When I stop struggling, I find peace

For the past two days, I have been sitting with symptoms of acute stress in my body. I’m writing, not to complain, but to offer a few notes about the connection between stress/anxiety and the body and some thoughts about how to take care of ourselves in the current socio-political climate.

Also, I’m writing because you may have the idea that because I am a spiritual teacher/counselor, I never struggle. That’s just not real and if I were to pretend that it was, it would be the deepest disservice to you. I know that the best thing I have to offer is the reflection of my own lived experience. To that end, I will say that this weekend was challenging for me.

It started with a mild headache, slight nausea which developed into a sharp burning sensation under the breastbone. No outward signs of anxiety nor sadness. No emo at all.

The MD diagnosis: probably acid reflux, something I’ve never experienced before. The ’cause’: stress.

Weird, I thought. I’m not stressed. Am I?

I mean, I could say that I was tipped out of balance by the shake-up around my mom’s death. I could say that, as her story reorganized mine, I lost the thread of my well-calibrated diet and sleep schedule. And these things are true.

I could point to the dark wind that recently blew into Washington and how unsettling it is to come to my online world and find endless things to react to.

But stressed? Was I?

It’s unusual for me to let things go this far – to be so removed from my own reactions to the world around me that my emotions settle into my body as symptoms. But they do. And I realized, they have.

I began to see how I start to carry these things – politics, the state of our world – with me into MY world. I think about them and dream about them as if I’m afraid to set down my concerns about the crazy things going on in Washington for even one minute, lest they fly out of control. Which implies that somehow, I believe, that if I carry these worries with me, they won’t.

When I get like this, I know that it’s time for me to come home.

Now that I have my tools – now that I know how to return to center, how to ground to love, how to breathe myself back to stillness – I know how to catch myself doing this. I know how to stop it – and how to forgive myself for having done it at all.

I also know, from this centered, grounded place, that the real reason I’m stressed is this: my thoughts are focused on struggling to control what I cannot control.

And yet, mysteriously – almost magically – I find that when I use those tools – when I come to center and I breathe until I am settled and grounded again, all of those things that I cannot control begin to take care of themselves.

This is not an argument for hiding from change. Quite the opposite. This is an observation that change does not come AT us – it comes THROUGH us. And that grounding the change we want to see in the world means grounding that change within ourselves first.

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