The Key to Eliminating Stress and Creating Joy and Well-Being in Your Life
by Maureen McIntosh
Only in quiet waters things do mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is there adequate perception of the world. —Hans Margolius
Learning how to become fully present or mindful in the moment is one of the most powerful gifts we can give to ourselves and those around us. As I began practicing mindfulness … of gently but consistently calling my mind back from the past and the future, back to the moment … I made an amazing discovery. I discovered that the moment—my reality—was magical and the stress I had been feeling for so many years had been created by none other than an illusion!
What do I mean? Here is an example. Let’s say you create a worst-case scenario in your mind about the future (known as worrying). It in turn creates emotional and physiological stress in your body. The fact is however, that the thing you are worrying about is not part of your reality, your moment. It is just a thought that you have created in your mind. How sadly bizarre that we allow these illusions to wreak such havoc in our lives.
And wreak havoc they do! Dr. Deepak Chopra, best-selling author, endocrinologist, and leading authority on the mind-body connection says, “If you want to know what your thoughts were yesterday, look at your body today … if you want to know what your body will look like tomorrow, look at your thoughts today.” Chopra adamantly admits that you cannot have a single thought without it affecting every cell in your body. If it is a negative thought such as worry, not only do you generate the feelings of fear and anxiety but you also compromise your immune system.
But it is not just worry that keeps us from the moment and challenges our emotional and physical well-being, there are other culprits, as well. Depending on the scripting you endured, usually as a child, you have developed some habitual ways of thinking that are creating a whole lot of unnecessary stress in your life. For example, many of us feel perpetually overwhelmed as a result of trying to live one, two, or three steps ahead of ourselves in our mind all day long. Or we agonize over the past, replaying and even embellishing negative experiences over and over in our minds and conversations; second-guessing ourselves for things we’ve said or done. Chronically judging ourselves and others has become a way of life and the focus of our social gatherings. And these are just a few of the thought patterns that rob us of our peace of mind, and our ability to truly experience our world.
We need to understand that all of these habitual ways of thinking have two things in common. First, they are a source of emotional and physiological stress. And second, they are all “illusions”… illusions in that they are not part of your reality, your present moment.
I remember many years ago taking a mindfulness class and after several weeks of practice the instructor asked us what, if any, observations we had made. One of my fellow students raised her hand, a big smile on her face and said, “I realized my life is not as ominous as my mind is making it out to be.” The truth of this simple statement reverberated deep in my heart, reminding me of a quote by William Shakespeare, “For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Stress rears its ugly head when we perceive the drama or stories we create in our mind as real, rather than the illusions that they are! Mindfulness is effective because it eliminates the root cause of our stress; negative thoughts about the past and the future. You cannot bring all of your consciousness to this moment and also worry … it’s impossible!
The good news is you can begin practicing mindfulness today, right now! Try going for a walk and make a conscious choice to be present rather than allowing internal chatter to take over you mind. Open your senses to the wonders around you. Be aware of the rhythm of your pace, feel the connection your feet make with the earth, feel the warm sun on your face, listen to sounds around you. Mindfulness is about tuning into your five senses (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste), being fully conscious, fully aware. It is about really seeing the face of a child, savouring a meal, really listening to a friend (rather than thinking about what you’re going to say next), giving your spouse a hug and really feeling it … mindfulness is about being who you are, where you are.
Mindfulness is the key to eliminating stress and creating joy and well-being in your life—the key to truly experiencing yourself, others, and the world around you.
Maureen McIntosh, BComm, MBA, is a Professional Speaker and “Personal Empowerment Coach” who lives in Saskatoon. For more information about Maureen and other inspiring local speakers, as well as a listing of public seminars scheduled in Saskatoon visit www.bringinspirationhome.com or call (306) 249-4624. Also see the display ad on page 18 of the 13.4 November/February
issue of the WHOLifE Journal.