I’d like to talk about stress. Our lives are affected every day by stress, and this stress comes in many forms, some of which may not be immediately obvious. A human being, in fact, tends to operate on three levels: physical, emotional, and mental, and stress enters into our lives on all of these levels.
On the physical level, we live in a world of exhaust fumes, pesticides, solvents, radioactive pollution, and inadequate nutrition. We live and work in unnatural conditions, get poor sleep, and actually work much harder than your average hunter-gatherer in a natural environment.
On the mental level, many of us work jobs that involve focusing the mind on narrow, repetitive tasks week in, week out. Many of our best minds gradually become closed, develop boundaries, and lose the child-like curiosity that once drove them, in order to adjust to our rigid society. We are never taught how to truly think, or how to quiet the incessant chatter of the monkey in our heads.
On the emotional level, we are often trained to hide our weaknesses, to engage in dog-eat-dog competitive environments, and to consider ourselves first and foremost. We live in cities populated by millions, yet feel isolated by a lack of community, and we suppress our emotions and put on a brave face to deal with our environment.
For us more sensitive types, these challenges, of which I haven’t even scratched the surface, can be overwhelming. For the longest time I buried my sadness and insecurities, wearing a mask of normality that took enormous efforts to keep up. I would beat myself up for not being confident, happy and outgoing like everybody else, always trying, pushing myself. But if we want to grow, we eventually have to face ourselves.
The first thing for me to acknowledge was that deep down I was scared, worried, and unsure about everything in life. This is difficult for somebody who fears being vulnerable, open, and honest with others, but there it was. I wasn’t some awful, broken thing, but I was born into a toxic, unnatural environment, and had simply dealt with it in a very normal human way – burying the pain, hiding from it, and building up my walls.
My real problem was that I just didn’t believe in anything, least of all in myself. Life was a meaningless struggle to simply feel normal. I didn’t know what I really wanted, who I was, or why I was here, and the good things in my life were taken for granted. What I needed was an aim, something to give direction to my disordered life and provide a sense of meaning.
The importance of an aim cannot be overstated; people endure and achieve incredible things when they have a strong goal. For some it’s religion, for others a political ideology, for others still it’s simply personal pleasure. My goal, however, was simply to seek the truth, and to live up to my potential to be of service to others.
I delved into the latest research on food, detoxification, sleep, the chemistry of the body, and most astonishing of all, the effectiveness of paleo-like diets on mood disorders. I received counselling, explored alternative therapies, breathing and meditation techniques, yoga, mindfulness, and read about many areas of psychology and cognitive science. The list could go on, as this journey surely will. There is so much fascinating information out there, and I urge you to re-awaken your curiosity, because it is the best thing that I ever did!
And remember that you’re not alone. If you need help, then reach out and open up, because there’s nothing to be afraid of. You may find that others open up in return, and you see a side to people that they’d kept hidden. Get out of your own head and consider the billions of others suffering every day. Get involved in a community, volunteer; just do something to be useful that makes your life worthwhile, and try to keep perspective on your problems. Look up at the stars and contemplate infinity…
If we could read each other’s minds, we would see that there are not alone in our pain. We wouldn’t have to pretend everything is okay just to get through another day at work, we wouldn’t feel so lonely and isolated, and we wouldn’t hide from ourselves in the myriad addictions and unhealthy pleasures that surround us. By understanding ourselves and each other we could build a more compassionate world, based on empathy and mutual growth, and not ruled by war and money.
It’s never easy, and on some rainy days I still need somebody to say to me what I’ve just said to you. But nobody is going to come and save us. No government, religion, or corporation is going to lift us out of suffering. Positive change begins inside of the individual, and it extends outwards.
“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness the astonishing light of your own being.”
-Hafez of Shiraz