Our lives are filled with an overwhelming amount of conflicting commitment and extreme busyness. There is a real push to cram everything in, which leads to tiredness, low energy and stress.
In my view, stress is experienced at any time that you are not present in the moment, and therefore not at your best. Putting that the other way around, when you are not at your best, you are in a state of stress.
Most of us can live relatively comfortably with a certain amount of stress, at the same time not living in the moment, and in those situations we would describe life as being alright, OK or fine. But we are not at our best.
The further we become from the present, the greater the levels of stress we experience. When we dwell on mistakes from the past, we experience stress. When our experiences of the present do not match up with our expectations of the future, we experience stress.
The only place that is entirely stress free is the here and now. And what is happening right now is just what is happening right now – that is all there is to deal with. Dealing with the here and now powerfully brings great energy and aliveness, and you can experience being at your best, as you are no longer distracted by the buzzing flies of the future and of the past. In those moments there is peace. Then anything can happen, and in my experience, everything you ever wanted starts to appear.
I have been reading a book by Ian Denys Peek, in which he tells the story of his experiences as a Japanese prisoner of war, building the infamous Burma Siam railway. In the constant face of death, brutality, starvation and disease, he recounts some fascinating insights into what enabled him and his comrades to survive.
He and his colleagues found that thinking about their past lives became very upsetting and provided little comfort, as their pasts were mostly vastly different from their current experience. He recognised that many of his old patterns and habits were not of much use in his current situation.
Correspondingly, creating expectations of the future over which they had almost no control (as they were at the whim of the Japanese authorities), proved to be more distressing when things did not work out as expected, than the comfort they gained during the creation.
Over time, he recognised that living in the present, with the rock solid beliefs that he was going to survive, enabled him and his colleagues to work together and make the best of the situations they found themselves in. They became able to respond to opportunities that presented themselves, like extra food, very quickly, which enabled them to make the most of each day.
I was interested in how he writes about a beautiful sunset, or the lushness of the view over the jungle he sees from a cliff top, or the fleeting glimpse of a colourful bird, or his awe at seeing an elephant work for the first time. Those to me are signs of someone who is present. He notices what is going on around him, and they obviously touch and nourish part of his soul.
So where are you stressed? Periodically stop whatever you are engaged in, and just look around you. Notice whatever you notice, observe your environment. Where is the beauty in it? Where is there peace present in your immediate environment? What is happening right now?
Being present is the best medicine there is against stress.
Be still for a moment. Be here now.
See what happens.