Sometimes when it feels like we’re going crazy, we’re really having a deeply sane response to a world gone mad. As we become aware of all the suffering and potential future suffering on Earth, it’s natural to feel disturbed. And although these feelings can be extremely unpleasant, they’re actually a critical part of humanity’s evolution.
Take, for example, a client of mine who gets upset seeing people eat red meat. She thinks about the drought in California, the incredible amount of water it takes to raise cows, the cruelty of factory farming, and how so many people habitually order burgers or steaks and perpetuate the negative cycle. It makes her feel crazy. She used to worry that something might be wrong with her because she was the only one who ever talked about it and because whenever she went out to dinner she was the only one who ever seemed to have any difficult feelings come up. So she kept her emotions inside until, one day, she opened up to me and began to see that nothing is wrong with her. After all, she just wants us to have plentiful water, respect for animals, and widespread conscientiousness. After realizing that her difficult feelings come from her protective instincts she was able to allow this intense energy to flow – to gush – in practical, intelligent, truly helpful ways.
That’s why going crazy is so sane. Our feelings power change, and we need a lot of change on our planet right now.
Here’s another example – a personal one. It has been mind-bogglingly frustrating for me to witness how slowly my community is waking up to climate change. Just about the entire scientific world, plus a growing chorus of political and religious leaders – including President Obama, the Pope, and the Dalai Lama – say that we need to stop burning fossil fuels to avoid catastrophe. So it makes me crazy when I see my own friends, family, and colleagues unaware and unengaged. Some of them fly wherever they want without a second thought, drive wherever they want without a second thought, and buy whatever they want without a second thought, even while gigantic alarm bells sound. Fortunately, like my client, I am learning how to channel these feelings. I am now using them to breathe life into this article and transmit what I hope is an empowering, liberating message to you.
It’s important to acknowledge that some of you might feel defensive or judged by these examples, but that’s not my intention. Suzuki Roshi, the founder of the San Francisco Zen Center, said it best. “You’re perfect just as you are and you could use a little improvement.” In other words, I know we’re all good people. In fact, I think we’re all great people. At the same time, the world desperately needs us to grow right now. Just as in our history we’ve had to wake up to the immorality of slavery, anti-semitism, and unequal rights for the LGBT community, we now have to face the destructive way we eat, burn fuel, and much more in order to survive and thrive.
I’ll end with an aspiration for us. May we honor our agitation, frustration, and unrest. It is the Mama Bear in us awakening. To use another metaphor, it is the Earth’s white blood cells activating. Life itself is on the line and it is absolutely appropriate to go crazy.