When was the last time you stood still in silence, in a state of simply being, without reaching for your smartphone or some other distraction? Recent research on burnout in Millennials (anyone born between 1981 and 1996) found that they have grown used to almost constant stimulation. It seems that behind this, is an inability to relax, together with underlying anxiety and agitation. On top of this, there is the cost of living, climate crises, and background geopolitical conflicts. So, it’s not surprising that many people, not only Millennials, are feeling a bit restless and disoriented.
In our contemporary lifestyles, we are often time-poor with too much to do and not enough time. It was not always like this. The earliest evidence of Homo sapiens goes back two hundred thousand years and we started farming around ten thousand years ago, so in the big scheme of things, this is a relatively recent change in human behaviour. In comparison, our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors, who represent 95% of the time humans have existed, lived relatively peaceful lives and worked only a few days a week.
We go through years of education and are never taught some of the fundamental things about being human. What thoughts, feelings, and emotions are, or about appreciating our amazing body and senses. The dominant narrative seems to be about constantly striving to achieve success and happiness, but then we discover that they are often framed in biased and unattainable ways by our consumer-led culture. We can’t all be rock stars, celebrities, or part of the privileged elite. As David Byrne sings in the 1980s Talking Heads song, “Once in a lifetime”, where is this “beautiful house”, with “a beautiful wife” and “a large automobile”?
With all this striving, busyness, anxiety, and noise, we seem to have forgotten the value of peace and calm. Finding the time to stop and take a few breaths and allow ourselves to become still, open, and aware: shifting from a state of doing to a state of simply being.