Dilemmas of Decision-Making

Information overload combined with a lack of clear answers can be confusing, frustrating, and discouraging. It’s tempting to think it would be so much easier if life were black and white, if someone else could tell us the precise course of action to guarantee the results we want. But that won’t be happening any time soon.

And really, that isn’t the point of life, as far as I can tell. From my viewpoint, life is about learning and growing. And health issues certainly provide us with opportunities to do that.

So it’s on us to be conscious and engaged when making health-related choices. Here are a few thoughts to consider.

1. We are organic, not mechanical, systems.

Repairing a mechanical system is usually a straightforward, clear-cut, logical process. Not so with living systems, which are elegantly complex and sometimes incomprehensible. We have a capacity for emotion, interconnected body systems, and strong survival instincts. No wonder it’s challenging to zero in on the one correct thing to do.

2. It helps a lot to adopt an experimental mindset.

Because maybe there isn’t just one perfect answer. Maybe it’s a zig-zag path to where we want to be.

In this culture, we tend to look for a direct path to the right and perfect solution. This search can have the unintended consequence of preventing  any action at all because you can never be really sure you’ve found the correct one.

On the other hand, an experimental approach allows us to be curious. It opens up possibilities and gives you a chance to learn what works and what doesn’t. It’s a time-honoured approach, as illustrated by this story from Thomas Edison’s friend and associate Walter S. Mallory.

I said to him, “Isn’t it a shame that with the tremendous amount of work you have done you haven’t been able to get any results?” Edison turned on me like a flash, and with a smile replied: “Results! Why, man, I have gotten lots of results! I know several thousand things that won’t work!”

With an attitude like that, there’s no need to feel like a failure when you try something that doesn’t work. After all, you were just testing a theory, not staking your reputation for success on it.

3. You’ll be a lot more confident in making health decisions once you learn to access your innate self-knowing.

Self-knowing is the key to being able to rest easy with your decisions. It’s the aspect of decision-making that provides the greatest opportunity for growth, and the one that’s easiest to overlook.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore how you can marshal your resources to know what to do. In the meantime, here are The Delta Rhythm Boys to sing us out…

We are organic systems. Not mechanical.

Organic. Not mechanical. That means we need to think differently when trying to fix problems in the system. Repairing a mechanical system is usually a straightforward, clear-cut, logical process.

Not so with living systems, which are elegantly complex and sometimes incomprehensible. We have a capacity for emotion, interconnected body systems, and strong survival instincts. No wonder it’s challenging to zero in on one correct thing to do when you have a health issue.

Integrative Health Approach

Institute for Functional Medicine Clinical Matrix for Core Imbalance. From the Institute for Functional Medicine: Textbook of Functional Medicine. Gig Harbor, Wash: The Institute for Functional Medicine, 2005, p 100. © 2005 The Institute of Functional Medicine. Via the Cleveland Clinic

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You’re a “study of one”…and the director of it.

Last week I wrote that we are complex organic systems, each with a unique combination of inherent constitution and life experiences. Under such conditions, the best way to address health issues is with an individualized plan.

In this model of achieving wellness, you are the subject in the study of you. Of course, a study also needs someone to direct it, and that is you too, since the medical system hasn’t yet embraced this approach beyond trying one prescription and then something else if that didn’t work.

How you think makes a difference to the process.

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Be curious. Ask questions.

Curiosity is the antidote to being stuck in that awful place when you know what to do and can’t make it happen. You are stuck, and might be inclined to beat yourself up about that. Instead, get curious about what is going on that’s keeping you stuck.

It might be that you’re not hurting enough yet to want to make the effort to get unstuck. You might be afraid of losing something when making lasting changes. There are a lot of gains we get from doing things as we’ve always done them, or doing what we know we shouldn’t be doing. Or you might feel you “should” do something, but part of you is resisting.

Whatever the case, this is an invitation to find out what’s really underlying your resistance to making a change. Being more self-aware and understanding ourselves is our superpower…when we use it.

Get curious on your own behalf.

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Conscious Consumption in Everyday Life

As I pointed out last week, the consumer culture is structured to propel us to buy, buy, and buy even more, without thinking. From the consumer side of the equation, it’s so easy to react mindlessly to the demands of the culture and then find ourselves dealing with the consequences of excess.

Why does overconsumption matter? Because there’s too much collateral damage when purchase decisions are dictated by businesses that have a vested interest in getting us to buy more than we ever thought we needed.

Collateral damage from the profit-at-all-cost paradigm

  • Over-indebtedness, which leaves us with no capacity to cope with emergencies such as interest rate increases and job losses. In March 2017, Statistics Canada reported that the country’s average household debt-to-income ratio hit a record high of 167%. This means that Canadians owed $1.67 for each $1 they generated in disposable income, In everyday terms, this suggests that many Canadians are living beyond their means or, at best, are just making ends meet.
  • Environmental impacts, in more ways than most of us can imagine. Air pollution, climate change, and overpopulation are familiar issues, but a list of 25 on Conserve Energy Future reminds us about others such as light and noise pollution, urban sprawl, and medical waste.
  • Chronic health issuescaused by stress on many levels. Overconsumption leads to the emotional stress of over-indebtedness, the physical stress of eating food contaminated with pesticides and heavy metals, and the mental stress of trying to sort through overwhelming amounts of information in an attempt to figure out what to do to remain financially and physically healthy.

What can we do?

We can start by taking responsibility for our part in this dysfunctional system. As long as we continue purchasing what corporations sell, we are reinforcing their bad behaviour and they will continue doing what they’re doing.

We get the products we deserve. Continue reading

The Precautionary Principle

In this culture, where technology makes a lot of things possible and affordable, we North Americans are inclined to embrace new things wholeheartedly. Some would say we’ve thrown caution to the wind in the rush toward new and improved.

If we stopped to take a breath, we might decide that sometimes the precautionary principle is called for. The Canadian Environmental Law Association has defined it this way: “The precautionary principle denotes a duty to prevent harm, when it is within our power to do so, even when all the evidence is not in.”

[tweetshare tweet=”Instead of asking how much harm we are willing to permit, the Precautionary Principle asks how little harm is possible.” username=”LauranaRayne”]

Sometimes it takes a number of years for harm to show up. By then, many people have been affected. By the time we experience these unintended consequences, the product is entrenched in such a way that banning it becomes an epic struggle. Bisphenol A (BPA) is one example. Read this blog for more about toxic ingredients in non-food items we use regularly.

We’d like to think that scientists can do a study and find definitive proof of the safety (or not) of a product. Not so. Scientific uncertainty is a fact of life, and scientists word their statements cautiously.

Years ago, when I was investigating the relationship between food additives and children’s behaviour, I watched a film in which a highly placed Canadian health official talked about food additives and safety. He said, “We can never definitely prove safety. At the most, we can say that, in the quantities given and under the conditions of the test, a particular additive is probably not unsafe.”

I remember his statement so vividly because it was one of those pivotal moments when a bubble burst for me. Before then, I had lived under the happy illusion that if something had been tested and approved, then it was clearly safe for consumption. In that moment, I realized this is not true. Stating that something is “probably not unsafe” is quite different from providing an assurance that it is safe.

Preventing harm…

By allowing new products to be widely used until proven harmful, we become inadvertent test subjects. What if we changed our attitude and created a culture of preventing harm instead? We could ask how little harm is possible instead of how much harm we are willing to permit. The precautionary principle is based on this important distinction.

[tweetshare tweet=”Instead of waiting for proof that something is harmful, what if we created a culture of preventing harm?” username=”LauranaRayne”]

Originating in Germany in the 1970s, the precautionary principle has now become part of international law. We can hope that our governments will use this principle to guide their decisions and avoid unintended negative consequences from new chemicals being introduced into our food and environment.

In reality, this doesn’t always happen. Many products in the marketplace are detrimental to our health and well-being. So it’s important that we take individual action to look after ourselves. That’s what healthy deviance is about.

But we need to keep a sense of proportion…

Conscious consumption challenges us to choose judiciously rather than react in a knee-jerk fashion. We need to keep a sense of proportion. Automatically shunning everything new is as shortsighted as mindlessly adopting everything that comes along.

Someone who generally takes a balanced view is Dr. Alan Christianson, a Naturopathic Medical Doctor (NMD) who writes a useful newsletter. One thing I appreciate is that he’s an independent thinker. Rather than repeating the common wisdom, he investigates by reading research studies and forming his own assessment. Sometimes he does a direct investigation himself.

In the video below, he is looking into the level of electromagnetic fields generated by appliance and devices in his house. Many of us wonder if we should turn our wi-fi off when it’s not in use, or if we should be concerned about carrying a cellphone in our pocket. He measures these and much more.

The video received a lot of response, so the following week he posted another one to answer the questions that arose.

I’m curious what you think. Looking forward to comments.

Keep what you love.

***Time for this post?  Reading…8 minutes. Viewing…2 minutes. Sifting and sorting…as much as you want to.

Last week I wrote about knowing when enough is enough. That post was about medical treatments at the end of life. However, the concept of “enough” also applies to our possessions, and that’s what I’m addressing today.

In either case, determining what is enough—and what is excess—challenges us to think about our values, what’s important to us, what we cherish.

What to keep?

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Who should be in charge?

***  Time for this post?  Reading…a couple minutes.  Viewing…15 minutes. Changing your attitude…no time at all.

I started an exploration of fear of aging with Scilla Elworthy’s perspective. Today’s post is about a common fear that she didn’t mention—losing authority over our lives. It happens. More, and sooner, than it needs to in many cases.

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Holding Your Centre & How You Can

Has anyone not felt discombobulated during the past few years?

The energetic effects of chaotic times…

It’s hard to make good decisions in the midst of confusion and disorder. In fact, it can be difficult to make any decisions at all. We lose trust in our ability to respond appropriately. We literally don’t know what to do. And this state of powerlessness propels us into fear.

In a world of disrupted energy, we can easily be pulled off-centre. Then…

  • we feel discombobulated,
  • we can’t think clearly,
  • we don’t know what to do, and
  • we feel powerless and afraid.

And in that state, we revert to our habitual coping mechanisms—pretending it isn’t happening; consoling  ourselves by shopping; distracting ourselves by scrolling through social media and watching endless YouTube videos; or __(insert yours)____________. These ways of coping may make us feel temporarily better but do nothing to improve the situation.

It’s ironic because navigating chaotic times is when we most need to be fully present to think clearly and make good decisions.

What can we do to function better?

From an energy perspective, the trick is to be centred in yourself and hold that presence even when there is chaos around you, whether physical or mental.

The fundamental step is to find practices to re-centre yourself whenever you’ve gone off-kilter. These include…

Here’s an exquisite example of sound healing with crystal bowls. I find it both soothing and uplifting—a perfect antidote to feeling discombobulated.

Listen with headphones if possible.

Internationally renowned, Ashana is credited with  pioneering an entirely new genre of healing music with crystal bowls. She offers concerts, crystalline activation meditations, retreats and workshops, and her music is available on Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, youTube. More on her website.

Expanding consciousness…

Another very effective strategy is to work with your consciousness—expanding it to hold the disturbing situation with compassion.

Don’t know how to do that? Intend it and trust it will happen.

Consciousness is the foundation of our being. It is infinite, and we humans are the physical vehicle for a small amount of it to be expressed. Because we are connected to our larger consciousness, we have the ability to expand by accessing ever-more of our consciousness. And over time, we increase our capacity to remain in that state for longer periods of time.

That’s what spiritual growth is.

And that’s why our sincere intention can make it happen.

Humanity is in a growth spurt…

The chaos around us, which is causing our discombobulation, is giving us an opportunity to expand our consciousness—the opportunity to express a more mature level of humanity. That’s what I was alluding to in my previous post when I said…

What if the potential for ChatGPT to run amok prompts us to look deeper within to see what we value and what makes us human?

And what if, instead of worrying that AI is going to take us over, we teach it our values, just as parents do with their developing children?

Fundamental values…

One aspect of consciousness is awareness of our highest aspirations. In his research to discover the human values that we can all agree upon, Mo Gowdat discovered that

  • We all want to be happy.
  • We have the ability to make others happy.
  • We all want to love and be loved.

If we would keep ourselves centred and live by these values, we would be credible role models for our future AI companions as well as our children.

By staying centred and expanding our consciousness, we have a chance of creating the more beautiful world we know is possible.

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Practising Discernment & Why It Helps

We are navigating a time in human history when we must face issues that we’ve never encountered before. This means that many problems can no longer be solved with old solutions. So it’s not surprising that we frequently don’t know what to do—or how to do it.

That’s when discernment is invaluable. It helps us navigate with confidence in unfamiliar situations and step up to do what must be done, even when it’s hard.

The lost skill of discernment…

Discernment is about thinking for ourselves so we can make the most appropriate choices in any situation. It’s a skill that improves with practice.

The downside is that discernment takes effort on our part. It’s so much easier to default to ready-made solutions, and so our “discernment muscle” has atrophied to the point where I suspect many people don’t know what discernment is.

So what is discernment?

Discernment is the ability to grasp and comprehend what is obscure. Discernment enables us to understand the subtleties of difficult situations and make wise decisions.

Understanding the subtleties requires keen insight, challenging us to go beyond superficial perception. Insight is the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or situation. It implies the discovery of something you didn’t already know.

Discernment facilitates good judgement. Judgement is the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions. It implies sense tempered and refined by experience, training, maturity, and inner knowing.

When you don’t know what to do…

When you don’t know what to do, don’t take it personally. There is nothing wrong with you. Remember that you’re having to make decisions in unexpected and sometimes unthinkable circumstances. So how could you automatically know the best choice when you don’t have the benefit of previous experience?

In unknown situations, the easiest thing is to default to the opinions of experts. It can be such a relief to adopt a ready-made decision. And in some cases, you might get lucky and it will work for you. 

On the other hand though, ready-made decisions may not work out as you had hoped. That’s because they don’t take you into account as part of the equation.

Work toward a fitting solution…

It’s worth noting that:

  • discernment helps you make appropriate choices. The word “appropriate” sometimes gets misinterpreted as “proper” but the more nuanced and accurate meaning is “suitable or fitting.” It comes from the Latin appropriare, which means to make something fit, to make something one’s own.
  • you are part of the equation. When practising discernment, it is necessary to check possible solutions to see if they align with what you consider important. This involves your body/mind rather than just the brain. It may be a heartfelt sense or a gut feeling but, either way, you will simply know when you’ve arrived at the decision that sits well with you. Some people describe it as a feeling of everything being in alignment.

Why discernment helps…

Discernment moves us from reacting to responding. It occurs in the pause between a happening and your action.

The distinction between reacting and responding is well-described in an article by the folks at The Growth Equation.

When unexpected events occur…most people go down one of two roads. They either respond or react.

Responding, a spin-off from the word responsibility, is considerate and deliberate. Responses tend to go like this: Something happens. You pause. You process. You plan. Then you proceed.

Reacting, on the other hand, literally means to meet one action with another one. It is immediate and rash. Reactions tend to go like this: Something happens. You panic. Then you proceed.

This framework may be helpful…

Something happens.

  1. Take a breath, or otherwise bring yourself back to centre.
  2. Buy yourself some time, e.g. “I’ll get back to you tomorrow on that.”
  3. Practice discernment…
  • Consider options for action, which could include no-action.
  • Explore inwardly, both  your values and your perspective about what is important in the situation.
  • Assess the alignment of options with your wise inner self.
  • Observe the clarity you experience when an option is in alignment with you. It may be a visceral feeling of  ‘That’s it!’  You may feel a lightness rather than heaviness. You may just know, beyond question. You may have a strong sense that How could one do otherwise?” We each have our own signature way of recognizing this clarity. Trust yours.
  • Respond accordingly, with confidence that your decision has been made from the fullness of your being and with due consideration.

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