The Best Stress Management Program in the World
Dr. Michael Thomas
To believe in Jesus and the teachings of Jesus is a wonderful thing. As many of us have found however, it is quite another issue to actually live by these teachings. This Jesus was a radical fellow. He actually asked us to live a life devoted to Love and forgiveness and tolerance and non-judgment. This is a bit complicated today. Of course, it was complicated in his day too. The complications don’t arise from the concepts themselves. These ideas are simple and easy to understand. They even resonate within us. It is in the application that people find the complexity. We don’t live in a world that seems to value these ideas. Our world seems much more involved with fear and hatred, prejudice and judgment. At least it does if we have come to our view from the television we watch and the newspapers we read and the talk radio we listen to.
We cant know Gods plan from paying attention to the media. We find it inside ourselves. The deepest wisdom of the universe is available to us within our own hearts. To hear it however, requires that we stop paying attention to what is around us and listen to the still small voice that has always been present , waiting within us. So many voices compete for our attention in the world. Bright lights, flashy graphics, compelling music, all working to re-define who we are so we will want to buy what they are selling. There was a time when we referred to ourselves collectively as ˜citizens but now we are more commonly called ˜consumers. Many people are questioning whether they work to live or live to work. It is a struggle for many people to just keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.
People come to see me for a multitude of problems. In addition to the main complaint is almost always a secondary comment about stress in their lives. I cant relax, I’m not made that way. I’ve always been like this. I don’t even know what relax means! My muscles are always tight. I’m just a worrier. These ideas have found fertile soil and have been firmly planted. They also bear fruit. The mind keeps telling its story to itself, over and over, amplifying its impact with each inner re-telling. There are almost always compelling reasons to continue to tell this ˜story. I cant stop worrying because of my spouse, job, child, neighbor, debt, investments, the weather, ¦.
Love your neighbor as yourself. We are enjoined to first love ourselves. This doesn’t mean to be selfish. Love is not selfish. By loving, forgiving, and tolerating ourselves first, we open up space for Love to grow within us. Once Love has blossomed and taken deep root in our own hearts, then and only then, can its seeds be scattered among those we touch in the world. Only then can we be steady in the face of this confusing world.
And so, for those patients who can hear what I am saying, I talk about the best stress management program in the world. Trust God. I tell them. And, I remind them, Remember that the Kingdom of God is within you. This has very practical application. If Gods wisdom is present, waiting for us to listen within our own hearts, then it isn’t lack of knowledge that troubles us. It is lack of listening. The only Commandment that begins with the word ˜remember is the one regarding the Sabbath. Sabbath is a time to go within. Most of us remember not to kill people and to honor our mother and father, but we don’t remember to go within.
I used to find it perplexing that whenever I found myself in a defensive posture I would find much trouble in my life, but when I became open and vulnerable, my troubles would dissolve. After a number of years, I realized that when I was open and vulnerable, I was open to the Love of God. I was ˜plugged into the great wisdom that encompasses all of creation. When I became defensive, I closed the door to this wisdom. In defensive mode, I had to rely on my puny self-experience and intelligence. I always found myself out of step with the rhythms around me. ˜A day late and a dollar short, to recall a phrase.
This same wisdom tells us much about how to take care of this temple we live within. Our minds can talk us into just about anything. Our hearts however, tell no lies. Like any garden, it requires nurturing, watering and weeding. It takes time to learn how to listen. It takes practice to be good at it. Sometimes we try to carry loads that are not ours to carry. We push ahead with our ideas of how it ˜should be instead of listening to how it is. The stress of this dissonance is written into our bodies, our minds, and our relationship with Spirit. There is a place of peace and comfort within us. It is an open invitation. Love yourself. Forgive yourself. Tolerate yourself. Stop your harsh self-judgment. If you want the world to change, begin with yourself. Prayer is not just talking to God. It is also listening to the response.