How do you cope with environmental uncertainty and rapid change? You adapt, because every generation of your ancestors going back to the beginning of life has successfully adapted to change. That is how you are here, right now, in 2020. Today our social & physical environments change so rapidly that we are forced to adapt almost constantly…and try to maintain a stable mind despite an unstable environment. How have you learned to stabilize your mind this tumultuous year?
A deep time perspective of Earthly evolution can provide a reasonable expectation of change. Animals have been evolving on this planet for ~800 million years, mammals for ~200 million years, and primates for ~50 million years. Genus homo evolved ~2.8 million years ago and we, modern homo sapiens (Latin for “wise man”), have been weathering storms, riding out earthquakes & volcanic eruptions for ~0.3 million years. That is more than 300,000 years of us “wise men” migrating when terrains became uninhabitable, and adapting to an ever changing environment that we are wholly reliant upon. Every organism that exists today is the result of 3.8+billion years of adaption & evolution. We are the inheritors of countless generations of survivors that made it through unthinkable circumstances and changed to continue breathing, finding food, and passing on genes to continue the legacy. Life cannot survive without adaptation to a changing environment, and the faster the environment changes the more adaptable life must become.
This year I’ve been thinking about how we adapt to change thrust upon us in this modern epoch. I draw upon modern scientific knowledge of what makes humans happy, stable, well, and adaptable. There is direct evidence that some people are able to live with uncomfortable, if not painful circumstances, and be authentically appreciative of life and experience. What about their perspective allows them to adapt and maintain happiness in an ever changing social & physical environment? Scientific studies point to physical well-being, non-attachment to outcomes, and strong social bonds as traits associated with this grateful reaction to unexpected losses that change the course of life.
Yogis embody this view of & reaction to the changing world we live in. Yogis know that change is the inevitable result of the relentless passage of time. They choose to flow with time, not be attached to the outcome of any circumstance, move their bodies in close rhythm with breath, and create a strong relationship with themselves and others. The roots of Yoga go back more than 5000 years and were originally focused on meditation and environmental awareness. Yoga, like everything, has evolved. Most recently into gym & studio group classes focused on fitness. As a form of fitness, Yoga is good for strength building and flexibility, but when taught with 5000 years of imbued mindfulness, Yoga can help to stabilize the mind, promote flexibility & adaptability, and awareness of the environment within & outside of our human bodies.
Homo sapiens have existed for ~315,000 years, yoga has been practiced by “wise men” for ~5000 years, and today in 2020 we need to remember that we are the result of a lineage of thousands of millions of years of successful organisms that survived the unimaginable through adaptation to an ever changing environment. We are adaptable, and yoga is one of the legacies of thought on how to develop awareness and peacefully adapt to the unfolding of life. Homo sapiens have accumulated knowledge of the environment we rely upon so that we can better predict natural events, and we call it science. Science is one of the legacies of thought on how to develop knowledge of our environment and how our world evolves so that we can better adapt to ongoing change. We have learned to become aware of our internal and external environments through Medicine and Earth Science. We have more data about our environment than ever before in human history. We know about asteroids flying by Earth, changes in the planetary atmospheric composition, evolution of virus’, treatment of diseases, we can forecast storms and evacuate before they approach land, we can build tools to promote environmental stability and to destroy it. On an individual & community level we can choose to embody more than 5000 years of knowledge about how to build strength and flexibility of body & mind, support mindful and honest relationships, and evolve with the flow of time and change.
Everything that exists has adapted to the unexpected. Think of how much you have changed since March 2020. How do you find personal stability knowing that there are some things we can change, and others we cannot? You chose how you want to change, because change is inevitable.