Our world can be an overwhelming place sometimes. We have made it a little too complicated, a bit too fast. Everything needs to be done yesterday. As if days, weeks and months were not enough, we started measuring efficiency in hours, minutes and seconds. Why does it need to be this way? It has added to our stress directly affecting our physical and emotional well-being. There’s no switch you can flick to suddenly change the world. In fact, there’s no button you can press to bring an instant change in you either. But, you can reflect on your life, your journey, your priorities and determine your own pace. Pace that you are comfortable with, a pace that gives you breathing space. It is said that once the chief engineer of Porsche Automobiles excitedly approached Dr. Ferry Porsche, the CEO of the company, saying he had designed the world’s best car.
“How’s that?” said Dr. Porsche.
“Because, it has the fastest acceleration ever known to the world.”
“That doesn’t make it the best car. Come back to me when your car can stop as fast as it can accelerate. Going fast is good, stopping faster even better.”
It could easily be one’s guiding principle: am I going at the right pace? Can I stop when I need to? I can go faster but do I want to go faster? So long as you are comfortable with your speed, the world can go at its own pace. It’s when we try to match our speed with others do we lose track of our own. But wouldn’t you be out of place if you didn’t go along with the world? Not quite, for, they are trying to match your pace. By slowing down, I don’t mean that you let go of the discipline or ambition, nor do I mean that you take a break and go on a world tour (unless you want to). No, putting your feet up is not slowing down either. Instead, being aware of what you are pursuing and why it matters to you is mostly what’s required to make sound choices, that’s slowing down, it’s living in the present — the antidote to stress.
When you live mindfully, you naturally start to live in the present moment. And living in the present is the basis of inner peace. It truly is. I am reminded of a story:
In a small village was a happy home. The man of the house wasn’t a rich merchant or a landlord but a simple iron smith who had the same challenges as any other householder. What intrigued his neighbors the most was never an argument was heard inside his home. He would come home, pray to a tree outside his home by grabbing one of its branches, and moments later the neighbors would hear him playing with his children, they would hear them laugh. No matter how stressed he looked, every time he touched the branch before entering his house, he would light up as if he was a different man now. Many neighbors even planted the same tree in their homes, imitated him but their circumstances didn’t change. One day, they could resist it no longer.
“How come you are always happy at home?” they said. “We never hear you argue, you don’t even make enough money. You become happy and radiant when you touch that tree. Please tell us the secret of the tree.”
He laughed huskily. “The tree has no secret,” he said. “You see, before entering my home, I grab one of the branches and hang a bag, an imaginary bag of all my daily problems. I never forget that I was outside the whole day so I could be happy inside my home. I make it a point to not carry my external problems to my home. So, every evening, I just hang the bag outside and I walk in light and happy. But, that’s not all, every morning I take the bag back to my shop.”
“Why would you do that?”
“Well, I still have to deal with those issues. But what’s interesting is I always find my bag lighter in the morning. Most of the problems just disappear in the dark of the night.”
Why do you go outside and work? So you can have a comfortable, a peaceful living at home, right? Granted that sometimes life can be complicated at home too, but you can still leave outside problems outside. This is living in the present. In most cases, aren’t human desires of gaining more, building more, having more are directly influenced by what we observe outside? Further, those ambitions and desires prohibit you to enjoy your meals, your time, with your loved ones. When you want to spend quality time with your partner, you end up thinking about work or what all you could or should have. And, at work, you want to excel so you can be more for yourself and your family, but when the time comes to be more with your family, thoughts of the work ruin those beautiful moments.
Can you get away, though? Yes. Write down your priorities and review them regularly. People will drain you out emotionally, stress at work will remain high, you will continue to hear bad news on the TV, the deterioration in the world will appear eternal, inflation will not come down, but, in all this, if you want to be at peace, you will have to pay attention to yourself and your thoughts. In your living space, in your life space, in your mind, there should be a corner, a place where you are strict about what and who gains entry. Insulate yourself. It’s an art. Stress is not an emotion but a response. It is what you’ve chosen to deal with any issue.
Just because we have something doesn’t mean we have to carry it around. Learn to know when to park your baggage. Offload what grieves you. We don’t feel stress, we choose it.