Former Congressman Alan Steelman: False Wizards, the Yellow Brick Road and Future Shock
Little did many of us realize that we were watching our own life story play out before our very eyes, when we first read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or saw the movie. When the cyclone dropped Dorothy and Toto into the Land of Oz, their first encounter was with Glinda, the Good Witch. Her message of caution to them was, “this is a land of great beauty, but, also one that can be dark and terrible.” Stay on the Yellow Brick Road, don’t dare venture off, and you will reach the Emerald City, where the Great Wizard lives and “troubles drop like lemon drops, etc..
As the story plays out, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion are met along the way. All are found to be “seekers”. All have issues in the form of self-limiting beliefs, body issues, issues of the heart, etc. and all believe that only a “wizard” with magical powers can heal them, grant their wishes, and make all of their dreams come true.
As we grew out of childhood, we started to learn through our own life experiences that, yes, life can have great beauty, but, can also be traumatizing when life events intervene that become overwhelming and present challenges that are simply too great to deal with for many.
In 1970, Alvin Toffler wrote a book that became an international best-seller, titled Future Shock. Toffler said that change was moving at a pace that was overwhelming, and that would make people “go insane”. He described “A condition of distress and psychological disturbance brought on by a person’s inability to cope with rapid social, economic and technological change.”
While the 70s were a long way from being peaceful, this forecast by Toffler came long before the hyper-pace of the digital age, the recent and current pace of social and economic change, and the results of the 2016 election. Tragically, this forecast has come about with alarming statistics illustrating how “dark and terrible” life has become for many, and who like Dorothy and her three companions, feel that they need a “wizard”.
The tragedy is that these “coping wizards” in the form of opioids, alcohol, food, obsessive use of digital devices, and shopping are destroying health and indeed lives. Most alarming is the record number of opioid overdose deaths this past year, which exceeded those in the combined wars of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, obesity rates reaching a level where 4 of 10 Americans now meet the BMI standard of obesity, and teen suicide attempts at record levels.
Amidst all of this tragedy is the good news message that there is an exit ramp from the lane of anxiety, stress, addiction and pressure that is consuming so many. Your breath, given at birth is your very own Yellow Brick Road, and it is the path to our very own Emerald City—a calmer mind. We are given a “pharmacy in the brain” at birth. A consistent, disciplined, practice of yoga and meditation won’t change the pace of life, but, does help us “slow the game” down. Yoga and meditation stimulate the vagus nerve, which in turn distributes the four “feel-good” chemicals throughout our body. This dose of dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins will indeed take us to the Emerald City and help us cope naturally with what we find so overwhelming today.
Bio: Alan Steelman is the author of Yoga on the Yellow Brick Road/Exiting the A.S.A.P. Lane!/Calm Your Mind due for release Q1 2018. He is a former member of the U.S. Congress (R-Tx), a global management consultant and a certified yoga instructor.