'The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering'. Ben Okri
I want to preface this with an opening line we use in our presentations, nothing I'm about to say is scientifically proven, instead, I'm drawing on my own experiences as someone who struggled with the darkness, came through and now devotes much time and purpose to not living 'untruths'. I don't always succeed but thats why we called our social enterprise The Possibility Project (not the 'Positivity' project) because a purposeful existence is one where there are many paths home, not just a happy one.
The focus of our social enterprise is mindset shifting, our aim is to help create greater social justice by enabling ordinary people to imagine their extraordinary selves - which is a lot harder when you think! On average we have about 50 000 thoughts a day, and as an adult what you believe is not only hugely habituated but tends to be lacking in imagination, yet if we want to change our experiences we need to be able to change our beliefs. A pivotal opportunity for me to change my thinking happened in a very ordinary way. I was driving, I adjusted my rear vision mirror and through gritted teeth yelled at my crying son 'nothing is ever good enough for you', in that instant I fully understood my state of mind, I was reflecting a powerful message back to self, which had absolutely nothing to do with my upset child. In that moment I also realised that I had spent most of my living memory in a state of 'not good enough'.
Pre-schooled children are a gift to observe one's consciousness and at the time I happened to have four of them around. I'm convinced the way we think as adults is so far removed from how we are naturally meant to think, and for me that distance was manifested as a depression. I once found this brilliant note written by my son, 'Facts about mermaids, mermaids are fish girls', it was the perfect reminder of the infinitely 'possible' world kids think within. The problem with mermaids when you become logical, is that when you want a girl you get a fish and when you want a fish, you get a girl - nothing is quite ever enough!
Bridging a scarcity mindset is a fundamental part of nurturing the mental wellness of any society. The WHO defines mental health as 'a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community'. As is the case with all social justice issues, there is zero debate that improved mental health is vital for a fully functioning society, it's the 'how to' that needs an overhaul. In 2014, the Australian Government spent $8billion on mental health services, with very high subsidies for psychologists and prescriptions for anti-depressant drugs. My own approach was yoga and meditation, I'm not at all against the medical/ drug related route, I can't be, my lovely husband is a medical scientist in the pharmaceutical industry, it's just that I know there are other ways to serve depression.
What if depression was actually amnesia? As I started a practise of meditation I started to remember parts of self that had been long forgotten, parts that were so beyond the judging mind, parts that were peaceful, playful and connected to a much wider energy field than 'self'. I read the other day that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, the opposite of addiction is connection and I feel the same goes for depression, the opposite is connection. It's not a connection to physical things, it's a connection to your whole being, your body, mind and creative spirit.
Working with people in the slums of Jaipur to reimagine what's 'worth it' has provided a great opportunity to learn how to take rubbish thoughts and turn them into purpose. At the centre of our ability to alchemise a dark situation, has been their reminder that every human has a creative power to choose their response to their experiences. It's so easy to forget our creative power when we are conditioned to think that power lies outside of us (something implicit in most 'expert' approaches to life ). In the preface to Animal Farm, George Orwell described the source of the idea for his book .... 'I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge carthorse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them' ... When we become aware (or remember) our own power we too open ourselves to an expanded range of possibilities.
Imagine the prescription if depression was considered a form of amnesia, where instead of dispensing drugs and psychological evidence for positive change, we seek to remember our creative spark, our originality and authentic self. Imagine if we supported each other to connect to a place inside us that has creative answers to our most difficult questions. I work in below poverty conditions where people should be miserable, but they are not and I live in affluence where people should be content, but they are not, why? Because so few of us remember that our true power does not come from our bank balances or the schools we attend or our job titles or how our bodies look or the parties we attend, the cars we drive or the number of devices we own. The people I work with remind me that power comes from love, and when we love we demonstrate we are enough, we have enough - and that is something worth remembering.