A Moment to Stop

My mother used to say, with some regularity, “This too shall pass.” My siblings and I say it too. It’s a way of remembering the chaotic or frustrating times won’t last (rarely said during the good times although true then, too). This morning is the first I’ve had in over a week to sit quietly, stare out my window, and reconnect.

The willow has lost most of its leaves. A light breeze tickles the few remaining at the very top. Different birds from even two weeks ago flit through the yard. A squirrel dashes, busy. No sirens this morning. For the most part, it looks like a morning when nature also takes a break from the over-the-top energy of the past couple of weeks and rests. 

I thought, given my mother’s proclivity for memorized sayings from the Bible, that “this too shall pass” is a proverb from that same book. But here’s what reliable (mostly) Wikipedia says:

This too shall pass” … is a proverb indicating that all material conditions, positive or negative, are temporary. The phrase seems to have originated in the writings of the medieval Persian Sufi poets, and is often attached to a fable of a great king who is humbled by the simple words… Jewish folklore often describes Solomon as giving or receiving the phrase. The proverb and associated fable were popular in the first half of the 19th century, appearing in a collection of tales by the English poet Edward Fitzgerald and being employed in a speech by Abraham Lincoln before he became president.

So there you are. Not biblical at all. But useful none-the-less unless life becomes so over-the-top there’s no view of the light to passage.

In last night’s class, several of my students looked as though they’d been as blasted by the past two weeks as much any of the rest of us. One could barely keep his eyes open – he’d been out the week before and down sick; another is recovering from a car accident; another has a cold beginning; another missed class all together because of illness; another stayed home with her little sister while her mom was at the hospital with her brother’s appendix operation. This too shall pass.

It will, but in the meantime many are stressed beyond civility and peace of mind. It’s easier to say, “this too shall pass” when we don’t have a five-day-a-week stressful job and school and family. I have family, but they’re adults and self-sufficient; I have school, but that’s my work and I really like what I do. I expect there are many who read this and wish they had a morning at home to stare out the window.

I don’t have any easy answers. Life is pretty demanding these days, even with a lighter schedule. How do we manage the stress and frustration and plain old tiredness? Yes, this time will pass, eventually, but how to manage it in the meantime? I suppose if a king can be humbled by the words, they may also remind the rest of us to drop our shoulders from our ears.  

I’d appreciate any comments that offer good ideas to one and all.

In the meantime, I’ve added a couple of links to other sites asking the same questions.

Work / Life Balance? It doesn’t!

Misconceptions about work-related stress

Surrender

Maril Crabtree is a writer, a teacher, and a healer. Her work has been published in many venues. To have a fuller appreciation of her talents, visit http://www.marilcrabtree.com. You can also find Maril on Facebook.

On September 11, 2001 the world stopped for America.  As horrendous as those next days were, I was aware of curious sense of relief.  Finally I realized that I was relieved because everything had slowed down. 

Many of my normal activities and events were canceled; nobody was expected to “carry on.”  We all had permission to simply stop, stop and mourn, stop and feel the fear, the anger, the concern.  Suddenly I had not only a reason to pray and meditate, but lots of time in which to do so. The events of that one day cleared my calendar and cleared my heart and mind from its usual state of busy-ness. We surrendered our day-to-day plans for a different kind of reality.

            The word “surrender” evokes mixed feelings for most people. In this case we had to surrender to the unknown, to the present moment. We also surrendered – gave up – our ordinary notions of TIME and SPACE.  We allowed ourselves to enter what’s called “deep time” which is not measured with a clock.

Time is fluid, not fixed.  Deepak Chopra talks about being able to suspend time when you’re in meditation, or prayer, and simply engrossed in doing something you enjoy. The old phrases “time stood still” and “time flies when you’re having fun” apply here.

When we enter a state of meditation or deep rest, we can actually enter into what Chopra calls a “domain beyond time and space,” in which we can experience the eternal, the infinite. Time has no meaning in such moments. We can slow time down when we are doing something enjoyable: playing a game we like, listening to  music, taking a walk in beautiful surroundings.  By doing this, Chopra says we can actually reverse the biological clock, but more importantly we can change our own perception of time so that we do, indeed, have “all the time in the world.”

Another thing to surrender is your own mind’s resistance to change, to getting out of your routine, to making space for something different.  Replacing resistance with openness, curiosity, and enthusiasm is good for the soul.

The root word for enthusiasm comes from the Greek word ENTHEOS, meaning “filled with the divine.” The Buddhists talk about “beginner’s mind” – having the mind of a child, curious about everything, paying attention to everything around you, open to the miracles, signs and wonders of life that constantly surround us. Jesus said, “Unless you become like a child, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.” 

More and more research is confirming what the God of the ancient Jews proclaimed: the secret of eternal life lies in finding peace for ourselves in the midst of a busy world, creating that space in which we can, without fear or hesitation, surrender to the unknown, to the present moment.

Cancer research has identified things that decrease the stress response and open our bodies to healing— and they are things like laughter, doodling, puttering. One study researched the effects of drumming and found that joyful drumming, letting go and enjoying yourself while banging away on a drum, was the most effective way to reduce stress.

Once again we see the value of maintaining a childlike attitude towards the world, an attitude that pays attention to what is going on in the moment – and isn’t lost in worry over the future or regret about the past.

When we surrender our ordinary ways of doing things, we create space, emptiness, room for something else to come in.