Using Connectivity to Reduce My Stress or How Relationships With Others Help Me to Cope

There are a handful of things that stress me out to the maximum. Most people who have known me for a good bit know exactly what these things are:  over-demanding people, flying, and the so-called “Christmas season”. But knowing what things trigger your sense of being “overwhelmed” or a strong paralysis of fear (real or not) is one thing. Over the years, I have learned a handful of coping skills…mostly meant to distract my mind from such things.

The first is reading. And not just any kind of reading. Reading academic works generally has me staring off into the distance, trying to bring my mind to focus on a section of what I just read. Good ol’ fashioned story telling is where it is at for this. And I have certain writers that I have found to be quite excellent at this. They write stories that just engulf me when I read them. Neal Stephenson, William Gibson, and Neil Gaiman immediately jump to mind. As do Anne McCaffrey, J.K. Rowling, and George R.R. Martin. Though Martin drives me insane with his infinitely long writing times for the Game of Thrones books. I mean come on already man…  ::grin::  But those folks do more than just write stories; they generate a style of mythology that I enjoy. Characters that not only have life breathed into them through the combination of their words, and my own imagination of what I perceive, but these characters face issues that I would normally find in my own life. And what is even better is that these writers sometimes let us readers into the minds of these characters, as they (the characters) parse out what to do.

But this doesn’t really work in say, a crowded mall. Where you have to have some focal attention on what is going on. Well, the second is music. And I have a major ton of it in my iTunes and on my iPhone. Most of my walking is done throughout my small town here in north-central Texas. And I am not really interested in the electronic chiming of the nearby Catholic Church, or the sounds of kids playing or dogs barking at me. Nor am I particularly keen to listen to the sound of the occasional car or truck pass me by. That’s where my ear buds come in handy. I slap these in, and while it doesn’t completely drown out the sounds – and I really wouldn’t want that to happen because I still need some sense of perception of what is going on around me to remain safe – it does provide a handy soundtrack to the walk. Currently, I am typing this while listen to Al Di Meola. His guitar playing always stimulates my mind with the way he utilizes his instrument to convey feeling, and occasionally tell a story. Very few musicians have that quality.

The last one is to find a place far away from people, and just sit. I don’t need a book. I don’t need music. The sounds of the wind blowing through the bare tree limbs, and the nearby birds singing their serenade to the colder moments of Texas life are enough. Sometimes, I do this standing in my kitchen, holding a cup of coffee while I look out the window and watch the doves, sparrows and other birds devour the bird seed I scattered out by the pool. When I feel relaxed enough, I ground and center, and do some light meditation. I go back to my Inner Grove, back to a wonderful little cottage that I was shown not so long ago by a wonderful Priest and teacher. Her guided meditations helped me create this place in myself.

I can always come here and have a cup of hot tea or cocoa, and relax. My Dream Crows are always here, waiting. I tell them parts of the stories I have read, or I just talk. They don’t always listen. Sometimes they are loud, boisterous, and demanding. But they are always here, and always pleasant company. Sometimes, I get visited by Crow, Coyote or even Fliodhas. And it makes for a quiet conversation.

Certainly, being stressed out is one of the most difficult things for me to deal with. And there is far more than these three techniques. But these are my go-to ways, the first that I try. And if you noticed, all of them deal with creativity to one degree or another. To say that I am  patron of the arts and artists is an understatement. The mount of music, and recorded talks I have from various folks is vast. I have three huge bookshelves stocked with reading material from people I admire, and people that I know. On my walls, I have paintings and other creations from people I have met and gotten to know over the years. Each and every one is a fixed memory of this person or that one. Some still living, some who have passed beyond the veil, but all of whom have touched my life in one way or another.

See, the true nature of my coping skills towards stressors in my life comes from examining the connections that I have to the world. And that means marvelling at the wonderful connections that I have with other people. Sure, there are shitty people in the world. Sure, some of them I find in the aisles of Wal-Mart or in the malls around the United States. But there are beautiful, wonderful people in the world as well. Some of them are wonderful educators, others wonderful story-tellers, talented artists, writers, etc. They all have something in common: in one way or another, there is a connection that I have with them, and that connection is a wonderful, beautiful thing to behold. But its also an amazing way for me to remember that they are still there. We may not talk as much as I wish we could, or in some cases, we have never met. However, there is still that joyful connection, always there to drive back my stress levels – reminding me that each day is easily filled with them. Listening to their lectures, their music, their poetry, reading their works, experiencing the wonderful mythologies that they created, and in some cases, reading their emails detailing how their daily life is continuing – in both good and bad ways. Its that shared thread that reminds me that life is experienced in every moment. Good, bad, indifferent. And each experience is unique.

So I raise up my coffee cup to you, the individual reading this. Find what helps you get through the moments where you need to stop, ground and center, and bring yourself back to balance. Use that to help you back to focus. So that you are doing what you should be doing; what you are meant to do. Remember those experiences, examine each one to see where the connection is. Cherish that. Nurture it. Grow it. Cultivate more connections. That’s how we get through our individual storms. Together, even when we are not in physical proximity to one another.

Slainte! To your health! Now, I need another cup of coffee. ::grin::

–T /|\

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The Waiting is the Hardest Part…

RedRocksI am sitting here trying to come up with a way to approach one of my class discussion questions, not really sure which way my brain is going to spark on the topic. I do have an opinion on the topic, but that is the problem – it is just an opinion.  And one of many on the topic that roll around in my brain. But I do know that the Imbas will take a hold of me eventually, and I will gather a perspective together and write. And write some more.  And some more. I just need to quiet down the rest of my thoughts, and let them slide into the background – even for just a short while. But in the meantime, I sit, listen to some quiet music, and gently push those stray thoughts out of the way. Like Tom Petty once lamented – the waiting is the hardest part.

Honestly, its not the easiest thing in the world to do – finding that quiet, alone point in one’s life. Most people go through their lives not realizing how much external noise there is. And how much that can sometimes interfere with the need for quiet, focused thought. Up until recently, I always believed I had a firm grasp on how to handle this concept of stillness for myself. Then I stumbled upon a few thoughts which I felt relayed an even deeper perspective from the book “Zen Druidry: Living a Natural Life With Full Awareness” by Joanna Van Der Hoeven.

In Druidry, we learn to listen – to the blackbirds singing at dusk, to the airplane overhead, to the bee buzzing amongst the daisies. So too should we learn to really listen to each other and not merely hear each other. Too often we are ‘listening’ to someone while already forming a reply in our own heads before they have even finished speaking. Engaging fully with the moment means fully listening when someone is speaking.

Druidry is all about relationship with the natural world. If we are truly mindful, that relationship will have so much more meaning. We really begin to understand that we are part of an ever-changing world, in a constant flux, with no single moment defining who or what we are – merely an endless series of moments which we all share on our journey through life.

We hear and attune, fully experiencing the earth and her rhythms. We dedicate ourselves to further understanding these, through relationship and empathy, compassion and determination. We become aware of nature’s cycles and our own cycles, encouraging those seeds that will nourish us to grow, and letting go of all that holds us back. It is living with the courage to be fully present, whatever the reality. It is connecting to ourselves, our gods, our world around us, with dedication and determination. It is letting go into the flow of awen, of satori, of truly being.

…and that is only three quotes from the book. Joanna makes excellent points – we have to attune ourselves to stopping our own notions of what we see and hear – where we continually attempt to complete the thoughts of others – and listen to everything that is being stated. Not to assume that we have already heard what we are about to hear – or have seen what we are about to see. And then to open ourselves to whatever experience is about to happen – without anticipation, without assumption. And this includes in communicating with ourselves…trying to clear that space where we can achieve the focused thought of the moment. Where we can be in the ‘now’ of the moment.

I cannot say that this technique of clearing your mind to achieve hyper-focus on an issue will work for you. It works for me. Its the manner in which I can achieve the state of being between the worlds. If it does not work for you – do not be too put out over it. It merely means that the methodology is not working for you. Keep looking for the one that will help you achieve the state you are seeking.

Now, I think I can finish clearing up what is in my mind, so I can focus on this single question for my class discussion – and provide the opinion I believe to be the most appropriate answer for me….