Friday, November 4, 2011

Stress As Teacher

Namaste, fellow Pilgrims.

I live in the Okanagan Valley, which is a beautiful place to be.  At night when I look around me, I see the lights of  thousands of homes twinkling brightly on the hills which surround me, looking like an ethereal fairieland.  Recently, however, the Universe gave me a great reminder:  Every one of those twinkling lights represents a person or family living with stress.  New baby or aging parent.  New job or laid off.  Newly married or newly separated.  The list of possible stressors is pretty much endless.

Whether a joyfully anticipated change or a sudden and unwanted one, change = stress to human beings.  To be alive means to live with stress, particularly in our modern, fast paced Western world.  I can't be the only one who has thought of running away and joining a convent/monastery - without even being Roman Catholic or Buddhist!  It is simply the price we pay for being alive.

The trick is to change the way we view stress.  To be sure, our immediate reaction is generally anxiety.  But if we can manage to take those deep breaths and count to 10 (meditation works wonders, my friends!), we just may learn something from our stressful situation.  Dr. Dean Ornish put it succinctly when he said:  "pain and suffering [a.k.a. stress] can be a powerful doorway for transforming our lives for the better."  Does that sound counter-intuitive?  It's really not.  Let me give an example from my own life.

Recently I was faced with the realization that someone I have felt close to did not seem to return my affections to the same degree.  This hit me like a ton of bricks.  I felt sad, foolish, and confused.  You might say I felt stressed! I had anticipated this person being an important part of my life for years to come, and suddenly it no longer seemed like that was the case.  While crying in the bathroom, looking at my tear-stained, mascara-streaked face, the Universe once again gave me a much-needed thump on the head:  If this person did not love me, was I therefore unlovable? 

As I pondered my reflection, I already knew the answer:  What's not to love?  I have not changed simply because another person does not want to be with me any longer.   It is a part of their own journey to determine whom to welcome or dismiss from their life.  If I choose to hold onto my stress and grief over the seeming loss of any relationship, it is to my own detriment.  I gave thanks and dried my eyes, getting on with the rest of my day.

The blessed irony of my own situation is that, within 24 hours of releasing my "need" for this person, they popped back up on the radar, reaffirmed their enjoyment of our relationship, and all was right in the world!  Well, at least where this person is concerned.  The lesson learned, however, remains a significant one for me. 

In general, stressful situations are temporary.  We are not designed to live with chronic, dangerous levels of stress.  It is to come and go, propelling us to grow, let go, learn, and move on.   We all grieve losses and fear change to some degree, but we must not get trapped in that place.  Stress will always be with us, because change is part of life.  The sooner we learn to view it as a doorway to transition, the better it will serve us. 

"Maturity is achieved when a person accepts life as full of tension."  ~Joshua L. Liebman

I know that there is One Intelligence.  It is perfect, whole, complete, and harmonious. There is One life:  That Life is God, that Life is perfect, that Life is my life, now.  I know that Divine Intelligence now guides and directs my every thought and action.  I know what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.  I am open to receive loving instruction through my life situations, and to learn from each one.  I now embrace today's lesson:  I receive it, understand it, and apply my new-found knowledge to help me grow in this life, and pass on my knowledge so that others may benefit from it.  For this knowledge, for this understanding, I am grateful. I give thanks that all this is so. And So It Is.

With a thankful heart,
Rev. Jan