Often when I'm gathering information for articles, I discover many interesting detours. When I was looking up Irish quotations with spiritual dimensions for a March Rainbow Reflections, I encountered a web site with some funny stories. Just when I was about to accuse myself of wasting time, I came across this anecdote:
British TV host Anne Diamond was interviewing Julio Iglesias when he used the word 'manana.' When she asked him what it meant, he said, "maybe the job will be done tomorrow, maybe the next day, maybe the day after that. Perhaps next week, next month, next year. Who cares?"
Diamond asked another guest, Irishman Shay Brennan, if there was an equivalent term in Irish. He said, "In Ireland we don't have a word to describe that degree of urgency."
The anecdote reminded me of a time in Ireland when I had an interesting encounter with lost money, rainbows, and fairies. On my next visit to the food store I told the story to the store owner while he rang up my purchases. The story was a long one, and a line began to form behind me.
The people behind me were more than patient. Most of them were leaning forward in order to catch the story, and some had their own stories about the fairies. For them a good story was more important than getting the shopping finished so they could go on to something else.
Had this incident taken place in a culture with a more urgent orientation towards the use of time, feet would have shuffled, barely suppressed sounds of annoyance and possible rudeness would have been expressed. Deepak Chopra has observed that many people tend to be human doings, not human beings. I would add that we are often human goings, busy traveling from one destination to the next, eager to check off items on an always-growing list, and annoyed by delays.
As a result, stress is increasingly being cited as a primary precondition for illness. The connections between stressful lives and heart disease, the number one cause of death in the United States, have been well-documented. We all need to learn to take it more easy more often, but powerful beliefs and training keep us from doing that.
One expression of this training is embodied in the idea of deferred gratification, a fancy way of saying, "If you suffer long enough, the good stuff comes later."
The whole idea of this belief is that you're supposed to earn your happiness with unhappiness. Apparently, the more unhappiness you have on the way to the intended goal of happiness, the greater your happiness will be once you finally arrive.
Thus, if you want to lose weight and/or be healthy, you have to eat food you don't like. You have to do exercise that's painful and exhausting. If you want to succeed in a profession, you must be prepared to struggle, to compete against others, to sacrifice your personal life in order to achieve your goal. If your career is in the arts, you may expect even more suffering.
I take a painting class every week. The population of the class is ever-changing, but generally students reflect various degrees of expertise and accomplishment--and equal degrees of suffering. "I can't get this right," "This is so hard," and similar complaints are constant refrains.
Rarely do I hear anyone say, "I'm really enjoying painting this" or "This is so easy." The students are committed to the idea that in order to express one's creativity they must suffer frustration in learning their art and periods (sometimes long) of creative blockage. Those who decide to risk the journey towards professional acceptance no doubt anticipate much rejection before--and if--they achieve success.
In short, like most people, they believe that pain leads to gain.
Underneath this belief lies one even harder to shake, that suffering is a measure of worthiness. This belief can take several forms. There's the stereotype of the idle, unworthy rich and the hardworking, worthy poor. We are told that the Devil finds work for idle hands and that sloth is one of the seven deadly sins.
It's almost as if we look at ourselves as shapeless masses of stone. Pain and suffering are the tools that give us form, character, even nobility. As a result, all too often (and even occasionally is all too often) we decide it's more important to let suffering make us appear worthy to others and to ourselves than to relax and enjoy the journey.
So while we're on the way to where we're going, we might not want to look as if we're having a good time. It means I don't announce to my fellow painters, "I'm more interested in enjoying the process of painting than in how it turns out."
That, however, is how I've come to feel. I like designing a painting, sloshing water over the paper and the movement of color guided by a brush. When I'm writing I want to savor the words (and delete them without pain if they end up not making the final cut). More and more, I want to enjoy all of my life's journeys.
You wouldn't bake a cake full of bitter herbs and expect the end result to taste sweet. The same is true of any of one's projects. If there's no joy in the journey, there can hardly be any joy at its culmination.
Imagine this scenario: You wake up one day, and money comes to you, not only when you need it, but when you want something. Your relationship is great; your health is superb. You're constantly coming up with creative ideas for projects that fill you with life.
And all of this is easy for you. You don't suffer or struggle. You did nothing to earn this bounty. No one is going to say, "What a great person X is. She got up early in the morning and stayed up late at night so she could practice her art, and on top of that she had a husband and two kids and a full-time job. Isn't she terrific?"
When people ask you what you did to have such a great life, you say, "I relaxed and took it easy. I visualized success. I did things to make myself happy."
Few people are going to be impressed by this. They might even think you don't deserve it because you haven't suffered. They won't think you're a good person. They might even think the Devil is making use of your idle hands.
However, if they spend enough time around you when you are joyfully appreciating your journey, their criticisms will drop away. They will want to be around you, because in your presence, they, too, feel their burdens of stressful accomplishment beginning to fall away.
What would your life be like if you didn't have work hard in order to prove worthiness, if you weren't driven by the opinions of others, who aren't you and who can never know what's best for you?
Can we really have lives we love without suffering for them? It might be worth your life to find out. The worst thing that will happen is that you'll get to hear a lot of good stories.
The tension of a difficult journey is often expressed through shallow, constructed breathing. Rhodochrosite can help to ease tightness in the solar plexus and release emotional tension.
Amethyst, considered to be nature's tranquilizer, is one of the best stones for meditation. Held or placed on the forehead for chakra balancing or simply relaxing, it can help to calm the mind.
Green Calcite is especially helpful for releasing the mental rigidities that can keep people feeling obligated to accomplish without joy. It allows us to view our lives from a spiritual plane, thus helping to put things in perspective.
Chrysocolla, known as the peace stone, is a multidimensional crystal that can be placed on the heart or throat, when tensions accumulate in these areas.
Rescue Remedy is ideal for quick relief when tension is taking over. If you're panicking because you're never going to get it all down, reach for this remedy.
I remember the White Rabbit in the the movie, Alice in Wonderland, who kept on saying, "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date." The White Chestnut (Bach) syndrome is similar, with negative thoughts repeating and repeating in one's mine in a cycle that seems unbreakable. If all the things you have to accomplish are constantly running through your mind, this essence can help.
People who need Oak (Bach) tend to be the ones upon whom others lay their burdens. Though they may have a larger-than-usual capacity to support their family and friends, even Oak will ultimately bend and break from the burden. This remedy helps people learn how to say "No."
Elm (Bach) is for those who feel overwhelmed, sometimes to the point of paralysis, by what they need to get done (whether they are helping others or trying to get their own tasks done). Taking Elm can help them develop a calm, centered approach to life.
No animal is busier than Squirrel (Wild Earth Animal Essences), but this animal turns its life's journey into one of play. Squirrel essence can help us do the same.
Chamomile is one of the most calming oils (it's also calming in essence form [FES}. It has the additional benefit of not causing drowsiness.
Lavender can cause a drowsy feeling, which makes it especially beneficial in a pre-sleep bath or when sprinkled on a pillow case.
Rosewood, an oil which is both grounding and spiritually elevating, is ideal when one wants to be in a meditative state of calmness.