If so, what do you reckon our chances are?
A fundamental need
We all have a fundamental need to feel safe. That has certainly been challenging over the last few years with fires, pandemic, floods, war. I look back on my earlier life and long for that feeling of safety that unbeknownst to me then, I took for granted. I was lucky to have very nurturing and caring parents which afforded me a sense of freedom, a sense of I’m ok, and everything is ok.
Adulthood has been a little different. And, our world is a whole lot scarier these days. We’re coming out the tail end of a health pandemic that has changed our lives forever. We are experiencing the impact of climate change, war is raging in the Ukraine and threatening to spread. More than a few countries these days have the capacity to destroy the planet. It is unsurprising that there is an epidemic of mental ill health.
As a species, we seem to be nearing the end of a very long road of efforts to control away threats to our safety, only to recognise that this aspiration was never going to be possible in the first place. Our lives are impermanent, unpredictable and uncertain. Any illusion that it has ever been otherwise is becoming more and more tenuous as we live with the day to day threat to our survival that is looming.
Sorry about the doom and gloom, but I consider that embracing the uncertainty and instability is essential in crafting an intelligent response. If we look to our external world for a sense of security, these days, it isn’t going to deliver.
Our home ground of safety
However, we do all have a ground of safety that can be accessed within us that is independent of external circumstances. And, it is within our control to cultivate and develop its strength. It’s not something to attain, more a matter of recognising it and bringing it more to the foreground. Amplifying it, despite the threatening external environment.
This ground of being, our internal safety net, can only be found in the present moment. It is not somewhere off in the future. It is here, ever-present with us now. I really love Sam Harris’ definition of mindfulness, quite simply, that ‘mindfulness is leaving everything as it is’. And, Byron Katie tells us that ‘we can argue with reality and we will lose, but only 100% of the time’. Such simple wisdom. So hard to live.
Touching my calm place
I feel unnerved by our external plight. The world does not feel safe to me. And yet, my fundamental need for safety remains. I notice that my survival response is activated a lot of the time. I have moments when I can ‘leave everything as it is’, but they’re rare. I love that from time to time I can touch my calm place within and that it nourishes me. I’m finding more and more that I need to take more time to plug into that source.
When I slow down and go within, taking time to inquire into my inner experience and meet whatever arises with compassion, my sense of being grounded, peaceful, and content naturally returns. This is because I’m reconnecting to my true nature, which is always all those things. And, so is yours!
Deliberately cultivating the felt sense of safety
I don’t want to diminish the importance of doing all the things we need to, to ensure our external safety. They are, of course, of great importance. However, there is a whole lot that threatens our safety that is beyond our control. Having a way to manage our response to this reality is useful.
Deliberately taking some time in your day to feel into that sense of safety will help it become more familiar so that during challenging times it is more readily available to support you. It’s important to practice accessing this internal safe haven when you are not under stress. This will allow the neural pathways to grow and establish a ‘quick route’ to find your way to it when challenges come your way.
100% under your control
You can call on a memory of safety, use your imagination (of what it would feel like), perhaps bring to mind beautiful scenes from nature or a safe built space that feels comfortable to you, even bringing religious figures to mind if that’s important to you. In fact, its uniquely yours, anything at all that works for you. Deliberately taking the time to experience the felt sense of security or safety will stand you in good stead. It might be more a feeling of ‘okness’ or security rather than absolute safety, whatever you can access in that direction is good.
You can also notice the times that you do feel safe and secure and really stay with those feelings longer than you normally would. Take them in. Steep in them. These little and often practices help to grow the neural infrastructure to support you when challenges arise.
While so much of what threatens us is beyond our control, there are things that you can do to help your nervous system stay regulated and to keep you in state of readiness to respond, rather than react. Developing an inner resource (you can call it whatever you like) is one, and it is a super powerful ally to have that is 100% under your control.