Monday, June 18, 2012

What is natural?

The other day I saw an ad on a bus shelter that said something along the lines of:
"Nature takes on wrinkles. Nature wins."

I immediately found the statement jarring. There's a bit of a conflict there for me because wrinkles are natural. This sort of advertising works really well and I know why. We are hardwired to reject 'natural' things about our bodies. This stems from our desire to avoid discomfort.

I realise I just used a lot of generalisations. I am by no means suggesting this advertising works on everyone or that all people everywhere are adverse to aging naturally. Nor am I saying that there is anything wrong with taking care of your skin or dying your hair or whatever it is someone might choose to do to look 'youthful'.

I just think it's interesting because there is so much that is natural that we, as human beings, tend to be highly resistant to. Emotions, for example. Emotions arise naturally in our bodies. They are a part of our experience. In fact, they are shaped by our experience. When we have an experience that leaves us feeling a certain way we associate the reality of what happened with how we felt at the time. It becomes very easy for us to get trapped in grasping or avoiding certain situations in an attempt to control how we feel.

In this way we can find ourselves trying to replicate a time when we felt happy or content - setting it up like a director of a film - so we might avoid discomfort. We also spend a lot of time avoiding certain situations or ignoring them because we associate an emotion we deem unpleasant with it.

I'm not saying we should avoid situations which have brought us happiness anymore than I'm saying we should put ourselves in situations where we have been hurt, angry or afraid. What I'm saying is, how you feel is totally normal. Emotions are there to communicate needs. Just like our stomach grumbles when we are hungry or our tongue goes white when we are dehydrated, our emotions communicate a need which is not being met.

The problems arise when we avoid, ignore or try to run away from how we feel. The longer we do this the worse the feeling is going to get because we've not dealt with the bigger issue. Suddenly a little sadness turns into depression. A little fear turns into an anxiety disorder. A little anger turns into complete rage.

This is when our emotions are screaming at us, telling us to really look at what is going on.

In the case of the three I've chosen for examples:

Sadness is there to help us grieve and let go, help us accept change, and move with the flow of life.

Fear is telling us that we need to prepare ourselves. We are lacking an essential resource or we need to be aware that we might be entering a situation without the necessary tools. It's asking us to be aware.

Anger is showing us our boundaries and where they have been touched or crossed by someone. It's protecting us.

This goes for all of our emotions. They're as natural as the colour of our hair or the texture of our skin. It's fine to cover up your hair colour and to put anti-aging creams all over your face. This doesn't make the fact that you're aging go away. But emotions don't work that way. There is no magic cream or mask. They are something to work with, not against. When you do it's an amazing thing because you will become more and more aware of how beneficial, and natural, they really are.

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