first, thank you so much for the outpouring of love and support around the death of my grandfather last month. it was such an honor to share his essence with all of you. what a gift we have when we let ourselves hold and be held by community.
as always life continues to be filled with beautiful opportunities, small hiccups, large frustrations, magical moments, integration, regeneration, growing spurts and growing pains. life does what life does. our response to it that determines both how much peace we feel and how much energy we have access to for moving through it.
stress, defined as “a state of bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium,” is inevitable. barely a day goes by when this word isn’t in a headline we read or a conversation we have. stress has become a cornerstone on which the modern life is built. and the accepted paradigm is that most of the time we are either stressed or doing something to counter the stress. how much of our life’s energy is an attempt to simply manage?
what if, instead of shrinking down our lives to avoid getting stressed out, we expanded our minds and lives, choosing to get stretched out? if the equilibrium is set at a higher point, more pressure can come onto the system without breakdown. what if we saw stress as an invitation to stretch, like a well trained athlete who welcomes a more seasoned competitor? then, like a muscle being worked, the stressing creates the strengthening.
when you feel your body, mind and spirit are in breakdown/managing mode from all the outside pressure, i invite you to consider this response:
pause, rest and be with the state you are in. put your hands on your legs, belly, chest, over your eyes or any other place that feels comfortable and take a few slow breaths in your nose and out your mouth. this will help guide you more into the present moment and massively reduce the reactionary signaling of the fight or flight part of your nervous system. this simple act alone may be enough to stretch you into a version of yourself that can flow through the situation and feel whatever emotions were being resisted (a common underlying cause of stress is resisting feeling what’s really there).
if after this, you still feel a “state of bodily or mental tension” – then at this point, with a little more calm and presence, you have an ability to respond and ask questions about what changes are within your power to make. no matter what the situation, we ALWAYS have the power to make a change in it. sometimes it’s obvious and external; making choices that change the actual make up of what’s happening. but often our choice lies not in changing the circumstances, but in changing the story we tell about what’s happening. when we reframe the picture, the image starts to shift.
right now think of one that are causing you stress. what, if anything, can you do, right now, to change the circumstances around this? and, even more importantly, what story are you telling about this? is there a more energizing/empowered story? how can you stretch yourself to make space for what’s happening?
here’s an example from my recent life:
six weeks ago i broke my pinky toe, and then two weeks ago my jaw began to hurt in a way that made chewing nearly impossible. in my nearly four decades of life, i’d never broken a bone or had any jaw pain and it was strange to have new conditions in my body that i had no experience in knowing how to help heal. resistance was useless and ignoring either led to more pain. the only helpful response was to slow down my usual pace and stop most of my regular exercise and movement routines. there have been many moments of frustration and humility, but the moments i chose to look deeper my body’s message in this, it became a tenderly beautiful experience. what if these injuries came as way of my body asking me to pause and digest? it’s been a very expansive and full past few months. perhaps this is not the time to leap into new things. my broken toe has been a reminder to sit with what’s in front of me and commit to going deeper there. maybe it’s not the time to expand my palate and give myself more to chew on? my jaw has asked me to simplify everything that comes in, so that i can digest all that is already within me. instead of letting these interruptions stress me out, arguing with reality, i’ve (mostly) let them stretch me out. and from this stretched consciousness, it’s clear these were necessary and important messages from my body to my mind to stop and integrate.
would love to hear about places where you are being called to stretch in your life. or if you’d like support in reframing the places of stress, i’d love to hear that too.
may our existent equilibriums be stretched to meet what life is offering us today.