We are faced with literally thousands of decisions a day – what to wear or eat, means of travel, what to listen to, what to pick up, what to put down. It is estimated, as adults we make about 35,000 decisions a day. We have learnt to make these decisions over our lifetime. The plurality of choices we make individually have an aggregated impact. The cartographers of the late 19th and early 20th century drew maps and coloured them to indicate who were the conquered and who were the conquerers. I remember Australia being pink to indicate a colony of the British Empire, surely an early indicator in my life of the knowledge of invasion. The way maps are drawn have found their way into the micro-decisions of our everyday of who and what is in and out. To collectively behave unconsciously of our history reinforces the past; to disrupt the narrative with truth telling, new data and mindfulness breaks open the potential for new neuronal pathways to be built. This leads to more disruption and it is more than the colour of a map that will help us with new decisions to made.
Once you start to live more mindfully, it is overwhelming and you can’t unsee or un-hear what was hidden or unspoken. You notice more of the decisions you are making that hold injustice in place. Planting indigenous ground covers in places where land was cleared by early settlers might be a simple gesture of restitution and healing; learning language to greet people an act of respect and aid to preservation; learning about white fragility and sharing your knowledge with your peers an act of conscientisation. As we build our mindfulness muscle we start to notice all the decisions we make and the potential we all have to help disrupt the status quo which perhaps really a collective amnesia.
Waking up isn’t easy. Changing decisions and habits of a lifetime requires retraining, support and stamina. Anyone who has had to break any kind of addiction, go on a diet, give up a favourite food will have this challenge to draw on. You will fall back into old ways, you will embarrass yourself, you will have to start over and over again. It is a discipline and a practice and if there are external signs and boundaries they might help or they might also get in the way. A friend who brings flowers instead of wine if you are dieting is the kind of friend you need if making changes around food. And one who brings chocolates knowing full well you are trying to make a change is not acting in solidarity.
Think about applying these same principles to bring changes around climate or structural racism and what do you notice? You might be start discovering insights and opportunities. I am trying to develop a practice around what I bring when invited to share a meal – more locally sourced produce and home made. It is a feeble attempt at focussing on low food miles and recognition of the place food comes from as a gift from one location to another. I see more and more people doing this, it is reviving the practice of our grandparents and all the generations before and seems so simple I feel a bit pathetic even mentioning it. Imagine though the collective consequence of this a gifting of abundance between friends and neighbourhoods that would literally change local economies.
An abundance of decisions can drown us and we look for short cuts to help us. Only having one colour of underwear may reduce 100s of decisions in a year! Building new decisions pathways may be an aid too and if we develop classification methods to help us (think red, orange green) we can move through our decision tree with more confidence and ease. Choices are deeply and inextricably entwined to our privilege. I get to make so many decisions because of my entitlements and coming to this knowing is what happens when you start to wake up. We are being shaken by activists who are screaming at us, showing us the way forward, trying to get our attention – if you feel a bit shaken, stirred, uncomfortable – chances are you are being woken up and new decisions are emerging.