Don't you just love it when you've had a day or two when you felt completely in harmony with yourself and life?
Perhaps you woke up feeling great, you had a chance to meditate, pray, journal or whatever your morning ritual is, your needs were being met before you even thought of them, your intuition was right on, you made some great choices, you got a perfect parking space wherever you went, you ran into the right people exactly when you needed to connect with them, everyone you met gave you a compliment (and you believed them), you saw the good in everyone, time flowed perfectly - you were never late or rushing to go somewhere, your creativity burst at the seams, you expressed yourself easily in whatever you did, and you felt like you were smiling from the inside out.
My friend recently reported that one day she suddenly, unmistakably felt in the flow of life. She had begun to see everything and everyone including herself as luminous, peaceful, powerful, and whole. Every one and every moment was full of potential. She felt her dreams were coming true, and she was being and doing exactly what she had always hoped to do and be. Her joy was unshakable and she felt connected every part of creation and its infinite organizing power.
After a few days of this bliss, she woke up one morning to find that the feelings of lightness and perfection were gone. Then her self-talk kicked in, which she described as going something like this:
"You can't follow your dream, who do you think you are?" "You aren't good enough." "You aren't spiritual, this is a waste of time." "You need to do A LOT more than you are doing." She was left deflated and discouraged.
Why didn't that lightness of being last? What happened? There could be many reasons. We talked a while and she admitted she was overworking, not getting enough sleep, and she was not saying 'yes' and 'no' when she meant them. This caused stress. And the stress veiled and hampered her mind and body's ability to maintain that good feeling.
Stress. What is it really? If you were to ask a dozen people to define stress, or explain what causes stress for them, you'd probably get as many different answers. We all react to stress or stresses differently: some people get anxious, others get mad, and others may get despondent or depressed. Some people can't eat or sleep, others eat or sleep too much. It can trigger physical pain too.
Stress isn't always just having too much to do, it isn't just having a bad day, it's not just mental. Dr. David Simon, co-founder of the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, says that stress can be a psycho-physiological response to not having your desires met - whatever they may be. Something doesn't go your way, and then stress occurs.
Are you bored with your job, and you wish it were more interesting? Stress. Do you desire a better relationship with someone and all you do is argue with them? Stress. Do you desire a pain free body and you have pain? Stress. Do you desire enough money to pay your bills and you don't have it? Stress. Do you desire a peaceful world, and you keep hearing about war and violence? Stress.
Stress can also be caused when we don't get enough sleep, or eat food that isn't good for us, or when we don't live in tune with nature's daily, seasonal or life cycle rhythms. It can also occur from toxic environments, undigested experiences or emotions, or painful relationships. It can occur when we are indoors too much. I experience stress when I am in a room with too much noise, exposed to the drone of a television set, or under too much fluorescent lighting.
Left unchecked over time, stress can affect you physically and mentally. It can cause tension, sleeplessness, anxiety and panic, high blood pressure, chronic pain, headaches, respiratory problems such as emphysema and asthma, sleep disturbances, digestive disturbances, fatigue, skin disorders, and mild depression. Everyone responds to the effects of stress differently.
Some people ignore the signs, pretending "it's all good," others overindulge and eat or drink it away, some watch TV to forget about it. However, once the masking effect ends, the stress is literally still there, blocking your creativity, wholeness, bliss, health, and peacefulness.
Most of us cannot go through life completely avoiding stress, it is just not possible. Yet there are a few effective ways to deal with it. Sleep is one way, meditation is another. Meditation is being studied more and more, and is proven to be the perfect antidote to stress. It counteracts the physical and mental component of the flight or fight syndrome. It changes the brain chemistry and can create a sense of well being, it reduces the stress hormones, normalizes our heart rate and blood pressure, and studies show that meditation can improve the ability to cope with chronic pain and illness.
What were you like as a child? Most of us were full of energy and happy for no reason in particular. The world was on our side. Life was fantastic! As we get older, the stress of everyday life compounds in our nervous system. If we don't manage it, the effects of stress can mask who we really are. Your birthright is to experience yourself as blissful, joyous, energetic, creative, peaceful and loving. Not just sometimes, but most of the time. Stress can sometimes prevent that experience.
As we meditate, and the stress dissipates, we begin to get back to that feeling of being in the flow. We can become healthier, happier and more self-aware. People who practice meditation regularly report that they experience greater intuition, more creativity, increased mental abilities, improved memory, better sleep, and better relationships compared to before they began to meditate.
Although there are many different ways to meditate, for stress reduction it is recommended to use a simple mindfulness, mantra, or breath meditation. When practiced regularly - every day - you'll receive the deep rest and rejuvenation you need to throw off the stress. Eventually, through meditation, you'll find that you can maintain a sense of balance and peace no matter what the outside world is up to. You'll experience your true lightness of being.