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“Stress always diminishes both the quality and effectiveness of what you do under its influence. There is also a strong link between stress and negative emotions, such as anxiety and anger. It is toxic to the body and is now becoming recognized as one of the main causes of the so-called degenerative diseases such as cancer and heart disease.” —Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth
Over the past two weeks I finally read, and read closely, Eckhart Tolle’s bestselling book which was published 10 years ago and which has been featured as part of Oprah’s Book Club and was the subject of a 10-part series of classes with Oprah as well as shared on her podcast. A New Earth.
After reading the book, many insights and ahas popped into my mind. One of which I would like to share with you today: Stress and how to consciously let it go from our lives.
I used to be of the mind that stress, to some extent was good. However, I was very much aware that chronic stress was bad. But it turns out, stress, by its very definition, is to give evidence that we are not living consciously.
Part of living simply luxuriously is to live consciously. To be present, to be aware, to let go, but as well to live with intention.
As shared in the above quote, when we unconsciously allow stress into our lives, the quality of our lives in whatever arena that stress appears, diminishes. So if we are seeking to live a life of quality over quantity, knowing how stress can negate this intention is important.
What convinced me that stress is indeed a choice to allow into our lives was when Tolle wrote, “the end and the means are one. And if the means did not contribute to human happiness, neither will the end.” In other words, the ends do not justify the means, so being present, enjoying our journey, seeing the beauty in the small things along the way, savoring the goodness that while seemingly minute is actually quite profound and spectacular is what will ensure the destination, wherever our journey ends up, will be a treasure to behold. So in essence,
“You can be effective in this world without stress.” —Eckhart Tolle
Look at it this way, we have been convinced as a society that stress is a sign of eventual success, or if we are not feeling stressed we are not working hard enough, being selfless enough or [fill in the guilt-trip-du-jour]. But it simply is not true. Having traveled to the countrysides of France, witnessed artisans, farmers and citizens in a variety of trades taking joy in the everyday experiences – everyday, and not just on vacation. Finding joy in the work that we have the opportunity to do, finding what we can uniquely bring to the world, we do not have to fall prey to bouts of stress on a somewhat or more than somewhat regular basis.
Yes, a good bath or a massage or a “time-out” is a welcome respite when life becomes overwhelming, but each of these rituals are just as wonderful when we’re not stressed as well. In fact, there are necessities in a life well lived as they enable us to be present, savoring the sensual pleasures and remind us that even when life reveals a moment or a situation that we do not want, it is how we handle it that will ensure the stress is not ushered into our lives.
“Anxiety, stress and negativity cut you off from that power . . . the power that you find by being in the present moment.” —Eckhart Tolle
The above quote is all the more reason to let go of stress because when we do, our “choosing” power is diminished, our compassion is diminished and our fear rises, increasing the likelihood we will make rash, and in hindsight, unwise or out-of-our-true-character decisions.
A New Earth offers many invaluable lessons, but consistent throughout is the importance of remaining present, separating ourselves from our ego and by doing so, awakening ourselves to an improved quality of life.
With that said, the first step to thwarting stress when it tries to sneak into our lives is to bring ourselves back to the present. So this is when those tools or exercises that are often said will de-stress us may come to mind; however, what you are actually utilizing are the abilities of these tools to enable you to more easily be present. And until we can quickly recognize and then squash the past or the future that feeds the feelings of stress, looking to these practices is a good idea, but shouldn’t be used as a crutch that we never walk away from as we want to simply enjoy each of these practices for their own sake, and not just their assistance to remind us to be more present.
Below are 16 examples of activities that can be helpful to quickly bring you back to the present and usher the stress you may be feeling to the door.
Tools to Help You Return to the Present Moment
- step outside and spend time in nature: walking along the beach, walk where you can see the sky, feel the breeze, sitting on a porch, soaking in the sun, surround yourself with trees and trails
- take a hot, bubble bath, play your favorite music, sip your favorite drink, and close your eyes
- spend time with your pups and pets
- practice yoga
- engage in a favorite hobby that captivates your attention fully – crafts, gardening, handy-work, carpentry, painting, sculpting, photography, anything – this will be unique to you
- read an intriguing book
- take a nap
- cook a beloved meal
- watch or listen to a smart comedy program
- listen to music
- turn off social media or anything associated with the virtual world
- dive into something new-to-you that has always piqued your curiosity
- sit in a chair that sways – a rocking chair, a swivel chair, a hammock
- play in the dirt – plant spring flowers, grow a garden, dig weeds
“When there is stress, is it usually a sign that the ego has returned, and you are cutting yourself off from the creative power of the universe.” —Eckhart Tolle
Yet another quote to keep in mind. If you are still unsure of what the ego is, the book will explain and demonstrate in detail so you are fully able to recognize it. But with regards to stress, as stated above, the stress that invades our lives is a part of the ego taking hold in our lives – Something is more important, something is not working out the way we want it to, our ideas of what the future should be or our worries about the past are grabbing hold, removing us from the present – in other words, stress arises based on our thoughts about the situation at hand.
It can seem impossible to consider that stress can be eliminated from our lives, because it asks of us each to let go of outcomes. But do not think you have to let go of seeking goals or dreams. No, no, no, no, no. Rather, your intentions are clear, you are aware of who you are after much work and journey-making and so you step forward into each day offering your unique self, choosing to give your best and let the cards fall where they may.
“When you become comfortable with uncertainty, infinite possiblities open up in your life . . . if uncertainty is unacceptable to you, it turns into fear. If it is perfecty acceptable, it turns into increased aliveness, alertness and creativity.” —Eckhart Tolle
Just for a moment, remember the most recent instance when you felt no stress. Most likely, it was during a time when you were enjoying the moment you found yourself. While the degrees to which we will be present are varied, as Tolle shares – accepting, enjoyment and enthusiasm – there is truly no need to feel anything but contentment. Each and every day.
So, if you are feeling stressed at the moment, ask yourself why. Is it because you are uncertain about a future outcome? Are you worried about how the past will affect the future? Again, control what you can, which is only yourself, and more specifically, only yourself in the present moment. So go take that hot bubble bath if you want to, but remember to take bubble baths often and just because they are awesome, and with each day and each moment bring to it your best self. Before you realize it, the good days and all the moments they contain will be far more frequent than you could have previously imagined.
~Read or listen to A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle