Does Artificial Intelligence scare you? Sometimes I catch myself eying the horizon of the near future, just waiting to see what kind of storm—if any—is headed our way. I know, in the midst of turbulent weather, even the strongest ship needs a good anchor.
In whichever form uproars appear in our lives, they all have one thing in common: change. The greatest transition a person can face is the death of a loved one. When in grief, people are forced to face change head on, with the possibility to say goodbye and begin a new chapter of their personal journey. The week-long Jewish mourning rites, known as shiva, offer family members support for this great shift in their lives. These rituals also shed light on the foundations we can all lean upon when the storms of life inevitably arise.
During shiva, the community offers physical and emotional support. Food is provided. Friends bring nourishing meals to mourners so they can focus their hearts and minds on the feelings of loss. People also provide care by listening to stories or offering calm silence, holding space for whatever their needs are. Mourners, like all who experience drastic change, need to be anchored in body and heart, embraced and held by a fleet of human connection.
Right now, humanity is facing the possibility of seismic shifts: the rapidly developing capabilities of Artificial Intelligence. What we are facing with AI is truly unknown. Even the people creating it do not know what they are unlocking, or potentially unleashing! We cannot yet understand how people will use AI, react to it, or how it may affect each aspect of our lives—in subtle or not so subtle ways. It could be the greatest blessing of our era, or it could give rise to unprecedented troubles.
In light of the mysterious and daunting possibilities, how shall we find our foundational strength during this time of change? Inspired by Jewish wisdom and ritual, my answer is: we should anchor ourselves in physical and emotional supports.
Here are 4 tips for how to do that:
1. Spend enjoyable time with loved ones and put your phones away
Simple pleasures with people we care about are more important than ever. Host meals, play games, sing your favourite songs! When you are around others who make you feel great, be sure you are present with them, and not distracted by the endless cycling of notifications and news.
2. Hug each other
Drs. John and Julie Gottman, who systematically study how to improve couples’ relationships, point out that “a twenty-second hug releases oxytocin into your bloodstream.” That’s better than dopamine from “likes” on social media—and it applies to all our huggable beloveds, including pets!
3. Walk in nature, preferably barefoot
Nature has a way of calming and centering us. Walking in nature can help reduce stress and promote well-being. The feeling of our feet directly on the Earth is, as the word itself says, supremely grounding.
5. Feel your feelings
It may be hard sometimes, but our emotions are where we meet our own inner truth and deeper wisdom. When we allow ourselves to really meet our joys and sorrows, we gain insight into ourselves and the world around us. This aids us in navigating the challenges we face with more clarity and understanding.
Remember, we’re in this shift together! No matter how hard the storm rages, nothing can lift the anchor of a deeply connected fleet. May we all stay connected, supported, and grounded during these times of change.
Rabbi Matthew Ponak is a spiritual counsellor, a teacher, and an author. His book Embodied Kabbalah makes essential teachings of Jewish mysticism accessible and places them side-by-side with inspirations from our era and the world’s great wisdom traditions. Learn more at matthewponak.com.