Patches of sunlight play on grass. Thick tree trunks define distance. The short squat trunks disappear into a low-lying canopy of decaying leaves. The leaves are as still as the trunks. A solitary magpie pecks the grass and joins the stillness. The lawn is touched by a single soft white feather floating earthwards.
Your Healing From Stress
It is possible to live with the sensitivity of a feather touching the earth. However an excess of stress in our lives is blunting our sensitivity. Recent research has shown that stress is now affecting every level of society. The rapid pace of change is shaking old securities and we are living with uncertainty. As a result we are changing friends, jobs and marriage partners more often. We are being asked to adapt to an insecure world.
I find the stress of modern living even more of a challenge than most people, because living with schizophrenia has made me vulnerable to stress. If I am in a stressful or stimulating situation like a meeting for more than 90 minutes, I lose the ability to concentrate and can easily become totally exhausted. I then slip into a dark depression and have to do nothing for two or three days to recover. However I have managed to adapt to my disability by creating work that suits and by managing my life and my medication wisely. I actually believe that my sensitivity to stress is an advantage, because it has stimulated my creativity. In the middle of a hectic and uncertain world by listening to my inner guidance I have created a life where I often visit the still lake of inner peace and tranquillity.
Having to adapt to uncertainty can be good for us. To adapt successfully we need to learn to detach more from our preoccupation with jobs, families and friends and live in the present moment.
Living intuitively like this teaches us to live more fully in the stress free present moment. Stress results when we are emotionally attached to jobs, families and friends. This attachment causes us to use our imagination destructively to conjure up all sorts of fearful and negative outcomes that are wild distortions of reality.
For example when I let go of my commitment to the architecture profession to become a freelance management consultant, I was riddled with fear and consequently was very stressed. My mind was filled with negative thoughts. I worried about how I could earn enough money and whether I was capable of doing the work. I imagined something terrible might happen. The stress resulting from these worries impaired my performance and I am sure excess stress impaired my judgement on some occasions and I lost important business deals. For example I was once offered a training contract but at a very low price. I refused the deal, but on reflection realised that had I accepted this contract would have been an opening into a steady supply of high paid work.
In contrast when I let go of my commitment to the business world fifteen years later, to enter an unknown future, the transition was much easier because I was in touch with that beautiful, quiet place within where I had learned to completely trust my inner calling. To discover freedom we are sometimes called to risk letting go of the past and invited to step out into an unknown future.
We can escape the worry trap by gradually learning to have confidence in and trusting our inner guidance. When we start responding to our calling and taking our first few risks it can seem very frightening and stressful. If we persist we learn through experience that our calling can be trusted. We begin to relax, become more comfortable and display greater wisdom when going in new directions.
If you are experiencing stress it is helpful to share your thoughts and feelings with a few close friends or family members. Unfortunately at work managers and employers often do not encourage employees to talk about the stress they are under. Instead they expect employees to improve their personal coping. I had a friend who complained about being under too much stress. She was invited by her manager to attend a time management course. She thought the course might be useful, but she knew that insufficient resources and management support were the main cause of her problem! Because she was unable to have her needs acknowledged and then met by her managers she felt sidelined. She did not have a significant say in the decisions that created her working environment and eventually had to leave the job for over a year on stress leave.
If we do not participate in the major decisions that shape our world, we will experience stress. This applies equally well to the home and work environments. Let your intuition guide you in becoming a participant in important decisions that affect your life. You have a right to be involved. In extreme cases where you have tried everything, you are not being listened to and you are suffering chronic stress, consider changing your environment. Let your calling guide you to the appropriate solution.
If you are still overstretched and stressed, I would like to ask you a simple question. Why is it necessary for you to do so much? Life is best kept simple, but we have an uncanny knack of making life complicated. Listening to inner guidance will help simplify your life. When your life is simple, it is easier to relax.
My uncle once asked me, "What do most people want?"
"I don't know," I replied.
"A little bit more," he giggled.
There is so much truth in that punch line. Most of us are never satisfied.
One holiday in the year isn't enough; we want two. One car isn't adequate; we want two. One television isn't enough; we need two, or even three. One house no longer satisfies us, we are getting a second. One bathroom isn't sufficient we need two. Then soon of course we say, one job isn't enough, we need two. And then, one pay rise isn't enough; we need two. It's all a vicious circle of stress.
Doing so much and having so much is an illness. We need to be cured. Following our potential is the cure. It may be a different life-path from the one we are used to, but it is a certain cure for all the complication we build into our lives.
Of course we need to have our needs met. I am not advocating a life of want and hardship – far from it. We may need a second home or a second car, but we will have less stress if we pay for these needs by carrying out work that is personally meaningful. However there may be times when we are called to take our career in a new direction by developing new skills, or take time out for personal healing. At these times we may be drawn to satisfy only our most essential needs. In circumstances like these we need to remember that meeting our basic needs in life can be simple. It is we who make it complicated.
One of the biggest stresses in modern society is paying the mortgage. Even though many houses are a ridiculous price, they still seem to find buyers. Why is that? Why do millions of people every year cripple themselves with exorbitant mortgages?
The answer is of course because people have high ideals of the home they want to buy. They want a certain style. They want a certain area. They want all the modern conveniences and they don't want to use their imagination or do much work. I would like to offer this story, in all humility, as an illustration of how I used my imagination creatively to furnish myself with a beautiful home.
When I bought my house I was thinking differently. I wanted to meet my needs simply. I wanted a house that I could pay off easily. I wanted a house with enough space and plenty of sunshine. Although I had a car, I wanted a house that was in easy reach of everything I needed and was close to good public transport facilities – this was because I wanted the option of not having a car.
I found the perfect house. It was near Belfast city centre, beside the river Lagan. (I'd always wanted a house beside a river.) It was not in a sought after area, in fact it was in a housing action area (a designation given to areas where houses are run down and in poor repair.) This meant it was eligible for a grant. When I visited the house I was struck by its atmosphere of love. I believe the last resident was an elderly lady who had since left to live in a nursing home. The house had no modern conveniences. It even had an outside toilet. It was over a hundred years old and as far as I could see had never been upgraded. Despite all this the elderly lady had obviously cared for her home. I knew this house needed imagination and it needed work but I felt powerfully prompted by my intuition to buy it.
The house cost me £7,250. I collected some second hand furniture and let the house to some students while I applied for the grant to do it up. The profit I got from the rent, I put into a separate account. After some delays the grant came through. By coincidence it was £7,250, exactly the same as I had paid to buy the house! This meant I got the basic house for nothing!
I used my imagination to improve the house. I borrowed some money from the bank to pay a builder to build on a new kitchen and bathroom. I also paid the builder to revamp the interior and put lots of new windows in the gable that faced the river. This gave me wonderful river views and also lots of sunshine. When the house was complete, I spent the money I had put aside from the students' rent to pay for decorations and furnishings. I added a final touch myself by building a tiny conservatory overlooking the river. When the job was finished my total mortgage was £15,000 to be paid off over a twenty-year period.
I knew that for the next twenty years I was free of the burden of an exorbitant mortgage. I knew that for the next twenty years I had greatly increased my prospects of leading a low stress life. I also had a beautiful home. A year later I lost my job and had to give up my car, but it did not matter because everything I needed was within easy reach and I was at the centre of the public transport system.
Meeting our basic needs in life can be simple. We make it complicated.
There is nothing wrong in taking on heavy financial commitments, provided meeting them is not a burden. You may be in a well-paid career, in which you feel completely at home, and find your work easy and natural. However if you are in a career path you dislike or find excessively stressful, then I suggest you think very carefully before committing to a large expensive mortgage. You could be entering into a commitment that may drive you to remain wedded to a working life that is no longer satisfying.
This matters, because some day you may get fed up with your stressful career and want to try a new path. As a result you may need to live on a smaller budget for a period, while you experiment with new means of earning an income. If you are already committed to an exorbitant mortgage and are struggling to meet the payments, you have my sympathy. Even if you are in this situation there are many other ways you can simplify your life and reduce your stress levels. Relax and let your intuition guide you.
Finally not being open and honest causes a great deal of stress. We are at peace when we have a high degree of personal authenticity. To be authentic we need to live out of our calling. If we feel guided to forgive our husband or wife, then we need to act on that prompting and not hold back out of a false sense of pride or vanity. If we have a dream, then we will suffer if we hide our passion under the carpet and try and forget it exists. To lead a stress free, authentic life we need to act out our intuitions, follow our dreams, explore our creative ideas, understand our insights and adhere to our conscience. When we commune with the radiant inner swan our intuitions, words and actions are one and the same.
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