Thought for the day
The mind is a universe
and can make a heaven of hell,
a hell of heaven.
John Milton, Paradise Lost
My karma with this particular slice of heaven finally ripened courtesy of my older sister and her husband who have been sailing around the world for the last 8 years. Tahiti seemed the perfect place to join them and to experience cruising around paradise. In the process of going somewhere so beautiful, so different, so warm!, some dramatic stress management lessons became crystal clear.
Tahiti’s top 6 stress management lessons
1. Wherever you go, stress is ready to greet you
Here I am floating around, all at sea.
Am I ? A. Blissed out – feeling totally enamored with the opportunity for a real holiday in such a divine setting. Aware of relaxing and letting go while floating on warm and tranquil water, marvelling at the amazing light as the sun settles, and feeling really grateful for the experience.
Or B. Freaked out - aware I am really unfit when it comes to swimming; preoccupied that I am way out of my depth, have just jumped over the side of a yacht well off any shore, am unaware of any currents or even my capacity to get back to the boat and am stressing out?
Many people think stress is an external problem, something that is caused by things outside of them; outside of their control. Going to Tahiti made it crystal clear, you can find the catalysts for stress anywhere and everywhere.
In fact, this is the human condition. If you are alive, you have the potential to be stressed. Sure, some environments, some people can provoke stress more readily than others, but even being in paradise can do it for you.
2. An untrained mind is at the mercy of the currents
Here is my wife Ruth steering the ship (OK you nautical types, I know it is a yacht).
How often do you hear people saying “He is the cause of all my stress”?
“If only we were not so busy at work I would be more relaxed.”
“Once the kids are a little older, they are bound to be easier to manage and life will be OK.”
“ Once we pay of the mortgage, we can relax”.
A trained mind learns that it is how I respond to “her” that determines whether I become stressed or not; how I respond to the work, to the kids, to the mortgage.
There is no need to take stress personally, as if we are the only ones affected. We all have potential stress. What we need to take personally is learning how to manage it.
3. A trained mind learns how to navigate life
Here I am helping to repair a sail (best use of my veterinary surgical skills for many years!)
Imagine taking all the essentials from your house, kitchen, bathroom, laundry, bedroom etc and squeezing them into a long, fairly skinny caravan that floats. Then take it out on the ocean to be buffeted by wind and tide, to have corrosion eat at everything and to find yourself regularly in exotic places where few people speak your native tongue and parts are hard to come by for the regular repairs that not surprisingly are needed fairly frequently.
Sprinkle all this with incredibly joyful times when all is working and the wind is coming from the right direction in the right amounts, and you have the life of the ocean sailor.
You could easily be stressed or blissful. Or alternate between the two. Is it up to the external events? Or is it up to how you manage them?
4. Stress is all in the mind; well almost
Here is an image of peace and tranquility.
Holidays do make sense. It can be very useful to take time out, change you external circumstances if they are proving very difficult.
But while managing our circumstances as best as possible is a vital starting point for effective stress management, the key point remains, doing so does not guarantee a stress-free life - as I am sure we all know.
Study botany and learn how to grow vanilla.
Study the mind and learn how to grow a stress-free life.
It starts with the knowledge, then we put it all into practice.
My guess is you probably know what to do. I came back from my holiday deeply grateful to Sue and Ross for the privilege of sharing time on their yacht, and more aware than ever that stress is all in the mind! Meditation anyone?