Exploring life’s worries and stresses

Yesterday I visited my sister-in-law’s block of land with the grandchildren. Situated near Mt Barney, the block is a haven of peacefulness. We took the grandchildren out there to cook some sausages over a fire and let them run around and burn off excess energy. Whilst everyone trooped off down the hill later to feed the goats, I stayed behind in the shed flicking through some of my SIL’s books. The peace enveloped me. The only sounds I could hear were the birds, the wind in the leaves of the trees and the faint sound of the children laughing and running.
Finding a book of the teachings of Ajahn Chah, I began reading. Not far in, I found a passage that resonated with me so I wrote it down.

“People if they don’t feel pain, don’t open their eyes. If they’re happy, everything shuts down and they get lazy. When suffering stabs you: that’s what gets you thinking and you can really expand your awareness. The greater the pain, the more you have to investigate it to see what causes it. You can’t just sit there and let the pain go away on its own…..
The same with stress and pain: Why is it heavy? Why is it painful? Because you’re holding on to it. But you don’t understand that it’s stressful. You think that it is something special, something good. When you’re told to let it go, you can’t let it go. When you’re told to put it down, you can’t put it down. So you keep on being heavy. Keep on suffering.”
– Venerable Ajahn Chah

It’s not the first time I have heard this lesson. There is a story doing the rounds of Facebook and other social media that explores the same thing.

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question.
Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?”
Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.
She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.”
She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.” It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. As early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the evening and into the night. Remember to put the glass down! -author unknown ~

This story serves to highlight the teaching of Ajahn Chah in that the longer we hold on to something and don’t explore the cause (and thereby deal with the issue), we become weighed down.
Events and situations don’t have any meaning until we ascribe meaning to them.
What was said to you by a co-worker has no affect unless you allow it to. The situations of the past – likewise.The words spoken by Ajahn Chah “People if they don’t feel pain, don’t open their eyes” resonated with me. Many, many of us have suffered pain of some kind in our lives and rather than embracing that pain, learning from it and moving on we allow it to hang around and drag us down. Sometimes dealing with pain and grief takes a long time and that is to be expected however we all must move on and live our lives.
As we continue to hang on to issues, the pain grows stronger and becomes numbing and paralysing. I could hold a feather in my hand rather than a glass of water and after a while that feather would weigh as much as an elephant.
I believe that when the student is ready, the teacher will come.
Yesterday, I found a teacher in a book.
He taught me that I need to explore what makes me stressed and deal with it.
He taught me that constantly thinking about it will make me ill.
He taught me that life does have pain and that is what makes us learn and grow.
But I have learned that whilst I have pain, I need to not allow it to become more than what it is in the first instance.
By exploring and dealing with the cause of the pain, I will grow stronger and more aware.
I would say that this is a lesson well learned by all.
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34 thoughts on “Exploring life’s worries and stresses

  1. Brilliant. I especially like your point that there is not extra meaning to the event beyond what we assign to it. And your observation that of course it might take time to move beyond the pain of an event, but the thing to do is to learn from it and move on when we are able. But really the first point, that there is no meaning beyond what we ascribe is profound and incredibly liberating.

    We create our own meaning.

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        1. When your frame of mind isn’t good, it becomes incredibly easy to blow little situations out of proportion and then allow them to weigh you down. It is a lesson I am still learning but I know one day I will conquer it.

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          1. Yes, it’s hard to separate. To know when it’s the bad weather in your head that is making you see things a certain way. I’m learning too.

            I try to distract myself if I’m going negative. If I can’t, I take a nap. It may seem on the surface to be less productive to take time out for myself, but it pays dividends whether in project work or relationships.

            I know you will conquer it too. You are such a thoughtful person and you are taking time for yourself.

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  2. I believe there are some events in life that can be hard to let go of. Putting our mind to it we can change the frequency of our reaction to them, although I think it depends on the severity. Some of my poetry alludes to the reasons why I have trouble letting go of two particular events. They are: Haunted minds, Chains of guilt and Nothing. Ten years of therapy and self forgiveness have yet to work. I can’t forget the events, although they don’t spend every waking moment in my mind, they spend time in my dreams. Or pop up when I’m cutting meat or get blood or detergent on my hands. Actions related to events are difficult to come to grips with. I must add that writing helps to alleviate the situation at times.
    Laurie.

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    1. I don’t think for a moment that you actually need to forget the events of the past. They are important and they shape who we are. I read your poems Laurie and they are poignant. There are always events or things in the past that we would rather forget but they continue to come back to haunt our minds. I guess what I meant by this post is to not continue to drag these things around with us day after day and to live our lives to the best of our ability. The past shapes us and defines us but it doesn’t have to keep reliving itself day after day.
      My prayers are with you my friend (whether you believe in God or not).

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      1. Crikey, if I thought about it every day I would have stepped out of life years ago. I didn’t think you meant it that way. We can’t really forget the past anyway, it’s there in our mind and will pop out at the worst possible times. It’s how we react to it that defines us and affects our day. It’s a great post by the way Suz. I stopped believing in any supreme being at the age of five. To my way of thinking no loving, father god would allow things to happen to little children. Then when I became aware of the enormity of the Holocaust, it cemented in my mind that Nietzsche may well have been right.
        Cheers
        Laurie.

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        1. I too struggle with some of the atrocities in this world but then remember that man has free will. That is not to say that I attend church regularly but I still believe in God.
          However that is not what we were discussing lol
          I agree wholeheartedly that the importance we give a situation is what defines us.

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          1. I was eight when I learned about the holocaust. Yes, man has free will but it should only involve his own being. Not the wholesale slaughter of millions. You’re right it’s what we give the situation, what we feed it.

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                  1. Yes Suz, if we don’t then the darkness and adversity will take over. There has to be something to wake up for in the morning and if it’s a beautiful scene, colourful bird or a loved one then it’s worth it.

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  3. This is a great post. We all know we have to let stress go but as Laurie says above some things are hard to let go and knowing how to let go can be difficult. I find that listening to some music or taking myself off to a solitary place helps, for others they can let it go by surrounding themselves with company. We need to find our own ways of letting go and then we can, some people just never know how to let go and they become more and more agitated and tense until they blow.

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    1. Thank you. As I explained to Laurie, I won’t ever forget the events of my past but I no longer give them hold over my life (if that makes sense). I think forgiveness of self makes a huge difference in dealing with things.

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  4. Your point about what is said doesn’t hold weight unless we let it is something I’ve been trying to teach my husband. He lets what strangers say and do have such as influence on his life and attitude. He doesn’t let the driver in front of him switch lanes and the switch back again without a comment about how stupid they are. I ask him what difference does it make as long as he doesn’t cause an accident. I’ve been trying to make him realize for over 20 years. He still doesn’t get it.

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    1. I think sometimes we need to accept that some people will always remain the same and that we can’t change them. I must admit that I often comment on other drivers on the road but I don’t let it stay with me. It’s just a vent at the time. 🙂
      But it is true that nobody can make us feel anything without our permission for them to do so.

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  5. It’s funny…I’ve thought of this idea of letting go in the last couple years. It creeps into my mind once in awhile and when I hear it, I hear truth. Sometimes the frustrations and depression are so close to me, they’re like good friends almost. I don’t want to let them go. But lately, I’ve been growing roots down into letting go which is different than my normal denial mode. I’ve got that one dialed in lol. Letting go is a whole other skill set I’m learning. Thank you for the reminder.

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  6. Frankly, Suz, you said it best: “the longer we hold on to something and don’t explore the cause (and thereby deal with the issue), we become weighed down”.
    Figuring out the loss and then working though it. Great lesson …

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  7. When we are ready to be taught, we will learn. Sometimes that takes years and sometimes it takes us getting to the point of saying, “I’m so tired of being tired.” We wear ourselves out until there is nothing left of us. What’s sad, is that there’s no reason for it and we do it to ourselves. All it takes, is for us to face it and let it go.

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  8. This is a lesson I have learned in the last – oh, 8 months or so. I couldn’t write about it as eloquently, but I understand every word you wrote. What a wonderful reminder to keep moving on and discarding the negativity.

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