“I'm feeling overwhelmed with empathy with things happening to people I know and things that are happening in the world. I can't seem to stop feeling overwhelmed. Can you suggest some way of switching my brain to calm down and off?”
You have to pick who or what really matters, just the way you pick your battles, otherwise: welcome to compassion fatigue. You can’t just tell your brain to calm down; if you could, it would be calm now. If you want your brain to do what you want it to do, read my book and find the section on compassion. You can’t get a six pack with one sit up; same with building compassion, you need to exercise it.
“Am I inhumane for caring more about the survival of wild animal species and their habitats over the needs and survival of humankind?”
You’re humane enough for just being able to care about something. Most people don’t know how to do it, so the fact you can look beyond the cocoon of self-absorption that most of us live in is already a 21st century miracle.
“Love your book. I meditate daily as it helps me calm and control anxiety, which at the age of 40 I now realise I have always had. Do you think mindfulness should be taught in high schools?”
It should be compulsory. All this hot-housing for academic success could be why so many kids’ brains are fried. The jobs they’ll eventually get don’t even exist now so why not train them for what will probably be the hot commodity in the future: compassion. When most every job will be done by computers, it will be the one thing only humans can create. No amount of titanium can reproduce it. I’ll put money on it, that those who have hearts will become the new masters of the universe.
“This book sounds fascinating… especially sounds good for me to read as I'm a constant worrier! Will reading the book help me realise how to stop worrying?”
“Hi Ruby, can the brain process mindfulness in a subconscious way if you practise it enough? E.g. Brain: Oh the Cortisol is rising let's focus on your breathing, etc. Or does it require constant practise, use it or lose it?
Anything you consciously practice becomes a habit or skill that you eventually don’t have to think about: Walking, brushing your teeth, tennis, lap-dancing…
With enough practice, your mind will know how to automatically lower the cortisol to bring you back to that open-sky, clear-thinking space. You can teach an old dog new tricks.
“Have you any tips on controlling impulses? For example, I want to improve my health and fitness, but how do I quieten the voice that says "just relax this evening and forget about exercise" or "you want that slice of cake"?”
If you bring out the whip and get mad at yourself, the impulse just gets stronger and the thoughts get louder. With mindfulness you still hear the thoughts, but in a more detached way so you can choose to listen or not. You learn to be kind to yourself and when you’re kind those thoughts lose their sting. When you feel un-nagged is the time you’ll decide to put down the fork and get on the bike.
“I have one. What’s the best advice for someone in your life who desperately wants/needs positive change but feels too trapped or paralysed with life now? We can’t make change FOR them, but how can we help them take the first steps?”
Be an example; if you walk to the talk or talk the walk, they’ll think, “What’s she got going there?” And they just might make a move to change.
“In these currently volatile times, why are most referring to black/white arguments? And is the female brain different to male - again thinking about current climate? Thanks”
When we feel under threat, we automatically switch to our primitive, kill-it-before-it-kills-you brain left over from the Stone Age. When we’re in that fight or flight state, the human part of us leaves town and the savage gets in the driver’s seat.
The male and female brain look the same – it’s the hormones that influence particular behaviour and obviously make you do the insane things you do.
How To Be Human: The Manual is out in paperback now, and is available from all good bookshops. If you would like to read a chapter of the book for free, just tell Ruby where to send it.
Ruby is on tour with How To Be Human: The Show - tickets are now on sale.