During my life in the rainforests of Queensland, Australia, I learned that a smart person has to live in Survival Mode. But don’t think this means that I lived in a constant state of fear and denial, always awaiting the next deadly danger.
That is how I initially lived, terrified of poisonous snakes, ticks, sea snakes, jellyfish, and dangerous crocodiles, sharks, stinging trees and more. I lived in a perpetual state of fear and denial until I educated myself about the creatures I lived with.
I learned their territories, habits and needs. Once my awareness increased and I better understood them, I was able to give them the space and the response they needed. I also knew where I was most likely to encounter them. The more I learned about these potentially deadly creatures the more aware and relaxed I became and the higher my ability to survive rose. I could choose how to most appropriately respond.
It’s not about fear
Living in Survival Mode does not mean living in a fearful state. In fact, it means quite the opposite. It simply means living with greater awareness. There is a distinct difference between living in Fear Mode and living in Awareness Mode. Those first few months in the rainforest my fright and lack of knowledge about the rainforest’s potentially deadly creatures, made me completely blind and vulnerable. My trepidation and the denial of its existence actually increased my risk of death.
I knew nothing about the creatures I feared only that I was afraid of dying from a poisonous snake bite, an unseen paralysis tick or a poisonous jellyfish. Not only did my fear and denial make me vulnerable, but it made me react in chaotic and unpredictable ways that frightened the dangerous snakes and creatures around me. My fearfulness made them easily alarmed as they had no idea how I might react and whether or not I would harm them.
Denial, a close relative to fear
There’s another mode of living that’s related to Fear Mode. Some people spend their entire lives living in Denial. Most of us have experienced this at one time or another. When we live in Denial Mode we are not only living in fear, but we attempt to push away or block all that frightens and overwhelms us, anything that might force us from our comfort zones.
So if a comfort zone is comfortable, why not just live there? Many of us do. Whole cultures of people live in a comfort zone. We watch TV, read endless books, make money and shop. “Things” become the focus of our daily lives. We often eat whatever we want without concern for the effects on our bodies, other species or the land. We simply eat what is easy and feeds our gnawing huger, which can be much like an endless addiction.
The benefits of awareness
Now, in Awareness Mode we may feel overwhelmed or fearful, but we never turn our backs on fear. We look at it head-on, keep an open mind and deal with it practically. We educate ourselves and learn to know what we fear and why we fear it. Even when we don’t fully understand what we are afraid of, we are willing to at least explore that which we fear.
Eventually we are able to separate those fears which are potentially real from those fears which we “feel as real” but may have no basis in our present life. And we no longer deny the existence of the real fears. Instead we learn to take the necessary steps to protect ourselves so that we can remain strong, healthy, aware and alive.
It’s time for a change
I believe it speaks directly to the present emotional state of my culture (and many other cultures) in that we currently live in Denial and Fear Mode on nearly every level of our busyness. As we pollute almost all of our water, air, soil, food and space on the planet we are being called to shift from Denial and Fear into Awareness and Survival. Our very survival as a species might depend on this shift.
This is why I call it Survival Mode. When we live in Fear Mode we often make irrational and reactionary choices, choices that are not based on a solid foundation of clear thinking, knowledge and calm knowing of what we are dealing with. In Fear Mode we see only our fear. In Denial Mode we don’t see much at all.
When we are not living in awareness we are at our greatest risk in terms of survival, as individuals and as a species. When we cover our eyes and don’t want to “see” we risk our health, our children’s health and the health of the planet.
Robin Easton is an author, speaker, environmentalist, nature photographer, musician and adventurer. She is also the the author Naked in Eden, a story based on her life in the Australian rainforest. Her fascinating story has been told on an award-winning NBC News affiliate piece, Paul Harvey News, CNN, KBLA Radio, KSFR and others.
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