In the words of Jonathon Livingston Seagull, as he started with his new gulls, “Let’s begin with level flying.”
As we begin this new semester, I’m going to be taking a lot of the two classes – Stress Management, and the Art of Emotional Wellness – into the digital, technological, and WWW world. It’s going to be fun and interesting to watch it develop in this direction, and I’m excited for the challenge it presents.
As we pursue this path, let’s first ask ourselves, “How happy am I?” “What things do I find stressful?” “Is my stress taking its toll on how well I’m doing with my health, my performance, my relationships, and anywhere else?”
Ask yourself also, what would it be like to be living your life without the stress?
Wouldn’t that be nice?
Well that’s where we’re going in the next three months … so hang on, feel free to contribute, and enjoy the ride!
In a book I recently read, titled “Winning through Enlightenment” I came across one of the most profound and true statements I’ve ever seen. The author, Ron Smothermon M.D., says, “You are enlightened in direct proportion to the number of teachers you have in your life.” In other words, as we let others become our instructors, from whatever medium that come, we are able to live more freely.
With that in mind, I wanted to share with everyone my list of favorite books. I’ve been very fortunate to have read a large number of books that relate to our mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions of life. And from these books I’ve learned a lot about what other great minds have thought about living well and happily.
Here is the list:
If you have any personal favorites that we all should be aware of that aren’t on the list, please feel free to contribute yours.
So while I am quoting Smothermon, here’s one of my favorite quotes that came from his book (see previous blog titled “some of my favorite books”:
“So, a master practicing starts with the fact that she is whole and complete. Because she says so, and for no other reason. She also starts from the fact that her relationships are whole, complete, and perfect. They are exactly the way they should be. Why? Because she says so, no other reason. As relationships change, that is exactly what they should be doing: changing. When they seem to stay the same, that is exactly what they should be doing: staying the same. When she changes them, that is exactly the appropriate thing to do: change them. When others change them, that is seen as the appropriate thing to happen. How can all this be so? Because a master practicing says so, and for no other reason. This is called living at cause in your relationships.”
“You see, a master practicing lets life be the way it is. When you let life be the way it is, you’ll find out that it validates and supports you. Always. So, if life is not validating in supporting you, you are not leading it be the way it is. At that point, when you’re willing to let it be the way it is, a certain satisfaction comes over you. Said another way, you create the context of satisfaction by doing nothing. From the context of satisfaction you can absolutely beat life into shape. As you beat it, you’re satisfied. As it changes shape, you’re satisfied. When you notice the shape you’ve beat it into, you’re satisfied. Everything becomes a contribution to your state of satisfaction. So letting life be the way it is doesn’t mean not to change it. You will change it totally, but not so that it will get better. You will change it as a game, nothing more. For, you see, if you beat life to change it to be better, that would be coming from dissatisfaction.”
Those are good thoughts worth pondering.
It’s an interesting thing to be standing in the shower, staring at the wall, enjoying the nice warm water as it rains down my head, neck, shoulders, and back. My mind seems empty, and I’m in no hurry to finish this time to myself. When suddenly out of nowhere, seemingly, an excellent idea pops into my head. It’s a thought that hadn’t occurred to me earlier in the day, nor recently. Yet it’s a thought that has some significance and meaning to stuff that’s going on for me.
As I was pondering the uniqueness of this thought, I had to ask myself where do these ideas come from. And why do they come to me at times when I’m least expecting them or trying to get them? In all my years learning about thought, consciousness, and awareness, it has become quite apparent to me that there must need to be a slowness of thinking, or better said, a passiveness of thinking where the mind is not focused on any particular thing in order for new thoughts and ideas to penetrate the conscious mind. It seems the busier our mind becomes, the less room there is for a clear path upon which an idea can come.
This leads to the next question: What is that place from where those ideas, insights, and intuitive thoughts and feelings come? Certainly, it is not a place that has been accurately discovered by modern science simply because it is not observable and measurable. Yet you and I both know that there is a place beyond the physical, the metaphysical, where lies greater wisdom and knowledge than we both have. A brief look at history shows that generally we seem to learn more about many things with each passing generation. All of the “discoveries” that we now enjoy had to be somewhere before they made their way into the minds of the discoverers.
It seems to me, that having the ability to tap into this greater mind on a regular basis should be one of our most valuable practices. The conundrum, curiously, is that the connection with this higher mind requires a different type of effort than we are commonly used to. An effortless effort that occurs commonly in times of meditation, swimming, jogging, while waking up in the morning in an unhurried way, while praying, and while watching sunsets, sunrises, and other beautiful moments in nature. If this is the case, it also seems to me, that we better carry a notebook around with us.
All stress begins with a thought. It isn’t what’s happening “out there” that initiates the stress response. It’s how we interpret what’s happening “out there” that causes us to become stressed or not. We call this a perception of a threat. If we think this situation will lead to some kind of pain (emotional, mental, spiritual, or physical), we turn on the stress response automatically to prepare for the potential pain. The potential pain is what we call a “threat.” Prevention of stress, then, is best done by focusing on our thoughts, by changing how we think about those things we think are threatening.
This first Blog looks directly at our thoughts and some things we can ask ourselves to help us prevent stress:
Is the threat real? What is the perceived threat? What is the likelihood of this perceived threat actually happening? What is the chance of its occurrence? (Almost always the answer to this is that the threat is rarely going to hurt us.)
Can I handle this? (Our past experience tells us that we can always handle things)
Is the perceived threat one which I can do something about? Is it in my circle of concern or my circle of influence? (As one of my wise students once told me, “If you have control over it, there’s no need to worry about it. If you don’t have any control over it, you also don’t need to worry about it. There is nothing else. So why worry?)
Can I think about this differently? There are hundreds of ways to interpret the situation differently. That is the wonderful thing about free will or our innate freedom to choose.
Sometimes we forget these things and the stress response turns on. When that does, we need definite ways of turning it off. This involves relaxation exercises and coping skills.
All of these things will be treated as we explore this exciting field of study that relates directly to you and me.