Sometimes life hits you upside the head and you are left defenseless. Sometimes life takes your breath away and it’s all you can do to get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes it seems like life is piling on the trouble and you feel helpless to control anything. It feels like you can barely make it from your bed to the shower. The thought of even going to work makes you sick to your stomach.
What do you do when it feels like life punched you in the gut? What do you do when it feels like you’ve been knocked off center? What do you do when you can’t seem to regain your composure?
Do you call in sick from work or school?
Do you turn to food and overindulge?
Do you increase the alcohol, caffeine, sugar, or smoking?
Do you become easily irritable and take it out on your loved ones?
Do you turn to religion or a higher power to rescue you?
Or do you put your head down and just charge forward like any other day?
We all handle stress and drama differently. We all have our own unique way of dealing with the pain life throws our way. There is no right or wrong way to cope with life’s difficulties. You deal with it the best way you know how at the time and that works for you.
I used to get stressed out a lot easier than I do now. I used to let life’s burdens pile up like imaginary weights being added to an imaginary backpack I was carrying around. I felt powerless to deal with whatever the newest stress was that needed to be dealt with. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a very laid back guy on the outside but on the inside I constantly struggled with the newest burden life piled on.
Eventually I came to discover the power of the present moment through authors like Eckhart Tolle, Alan Watts, Erich Fromm, Wayne Dyer, and Byron Katie. I have been reading authors like these for several years but their message never quite sank in until I applied what Byron Katie had to say to my life.
I never realized before that life isn’t the problem, the people around me aren’t the problem, my job isn’t the problem, or my car breaking down isn’t the problem. Once I truly grasped the burden is never life, it’s what I’m thinking and believing about life that causes me stress, then I finally saw with open eyes the role I played in my own drama. My thoughts come and go on their own. I’m powerless to control the thoughts that enter my mind. But, I am able to question those thoughts and choose not to believe the ones that aren’t true for me.
I watched several videos on YouTube of Byron Katie helping people question their thoughts. I began to see how when we let our minds run unchecked and our thoughts and beliefs unquestioned, then we allow suffering and frustration to rule our lives. I watched in amazement how people questioned their thoughts and then released themselves from their suffering. Byron Katie’s approach can be found on TheWork.com where she suggests every thought we have can be met with four questions in order to find peace:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react–what happens–when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
Before, I felt helpless to slow the onslaught of negative thoughts once they came rushing in. Now, as long as I take the time to question my thoughts and beliefs I can usually find my way back to peace in no time. By peace I mean I can find my way back to the present moment (Reality).
Anytime my mind leaves the present moment I can expect suffering. If I go to the future in my thoughts, I can expect fear, anxiety, and worry. If I go back into the past with my thoughts, I’m sure to be met with regret, shame, and pain. The only way back to peace is through Reality and the Now. If I question my thoughts and come back to the present moment, I instantly realize I don’t have any stress or drama. The stress or drama I thought I did have actually came from my unquestioned thoughts and beliefs.
Byron Katie’s message about Reality made more sense when I came across this quote from Erich Fromm the other day:
“The average person, while he thinks he is awake, actually is half asleep. By ‘half asleep’ I mean that his contact with reality is a very partial one; most of what he believes to be reality (outside or inside himself) is a set of fictions which his mind constructs. The average persons’ consciousness is mainly ‘false consciousness,’ consisting of fictions and illusion, while precisely what he is not aware of is reality.”
Why have I never considered this before? Why have I let my thoughts control my life for so many years when they were mostly fictions and illusions? I completely related to the “half asleep” reference. I have spent large portions of my life unaware of the reality that looked me right in the eye.
Now instead of being half asleep, I attempt to live my life fully awake and fully aware. It has made a difference for my life internally and externally. Now when it feels like life hits me upside the head and I’m left defenseless, it doesn’t take me near as long to come back to the present moment. I question my thoughts, find out what reality is, regain my composure and focus, then allow peace to flow back into my life.
Trust me, life still punches me in the gut on occasion, it just doesn’t take my breath away like it used to.
How are you dealing with stress and drama in your life lately?
Peace my Friends!
Four years ago, I wrote a blog post I Have Friends that Have Relationship Issues! It’s a pretty good one and worth sharing again. Peace.