Are we getting it wrong?

Are we getting it wrong?

By Kayleigh M. Stack
Writer, Acupuncturist, Theatrical Provocateur 

The liminal spaces in which momentary sighs of relief arise are so often not within the soils we’ve been turning. The traditional economic structure that has constructed our education, politics, and community lives have for many, led them to believe that purpose, pleasure, and belonging are found somewhere “out there”. Out there for our jobs, social lives, and other externalities to fulfill.

With so many platforms inundating us with information on “how to do things right”: how to live right, eat right, communicate right, sleep right…it becomes easy to drown in a sea of other’s prescriptive ideologies. Noble are such efforts, as humans often want to share their findings with others in the attempt to lend a hand to those who are suffering. But perhaps the excessive directionality prescribed by way of exacting suggestion removes us from our own internal compass. It is for this that I can’t help but question if our “how to” culture is affecting the neuro-circultory of our own deep well of intuitional knowledge. 

In the way that our internet browsing, social media scanning, and overall screen time utilizing has no regulation or education around healthy or toxic dosage, the information we receive from others is often not streamlined or retrofitted to meet our unique, quirky, abundantly beautiful characters that we inhabit. Many are told that growth or betterment happens through endless workshops or specific diet protocols that will aid in the return to our baselines, or have the life we see and hear about from others. But this ambiguous baseline we are so eager to arrive at has many on the proverbial hamster wheel, perpetuating the separation from the very thing that we want so badly to touch: the fascinating nuances of life’s surreal intimacies. 

I was listening to an interview with Ethan Hawk on a Sunday morning WNYC radio show. He was discussing the writing of his most recent book, along with his life as an artist and how much growing up he had to do before publishing this last work. What stood out to me was when he said “[young] people often think they have to do all these things to make their lives interesting, but life is so interesting on it’s own”. 

Life is so interesting on its own.

Whether it was by coincidence or something outside the realm of cognitive understanding, a day after the Ethan Hawk interview I found myself in a virtual mediation group, listening to one of the dharma teachers give his evening talk. He spoke about the very sweet, endearing tendency of humans striving to be liked, and all the things we do in effort to meet this insatiable desire. He then went on to say that “it is this wanting, that keeps us out of the intimacy of what is”.. It is our wanting that removes us from the idiosyncratic, chaotic and wholey perfect nature of existence that pervades us on a daily basis. The intimacy of life as is, is perfect on it’s own.

Of course this struck a chord, as I wouldn’t be sharing it if it didn’t. With such prescriptive culture abound and many attempting to remediate other’s lives by way of sharing their own experience, I wonder: are we moving further away from the unrealized creative spontaneity that is generated when we welcome both ourselves and one another as we are?

We are crazy dynamic creatures. We are changeable, mercurial, temperamental and volatile, in the best of ways. Yesterday can be night and day to tomorrow’s needs. By following other’s routines and strategies, are we cultivating more suffering and fear of not doing something the right way? Are we creating a more siloed existence, where we are brimming with an excess of information fed through streams of podcasts, audiobooks, and endless media outlets, without the intimate felt community to be in dialogue with that is so essential for digesting information in the tailoring of it for ourselves.?

Is all our striving to get it right, causing us to, simply put, get it wrong? Has the endless steaming of information received without the immediate outlets to create dialogue caused everyone to be “experts”, to a point where policing other’s actions, over receptive listing and relationship building across divergent ideologies, becomes normalized? Are we parenting one another through actions that, if we take a step back, we can perhaps acknowledge are the exact same techniques of reprimanding  so many of us rebelled against in our own upbringings? Rebelled against because maybe we were angsty yes, but also maybe because these techniques simply never worked. They never worked because we were dying to be seen and accepted for who we were. History has that way of repeating itself. 

Everyone is on their own journey. One person’s soul’s desire and needs are very different from the next. If we continue to transpose a “how to” culture onto others, will we be perpetuating a culture of despair as a result of the constant attempt to meet standards that were perhaps never ours to meet?

I have no answers. Just thoughts, reflections, and an interest to share a conversation over a cup of coffee with others.

I do believe, however, we might just need to turn down the dial on the “how to” that is keeping many in a compulsive effort-ing, separating from our unique gifts, and turn up the volume on expressing outwardly and more often something along the lines of “you’re doing great”. Knowledge is power, yes, also, everyone is doing the best they can from the knowledge they’ve gleaned in a lifetime. Rather than being each other’s saviours, what about being an alli, a friend, and a member of our larger community. It is a friend who takes us in, feeds us, and gives us a place to sleep when we are feeling lonely, scared, or ill. It is a friend that does nothing more than witnesses our humanity with whole-hearted compassion. It is from this place of compassion and bearing witness, that I believe, we truly come alive and regain stability. But as always, this is only what I believe. What about you?

Kayleigh grew up in the Catskill Mountain near the Zen Mountain Monastery in Mt Tremper, NY. She began studying Zen and various other Buddhist practices at a young age within her hometown. She has taught yoga since 2008 integrating some of these concepts into her classes. Kayleigh has degrees in Sociology from Hunter College, NY, Anthropology from SUNY New Paltz, NY, and a Masters in Traditional Chinese Medicine at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine to become a licensed acupuncturist. She is also an avid “story performer” and collector of stories, believing personal narratives have transformative power.
You can view her Oral History Performance work at

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Are we getting it wrong?

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