The Life You Want is Closer Than You Think
Our wild world is, in many ways, backward and upside down; we've created a culture that supports poor health, loneliness, stress, emotional angst, and polarity. But buckle your seatbelt. Laurie Warren is a change agent, kicking our limiting "common but not normal" cultural mores to the curb and working to shift both our personal and societal approach in favor of empowered well-being.
Wild World, Joyful Heart is both a rally cry and a guidebook for attaining the physical, emotional, and mental health that you deeply desire. Will you use your mind as a bridge or a barrier? This question is the thread that you'll follow through Laurie’s extensive research, clinical experience, and unique storytelling style to create better health and more joy in your everyday life. This book is an invitation to bravely inhabit your life in a whole new way—while your joy, contentment, and wholeness reverberate out to stitch up our wounded world.
|Publisher:||Greenleaf Book Group, LLC|
|Product dimensions:||5.98(w) x 9.02(h) x 0.71(d)|
About the Author
Laurie also enjoys her four children, her two grandchildren, and the gift of life.
Read an Excerpt
"All I know is, I just feel — unhappy. It's not just the extra forty-five pounds, although that's part of it. I'm so stressed out — it's like I'm always running against time. And the news is depressing — it's like the world's falling apart. Honestly? I feel starved for everything healthy and real and good."
Meet Kate. She's your average, middle-aged, middle-class working parent — an attractive, delightfully edgy, plump woman who lives a relatively comfortable life. She eats when she wants to and has a warm place to lay her head at night. She also has a job, two kids, and goes on vacation once a year. I met Kate at a networking event and she later became a client. (An interesting aspect of the work I do is that even fleeting discussions with a new acquaintance can quickly veer toward the deep and personal.)
I've heard Kate's sentiment expressed by clients, friends, and relatives many times, in countless ways. People are struggling — with their weight, with chronic health issues, stress and fatigue, life balance, and with feeling as if they're on a hamster wheel. They're wondering why there's this niggling feeling of emptiness and loneliness, of unsatisfactoriness, of what-does-it-all-mean-anyway? The craziness, the political unrest, and the polarization of the world around them only add fuel to the fire. Similar to Kate, people have a lot of worry about the world, but feel like a spectator watching their world spin into deeper dysfunction. That's a lot to unpack, and that's exactly what we're going to do as we explore the ideas in this book.
Before we get into the juicy, empowering chapters to come, let's peek under the covers at some of what might be getting in the way of your living your best life. What are some of the key cultural factors that are informing your life experience? These hidden factors clandestinely affect your everyday choices, decisions, and life experience, and they aren't your fault. Meaning, you didn't create them, but you do have the ability to override them, and that's exactly what Chapters 2 through 11(the rest of the book) are about.
These factors, because they're off our radar, typically lead us to internalize their negative power and blame ourselves when we don't feel good in our life experience. All that needless blame holds us back even more, sending us into a downward spiral, like Kate. And that's not the direction we want our spiral to go. We want spirals of evolution, not devolution. We want vibrant health and joy, not poor health and unhappiness. These first two chapters are about the ways you can let yourself off the hook and move forward in full, glorious ownership of your life experience — creating health and joy. And we're going to start with the world-view of a fish, as we prepare to take a tour through some common cultural myths that hold us back from our potential.
If a fish is swimming around in the ocean and a scuba diver appears in front of her and says, "Wow! Look at all this water you live in. It seems to go on forever, in every direction," the fish would say, "Huh? What's 'water'?" Because it's surrounding her, the fish isn't aware of the very water she's spent her entire life in.
This same phenomenon happens with people — like Kate and like many of us — except the water that we swim in is our culture. When experiences and data repeat themselves, they become familiar, and our mind labels them as normal — and, often, as trusted. When the repeated experience is something like well-maintained roads that we get to drive our car on, seeing that as normal is a good thing. When the repeated experience is weight gain, chronic fatigue, stress, disease, neglect, marginalization, or some other form of imbalance, coming to see it as normal is not a good thing. Common and normal are not the same thing.
The following modern-day myths that contribute to our wild world are all examples of common-but-not-normal, and they are the water in which we swim. Each of these contributing cultural aspects have become ubiquitous in our daily life experience. They are so widely accepted as normal that we simply don't see how they keep us from unlocking our potential to be healthy and joyful. We're that proverbial fish that can't see the water they're swimming in. "What water? What the heck is water?!"
Myth: Popular Equals Good/Right
"Everything popular is wrong," wrote Oscar Wilde. I think one of the biggest mistakes we make in our life experience is to confuse popularity with "rightness." We confuse what's common with what's normal. It's easy to confuse common and normal, so we tend to slowly recalibrate our thinking to accommodate what's common, even if it doesn't feel good, so that we feel normal. Then, we don't notice it much anymore — it's just the way it is. By accepting it as "the way it is," we feel the camaraderie and connection of our shared suffering — but this doesn't help us feel, or live, better.
It's important that we notice and become discerning about what we accept into our lives — because our life experience is shaped by what we surround ourselves with, and by what we buy into. Our life experience is shaped by the intersection of our minds with our environments. We often fall into the trap of accepting something into the fabric of our precious life experience without noticing how it feels for us. For instance, how do I feel as a result of watching the news before bed? Do I feel light or heavy, content or fearful, relaxed or anxious? The fact is, the culture we live in causes us pain, but this pain itself is so common that we lose sight of the fact that it's not normal.
Myth: Human as Machine
In recent decades, our culture has become more open to discussions about body, mind, and spirit. Yet many folks still talk about these three aspects as if they're separate, as with hammer, nail, and lumber. These three aspects of a construction project are completely separate material things; however, body, mind, and spirit are not. Almost anything we do in one aspect of our humanity affects the other aspects. Further, within each of those aspects, there is deep interconnectedness. For instance, if I take a medication to suppress my cholesterol production, this has far-reaching effects in all of my body, not simply in cholesterol production. If I eat a lot of sugar, it's going to affect many interconnected systems and organs in my body; it will also affect my brain (which is part of the body, although most people don't think of it that way).
Our current medical/health insurance/pharmaceutical paradigm is to approach each part of our body as if it were an island unto itself. We have doctors for many separate body parts — heart doctor (several types), brain doctor (several types), reproductive doctor, lung doctor, digestive doctor — as if we were human machines with independently operating body parts and systems. We even consider some of our parts dispensable: our adenoids, gall bladder, pieces of our stomach, and sections of our intestine. We also send "prescribed" chemicals (pharmaceutical drugs) into our interconnected parts without questioning how they'll affect the body's overall environment. We don't think about what other parts these chemicals are interfering with, or how these chemicals interact with each other. Or, how they interact with the pesticides in our food. I've worked with countless people who are living the unpleasant aftermath of this human-as-machine approach.
Myth: We're Alone in Our Struggles
A truth that has become apparent over the years of my work with individuals and groups is that which is the most personal is also the most universal. This is an idea originally attributed to renowned psychologist Carl R. Rogers. In other words, we feel as if we have some unique private corner on our specific pain, neurosis, relationship issues, health problems, addiction, checkered past, emotional eating, social drama, parenting blunders, work challenges, and life-balance struggles. But in reality, our struggles are quite similar, in the same way that vanilla and strawberry ice cream are made of the same basic ingredients, with a variation in flavorings. I tell you this not to communicate that you're un-special, but to shine a light on the support, connection, and healing that's available, if only we open to it.
The trouble is, to lean into that support, connection, and healing, we need to be brave enough to communicate how we're feeling, rather than trying to make everything in our lives look shiny and happy. We need to be brave enough to have our insides and outsides become coherent. We miss out on the common ground available to us because our hyper- connected world isn't necessarily connecting around the ideas that will guide us, heal us, and support self-coherence. This life-saving, healing connection isn't happening because we're busy comparing our insides (in all their messy, flawed detail) to other people's outsides (shiny social media-worthy highlights) and deducing that we're alone.
Client: "I want to lose weight and have more energy, but I really struggle with emotional eating, especially at night. Nothing helps."
Me: "Me too! It's hard, isn't it?"
Client: "Wait. You struggle with emotional eating?" (This said in a tone that would also have accompanied, "Wait. You turn into a werewolf at night?")
Me: "Absolutely. Some days more than others. Our subconscious mind is a slippery bugger! Let's focus on progress instead of perfection and talk about some ideas and tools that can help."
I have this type of conversation with people often — clients, students, friends, family, colleagues — about their health issues and challenges in parenting, loving, and living in the twenty-first century. People often have this idea that I have it all figured out; I must live this charmed life of health, low stress, ease in relationships, and harmonious bliss. In actuality, I understand how to unlock my potential, but living it is more of an eternal practice. We must let go of this idea that we struggle while everyone else is living a charmed life. This myth of the insularity of our pain keeps us disconnected, out of balance, and unhappy. What connects us? What are the bridges? From a young age, I've been all about noticing bridges. I can tell you, unequivocally, that our sameness is far, far greater than any of the piddly stuff that separates us — including our struggles.
Myth: Power Equals Truth
There are many powerful forces that shape our culture. A comprehensive exploration of these forces is too much to pursue in these pages and frankly could get a bit doom-and-gloom-ish. I would love for our precious time together to be focused on unlocking your exquisite potential, as opposed to an exhaustive hashing through of the many influences that lead folks to feel the way Kate does. That said, there are a few powerful influences that warrant a shout-out. Our belief in these myths keeps us unempowered, which in turn keeps us from our living our best life experience. These powerful influencers are fear, technology, media, our broken healthcare system, and cultural dogma.
Fear is everywhere. It's in our news, media, schools, marketing, social media, churches, workplaces, and homes. It affects our daily lives in big and little ways. We're continually hearing our world isn't safe, that people are awful, that we don't have enough, that we're not enough. The scarcity- and fear-based messaging that permeates our culture is stealing our health, connections, feelings of wholeness, and our sanity.
One reason that fear is so powerful is that our primal brain (the amygdala) is wired to search the environment for threat and to respond to fear. This hard-wired survival instinct of fear was helpful when we were cavepeople scavenging around looking for berries and instead came across a snarling cave hyena. However, most of our fear today is psychological fear — of things that might happen — and there's not much we can do about our worries in the moment. Yet, we still respond to these psychological fears instinctually and with a lot of energy due to hundreds of thousands of years of programming. As a result, many organizations and groups use fear to control us and drive our desires. Our everyday unfounded fears are robbing us of joy, as individuals and as a species.
We live in an age of rapidly changing digital technology, and it has a powerful influence on our lives. Personal technology, like most things, has a positive side and a negative one. It's helpful, in many ways, to carry a computer around in our pocket or on our wrist. However, this technology that we love and rely on is also silently eroding our self-worth and our connection.
For thousands of years, people have had the internal instinct to create their own self-validation, which assists in creating healthy self-worth. Now, we're becoming dangerously dependent on instant and outside validation, most notably through social media. This feel-good validation lights up the same reward centers in our brain that cocaine, sugar, and heroin do — the dopamine circuit. Outside validation is addictive, and we start to depend on it more and more, until we actually wither without it. Worse, it's not limited to only social media or how many friends, followers, and likes we have. It's also present in email, tweets, texts, snaps, alerts, chats — all of the ways our personal technology devices help us to feel needed or validated by others. This trend, from an evolutionary standpoint, has spread like wildfire, quickly becoming deeply encoded in our habits and social norms. We'll explore this idea more in Chapter 4.
I'm certainly not the first one to say that healthcare in America is an expensive, largely ineffective, snarled-up mess. The medical, health insurance, and pharmaceutical industries have interlocked to create a powerful, albeit dysfunctional, monopoly on our state of (poor) health. They amount, in many ways, to sickness-management insurance as opposed to a healthcare system, and we wind up spending a staggering amount of money to simply manage symptoms. Am I fortunate to have a health carrier that pays for some of my medical costs? Yes. Am I happy that pharmaceutical companies make antibiotics when I've got raging bacterial pneumonia? Absolutely. If I were in a car accident or mauled by a rabid coyote, would I be grateful for medical intervention? Damn straight. Because physical health trauma is where our medical technology shines.
The trouble is, chronic illness is largely what we suffer from. Unfortunately, our healthcare system is not set up to supply adequate or effective care for chronic illness, in support of whole-person health. And the person with chronic illness in the body — the human who has a subjective core of mind and spirit at the heart of their lives — is often discounted. These folks often find their way to my practice. They've shuffled from doctor to doctor and haven't received the time or foundational, whole-person expertise that is required to ignite the healing response. We spent $3.5 trillion on US healthcare costs in 2017. This large, deficit-causing expenditure was largely used to manage symptoms, as opposed to educating and healing the whole-person.
We are not empowered in the care of our health. The current patient system is chock-full of folks who are blindly following advice to mask symptoms, while the underlying dysfunction is continuing to manifest and to affect other systems of the body. The medical system is increasingly full of doctors who are struggling with stress-related illness and/or burnout themselves, while the way they practice medicine falls further and further under the control of the pharmaceutical and insurance companies. There is a saying: "There's no money in healthy people or dead people, only in sick people." This is fundamentally true, and medical, health insurance, and pharmaceutical entities are businesses. Businesses seek to make money. Considering how the twisted triad of "sickness management" might be holding you back from your full physical health potential is an important step in reclaiming all of your whole-health potential.
Dogma Downer: Anything Can Become a Religion
The development of dogma turbo-charges the power of the three influences we've just discussed. Dogma is when something that starts out as an idea gains traction, and then people start to talk about the idea like it's a 100 percent truth that can't be argued. This is, indeed, what tends to happen in religion, which is why the term religious dogma exists: my way is the only right way, the truth. It's important to understand that dogma is not restricted to religion.
Anytime a powerful entity starts to present its ideas as incontrovertible truth, this is dogma. This can happen in religion, yes, but also anywhere else: medicine, science, nutrition, philosophy, politics, economics, scholastics, and so on. As a science lover, I cringe when science is presented as fact. What is cutting-edge science one day sometimes becomes disproven years later. Further, as sociologist William Bruce Cameron wrote, "Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted." It's important to understand that substantial corroboration is all science can really offer — a scientific theory can't be proven as indisputable truth in the way that a math theory can. However, it's most often presented as such, taking on the cloak of dogma.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Wild World, Joyful Heart"
Copyright © 2019 Laurie Warren.
Excerpted by permission of River Grove Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword by Kim Barthel,
Introduction: Out of the Gate: Promise, Birth, and Invitation,
1 Wild World,
2 Creating Health and Joy,
Part One The Pillars: Vital Foundations,
3 The Personal Responsibility Pillar: Own It,
4 The Self-Worth Pillar: You Are Enough,
5 The Self-Care Pillar: Fill Your Cup,
Part Two Joyful Heart: Your BodyMindSpirit Evolution,
6 Honor Your Body,
7 Tend Your Mind,
8 Live Your Spirit,
9 Joyful Heart as Catalyst,
10 Mindful Relating,
11 Wild World Gone Sane,
About the Author,