretinous, but generally attempt to move back to non-judgement as fast as my stubborn ego will allow).

But back to complexity.

Why can’t things just be simple?

We all feel it occasionally I’m sure; that longing to go return to a simpler (theoretical) time when all we had to worry about was getting in the hay and what to make for supper.

The reality is whether we like it or not, in the age of the anthropocene where we are struggling to track the myriad impacts of global warming and ecosystem collapse, let alone the psychological and physiological effects of our rapidly changing behavioural habits, we live in a time of intense, ever-increasing complexity.

And that is overwhelming.

It’s overwhelming because we haven’t been taught how to be with the high levels of uncertainty that inevitably accompany rapid change, and that means stress. And the sense of being helpless in the face of environmental disaster leads to hopelessness and despair (which create trauma); better not to spend too much time being with those unpalatable facts.

The solution of course is to create simplicity for ourselves amid the chaos.

To slow down and breathe, anchor ourselves in our own core stability and tease apart the issues that are creating a stress response within us. It is only through spending adequate time in a state of slowness and stillness that we can regulate the culturally-induced hyper-arousal of our nervous systems, retain our sanity (and our humanity) and have some chance of being morally-driven change agents in the pressure cooker times we’re living in.

Once we do this it becomes easier to be with the complexity; it feels less threatening, less overwhelming, more like an invitation to curiosity than a declaration of war. But it’s still a choice — of whether we are willing to explore the context we are in from multiple angles, or instead select one perspective and rigidly stick to it.

The fundamental question

At the end of the day, three laws create the premises for conscious behavioural choices;

  1. Everything is energy
  2. Energy precedes matter
  3. The energy of love creates expansion; the energy of fear creates contraction

We all know what it is to be in a state of contraction; it sucks. As someone who is inherently anxious I am rather more familiar than I’d like to be with this state and I know full well that in that energy constructive thinking is tough, let alone insightful, innovative, creative thinking. Expansion on the other hand is pretty great at it.

So let me ask you this: in a crisis of global proportions, which state do you think is likely to fuel the most generative solutions?

A contracted system is not open to insight. And as dear old Albert pointed out, we cannot solve our problems from the same consciousness that created them, hence the ever-expanding spiral of evolution in which we include and transcend the established level of mind into a qualitatively different way of being.

As many have noted since the start of this pandemic, fear is the most infectious virus of all.

And a virus that makes contact with a latent resonant field (referencing Sandra Lichtenfels here) is going to have one hell of a party. Given that we live in a culture of fear and are therefore primed to be highly responsive to it (as well as harbouring our death-avoidant psychosis) is it any wonder that we have a parallel pandemic of panic?

I’m not suggesting Covid isn’t a nasty-ass virus; we have enough data at this point that shows it’s an unpredictable (there’s that pesky uncertainty again), multi-symptom disease with a potential long-term health impact and it kills off vulnerable people like a wildfire burns through dry timber. Apart from when it acts all ghost-like and does nothing at all to you.

So yes, Covid is nasty. And yes, uncertainty is scary. And yes, fine, death is a freaky business.

But this is it — this weird, unexpected armageddon scenario of multiple simultaneous global crises — and we get to choose how we respond. How we face fear. Who we become when the metaphorical rubber meets the road.

No, we haven’t had training in this. And no one is going to hold our hand and tell us everything will be ok. Humankind has brought this planet to the brink of collapse and on top of that we have a sneaky, rapidly mutating virus on our hands.

It’s time to grow up.

Creating safety, fostering peace

The good news is, we have enough brilliant, creative minds to solve any problem if we choose to presence and prioritise complexity-inclusive solutions. And at a personal, for the sake of our exhausted nervous systems and over-burdened immune systems, we must learn to slow down, focus on the simple tasks right in front of us and do each one with love.

And I don’t mean that in a soppy Disney-style sense, but rather in the sense of a radical commitment to being present and mindful in every moment, and waking up to the reality that how we do one thing really is how we do everything and that therefore to build a better world we need to be willing to orient towards love.

Because I for one, want to be part of a world built with love, not fear.

When we orient towards love our nervous system calms down, stress hormones reduce, blood pressure sinks and slowly a sense of wellbeing comes over us. This is possible in the most extreme situations (read Viktor Frankl’s book, “Man’s search for meaning”) and is therefore not context-dependent.

This sense of wellbeing equates to a sense of safety, because your system is in relax mode rather than fight, flight or freeze mode. And when we feel safe we can be open to new ideas, to new people, to new possibilities. We can imagine things being better than they are. We can dream and create and be deeply available to our own experience (important for the continued fostering of safety) and to others.

Greater sense of safety = more expansion = more peace.

More peace creates higher levels of willingness to behave cooperatively, collaboratively, compassionately and to stay open when we encounter differing perspectives rather than “othering” and shutting down. It creates enough internal space for us to be with complexity without freaking out and jumping onto a polarised bandwagon.

So that, as I see it, is the big test now; to create safety so that, gentle as drifting goose down, peace can land on the ravaged shores of our ever-willing hearts.

“Faith is the birds that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark” ∼ Rabindranath Tagore

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I’m a facilitator of sacred spaces engaged in emergent culture building through ceremony, collective presence and voice. www.stephanielisakelly.com

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Stephanie Lisa Kelly

Stephanie Lisa Kelly

I’m a facilitator of sacred spaces engaged in emergent culture building through ceremony, collective presence and voice. www.stephanielisakelly.com

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