The world gets faster and crazier every day. More happens on a monthly, weekly, daily basis than ever before. I know I’m not the only one who feels it. There’s just so much going on.
You could spend every waking hour reading news articles and end each day with thousands left to read. New discoveries, new technologies, new facts and opinions about those facts, new projects, new problems, new solutions to old problems… it never ends.
The world is constantly grabbing for your attention – have a spare minute? Look at your phone. Did you see what Trump just did!? The new policy? Did you hear what Google announced? Have you tried the new…?
It’s long been too much for one person to keep up with, but now our attention is spread especially thin. It’s hard to stay on top of one field, let alone several at once. There’s just too much going on.
We are right at the bottom of a sharp upward curve, one that shoots so far up into the clouds it’s impossible to see anywhere near the top.
Think about the industrial revolution: 60-80 years that completely transformed the world. But no one in the first 10 had any idea how different things would become.
We’re just now inside the first 10-20 years of an information revolution that’s probably at least a thousand times more impactful for our species in the long term.
Is there any doubt the next 10 years will bring about more change than any decade before? Is there any disagreement that no one has any clue what things will look like in 100 years, or even 50? When it comes to the future, the best we have is wild speculation.
But as the rate of progress increases, so does the cognitive load on each of us in our daily lives. Technology advances and access to information is easier than ever, but the human capacity to take in and process information remains the same.
That’s why it can start to seem too crazy. If it feels like you can’t keep up, it’s because you can’t keep up. So when it gets overwhelming, what do you do…?
Come back to yourself.
Your “self” – or at least the closest approximation of it. Your direct, moment-to-moment experience: the only thing you ever really have. And the recurring elements of that experience from which further circumstances emerge – habitual behaviours and physical and informational inputs.
Externally and internally, come back to yourself. The former means getting back to basics in the outside world. Simplify down to what is essential. Move and eat well. Drink water. Get sunlight and love. Humans are not such complicated creatures – not all the time anyway.
With infinite information available, what determines effectiveness is not how much you can take in but how much you filter out. During and after exposure to content, just notice how you feel. Do you need more or less of this in your life? The answer is there when you look for it.
Coming back to yourself internally means becoming re-centred in your own being. I once heard Vinay Gupta say, “The mind is a sense organ.” I didn’t completely understand what he meant, but the phrase stuck with me as it seemed there was some important truth embedded in the statement.
Now I think I’m coming around to it: the mind performs sensory perception just like sight or smell or touch, albeit in much more complex and captivating ways. But ultimately all it does is receive inputs from the outside world and then present them to you subjectively in the form of images, words, voices, or however else your thoughts emerge.
And so, the internal world gets busy just like the external world. But there is a place inside you that exists alongside your experience, always accessible and only ever an instant away.
Ram Dass speaks about a candle flame in a cave being sheltered from the storm outside. This is the awareness that you cultivate, separate and distinct from the inner chaos and tumult.
Why is meditation so powerful? Because it sits you right down in that place: apart from the ever-changing aspects of your subjectivity, in your experience but not of it. Rest in tranquility while the garbage cleans itself out so the light can shine through. More signal, less noise. Yes please.
That is the essence of practical spirituality, and the most reliable path to equanimity and peace. It’s the best place to find answers to impossible questions because it’s where you find inner truth.
So when it starts getting crazy, when it feels overwhelming and like things are spiralling out of control… just come back to yourself.