I recently heard a story about a seasoned psychology professor who walked up on stage to teach one final lesson – a stress management principle – to an auditorium filled with students who were about to graduate from college. As she raised a glass of water over her head, everyone expected her to mention the typical “glass half empty or glass half full” metaphor. Instead, with a smile on her face, the professor asked, “How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?”
Students shouted out answers ranging from a couple ounces to a couple pounds.
After a moment of fielding answers and nodding her head, she replied, “From my perspective, the absolute weight of this glass is irrelevant. It all depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute or two, it’s fairly light. If I hold it for an hour straight, its weight might make my arm ache. If I hold it for a day, my arm will likely cramp up and feel completely numb and paralyzed, forcing me to drop the glass to the floor. In each case, the absolute weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels to me.”
As the class nodded their heads in agreement, she continued, “Your worries, frustrations, and stressful thoughts are very much like this glass of water. Think about them for a little while and nothing drastic happens. Think about them a bit longer and you begin to feel noticeable pain. Think about them all day long, and you will feel completely numb and paralyzed – incapable of doing anything else until you drop them.”
These words can be a wake up call.
If you’ve been struggling to cope with the weight of what’s on your mind, it’s a strong sign that it’s time to put the glass down. The key is to realize that the worries, frustrations, and stressful thoughts you’re dealing with are a product of your own creation, and therefore you DO have the power to change them. Sometimes I can let them go almost instantly by adjusting my attitude or perspective. It takes practice. Just like we train our physical muscles when we exercise, we can also train the mind to follow more life promoting thought patterns. For instance, in my yoga class last week, I invited students to notice the difference between me asking them to "Take a breath", and then asking them to "receive Grace into their bodies." We are essentially talking about the same thing. However, the way we offer something to ourselves and others changes the experience, and often times the outcome. Another example would be a conversation I was having with someone who wouldn't stop complaining about their life situation and how bad they felt. I started to feel annoyed and frustrated and thought, "I wish they would just shut up." I then decided to shift that to "this is an opportunity to work on my patience and tolerance and to see how I can inspire them to be different or see it differently,"
Today, I challenge you to do just that – I invite you to let your intention for your day be to replace your life-negating thoughts with positive alternatives.
Just one day.
Anything is possible for one day.
What if happiness doesn’t start with a better relationship, a better degree, a better job, or more money? What if It starts with your thinking and what you tell yourself today? What if you could accept life just as it is presenting itself right now, seeing what you have rather then what you've lost? You may not be able control all the things that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them. You alone get to choose what matters and what does not. The meaning of everything in your life has precisely the meaning you give it.
Practice. That's all it takes. Training the mind and heart is like any other work out routine. The more you do it the easier it gets. Eventually you create a new ritual and a new habit.
Worrying never changes the outcome anyway. So why not just breathe more and worry less. Train your mind to see the lesson or opportunity in every situation, and then make the best of it. Be selective in your battles. Finding peace will always feel better than being right. You simply don’t need to attend every conflict you’re invited to. When we can adjust our attitude, how we see things- The warmth and comfort of true happiness is revealed to us - this is where real freedom lies.
Take some time in your busy and bright summer lives to turn within and draw strength from the internal powers of peace and silence through the practice of yoga, Qi gong or receiving acupuncture and energy healing, with the intention of your mind and Spirit being able to make those shifts, reviving itself, giving to yourself and allowing happiness to emerge.
Truth is, we either make ourselves miserable or we make ourselves strong. In the end, the amount of work is the same.
Through these internal adjustments, the soul opens to the secrets ofhow to live in this world and be happy. Happiness comes from a deep understanding of ourselves, our virtues, and our purpose in the world. This understanding comes from our willingness to want our most benevolent nature to come forward. It is this freedom that allows the soul to be truly and deeply happy, then allowing us to share that happiness with others.