Our western culture has developed a strong preference for fostering a rather shallow extroversion in children and adults, gearing them to ‘fit in’ and be ’successful’ in an imbalanced consumer culture. We’re encouraged towards a more superficial extroversion, marked by non-stop talking, busyness, hyper competitiveness, endless promotion, and filling up with information, food, ‘stuff‘, while ignoring many deeper truths. We’re encouraged to measure our worth by things and by comparison with others. Hyper-mental activity, social media ‘seeking‘, and other distractions and ‘busy’ tactics abound in our culture. In many ways we’re encouraged to behave insensitively towards ourselves, other people, animals, and mother earth.
Documentaries like Food Inc., The Cove, Sharkwater, Revolution, Black Fish, An Inconvenient Truth, Forks over Knives, and many others, help to reveal deeper truths of how we are living and our impact on the planet and each other. In these times, there seems to be a heightened contrast between the desire for awareness, simplicity, balance, and the encouragement of insensitivity to protect a rather shaky status quo.
Why is cultivating sensitivity important?
I feel sensitivity is the means by which we heal ourselves, truly see and help each other, and foster better relationships and community with each other, all other beings and our mother earth.
Here are some very simple practices to help cultivate sensitivity:
- Spend time every day in silence. When we practice silence, we tune in, sensing and feeling truths at deeper levels.
- Breathe fully. Practice breathing with awareness - simply focus your attention on breath moving in and out of the body. Let the busyness of the mind recede, as you focus on the sensations of breath and body.
- Spend time every day in nature…turn off cell phones/other devices and simply practice being present in nature and sensing, breathing. Sense, feel the trees, birds, sunshine, clouds, wind. Sit or lie down in the grass, wrap your arms around a tree and just feel the magnificence of the natural beings surrounding and supporting us. It is miraculous to see and feel how nature supports us every day, and how beautiful the circle of life on earth is… truly a miracle of interconnectedness, refinement and beauty!
- Practice gratitude and appreciation every day. I love to truly see and appreciate the sun, sky, flowers, trees, birds, and the luxury and abundance of home (warm bed, clean water, food, etc), every day. It is life-affirming to appreciate the abundance that supports us every day.
- Practice deep listening with others. Really listen to your partner, friend, or family member, to hear and feel their suffering. Refrain from offering advice if possible, and simply listen and acknowledge them. Deep listening is a healing practice and cultivates sensitivity and compassion. Allow yourself to be quiet and tune in to your own feelings, and allow waves of emotion to express and move through, in their own natural timing.
Reflect on how you are sensitive to and aware of the suffering of others. I remember how as a child, I sensed the suffering of people in my family and in the world around me, and how I felt the sadness and boredom of animals in zoos and the suffering of majestic marine animals in theme water parks. It is a modern tragedy to witness beautiful, wise beings, reduced to living in small steel cages and performing mindless rituals for people’s amusement and commerce, without consideration of their suffering and highest good. Cultivating awareness throughout our lives will allow us to shift ways of living on this planet, and support freedom and ease for all. With sensitivity we can also better appreciate our beautiful mother earth, and heal contaminated waters, soils, air, and damaged habitats we’ve created. We can then truly begin to love and respect each other and the miraculous, life-sustaining earth we live on.
love and aloha,