What is it that causes us to experience stress? It has been said that there are many diverse reasons for this condition. Is this true? Could the answer be so complicated that it prevents us from ever getting free from the tentacles of stress? Would a benevolent universe, a loving God, create so much pain and suffering? Or, is there an answer so simple, sitting right under our nose, that we don't see it? We are so busy trying to figure it all out that we are actually perpetuating the very condition that we are desperately trying to overcome.
The key word here is "TRYING."
Have you ever observed someone that is in the process of trying. This is no small thing. If you really focus in on this person, you will see that his body language is contorted, his facial expression more contracted and harsh, and his overall expression tense and unyielding. By virtue of this simple observation, it is easy to see how we begin to create stress.
Contraction is the opposite of relaxing. To relax, to surrender, to let-go, is to experience freedom. In that experience, there is an absence of stress, an absence of tension, an absence of pressure. We need contraction, we need tension to create stress.
What happens when we stop trying? Is it not fear that arises in that moment? Is it not fear that causes us to struggle, to feel that if we don't do it, if we don't TRY, something negative or "bad" will happen? What will happen to me if I stop trying so hard? The question then arises, can we act without stress? Can we create without limiting our sense of freedom and well-being? Can I have success without stress?
Ted Williams, arguably the greatest hitter in major league baseball history, used to say that at times he was so focused and relaxed that when he stood ready to hit he could actually see the seams and the rotation of the ball as it came toward him, as if it was all happening in slow motion. And, in that moment, he "KNEW" he was going to get a hit. The secret, he said, was a "RELAXED BAT," an absence of tension.
One day, I was sitting in the park. It was beautiful, a crisp sunny day in early Spring. There was a tree in front of me, seemingly bare, with the exception of one wilted and dried out little flower hanging on at the end of one of the branches. As I sat there observing this scene, for no apparent reason the flower fell off.
In that moment, it was as if the flower cried out, "I can't do it! I can't hold on any longer, no matter how hard I try. I had to let go." And as I looked closer, I noticed that the tree wasn't really bare, as I had initially thought, but tiny little buds had begun to emerge as Spring began to make its appearance.
The little flower had tried to hold on too long because it was afraid to let go. But life keeps moving forward, from the inside out, bringing with it new life, freedom and beauty. Could it be that when we hold onto things too long, without realizing it, we are blocking the inevitable flow of grace, that this attempt is steeped in fear and this fear manifests in stress?
When you experience stress, stop for a moment, take some deep breaths, allowing your mind to slow down, relax and surrender. Invoke your heart, then offer your love to everything you encounter from that moment on.
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Love and blessings,