Learning to live a sustainable different lifestyle is a scary business and paying attention to the environment you are in, is imperative if you really want to learn and become the change you want to see.
Why am I saying this?
Because we all have book cases full of books with exciting content about how we can live a joyful and healthy life; so why then are many of us NOT living that promised healthy and free life?
Or when we are seriously trying to change are we having a joyful exciting ride or do we find ourselves engaged in a fearful and difficult business, often taking one step forward and going back two?
So what is going on?
To explain that let me introduce how learning works based on ‘The Biology of Belief’ by Bruce Lipton Ph.D.
Bruce explains that our environment is crucial to learning and he developed this concept from his work in cell biology.
Lets see how this applies with a story about my learning and my environment.
Here I am, 15 years ago, wanting to change my life because what I see around me no longer feels that good.
I do a self development course at Landmark Education and learn to observe my dramatic, victim stories I create about my life. The environment on the course is lovely, everybody is open and willing and supportive. It feels great and the course content makes a lot of sense. I feel excited and I am determined to apply the learning in my daily life and change the relationship with my then husband. I can see what a difference it would make.
After the course I drive home to my husband who is very hostile towards these self development courses. I arrive all delighted with the prospect of a better relationship but do not get a chance to share. He complains about what happened during the weekend while I was ‘having fun’, the kids played up and before I know it, I am uptight and irritated and reverting back into my dramatic story that life is hard and nobody understands me.
I know that I am not saying anything new here; we all have had these experiences of getting excited about something we ‘learned’ only to have the balloon deflated before we have even paid off the course costs on our credit card.
Despite my desire to make a difference in my life and my relationship I couldn’t and here is the biology explanation that shows how come me and my learning had no chance.
According to Bruce Lipton our body is a community of cells whose functions are influenced by stimuli from their environment.
During the course, my community of cells (my body) was responding to a very nurturing and friendly environment and therefore very receptive to taking information in. As I was relaxed, energy was available to the cells in my forebrain to process this information.
After the course I leave that optimum environment that stimulated the information receptive cells in my forebrain and on the drive home I cannot help but start to anticipate with dread the welcome I expect I am going to get from my husband.
These anticipatory thoughts are influencing my cells. My cells respond to the thoughts of an anticipated hostile environment by going in defensive mode to survive the onslaught, like they would do on a battleground. They take the energy away from my forebrain as the stress hormones get ready for battle by stimulating the blood flow to the hindbrain where the life-sustaining reflexes to deal with fight and flight behavior reside.
While it is useful that stress signals in real life emergency situations repress the processing conscious mind in favor of the survival reflexes of the hindbrain, in this type of daily life ‘battle’ situation these reflexes come at an unwanted cost . . . they diminish my cognitive ability to retain and communicate my new learned insights.
While the stress hormones are doing their job, they rob ME of MY ability to think about my insights and how to apply them when I come home. Thus within a few hours of leaving the course I am back to behaving as I did before, reacting to my environment and with the cognition of my new learnings quickly fading from consciousness.
That is why it is important to notice that most of our daily environments do NOT support us to retain and apply new insights; as a rule of thumb when doing things differently we find ourselves on a battlefield of resistance with the status quo.
That means to learn and to do things differently, most of us have to deal with the scary business of facing our battlefields and that is where courage and programs like WomenLikeMe come in.
To have learning be effective means that you have to get up the courage to move on from those battlefields, your current hostile environments and who wants to do that?
Addressing hostile environments is very scary and difficult and therefore I have seldom seen anybody courageously change their life from choice, have you?
But I have seen plenty of stories in the blogosphere about woman getting a kick in the backside by a life threatening or life altering circumstances such as cancer, relationship break-ups that does act as the catalyst to change their lives for the better.
Once John and I understood this connection between environment and learning, we have been quite radical with our change of environment and reducing our stress hormones. But I must admit that has not been easy.
You all have read about my struggle with voluntarily giving up my work environment and a stressful marriage.
The cold turkey shift from the city to rural living also had its moments for me.
When I say environment I do not only refer to toxic relationships, work environment and food though. I also refer to our own internal Little Voice, our beliefs about money and our out-of-integrity way of being. Most of my blog posts are pointing out the diversity of the toxic environments we need to pay attention to.
Because understanding the tension between learning and environmental stress is so important, our first concern at WomenLikeMe is to create awareness that learning requires you to look at the wholesome ‘what is so’ of your circumstances. Courageously taking action based on what you observe is a must for developing a strong basecamp.
When learning you have to, like Tess says, be fearlessly bold.
As Gloria Steinem said; “Any woman who chooses to learn to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke . . . She will need her sisterhood.”
I agree and I would add; ”as long as most of our environments are hostile to change, learning takes courage but you knew that, didn’t you.”
Only courage will bring change.
Only courage will allow you to face your environment and its hostility to your learning.
Choosing supportive environments like WomenLikeMe is key here.
Learning to do things differently is YOUR responsibility,
MINE is to support you.