A Whole New Way of Thinking
It wasn't until the last three years that I really began to notice how anxious I really was. I think for most of my life I was very good at pushing issues and feelings down and locking them away in some dark dusty space in my head. Over the last three years my stress levels at work have increased greatly. I work in a very busy hospital setting that is riddled with staffing issues, and scheduling issues, as well as a few personality conflicts. All of these combined is a great recipe for a stressful disaster. Without boring you with all of the gory details lets just say that it has managed to suck the very life out of me. I have also had some health issues going on as well as some relationship issues. Two months ago I had finally met my breaking point. I was at my wits end. Between battling ongoing vertigo, of which the origin seems to be a great enigma to my doctors, and dealing with constant stress and long hours over which I had absolutely no control, I was on a downward spiral. I wasn't sleeping, I was loosing weight, my personality had started to change from being happy to being constantly negative and miserable. I decided that it was time to face reality and make changes. Thanks to a very understanding boss, I was able to take three months off to fix myself. and it has been a very long and tedious ongoing process.
As part of my recovery process (and that is how I think of it) I started going to therapy once a week. My therapist is a wonderful, and insightful older woman and I am quite happy with her. During my first few sessions she had asked if I had ever considered meditation. Meditation? I have heard about it. I have seen people do it. Tina Turner swears that it got her through her rough life. For those of you who have not seen her biography, I highly recommend it. Meditation? I had never considered it. I have always had an interest in eastern religions but I had never really taken the time to look into them, only briefly and in a very casual manner. My therapist gave me a book to read about mindful meditation. It talked about clearing ones mind and doing things like focusing on ones breath to induce a state of calmness. I thought, hmmm....maybe I should give this a try.
I can tell you that it has truly changed my entire way of thinking. I am not saying that my life is full of unicorns and rainbows now, but it is very much more calm after getting into the habit of practicing this. I began to try meditation on a regular basis every night for at least 20 minutes a night. I also began to look into Buddhism.
I was raised to be a conservative baptist. My Grandmother, who recently passed away, was a strict follower. I however, developed a strong distaste for it given how rigid and unaccepting it was of, not only my lifestyle, but also of my origin. I have never been a strong believer in organized religion as a whole.
Part of what attracts me to Buddhism is that it does not consider itself to be a religion, it considers itself to be a philosophy, a way of living to increase ones mental clarity to attain inner peace. Buddhists do not pray to any God. They believe that God is within and that we are all part of one thing....LIFE. . One of the teachings is that "we become what we think." I think that this is a great way of thinking and I think it rings with a lot of truth. If we think that we are failures, we will always be failures. If we think that we are trapped in our jobs, we will always be trapped in our jobs because nothing will ever change. Change comes from within us.
For the last seven years I have worn a pendant around my neck and it seems to attract many comments. I have had strangers ask me what is that really interesting thing on your neck chain? It is something that I purchased at a Tibetan shop in Toronto. A slender silver bar on which is inscribed, Om Mane Padme Hum in Sanskrit. At the time I purchased it, I asked of its meaning. The man at the shop said that it was a mantra and the meaning roughly meant that something beautiful comes from something ugly. I found that to be very profound and I liked how it looked so I bought it. How ironic that the answer to attaining some semblance of control was hanging around my neck for all of these years. It turns out that this mantra is one of the main mantras in Buddhism!
I am not saying that Buddhism is the the end all be all answer to your life. I am saying that it just makes sense. Many of its teachings are common sense. Don't do anything that would cause undue harm to others, physical or mental. Do not lie, because it robs the other person of their own reality. Do not kill anything that breathes out of respect for life. How can you argue with any of these?
Posted by Michael Bell at 5:35 PM