The other night I had a dream. While this might not seem Earth shattering, one of the implications is that I actually got a full night’s sleep-significant because the responsibilities of my life had eroded my precious rest time until I was more than tired; I was totally stressed. I’d just spent four days (and wee morning hours) in the emergency room and hospital for my mother. Searching for advice, I googled “Stress Relief,” hoping for a few actually useful insights.
All the oft-quoted action steps came up, like “Take Time Off,” which I filed under “Mission Impossible”; and “Do Yoga,” basically a sub-set of “Take Time Off.” I stored this advice alongside its predecessor, but also cross-filed it under “Suicidal Action,” as the last time I’d pretended to be Gumby, the flexible action doll, I’d ended up with a twisted neck and $1,000 in chiropractic bills.
There also was the ever-popular vote, “Breathe Deeply,” a suggestion I immediately tossed under “Forget It.” The only safety mechanism preventing me from speaking my mind to my mother was the aptitude for holding my breath developed while taking swimming lessons as a youngster. My search did, however, yield a number of interesting reports about stress relief, of particular interest this time of year. Who isn’t stressed at the holidays?
Stress is our reaction to a change that requires an adjustment. I’d love the opportunity to adjust to a Power Ball win. Unfortunately, most stressful situations don’t promise to favor us, at least immediately. Nonetheless, most stress relief experts insist that our responses can at least shape the outcome for the better, or at least, avert the “worst.”
One of the most important stress responses involves feeling and honoring our emotions. I’m a believer in crying. Crying with a loved one relieves tension and invites bonding. To not cry (when we need to) is to internalize our tears-and our fears, which then build up, causing everything from bad relationships to depression to physical illness.
Anger is another solid line of defense. If the situation has angered us, it’s good to acknowledge and express our anger. Anger doesn’t always have to be rational; in fact, sometimes it doesn’t make sense.
Through my intuitive healing business, a recent client admitted something she felt really guilty about; a secret that she hadn’t told anyone. She was angry with her son, who had committed suicide. “How dare he do this to me?” She ranted, communicating that not only was she struggling with the guilt and anger, but also migraine headaches, weight loss, insomnia, and thoughts of committing suicide herself. Having expressed her anger, she returned home. She called a week later. Her physical symptoms had completely disappeared within the week, but most important, she stated that she now understood how feelings could drive someone to the edge. She felt nothing but compassion for what her son had done to himself.
To repress anger is dangerous. Studies from renown institutions including Stanford University have shown that buried anger causes a significant increase in the occurrence of autoimmune disease, cancer, heart problems, and infections, as well as recovery from the same. Bottling up ANY emotion is potentially lethal; bottled up memories and emotions, such as from abuse or exposure to alcoholism, increases the chance of suffering from cardiovascular disease between 25 and 70 percent.
As with anything, however, expressing emotions as a way to reduce stress usually only goes so far. I don’t know about you, but following the rest of the typical stress-reduction tips doesn’t always ring my bell, either. When I received a phone call telling me that my oldest son was in a head-on car crash, no amount of sobbing, shouting, chanting, mantra recitation, or prayer did a thing to reduce my stress. For months afterward, any time he was late after school I totally freaked out.
And the situation with my mother was doing a pretty good job of freaking me out; that is, until I had a dream-the dream I promised to tell you.
I am in a huge school, as are zillions of other people. I wander room to room, trying to figure out where I fit in. Everyone seems so compulsively accomplished. There are gymnasts winning medals and scientists conducting Nobel Peace prize experiments. Teachers teaching and clowns clown and everyone but me seems to have a place.
I feel unaccepted, unequal, and unlovable. Stressed, you might say.
Finally I make my way to an auditorium and am handed a billet that says, “God In Person Any Minute Now.” Along with millions of others, I sit in expectancy. Then Mel Gibson appears in drag and begins dancing.
Everyone begins to boo and hiss. Evidently they had expected an older gentleman in long white robes. Eventually, they filter out of the auditorium, leaving me alone. Bereft, I stare at Mel, who isn’t my favorite character in the best of times. Then he winks.
I look around, but there’s no one to confirm that yes, I’d been winked at. Mel winks again, and I know he’s letting me in on his secret; he really IS God. I like his lipstick. I wonder why my childhood Sunday School didn’t get God’s personality right, but I also I ponder this:
What good is a “God” that no one recognizes?
Then other characters suddenly appear on stage.
There are children on crutches and mothers missing limbs, men bleeding from bullet wounds and elders with sores. The needy, the abused, the poor, and the hurt-the people with the real stresses; the people we all are, on the inside. What is Mel-God-going to do? Once again, what can “God” do if no one recognizes “him”?
As I watch, Mel indicates that I should come up on stage. I do. He then touches my heart, and I begin to feel the realities of the people on the stage. I feel their pain and suffering, their needs and dreams, and ultimately, their hope, which is that someone will care. And I feel something else. I feel love for them. I feel this love because I know what it’s like to need to be cared about. Every problem, every illness, heartache, heartbreak, and need is ultimately the same-a need to be loved.
Mel now starts to walk off the stage. I feel panicked. What am I going to do up here? How can I possibly help all these people? He just smiles, and I know what he is saying. I simply start to touch a few hearts, and I notice after a while, those whose hearts were touched, begin to touch the hearts of others. And at some point, someone comes to me and puts her hand on my heart. It feels good.
The dream ended because I awoke to a phone call. My mother needed me again. I sighed, but I noticed I didn’t feel as uptight as usual. Instead, I recognized that all that was really required of me was an expression of love – and that didn’t need to cost me anything. In fact, it just might provide me with something.
In order to care for her, I had to awaken my ability to give. To be cared for, she had to activate her ability to receive. No matter the stressor, the antidote – the medicine – is contained within the problem.
Maybe stress isn’t really a demand for adjustment; perhaps it is an invitation to love. Maybe “stress,” that awful, gut-wrenching shakiness, points out the area where we have bought into lovelessness. Where we’ve failed to recognize our ability to love or give love, we perceive only a cost.
Maybe what’s hard is that “God” really does come in many forms and disguises; as many as there are now people – beings – walking this earth. Never the same way twice.
© 2009 Cyndi Dale/Essential Energy • All Rights Reserved