Are You a Frog in Boiling Water?

In my private sessions and workshops, people increasingly lament the overwhelming stress of their lives. Just getting by in today’s culture often stretches us to the breaking point.

We humans, it seems, have manufactured a way of life completely out of sync with our evolution as a species. Our bodies can’t handle what our minds have wrought. Many of us have the chronic illnesses to prove it.

And now, with the Western economic collapse and the shrinking middle class, the crisis has grown significantly worse. Most of us are forced to work far longer for much less. Our standard of living is a far cry from that of our parents. We have almost no opportunity to relax, play, or just be.

Plus, the rise of cell phones and similar devices makes it incredibly addictive to live in the land of elsewhere rather than in our immediate surroundings.

To remedy this, we head to retreat centers, yoga classes and meditation groups. But as soon as those experiences end, we head back to our hyper-speed lives. Ironically, our time-outs help us better tolerate what we don’t want and can’t sustain.

Frog in Boiling Water

We’ve become like those slowly boiling frogs, of legend, who keep acclimating to the rising temperature of the water instead of just jumping out. While some among us keep hollering about how hot it’s getting, the majority of us in the developed world show no signs of the rebellious fervor suddenly so prevalent in the Middle East.

Which puzzles and troubles me.

Back in the Sixties and Seventies, all kinds of people branched out from mainstream culture to experiment with alternatives. They founded communes, ashrams, and organic farms. These ventures, though often deeply flawed, provided an opportunity to live more in accord with one’s vision, values, and natural rhythms.

Today, it’s easy to make fun of these alternative communities for all their excesses. Yet much of what we now esteem as “well being” grew directly out of these experiments.

So where are today’s similar experiments? When people have had enough, when they want to jump off the careening treadmill of contemporary life, where can they land? Where can they support one another in presence, connection, and the breathing room necessary to, well, breathe?

In my experience – and to me this is truly troubling – such places are few and far between. People don’t really feel like they can stop careening, like there’s anywhere to go, without taking a vow of poverty or dropping out of society altogether.

Does this trouble you, too? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

I’d also love to hear your recommendations for conscious, grounded, alternative communities currently open to individuals and families anywhere in the world. If you know of such communities in the planning stages, please share that info, too.


About Raphael Cushnir

Raphael Cushnir is a popular contributor to O, The Oprah Magazine. He has also been a teacher, activist, screenwriter, and film director. His own heart was rekindled after a period of profound grief. His first book, Unconditional Bliss: Finding Happiness in the Face of Hardship, was twice nominated as Best Personal Growth title of the year and introduced the "Living the Questions" process. His second book, Setting Your Heart on Fire: Seven Invitations to Liberate Your Life, is used as a teaching tool in churches and spiritual centers around the country. His third book, How Now: 100 Ways to Celebrate the Present Moment, was named one of the "Best Spiritual Books of 2005" by Spirituality and Health magazine. Raphael shares his work in talks and workshops worldwide. For more info:;;;
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3 Responses to Are You a Frog in Boiling Water?

  1. Thank you for your valuable insights. I wish you would address the terrible problem of self-righteousness in the USA. It has reached epidemic proportions – in both the Right Wing and the Left Wing and seemingly everything in between. I feel sure there is a connection between self-righteousness and the failure to integrate the emotions and mind. I would be interested in seeing you address this. I believe we need to return to a deep study of the Desert Fathers to understand what kind of soul-development is necessary before we can be considered even to “own” our own minds, thoughts, and opinions. Thank you.

  2. Emma says:

    Hi Raphael,

    This is a link to a list of IC’s (Intentional Communities) around the world. There are some great communities on the list. Crystal Waters, near Brisbane is an IC that’s been going for years. My cousins go to stay there every few years and really like it.

    There are also some IC’s on a website called That website is for organisations or business’ that let travellers come to live with them in exchange for work – but I’ve seen a few IC’s on there as well. (There was one in Spain, Majorca I think) that looked interesting and quite new.


  3. Amanda Richard says:

    It was such a relief to read your thoughts. I have been wondering the same things for some time. I am very troubled by the way that much of the western world is thinking and behaving. As a teenager I vistied Kibuttz in Israel and was part of a group of people who experimented with ‘alternative’ communities which included alternative energies etc. I am a child of nature, many of us were. What happened to that? People are losing touch with who they really are. I want that back. I want to leave the rat race and live with like minded people, feel the grass beneath my toes, have time to appreciate the beauty of life. Where can I go to do that? It is a need that I have which is becoming increasingly urgent. I want to get the balance back, the time, the contemplation. The love.

    Amanda Richard

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