By Janet Peters
Standing on the edge of the precipice in front of my parent’s home in Malibu, I could see clear to the horizon, Catalina and even the nude beach below. Bathers stripped of their clothing while parading their flesh before the world. At times, I would catch my Uncle Keith among them. Then I’d bellow out his name, in which he’d gaze up at me with eyes narrow and intense. His hands cupping over his penis. Never did he look relaxed, even when I’d peer down at him, and not call out his name. Still my Uncle lay nervously on a towel covered in cool, breezy palm fronds, as he twisted and turned and looked for someone to talk to.
But how did it make me feel? For, I always perceived myself as being a tolerant person-accepting all life styles, even though I didn’t always agree with them. Somehow his anxiety percolated up to me standing close to the edge; a contagion seemed to have taken place. I had caught-maybe through osmosis-my Uncle’s anxiety. Everywhere, I began to look, people and places suffused with negativity began to effect my peace of mind. Since we’re composed of light and energy, we do give off both positive and negative energies. As a consequence, I began gauging the environments I found myself in. Not always in control of the situation, I’ve tried to place myself in friendly, light-filled areas where I don’t feel stressed.
Stress although is a natural part of living like the ebb and flow of the sea; some days the water can be roiling, while other days calmness prevails. Sometimes, we look myopically at situations, and not look at the whole picture. Holistic thinking, viewing the entire picture, can make an appreciable difference in our lives. Standing back like I stood on the precipice and gazed out at sea-to see the whole perspective, both the tranquil and turbulent seas.
Everyday I awaken with a 10 minute exercise on my yoga mat. Laying flat I lift each leg to my chest, then both of them. Crunches and lifting my butt off the mat helps to loosen up my joints, plus laying on each side while lifting my bent leg up and back down. Finally, I get into a cat pose and stretch out about 12 times, then hold the position with my head held high. Then I swoop my body up into a triangle with both hand on the mat (upside down), holding the position to the count of 20. Forcing extra blood to my head is energizing for the brain. It’s amazing how this simple exercise, practiced daily relieves areas of my body that use to hurt. Now I walk up and down stairs effortlessly.
As my body became less stressed, my mind did, also. Another morning ritual is to pray and meditate-devoting 15 minutes only. After praying, I breathe deeply through my nostrils and exhale through my mouth 20 times. Then I visualize myself in an elevator going down 20 floors to the basement where I’ve created a room for myself. Decorating it just for me where I can stay and be comfortable, while creating each day how I’ll live. Planning in my mind what I’ll accomplish during the day, how I’ll interact with people while maintaining calm and in the present tense. What a difference structuring my day makes in my life, for at the end of the day I feel more relaxed, accomplished, happy and at peace with my world.
Art can be another vehicle for relieving stress. I love to paint, play around with colors, perspective and genre. Some people enjoy doing Zentangles-drawing different shapes and filling them in with patterns, or coloring in an adult coloring book using colored pencils. Letting the mind play for a period of time opens up areas where we can think more effectively during the day.
None of us have to marinate in stress-we can escape its hold on us by utilizing strategies which can shake us out of that tingly, nervous feeling which can drive us crazy. Motivation is required, putting into practice these easy daily rituals which can liberate us from stress filled days. The consequence is more peace of mind, a healthier body and savoring each day-the hour, the minute, each second of life.
Remember that our life began with a breath, and will end with a breath. But it’s the very breath, the present tense which connects us to the NOW.