Why I Work
Lack of wellness has become the most important issue of our day
We seem to be surrounded with more knowledge, tools and connectedness than ever. And yet, we fail to find joy in the ordinary moments life. We fail to find meaning in work. We feel disconnected from ourselves, from each other, and from the Earth.
Depression and suicide have become leading causes of death. One out of five of us will develop traumatic stress. Scientists are discovering by the day how even the most seemingly physiological illnesses like cancer or Alzheimer’s may have psychological roots.
We don’t feel good.
We have forgotten how to feel good. Maybe we know what to do, but we don’t quite know how to do it. We have forgotten how to care for ourselves. We have forgotten how to care for others too.
Unwell individuals create global disasters, and vice versa
Lack of wellness is a closed feedback loop; it reinforces itself. The unwell individuals create global disasters, and the global disasters create more unwell individuals.
Look at the past. Even if we could find a few hundred people behind most wars, broken democracies, and crashing economies, the resulting poverty and traumas make way to racism, violence, global warming, endangered species, and more, spreading the harmful effect beyond our imagination. These global disasters make more of us unwell in return.
Now look at the future. Just like we don’t design our individual lives for wellness, we don’t design for wellness as a global society either. By 2050, 75% of the 10 billion people living on Earth will be living in cities, enduring the stresses of crowded urban life. And yet we are designing cities for efficiency and growth, not wellness. We design ground breaking technologies much in the same way, without a real concern for wellness. We get people used to clicking, commenting, sharing, hashing out, judging, comparing before they even think.
It has become impossible to tell which is the chicken and which is the egg.
But one thing is clear.
We have to start with the individuals
Individuals have extreme amount of power. One individual can change an entire family system. One individual can change the entire global agenda.
The individual who is not able to sustain herself won’t be able to take on the responsibility of sustaining her environment, community or democracy. Generosity comes only from a place of abundance. A person in a scarcity mindset cannot give back.
I strongly believe that if we could help each individual feel 20% better, we would solve 80% of the problems in the world. Those individuals with the incremental wellness would now collectively have so much more to give. They would have less violence and more compassion, less impatience and more understanding, less silence and more communication. They would participate actively in the solution of global problems, instead of contributing to the problems.
We are surrounded by many people on grand missions to change the world. But our mission to change the world for the better has to start with ourselves. We first have to bring more support, meaning and healing into our own lives, or we won’t have the necessary grounds from which we can solve other big problems.
In other words, if we don’t feel good, we won’t do anyone or anything any good either.
How I Work
Fostering belonging to supportive communities
We are mammals; we exist together. The single most important thing we need to increase our wellness is to belong to supportive relationships and communities. We need to be nurtured. Wellness can’t be found in isolation. We need others to care for our wellness, to support us on our journey, to give us tools or knowledge we need.
We go further quicker if we connect and belong. If others are there for us viscerally. If we can hear, see, touch them. If we have the stories of others to learn from, to hold us mirrors. And if we have the opportunity to simply tell our story and be heard, be seen and be touched, without being judged.
Empowering & educating the individuals
For the average individual, wellness is not affordable. People can’t afford therapy or expensive wellness courses. Insurance companies don't yet cover wellness services. Even if wellness services were affordable or subsidized, we can’t educate wellness professionals fast enough to support a 10 billion global community anyway. We will always need professionals to help with the 20% special cases, but individuals who learn and engage with evidence based wellness practices in supportive communities can bring by themselves the remaining 80% of the wellness.
We can no longer and sit around and wait for wellness solutions to be given to us. It is our responsibility to bring more wellness to our own lives and those around us. We need to, and we can, learn how to take action on wellness.
Encouraging personal exploration, based on evidence and deep listening
What brings wellness to me might be different from what brings wellness to the next person. What brings wellness to this community might be different from the next community.
Wellness is a complex topic of the heart, mind, body, personal circumstances, family, communities, and larger society. Cookie cutter solutions don’t work. Sometimes even if the solution is the same, we may need different approaches or speeds. What we need may also change over time, as we keep changing.
What is needed is a rigorous personal exploration based on scientific evidence and deep listening. Prioritizing known facts over hear say; knowing what effects were researched, what solutions were found, scientifically. Then, a deep listening to our bodies, a mindset of not taking anything at face value, a holistic mindset of bringing the science together with the deep wisdom in our bodies. Finding which solutions that work for you, experimenting, adjusting.
This means wellness comes from a constant work of discerning, moment to moment, what you need and how you can get it. It is a constant work of self-leadership.
Encouraging multicultural and mindful communication
The wellness work we do at the individual and societal levels has to take the multicultural nature of our lives into account, and the oppression some of us experience. Nowhere in the world today do we live in a monocultural, non-diverse community. We are always surrounded by people with different socioeconomic, ethnic, sexual, gender identities, and there are power dynamics that allow some of us to be accepted and some not.
Equity and freedom need to be key components of every community, team, and work we create. We all need to keep learning the right language to use and the right actions to take to co-create safe, non-harming, multicultural environments. These are skills we can all learn. Any moment we come together is a moment to learn and practice.
Using technology as the means, not the end
Technology is a powerful resource that can aid wellness practices or help us find wellness when a visceral connection is not possible.
Technology should always be supporting our visceral connections, making way to them, not replacing them. Research shows that verbal communication is only 7% of our overall communication. Any connection that stays only at the verbal level or locks us behind computer screens without touch eventually takes away wellness instead of adding to it. Same is true for unmoderated technology tools - online communities without the proper human guidance and direction can do more harm than good.
What I Work On
Given all this WHY and HOW, this is what my work looks like at the moment:
- Teaching mindfulness (awareness+compassion) to individuals and organizations in Paris and online in various formats (7-8 week courses, workshops, talks, 1:1 teaching sessions).
- Leading and teaching at the Mudita Mindfulness Community, a secular and non-sectarian mindfulness community online.
- Sending personal letters twice a month, Letters From Zeynep, in which I share free mindfulness teachings and practices as well as other intellectually and emotionally nourishing articles and videos on everyday wellness.
- Sharing my personal journey on my blog, on topics such as containing work when working for yourself, books that guide me, and mental load as a leadership and mindfulness practice.
- Producing a podcast called Watch What Happens where inspiring young adults in their early 30s share how they found growth throughout their 20s. (link coming soon)
- Writing stories, essays and poems, some of which I share on my blog.
- Exploring other product and service ideas such as a social wellness game, proximity-based wellness communities, a program called What Do I Want To Do With My Life designed to find meaning in work.
Thanks for reading my manifesto! If you have comments or questions, please feel free to share them in the comments below. If you feel inclined to chat more or to work together on this vision, or if you know people who can help, guide or mentor me, I'd be very happy to know.