Right before our eyes, the world has become a wonky place. Unpredictable and unthinkable events have occured. Things we thought were firm and stable aren’t.
And we don’t like it!
Living in uncertainty is hard. It requires us to be flexible, lest we snap under the pressure. Yet the systems of Western culture do nothing to cultivate our inherent flexibility and resilience. Indeed, materialism, competition, and our cultural notion of success all reward a rigid approach to living. And we’ve become so used to living this way that we often don’t realize it’s a cultural meme and not an immutable fact of life.
We have two choices…
In uncertain times, we can cling tighter and push harder in hopes of getting things back to the way they were. Or we can change our mindset about how things are meant to work, what is possible, and what’s to be expected in the new circumstances in which we find ourselves through no choice of our own.
As my Tasmanian friend Gill so aptly put it, we have to wobble with the world. She should know. Gill has lived through plenty of wobbles including a broken neck and open heart surgery. Yet she is still here, after 84 years, with an inspiring curiosity and zest for learning and growing. I think it’s fair to say that Gill’s mindset is what made it possible for her to wobble with her world while it lurched along through her share of adverse events.
Experiencing a pandemic has got many of us reflecting on what is working in our world and what isn’t. In essence, it has shone a spotlight on our dysfunctions.
Much of what is wrong (or right) with our systems starts with our collective mindset.
A mindset is a set of assumptions, methods, or notions held by a person or group. It’s a habitual or characteristic mental attitude that determines how we interpret and respond to situations individually and collectively. We become so used to our mindsets that we don’t see that our thinking is fixed in this particular way. To us it’s normal.
If you observe behaviours of yourself and others around you, it’s not difficult to identify mindsets. Here are a few examples of what you might discover…
Sufficiency mindset—There is enough, and I am enough.
Growth mindset—Life is about expanding awareness and continual learning.
Thrift mindset—It’s my responsibility to use resources, both mine and the planet’s, wisely.
Sustainability mindset—What I do must contribute to life carrying on, now and in the future.
This is the story of what it took for one huge company to transform its leadership and ways of working.
Why is this of interest to me?
It’s another of the “imaginal cells” that are emerging in this time when we see ever-more clearly that old systems are no longer working. As I mentioned in my post on Metamorphosis, I’ve been on the lookout for examples of different ways of thinking and the experiments that are testing these new paradigms. Continue reading →
Because I write about alternative approaches to health, I suspect some readers may think I’m opposed to everything conventional. Today I’d like to set the record straight.
[tweetshare tweet=”Out-of-hand rejection of conventional medicine would be as shortsighted as never considering alternative practices.” username=”LauranaRayne”]
When I’m working toward resolution of a health issue, it’s so much more constructive to consider all available options and adopt those that best suit me and the situation at hand. The considerations could include surgery and prescription medications offered by conventional medicine, in conjunction with the holistic perspective and nutritional knowledge of functional practitioners.
Case in point…
I recently had cataract surgery. Removing a cloudy lens and putting in a new one is an amazing procedure. I greatly appreciate living in a time and place where this surgery is readily available.
Cataracts are not an emergency; they develop over time. When the optometrist first noticed mine, I asked if there was anything I could do. “No,” she said. “When they progress far enough, I’ll refer you to an ophthalmologist for removal.” And that’s what she did.
In the year I waited for the ophthalmologist to have an opening in his surgical schedule, I had time to think. And I kept coming back to the idea that there must be something I could do. If not to change the course of the cataracts, then at least to help my eyes be as healthy as possible before the procedure was undertaken. I needed advice from someone who took a holistic view.
I spoke to my functional medicine doctor, who referred me to a functional optometrist. A functional optometrist has traditional training as a doctor of optometry, with additional courses in functional medicine. She knew everything my previous optometrist did, and more.
[tweetshare tweet=”When choosing how to treat health issues, a both/and mindset gives us a huge advantage.” username=”LauranaRayne”]
From her broad base of information, the functional optometrist advised me that my somewhat-fragile eyes would benefit from specific supplements. I brought the list home, muscle tested to find out what would be optimum for me, and took them regularly.
It’s now two weeks after the second eye was done. The procedures went well, and I had no pain at all. I’m both continuing the supplements and applying several eye drops multiple times a day as prescribed. So far, so good.
I’ve been told that I don’t think like other people. I take that as a compliment. Since the way I think comes naturally to me, I sometimes puzzle over what is different and why.
What’s different? I think it’s that I’m eclectic. Here’s the first definition that came up when I searched. I’d say both aspects apply to how I think.
1. deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources. “her musical tastes are eclectic”
2. PHILOSOPHY: of, denoting, or belonging to a class of ancient philosophers who did not belong to or found any recognized school of thought but selected…as they wished from various schools.
I draw from the resources around me, and bring together elements that are best suited to me in my situation. This means that I don’t buy into any particular point of view. For example, when the first optometrist said there was nothing to be done, I recognized that as the conventional mindset. I knew it had a limited focus, and didn’t accept it as the only possibility. I was open to finding more options than were offered by that practitioner.
A lot of my blogging has been about alternative means of resolving health issues. I present this information with a view to helping others expand their sense of what is possible. In the works: A resource guide to bring these resources together in one easily accessible, user-friendly format.
Checking options against your needs…
As I mentioned in my eye story, when I was given a list of eye-related supplements to take, I checked to see what my body needed at the time. Recommendations are always based on averages, so checking allows me to optimize the information as it applies to me. Doing this enables me to proceed with confidence. For more about how to check what your body needs, refer to my blogs here and here.
Pre- and post-operative care…
In my experience, which includes two major surgeries before the above-mentioned cataract procedure, patients receive little advice about what they should do before or after surgery—other than no food or water for a specified time before going to the hospital, and taking any prescribed medications once you are sent home.
Because it’s treated so casually, we don’t really appreciate how invasive and disruptive the surgical experience is. Yet there is so much we can do to reduce the impact of surgery and foster healing afterwards. Restorative measures include:
Nutrition and supplements
Probiotics to mitigate effect of antibiotics
Herbals and homeopathics
Meditation to reduce anxiety and discomfort
Energy practices like Chi gong and tai chi
Acupuncture and acupressure
Movement and gentle exercise
There’s plenty online material to expand your awareness of what to consider. If you search for “pre-and post operative instructions” you’ll get lists of standard recommendations from hospitals, clinics, and universities. If you want to tap into alternative approaches and holistic thinking, try “functional approach to recovering from surgery.”
Here is a comprehensive article from a website I respect. This site focuses on paleo eating, but don’t let that throw you. The article covers important aspects of recovery and contains plenty of sensible advice. I would add…ask family and friends to help, both before and after. What you need will depend on many factors.
Be realistic and plan accordingly as one of my friends did when she was scheduled for a procedure that required a day of rigorous and unpleasant advance preparation. Although she probably could have toughed it out and made her way through it alone, she enlisted help from two friends. One came to spend the day, facilitating the process in a number of ways. I arrived late in the afternoon, stayed overnight, took her to the hospital in the morning, brought her home, warmed up some lunch, and stayed until I was sure the sedative had worn off and she would be okay on her own.
A few days later, she commented how much better the experience was than it might have been. I was glad to help, and she gets full marks for recognizing what she needed and asking for it. This little plaque, and the Beatles, remind us that we all need a little help from our friends sometimes.
Enlist an advocate…
We should also think about who we can ask to advocate for us in the hospital. The need for such a person isn’t top of mind before surgery, when we are clear-headed and feeling capable. But once we are in the hospital, that changes.
The system is set up to be disempowering. I was surprised how much I lost my get-up-and-go once I had changed into the short ugly gown that gaped at the back no matter how tightly I tied the two pairs of strings. And once I’d had anesthetic and pain killers, I felt feeble in both brain and body. Certainly, I wasn’t in any shape to effectively look after myself and my interests.
For more about the systemic issues, read this article by David Katz, a medical doctor with a 25-year clinical career, writing on the topic after a family member was hospitalized. His experience is in the US, so there are some structural differences from what we experience in Canada. But the fundamental premises and resulting attitudes are similar.
None of us wants to feel like this woman, but many would admit that we do, at least to some degree. That’s what makes an effective parody—we recognize elements of truth in an exaggerated scenario.
I don’t think I’m the only one who’s ended up in a situation thinking: Right. Now I remember why I decided never to do this again! Of course, by then I’m in the midst of it… and the cycle perpetuates.
The holidays intensify things that aren’t working in our lives, and it’s distressing at the time. But it also provides teachable moments if we are paying attention.
Breaking the cycle…
It’s so easy to be propelled along by expectations and circumstances—especially at holiday time. By now, one week into December, the momentum has likely reached a point where things will play out as usual. Enjoy every moment of this month, if you can. If not… Continue reading →
Albert Einstein is frequently quoted for saying that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Much of what goes on in medicine fits this definition. Researchers and practitioners go around in circles, trying small variations on the same approach, and not finding the results they hope for.
The issue is, all of the variations are rooted in the same mindset. In medicine, the prevailing mindset is that the solution to any condition is a magic bullet in the form of a pill to correct the issue. It’s an outdated attitude that worked in the days when penicillin was discovered to kill the bacteria that caused pneumonia, rheumatic fever, blood poisoning and other infections. Penicillin was the magic bullet that ushered in the age of antibiotics at a time when untreated infections were a major cause of death.
However, the landscape has shifted. Today’s health issues are primarily complex chronic conditions. Think heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cancer, chronic fatigue and Alzheimer’s. Despite the enormous amount o money and effort put toward finding the magic bullet, it hasn’t happened.
The prevailing medical view of Alzheimer’s is a good example of stuck thinking.
Doctors are taught that once a person shows signs of Alzheimer’s, continued deterioration is inevitable. Drugs might be able to slow the progression, but there is absolutely no possibility of reversing the condition.
As the title of this post suggests, that belief has now been proven to be untrue. Continue reading →
Here’s the evidence. In full colour, an unretouched photo.
So…how did I get a black eye, and how does it relate to assumptions?
I tripped on a curb. Well, not a curb exactly. I was stepping onto the accessibility ramp that transitions the pavement to the sidewalk.
There was no snow or ice. I was not in a hurry. I was not distracted by my phone or iPod. I did not faint and then fall. I was wearing flat shoes that are old friends. There was no obvious reason for this to happen. Continue reading →
I’m a systems thinker, and for a long time have been aware of the dysfunctional nature of the economic system we live in. That’s what prompted me to write a book about navigating the consumer culture without being swallowed up by it.