Happy holidays! Happy New Year! It is a time of year when we expect to be super heroes and stress ourselves in the trying. I am re-issueing this post as it helped so many earlier in the year. Here’s to a stress free holiday! Cheers!
How about it? Do you have thirty seconds, maybe right NOW, to try to lessen any stress you might be feeling? Maybe thirty seconds won’t remove it completely, for the rest of your life, but it might bring you some new awareness. It could help you develop methods you can effectively use to know when and where you feel the stress and how to combat it. Just thirty seconds! What do you think?
As a teacher of yoga and spiritual practices, stress is one of the most frequent topics raised in classes and individual sessions. No one is completely immune to it. Stress is a fact of life. Forget about making it go away. It won’t. But what CAN go away is our repetitive and non beneficial response to stressful situations. Over time, we can learn to incorporate new responses into our lives, thus lessening the stress we feel.
In the course I teach, called StressLess, there are many remedies offered. Some take longer than others — like lying on the floor for progressive relaxation, or stretching out muscles held tight by tensing our bodies, or meditating, or chanting, or taking the time to learn how to breathe in a non-stressful way. Other methods, however, can be engaged quickly and bring fast results. Here are a few to try yourself, but take note, you MUST give full attention to them for at least thirty seconds:
Loosen the body. Is your neck and jaw line tight? Are your shoulders scrunched up? Is your back tensing? Consciously relax the face and jaw. Let the shoulders drop away from the head. Allow the back to soften, by leaning forward slightly. Maybe drop the head forward and back and to the sides, very slowly. Or rolls the shoulders.
Notice your breathing. Is it agitated, tight, jerky, high in the chest? Force yourself to let the breath move lower, into the belly. Lengthen the breathing, in and out. Make it smooth. Try counting with the breath as your lungs fill and double the count as you exhale. Give focus ONLY to the breath, nothing else.
Choose to repeat an affirmation. It can be anything that is positive and calming. Keep repeating it. Words like: I am calm and peaceful now. My body and mind are relaxing now. I love myself completely right now. Pick a phrase that works for you. Try out a few. But repeat them over and over.
Visualize yourself in your most perfect spot, where you are safe, calm, loved and nurtured. Have that place ready in your mind by choosing one when you are NOT under stress. It can be a place you have been in your past or one that is fictional. It may be by the sea, in the woods, or safe at home. But let all your senses feel that you are there in everything you see, hear, smell, touch, and even taste in the moment you are in the visualization.
Any or all of these suggestions can and do bring relief. Do SOMETHING! Don’t just believe that the stress has got you in its clenches and you can’t get away. It is up to you. Try it! You might like it! All you have to lose is the vise like grip stress can hold and the erosion it does to your body and mind. The more you learn to trust in your own inner wisdom, the less powerful the outer world becomes. Your inner world is where all the power lies anyway — in the heart and soul of your own being.
For more: www.deannemincer.com
These are the words of Lao Tsu, the great Chinese philosopher who lived in the 6th century, BCE, though these dates may vary according to the source. No matter when he lived, he exuded wisdom that is of value to any day and age.
To be still. What a concept in today’s world of constant noise — from television, computers, radio, traffic, sirens, talking. Yack, yack, yack! Escape to the suburbs? You will hear lawn mowing machines, hedge trimmers, leaf and snow blowers. And if that isn’t enough, you can still blast your silence away with the noise of texting and reading on the computer. Sure it may be quiet, but not for your mind. The poor mind! When does it get a chance to be quiet ? When can it just lie back and, (here’s a radical thought), reflect on itself.
The first time I stayed in an ashram, ( a monastery for those seeking spiritual knowledge), I found the mandatory silence periods quite off-putting. Strange, in fact. But over the years of visits to various ashrams, I sought out the silence, longing to be free of talking and chit chat. I felt a freedom in knowing I could be with my thoughts, without interruption. I could pray or chant to myself, and no one found this odd.
Be still and know
that I am God.
How can we know who and what we are while trapped in the cacophony of the world. How can we experience the majesty of true consciousness? Slowing down. Quieting outside and inside. Watching and listening to our own breathing. Repeating a meaningful and loving phrase to ourselves. Something like: May I feel peace and be at ease or No thoughts. No words. Just silence or I love myself completely now.
Swami Gurumayi said:
From stillness, everything springs forth.
In the depth of your being, great serenity is found.
Divine wisdom is imparted in the silence of the innermost heart.
We are not discussing meditation or some formal spiritual practice. All you have to do is be still, be quiet for a little while, to rest in the silence, to shut off the noise, to be. TO BE in that moment and nothing else.
On the tree of silence grows the fruit of peace.
Written by the Indian poet/saint Kabir in the 1400’s, the simplicity of the statement resonates today. See what happens if you set aside a little time for silence. See who you become over time. Who knows, you might come to enjoy those small retreats into your own self. You might see the great love that dwells in all its magnificence within you. Yes, within YOU!
For more: www.deannemincer.com
When I was a child, I remember needlepoint renderings of this expression framed on the walls in homes I visited. Home Sweet Home. I loved the words. It made me feel happy, warm and fuzzy. Now, in my own home, I have a crewel needlework, which I made myself, hanging on the wall. The same words –Home Sweet Home.
What does the word “home” mean to you? Is it a safe haven, a place to hang out and be yourself? Does it represent unconditional love? Is home the place where we “hang our hat” or “let our hair down?” Is it the place we think of as family, with the ideal mom and dad taking care of our every need? Maybe we can just be when we are at home. Most of us long for a place called home, even if it is just a place of fantasy.
Home is sometimes considered the place we go when our life on earth is over. My own mother, while in hospice care and close to death, spoke these words as she gazed off into the distance. “Home soon,” she said, as I stood at her bedside. I was both surprised and comforted that she saw herself going to a place one equates with love — home.
Anton Dvorak’s New World Symphony has a section of music that was set to lyrics by William Arms Fisher. It is called “Goin’ Home.” Here are the beginning words:
Goin’ home, goin’ home, I’m a goin’ home.
Quiet like, some still day, I’m jes’ goin’ home.
It’s not far, jes’ close by,
Through an open door.
Work all done, care laid by,
Goin’ to fear no more.
The moving lyrics address moving on, into the hereafter. Could this be what my mother saw? And what so many others who have had near death experiences describe? A place filled with brilliant light, inexpressible joy and happiness, surrounded by love and those we love, and the feeling of perfect safety. Like being home, in the most perfect sense.
While theories of the afterlife are open to much controversy and discussion, maybe we don’t have to wait to leave our bodies to find out. What if that “open door” is right here and now, within you? What if all that love is already present, in your loving, forgiving, compassionate heart, waiting for you to remember? Then you can carry home around with you, wherever you go. This is what I believe.
As a student of many spiritual practices and beliefs, one I like very much is this from A Course in Miracles:
You dwell not here, but in eternity.
You travel but in dreams, while safe at home.
So tie a yellow ribbon around yourself. Open the door and walk right in. WELCOME HOME!
For more: www.deannemincer.com
In the words of Rumi, the great Sufi mystic/poet:
Come, come, whoever you are —
wanderer, worshipper, fugitive.
It doesn’t matter —
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Ours is a caravan of endless joy!
Come — even if you have
broken your vow a thousand times.
Come, come yet again. Come.
On the path of love and peace, all are welcome. It does not matter who you are and what you have done. Not a soul alive in the world can pretend that they have not made a mistake, said and done something hurtful to someone else and probably to themselves as well. There is a powerful story in the Bible that tells of a woman, who is accused of adultery. Her punishment for this sin is stoning. but Jesus intervenes and says:
He who is without sin among you,
let him cast the first stone at her.
John 8:7 KJV
Whether sin is a concept you accept or not, we have all done something we wish we had not done, something that caused guilt or shame. So, if we are all in the same boat, who are we to judge another? If we instead all engaged in kindness, compassion, and forgiveness, imagine how different we and the world might be. We could, of course, apply those same principles to ourselves. Aren’t we, after all, our own worst critics and judges? Don’t we likely transfer our own judgment onto others, puffing ourselves up so we can think, in some convoluted way, that we are superior to others, that we are better? Don’t we play those unhappy games on ourselves and the world around us?
Groucho Marks famously said, “I would refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.” Such is the way we diminish ourselves. Let’s just say that, in the spiritual club, everyone can join. We are all invited on the journey of self discovery that leads us to unconditional love. There is no big president of the club who will throw us out. Not ever! No matter what we have done, we can get up and walk right in the front door. Isn’t that a relief? There is nothing you can do that will block you from the abundant love that lives in your heart.
Gurumayi, a guru in the Siddha lineage said:
“The truth is, you must never despair. No matter how many times you have to pick yourself up and start over, just do it.”
We all try to do it. We dust ourselves off and stand up again. It isn’t alway easy. Sometimes we lie in the dirt for a long time before we have the wisdom and strength to rise again. But we are all members of the club. As you rise up to try again, there are other members waving and cheering, sending love for your well-being. Maybe you don’t see or hear us, but we are there — all of us on the caravan of endless joy. Are you ready for your permanent membership card?
Here is the entire quote from Swami Muktananda:
“You, the traveler, are what you are seeking.
Everything is within you.
The supreme inner stillness… is your destination.
It is God, the Self, Consciousness.”
In me? Me, the one who is often confused and filled with unhappy thoughts and ideas, behaviors that surely could not fit into anything considered God. How could it be that I am seeking myself? That all answers are contained in me? To ourselves and to a world that looks more to the exterior aspects of ourselves rather than to the grace that dwells within us, this seems a radical and egocentric concept.
“Neither shall they say, Lo here, or Lo there for
behold, the kingdom of heaven is within you.”
So said Jesus, the Christ
Every true religion, spiritual path, and great philosophy has held this belief in common. Why should we debate and argue about it so much? While I spent many years contemplating and doing just that, arguing the point, I was finally, through an experience called shaktipat (a spiritual awakening sometimes called a divine spark) brought to a place of wisdom where the Truth of those words were made clear. All of us, every one of us, carries this divine Truth within ourselves, even when we are not aware of it, find it incomprehensible, or just plain ridiculous.
Whatever we believe or don’t believe does not alter the Truth. Would it be so bad to think that you don’t have to look outside yourself to find the essence of love and compassion? How hard would it be to offer respect and love to yourself instead of trying to pry it from outside yourself? Maybe all the self-doubt and guilt and unforgiveness that we heap on ourselves is a totally wasted effort that spins us into cycle after cycle of more negativity in life. Give yourself a break! Stop the world and get off for a minute. Take a look at that place in your heart where love abides eternally!
“I am the Truth. I am He whom I love, and He whom I love is I”
Sufi Al Hallaj
Think about it! What if it is all true? Imagine!