Imagine if you were an alien who has been sent to the Earth to live with human beings, to observe their behaviour and write a study about them, like an anthropologist who goes the forest to study a remote tribe. What would the alien make of the human race? What conclusions would it come to?
It would probably be puzzled by the fact that human beings are filled with a restlessness which makes us feel uneasy when we’re not occupied, and makes it impossible for us just to ‘be.’ It would be puzzled that we spend so much time oppressed by anxieties, worries and other negative emotions, and by our drive to accumulate more and more wealth, status and success, even though these don’t bring any contentment. And looking back over human history, it would be amazed at the endless catalogue of warfare and conflict, together with the incredible inequality and oppression of most human societies.
The alien would probably conclude that there is something wrong with human beings, even that we suffer from a kind of psychological disorder. I believe that this really is the case. In my book Back to Sanity, I call this disorder ‘humania’, and explain how it leads to the madness of materialism, status-seeking and distraction, as well as to other pathological types of behavior such as dogmatic religion, warfare and environmental destruction.
However, I believe it is possible to heal humania. From time to time, we all have experiences of what I call ‘harmony of being’, when restlessness and discontent fade away, and we’re filled with a sense of ease, well-being and harmony. We become free of pressure to keep busy and the need for stimulation and acquisition, and rest at ease within ourselves and within the present moment. These moments usually occur when we’re quiet and relaxed and there’s stillness around us – for example, when we’re walking through the countryside, working quietly with our hands, listening to or playing music, or after meditation, yoga or sex. The chattering of our minds fades away and we feel a natural flow of connection between ourselves and our surroundings or other people. In these moments, we become – temporarily, at least – sane.
But it’s also possible for us to become permanently sane. In fact, this is basic aim of all spiritual traditions, and all spiritual practices: to transcend discord and attain a state of inner harmony. In Back to Sanity, I propose an eight-stage path of self-development which will enable us to do this, including ‘Transcending negative thought patterns,’ ‘Healing the mind through quietness and stillness’ as well as traditional practices such as service and meditation.
Once we transcend humania, life ceases to be painful and dissatisfying, and becomes a glorious adventure, full of joy and wonder. And if a large enough of human beings could transcend the condition, the world would be a different place too. Ultimately, we can only transcend conflict in the world by healing it in our own being. We can only create peace in the world by creating peace in ourselves.
In future blogs, I will explore the nature of humania, why it has such devastating effects, and look in more detail into how it can be healed. At the same time, I’ll be sharing some my other interests with you, including: why awakening experiences occur and how to generate them, how enlightenment can follow from the toughest experiences in life, and many more. I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you.
About the Author:
Steve Taylor is senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Metropolitan University, UK, and the author of several best-selling books on psychology and spirituality. He was recently included (at no. 38) in Mind, Body, Spirit magazine’s list of the ‘100 most spiritually influential living people.’ His books include Waking From Sleep, The Fall, Out of the Darkness and his latest book Back to Sanity. Eckhart Tolle has described his work as ‘an important contribution to the shift in consciousness which is happening on our planet at present.’ He was recently featured in dialogue with Eckhart Tolle on Eckhart TV.
Steve is also a spiritual poet; his first book of poems and spiritual reflections, The Meaning, has just been published. His website is www.stevenmtaylor.co.uk