be the light, self-care, self-empowerment, save the world, activism, mindfulness, peace

So You Want to Save the World? Start With Yourself

Making this world a better place starts with each of us–with how we care for ourselves.

Many of us feel the immediacy of the need to save our world and our planet. We want to be part of the change, of the resistance, of the solutions that are most needed right now.

And yet, it can feel overwhelming. Where do we start? What will pack the greatest punch? How can each of us, individually, best serve? How do we save the world AND run the business of our daily lives AND stay healthy?

This is indeed a challenging time to be an awake, aware, conscious human being on this planet. There’s A LOT of scary shit going on. This world is absolutely calling each and every one of us to step up and be our best selves to serve. But how do we do that and keep our light shining within? How do we keep our precious hearts open in the face of the fear, anger, and dark emotions that spill out so easily in conversation with our family and friends, in the news, and our social media outlets? Many of us are afraid, stressed, anxious, depressed, and overwhelmed in the face of it all.

I personally struggle with the question of what is the best way for me to participate in this world–to help solve its problems and make it a better place for my children to live. What can I do? What is the best way for me to serve? I want to be a part of the solution. But I can’t do it all. And I want to serve in ways that I feel most inspired to, that reflect who I am, and that don’t necessarily look just like what my friends are doing. I want to feel okay with that. And I want to balance my work in the world with those things that restore and strengthen me.

First: You Have My Permission

Dear Readers and Beautiful Souls,

You have my permission to stop here and pause…listen…take in the profound message that part of our service in this world is to take care of ourselves. We are all being called to be our best selves. The world needs our strength, our light, and our whole true selves. You have my permission to remind yourselves right now to lay down your worry, your fear, your overwhelm, and turn toward your precious selves. Only through loving attention to yourselves will you be able to rise up and serve in the most effective ways. To arrive at solutions that are positive and sustainable.

Our weariness in the face of struggle will inevitably lead to closed hearts and unkind words and actions. These serve as roadblocks to the positive change we seek.

We are not Super People with Superpowers. We are common people with great courage and strength and accomplishment. We are average people who seek change, and want to be a part of that change. Our greatest gifts to this world are our open hearts, our light, our strength, and the genius of our whole true selves. The world needs our Truth. Our Truth and best work in this world is born from the resilience we create in our bodies, minds, and souls.

How to Change the World In Ten Essential Steps

  • Stay close to your still, quiet Voice Within. It knows the truth–your truth–that is so needed in this world: get quiet, spend time in nature, meditate, pray, write. Practice listening in every day. Become familiar with the nuanced way your inner wisdom speaks to you–that “gut” feeling, the resonant sensation in the heart, the guidance that seems to drop in your lap when you least suspect it.
  • Saving the world demands that we take action from the strength and wisdom of our Big Blazing Hearts. An open heart knows the truth and spreads the love and light our world needs. In this complicated world a Big Blazing Heart needs lots of attention: a safe place to bleed and rest, movement to loosen its protection and constraints, time with those we love and who love us, reflection on what is good, connection with the natural world, dogs (and cats), and acts of kindness.
  • Know for certain that you deserve to put yourself first. We must care for ourselves first. The world needs our equanimity and action-in-strength. When we’re stressed-out, wired, and depleted we’re less effective–we react, pick fights, or do nothing. We must put the oxygen masks on ourselves first, before we help others. Breathe in first, then breathe out. Tend to the basics of self-care: good sleep and ample rest, nourishing food, regular movement, play, healthy outlets for stress, avoidance of toxins and negative energy, love and connection, open minds, healthy emotional flow, and connection to the meaning, purpose, grace, and awe of our lives.
  • Avoid excesses of information that generate hate, fear, and worry. We need to know what’s going on. We can’t live in a bubble. But we don’t need to marinate ourselves in it. We can’t be Light Riders with such heavy souls. Take news and social media breaks. Get out of the frenzy and feed your soul.
  • Channel that excessive energy from stress, worry, fear, anger, and anxiety into something healthy and restorative: dance and shake, walk and stomp, write (or as I call it, “dump and dive.” I dump the worry of my spinning brain onto paper, then dive into quiet meditation).
  • Intentionally practice seeing and feeling the beauty of the world all around you. Our brains are wired to latch tenaciously onto what’s negative. But we can easily become overwhelmed by the excessive, repackaged, amped up, redundant negative information we’re readily exposed to. This artificially inflates in our minds what is wrong with our world, triggering a stress response to help us manage it. There is far more beauty and goodness in our world but we must work harder to see it. Stop often to SEE the beauty that is right there in your daily life–the emerging flowers of spring, the dogs playing, the child’s smile, the twinkle in someone’s eye, the countless encounters of compassion and kindness all around (create your own…).
  • Mind your own truth and share it with the world. Are you a writer, a speaker, an artist, a lover, a planter? Do what’s most in your heart and soul. Nothing else matters.
  • Your personal form of activism does not have to directly target the monsters or problems of our world. There are infinite ways to serve–do your thing. Every good thing you put out into the world–art, words, speech, plantings, teachings, beautiful food, love, kindness–makes it a better place for us all. We all contribute uniquely. We each become part of the change we seek by being our whole True Selves, doing our own best thing.
  • Write yourself a permission slip: Dear Beautiful Angel Self (fill in your name), I give you permission to be your whole true authentic Self, to care for yourself tenderly, to give rise to your deepest reserve of strength, energy, and love, to open your Big Blazing Heart, and to….(you fill in the rest). Literally write this down and carry it around with you.
  • Celebrate how you inspire all those around you with your regimen of self-care and crusade for your personal Truth. They may bristle at first–you may not be doing it in their perceived “right” way. But the brightest lights shine the way for the rest. You are a leader and a Light Rider.

How are you saving the world?


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Karyn Shanks MD


Karyn Shanks, MD, is a physician who lives and practices in Iowa City. Her work is inspired by the revolutionary science of Functional Medicine, body-mind wisdom, and the transformational journeys of thousands of clients over her twenty-eight year career. She believes that the bones of healing are in what we do for ourselves.


    I needed this reminder and thank you for your wisdom of the importance of the basics of self care…


    I enjoyed this read, Karyn and found it heartening. Thank you.


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