In March, I had the privilege of visiting Dubai, UAE, as director of the MBA International Practicum course, taught by Joy Harris, PhD. Joy and I had the opportunity to visit the newly opened, highly anticipated Museum of the Future (MOTF). We wanted to see what all the buzz was about. (I had a Deepak Chopra sighting, but more on why that’s relevant later!)
Arianna Robinson arrives at the Museum of the Future
The building itself is an absolute wonder of architectural design and engineering. The silver, oval-shaped building with a void in the middle, is covered in Arabic writing. It really is awe inspiring.
The interior is equally stunning with six levels where innovative technologies provide visitors with immersive experiences of the year 2071, or at least what the curators imagine the future year will be like. According to the museum website, each floor is designed to be “like a film set from a future that you can inhabit, explore, and interact with.” Our journey through the MOTF started with a ride on a rocket to the Orbital Space Station Hope (aka an elevator to the sixth floor). There, the exhibit shared how the moon could be turned into a source of renewable energy. I also had the opportunity to apply for futuristic occupations (my personal favorite: Mars Colony Ambassador to Earth). Next, we descended the stairs to the Heal Institute floor, where a digital recreation of the Amazon rainforest and a DNA library of thousands of species showcase how we can use biotechnology to maintain and heal the Earth’s ecosystem. It was an amazing and immersive sensory experience.
Arianna “dons” the official uniform of the Mars Colony Ambassador to Earth and explores the species showcase.
The next floor down was Al Waha (Arabic for “the Oasis”). This floor focuses on wellness. According to the website, the floor is intended to be “a center for human senses where you are encouraged to disconnect from technology and reconnect to your mind, body, and spirit.” The exhibits help visitors envision how light, water, and electromagnetics can be used for the purpose of wellness. Again, amazing. Here is where I discovered the following prediction for 2071: “Despite our technological abundance, depression, anxiety, loneliness, and addiction remain common. In 2030, depression passed obesity as the world's greatest health risk.”
This forecast rattled me — and, frankly, surprised me.
After all, hadn’t this pandemic we’re in finally given some real mainstream attention to the issue of mental health? Millennials and Gen Zers have been coming of age at a time when conversations about mental health are encouraged and normalized. I read, hear, and see more and more about mental health in the news, on TV, in schools and universities, in movies, in professional and personal conversations, and more. Had I overestimated the power of this moment of emphasis on resilience, wellbeing, and self-care? The MOTF’s prediction implies that we will in fact continue collectively on a downward spiral of mental health.
We have to turn this around!
There is a lot of talk about who the future belongs to: the dreamers, the creatives, the bold, the brave. One of the quotes written on the MOTF’s exterior, written by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is Dubai’s rallying cry, “The future belongs to those who can imagine it, design it, and execute it. It isn’t something you await, but rather create.” And while I agree with this statement wholeheartedly, my personal motto has become: The future belongs to those who can keep their minds. Having faced my own battles, I have never understood more clearly that mental and spiritual well-being needs to be thought about as a basic human right. It’s worth fighting for because without our well-being, nothing else is sustainable.
Coincidentally, the day I visited the MOTF, I spotted Deepak Chopra there on a tour! I was elated, as Chopra’s teachings have become a part of my own spiritual journey. In fact, a 21-day meditation experience, curated by Chopra and Oprah Winfrey, was my first endeavor into the practice some eight years ago. Even though that exposure planted a seed spiritually, I was so close to my bottom mentally that I just could not appreciate it, or “catch it,” as Dr. Michael B. Beckwith would say. Mindfulness?! I am quite mindful of these bills I need to pay. Oneness with self?! Well, who else would I be with while I was grinding through life? Not until a couple years later when I hit my bottom (a breakdown) did I finally grasp that I was just “surviving.” And that type of living was simply not enough. It would take consciousness, therapy, and a new focus for my love to gain that awareness. To inspire me to get to know myself. To love myself. To nurture that seed.
And while I want us all to get there, I do want to point out that the journey is not like the saying seems to indicate, that we just go from “surviving” to “thriving” in any aspect of life, whether it be emotionally, mentally, spiritually, financially, or physically. No, there are at least a couple stages in between! I am now a few years into increasingly consistent mindfulness and spiritual practices, and I’d say I am on the high end of “functional,” perhaps the low end of being “successful,” at keeping my mind. And while I’m definitely still somewhere between surviving and thriving, it is a clearly better life experience the more I connect back to myself and my purpose. And if I can find my way to a focus on living a life of peace, love, and joy, so can you!
From my limited experience, here are a few steppingstones that have helped me:
Find your people. For many, the journey isn’t meant to be taken in isolation. Connections can be informal — such as taking the risk to be vulnerable with family, a partner, or friends; or more formal in becoming associated with an established group. You can also forge professional relationships with therapists and coaches. Whatever you choose, I encourage you to find the people who are striving like you are or are trained to support and facilitate the type of growth you are looking to achieve. This will give you a community for your ongoing practice.
Find your practice(s). There are any number of ways to go about lifting your mental condition. You can use mindfulness, meditation, prayer, chanting, and/or nature, to name a few. Be open to trying things, both new and old. Let go of practices that are working against you. Don’t give up if one practice doesn't resonate with you. Keep trying until you find something that “clicks.”
Suspend judgment . . . of yourself and others. This is a journey, not a destination; we will all have different paths to get there. What worked for me may not land with you and vice versa. That’s okay.
Chopra has said, “Health is not just the absence of disease. It’s an inner joyfulness that should be ours all the time; a state of positive well-being.” That sounds like thriving to me!
So, in terms of the future, I don’t know about you, but I plan to be in the mind-keeping group! I urge us all to either start, restart, and/or continue the work to be well, to get back to ourselves, to thrive. Let’s work not just to have fleeting moments of happiness, but to let the consistency of our joy be the only measure of success! That we know peace, love, wisdom, courage, and compassion as our guides, through everything. And I’m going to love and support, appreciate and admire, and affirm and encourage as many of you as possible to be there with me!
Let’s Share Resources
Some of my favorite mobile resources: I personally use and recommend the Chopra Meditation and Well-being App. I am forever grateful for and cannot get enough of anything and everything Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith (Agape International Spiritual Center) and Lalah Delia (Vibrate Higher Daily). I follow all of these leaders on IG and YouTube. I am also currently obsessed with Jason Stephenson’s guided sleep talk down meditations on YouTube.
Some books that got me going are: The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz; All About Love, by bell hooks; Emotional Agility, by Susan David; and The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, by Deepak Chopra.
Georgia Tech students can access the Headspace app for free by clicking here.
Georgia Tech (and all USG) faculty and staff have access to many resources, which can be discovered here.
My fellow Kaiser Permanente-insured folks can have free access to the Calm and myStrength apps by clicking here.
Let me know what apps you all are using, what you’re reading, and who you’re listening to for your mental and spiritual wellness!
About the Author:
Arianna Robinson is the assistant director of business operations at the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business. For more about her work (and life) you can check her out on LinkedIn here.