When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad…

Today I learned a different way to relate to myself when I’m feeling stressed out. Usually, when I’m feeling stressed, a part of me gets worked up and I feel a sense of urgency. It tells me, “There’s not enough time! There’s too much to do! You have to do more!” and variations in that theme. I feel tension in my body and a sense of impending doom. It’s as if–if I rush around, if I push and berate myself–I can ward off a bad outcome.

What bad outcome, I don’t know. I’ve never been able to figure that out. This experience has been a nebulous but heavy wall of anxiety with no specific worries.

Today I took time to sit with all this. I noticed my habit of cramming more and more in when I feel this way. I thought about something that occurred to me this past summer, when I was longing for a vacation. I had inquired into this wanting for myself and saw that I was wanting the feelings of vacation, not so much vacation per se. Then came the thought, “Rest has to be now or never.” In other words, if I didn’t start providing myself with inner experiences of rest, I would never get that vacation feeling.

Sitting with how I felt today, and the memory of this wanting for rest, for ease in my body and mind, I thought, “That’s what I can do! When I feel that urgency, that anxious call to action, that self-driving-onward, I can be curious and ask myself: how can I make space here?”

It’s paradoxical that, when I’m telling myself there’s not enough time, I’m not good enough, there’s too much to do, and I have to do more, the best response is to give myself space.

IMG_0050-0.JPGEven if it’s only in my mind and body, if not in my schedule or in my to-do list (although hopefully there too; I’m becoming more and more willing to let go of things) I feel better. Space is the antidote to tightness and stress.

Similarly, when I’m criticizing and berating myself, if/when I catch myself, I can also be curious and say, “How can I bring more love to this situation?”

Rushing around and beating myself up when I’m stressed just diminishes my capacity at a time when I need it the most. So…

When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I’m feeling sad
(see http://youtu.be/0IagRZBvLtw if you feel like singing along)

…why not support myself by being curious, and asking myself, “How can I bring more space and love to it all?

How do you care for yourself when you’re feeling stressed or sad? Why not share your strategies in the comments below?

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It’s a habit

It’s all habit, actually: happiness, connection, self-connection, a sense of love, a sense of hope. What made me think this? As I was driving to work today (across the countryside, singing kirtan as usual), I was noticing how much my habits influence my state of mind.

It’s a kind of brainwashing. In all seriousness, it is! But how else would I rather be? What feels better (not “junk food” better, but really, wholly, “body-mind-spirit-energy-love” better)? What helps me function in the world to address suffering as I do except to be connected–or to constantly connect and re-connect–with hope and love? If I were in despair all the time, I couldn’t be an effective counsellor or teacher. It would be hard to be motivated and even more difficult to hold a space of inspiration for others.

Dominic Barter, the person who brought Restorative Circles  (RC) to North America, taught me an important lesson about this that continues to percolate. He said that in order to be an effective and sustainable RC facilitator, you have to have ways of connecting to the reason for doing the work built in to your daily life, and even into your facilitator support. He placed strong emphasis on support at all levels, and especially for facilitators. The first time I saw him at a training, he asked one of his RC co-facilitators, Rebecca, to always stay within his range of sight, because he wanted that as support. Now, after years of knowing Dom and Rebecca, I know that there is great love between them, so thinking back on that first training I attended, I’m imagining now that having her in sight at all times allowed Dom to connect and re-connect with a sense of love. And I’m imagining he had to do that over and over, because in later trainings he emphasized just that for all facilitators.

So to come back to brainwashing, it seems to me that repeated exposure to the experiences and thoughts I want to prioritize in my life makes

How I feel now is a result of my habits.

How I feel now is a result of my habits.

them priorities–in my thoughts and in my experience. How I feel now is the result of habits I have cultivated. Ten years into my own clearly-focussed and persistent recovery, self-care and personal growth, I’m seeing how this is happening in my life. I read books mainly on certain specific topics, I only watch certain TV shows, I listen to specific music. I practice a kind of media kashrut; I only consume media that supports my spirituality and keeps me connected with the Source and resources that sustain me.

It’s not like I bury my head in the sand. I know full well, through exposure to client stories and limited intake of news and social media, what the “real world” is like. I want to bring love to that world. It seems to me that the only way I can do that is to be love, be hope, be inspiring, and to be a vehicle for these things, I have to fill myself with them. It’s become a habit.

What are your thoughts about and experiences with habits? Have you been making “good” ones or breaking “bad” ones? What has that been like? Please consider sharing your experiences or thoughts in the comments below.

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