I thought I'd write a sister post to the last one, which was about how environment is stronger than will power until we have become spiritual masters who influence our environment more than it influences us. The truth of the power of our environment is driven home to me when I think about the times I have lived abroad. When you find ourself in a new culture, you are in a state where so much is unrecognizable - in the language (even when I lived in England and - clearly - they spoke English, words and phrases which were new to me were plentiful), the clothes, the architecture, much of the music and media, the celebrities, and so on. Slowly, over time you begin to become familiar with how things work in your new environment, and you assimilate. You learn how to move through this new place in part by emulating those around you. In time, what becomes "normal" to you as a person equates to what you see others doing in this new place - the clothes they favor, the words they use, the TV shows they are watching and bringing up in conversation.
As you become more familiar with these cultural happenings, it becomes hard to discern what are wider changes happening throughout globe and what are cultural. When I lived in England, I remember bands who would become so massive in England that I would think they must be taking the world by storm, and then I'd go visit "home" in the US and find those same bands were much more niche there. The summers were never very hot in England, so no one wore shorts in the summer. When I moved back to Indiana, I had been away long enough that it took me some time to reintegrate shorts into my summer wardrobe because I erroneously surmised on some level that there had been a fashion shift everywhere of people no longer wearing shorts in the summer, instead of the more obvious conclusion that culturally shorts were unnecessary in England on a practical level. (One particularly hot outdoor party where I wore jeans, socks, and boots shortly after moving back helped drive that point home quickly!) Conversely, when I lived in Italy and would wear shorts when it was hot but still May, I started to understand by what I saw around me and some gentle comments from Italians that culturally it was unusual to have your legs exposed until the summer.
Of course, you don't have to become a part of an unfamiliar culture to understand the influence of culture on an individual. Things are always changing in popular culture around us, even when we remain located in one place. A couple of years ago, "flossing" only meant something you did to your teeth to try to keep dental visits as short as possible. In the last year or so, we have seen the dance craze of flossing hit a fever pitch and subside again. Popular songs that you can't escape rise and drift away. Magazines at the supermarket have their target celebrities which change over time. For years in the US it seemed Jessica Simpson and Paris Hilton were everywhere you looked, and now it's the royal babies.
When we see over and over the things that popular culture has deemed "important," we can get caught up in it. When every magazine has a cover story about the royal families, our brains start to believe that must be something it should care about. I'd like to suggest that the royal families, as an example, are actually not important to our growth, and so it's up to us to control our environment to not get sucked in to the shiny distractions placed all around us, vying for our attention. We have a duty to conscientiously select what media - TV shows, magazines, books, movies - we give our time and attention to which can help us continue to raise our consciousness.
I had lunch with a friend the other day who was suggesting more people seem to be becoming interested in personal growth, meditation, yogic living, spirituality, etc. She asked me if I'd noticed it, and I could only respond that it did seem that way to me, but then again I have changed. I have made meditation and spirituality a priority in my own life, and the books I read, many of the discussions I have, the documentaries I watch, the podcasts I listen to, etc, are on those topics. The world I have surrounded myself with is all on that theme, so it is reflecting those things back to me. Whether that means more and more people are leaning that way or whether I am simply a product of my environment, it is difficult for me to say. But I sincerely hope it is the former!
I am an Ananda® certified meditation teacher. I am passionate about meditation and embrace a yogic lifestyle for greater wellness physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
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