If you are a woman over 40 you might remember a time when people usually answered "good" when you asked them the standard, "How are you?".
These days the answer is commonly "busy " or/and “stressed”. In the last few months I've been very busy myself.
You know the feeling? Besides being both unpleasant and a faucet of stress hormones, it's weirdly contagious. Spreading from one person to another and fueled in part by the underlying economics of consumerism, we now have a Western culture of busyness and stressfulness.
- If you're not busy, you must not be important.
- If you don't have a lot on your mind, you must be under-performing.
- If your kids aren't busy with homework and after school activities, they won't get ahead.
- If you don't look busy, someone will ask you to work harder.
Many times you are already on the verge of a burnout, overworked and overwhelmed and having just too much on your plate…do you sense a big trouble coming? Not sure, at least many of my busy high-achieving superwomen clients don’t.
Enough already. Become mindful in our doing and living helps.
As the brain evolved, pleasure and its underlying endorphins and other natural opioids developed to pull our ancestors out of disturbed fight-flight-freeze bursts of stress and return them and keep them in a sustainable equilibrium of recover-replenish-repair. Let physical or mental pleasure really land; give yourself over to it fully rather than looking for the next thing.
Dance, exercise, yoga, walks, lovemaking, play, and athletics reset the body-mind. For me personally, movement at either end of the intensity spectrum - very subtle or very vigorous - has the most impact.
We evolved in nature, and multiple studies are showing that natural settings - the beach, wilderness, sitting under a tree in your back yard - are restorative.
By this I mean making or experiencing anything aesthetic, such as doing crafts, listening to music, watching a play, trying a new de-stress diet recipe, playing your guitar or taking a pottery class.
Feel the Core
Most of the inputs into your brain originate within your own body, and most if not all of those signals are like night watchmen calling, "All is well. All is well. All is well . . ." Feeling into your breathing, sensing into your innards, and noticing that you are alright right now are endlessly renewing opportunities to settle into the physical center of your being.
The center of time is always this moment. A primary difference between humans and other species (with the possible exception of cetaceans) is our capacity for "mental time travel." But this blessing is also in some ways a curse in that the mind keeps dispersing itself into the past and the future; it proliferates worries, plans, rehashing, and fantasies like manic vines in a speeded-up jungle. Instead, right now be now. And again.
This means waking up from the spell, from the enchantments woven by the wanting mind in concert with culture and commerce. We normally pursue hundreds of little goals each day - return this call, organize that event, produce these emails, get across those points - associated with presumed rewards produced by ancient brain centers to motivate our reptilian and mammalian ancestors.
Let the truth land that these rewards are rarely as good as promised. Again and again I've had to remind myself to quit chasing the brass ring. While staying engaged with life, return to the reliable rewards of feeling already full - the undoing of the craving, broadly defined, that creates suffering, harm, and endless stress.
Try a little practice on first waking or at other times in which you take a few seconds or longer to feel already peaceful, already contented, and already loved. This is the home base of body, brain, and mind.