We’re told we must acquire more, do more, achieve more, optimize our time, our productivity, and multi-task. Then we wonder why we’re stressed out. We’re sick, we’re tired, and sick and tired of being sick and tired, but we must still trudge along this journey called life. The earth is in constant motion.
Stress causes heart attacks, strokes, high blood pressure and leaves our bodies weak, exposing us to a myriad of illnesses and we find ourselves going to doctors who give us pills. “You’re depressed?” “Here’s a pill!” “Now my blood pressure is high!” “Here’s another pill!” On and on it goes. That does not negate the fact that certain medications are necessary to alleviate symptoms of an illness; however the fact is that few if any pills absent perhaps an antibiotic actually ‘cure’ illness they just make them bearable.
It seems that as part of the human condition, we have this addiction to ‘control’ we delude ourselves into thinking that somehow we can bring about certain circumstances with the power of our mind. In part that is true; however, in some respects it’s complete and utter hogwash!!
We find ourselves striving to acquire the latest gadget or gizmo, or we’re on a wild goose chase seeking to conquer the ever elusive. We are ‘goal’ oriented. It’s never enough. Media has a lot to do with this drive as media sets the tone and the message. It sets the agenda. In today’s fast paced world the motto is: “If you’re fast you pass, if you’re slow you blow.” How does one keep up?
The answer does not lie in a guru, a preacher, a pastor, a priest or any other sage. The answer lies in you. All of that chasing and running around we’re doing, we’re doing it to ourselves. We were given every tool we need to meet our needs. The rest as they say is gravy. We have been drugged up on the message that ‘more’ brings happiness and contentment but we haven’t been told how much is enough, so we find ourselves in a constant state of trying to fill a void until we have enough. We don’t know how or when we’ve had enough.
We have basic needs for survival: Food, Water, Shelter, Clothing and Love. I learned this a long time ago.
In the late 90’s I was a single parent, working full-time running from pillar to post. Unexpectedly I lost my job and went into complete panic mode. I was living check to check, I had no savings, I had just moved to a new apartment where my rent quadrupled. I had a small settlement but it was not enough to see me through. It was a period in my life when Murphy’s Law was in full force and effect. Anything that could go wrong did and this was not part of the plan. Many tried to talk me out of moving but I felt it was time for a new life so on a leap of faith I bit the bullet and I did it anyway. I felt trapped, powerless, and afraid. I envisioned homelessness, starvation and a life of begging on the streets. I tossed and turned at night, I worried, I cried I regretted my decision to move from my old neighborhood. This new life I carved out for myself and my son seemed like a mistake. In my old neighborhood had I lost my job I would have been able to make the rent even if I had to rely on Public Assistance and would still have money left over. I had now placed myself in a position where there were no safety nets. That can be scary…to take a leap of ‘faith.’ I felt abandoned…my father in Heaven appeared to be giving me the silent treatment.
I searched for employment but nothing materialized. I investigated child care options and the rates were $1000 per month because my son was still in diapers. My earnings capacity was decent, but a grand a month would certainly have left me in a precarious financial state with little to feed ourselves with. I was in a bind. When we find ourselves in the middle of what appears to be chaos, the best thing to do is be still. Fighting blocks the ability to ‘hear’ the voice that will lead you. In times like this we must learn how to surrender. When events begin to take hold of our lives, sometimes we can only help ourselves by relinquishing control.
I have a sister whom I don’t refer to as a half-sister although we do not share the same mother. We were not close for several reasons – first being an age gap second she was married and lived abroad most of my childhood. One Christmas she visited my mother and I and left her son with me for a week so we could get to know each other. I must have been about 14 years old. Being an only child this was a joy to me. I took my nephew all over New York City. I took him to the Central Park Zoo, the Museum of Natural History, The Empire State Building, FAO Schwartz. I bought him a toy boat for bath time, and his own special bottle of Mr. Bubbles. I was elated. I had my own little real life ‘doll’ to nurture and spoil, but then the week came to an end and he went back home. We kept in touch for a time and then contact fizzled. I dreamed of him, I missed him terribly. I would fantasize about connecting with them again. Years would pass before I caught up with them again, life went on.
One day out of nowhere, during this in this period of time when I was facing so much emotional and financial difficulty, something brought my nephew to mind.I remember toying with the idea of visiting him; however, it did not seem feasible as at this point he lived in Atlanta, GA. I did not fly, and I could not envision myself driving, and I was limited financially. The other element of serendipity is that when it came to my sister and my nephew, although we did not communicate much there seemed to be a telepathic connection as I would think of her and sure enough three days later or so, I’d hear from her or she’d literally land on my doorstep.Imagine my surprise when three days later out of nowhere after decades of no real contact with my nephew, my mother calls me up and says: “I need a vacation, why don’t we go to Atlanta and visit your nephew?” This was the universe at work here. I did not share any of my thoughts with my mother having to do with my nephew. We hadn’t spoken or seen my nephew for at least twenty years! I had my own feelings about him, I missed him but there would be nothing to inspire my mother to suggest we do that. “Let’s visit your nephew” of all people, I still can’t figure out what brought that on but it was yet proof if I ever doubted, that there exists out there in the galaxy, something more that really is in control…which is why we must learn to be still and listen. The answer is in the silence. I said yes because I just felt it was a ‘sign.’ It really was too much of a coincidence to ignore. A week later I found myself on an Amtrak train headed south with my mother and my baby boy.
By day four, I had a job offer in Atlanta, GA. Daycare was $500 a month and it was a beautiful facility. In fact there seemed to be a daycare facility on every corner! Atlanta is a beautiful city. I lived in the suburbs amongst beautiful homes, some had horses roaming in their backyards, of course I lived in an apartment but to take in that scenery, to be in the center of calm. The south has a totally different energy. While I faced a dip in salary, my needs were met. I had less than a week to get back to New York pack and report for work. I had no idea how I was going to pull this off, but I said “Yes!” I raced back spent three days packing. I had no means of securing anything. I was afraid to make a permanent commitment, I was afraid to give up the security of my New York apartment that while more expensive than I was used to was still affordable. I had no one who could babysit my apartment for the “Just in case.” I had one person lined up who two days later reneged. I had no idea how I was going to make the rent to cover this risk I was taking. Two days before leaving, I found my house sitter. I packed up my car with a pot, a pan, some clothing, a small TV, a small radio and I was gone! Just like that. No furniture, no idea of anything other than I was gone.
I slept on the floor for six weeks until we graduated to an air mattress which my cat by night two successfully managed to puncture confusing it with her mother. We spent the next four weeks sleeping on an air mattress that by morning found us on the bare floor again; but, I had peace. The universe brought about conditions that no matter what would find me landing in safety and security. I would drive around Atlanta in my leisure and think of the irony of how I had landed in an environment of great wealth yet despite working I was impoverished compared to the living standard of the neighborhood. Nonetheless, my needs were met. I had everything I needed. I could afford food. Because I was a Property Manager, I had a substantial discount on my rent. I had a balcony and a lake on property where we could feed the ducks and just relax. We had a pool! I had nothing and I had everything. In all this ‘wealth’ people could afford to move and they’d leave furniture behind. Within three months, my whole apartment was filled. I had a dresser, a dining room set, and two mattresses on the floor. Eventually the living room set arrived compliments of the resident in building 6 and a $20 bill slipped to the dude driving the Salvation Army Truck about to take it to headquarters. It just all came together with little effort – all I had to do was be still and listen.
I look back at that time in my life when I took a leap of faith. Even then people attempted to dissuade me. They thought I was crazy. I call that period of my life my “Mental Health Break.” It was a time where I detached from the material. I went on a journey into the unknown simply on a leap of faith. I did not abandon common sense, I made sure that certain safety nets were in place, but I took a risk and I took a chance. I learned I didn’t need much to find contentment. I learned what we all really need is a basic means to provide for ourselves and a pot and a pan. I learned that all is not lost with humanity. I still experienced bumps along the way even in my new found bliss. Shortly thereafter my car broke down. It would have taken me three hours to get my son to daycare despite it was a ten minute drive. Atlanta has a public transportation system, but it is not based on any particular logic. I felt it was time to panic again…but the universe was in control so one morning out of nowhere upon hearing of my situation, one of the maintenance men who also lived on property learning of my plight slapped a duplicate copy of his car keys on my desk and said: “I go to Mississippi on the weekends to gamble, have my car back by 5pm on Fridays, otherwise do with it what you will.” Problem solved.I learned the joys of thrift shop shopping, and found many treasures and toys for my son. My mother came to visit and was distressed to see my little one wearing a coat whose sleeves were about two inches above his wrists – she cried, but I reassured her, I was at peace and happy. I struggled but I had peace. The salary wasn’t as much as I would have liked, I needed a new car. My mother helped me with the down payment; however, I would now have to assume payments given that my $500 clunker was now officially dead. I took a job at night with one of our contractors cleaning out vacant apartments. Sometimes there would be three apartments that needed cleaning, I’d have baby in tow rest him on a blanket and clean until six in the morning then go to work…but I was at peace.
We delude ourselves into thinking that all we have to do is pray and it will land on our laps. It doesn’t happen that way. We do have to do our part. We have to stay open and we have to put forth the energy. We have to put forth effort; however, the most important key is to accept that the answer has nothing to do with our ‘plan’ but the plan of the universe. When we have our minds cluttered with the chase, or with fear or worry, there is no room for the message to get through because we are cluttering the space with our own minutia. If we truly desire peace and wish to guarantee that our needs are met, we must detach from the material and leave ourselves open to the opportunities presented to acquire that. We must learn how to be still…that is the key to living with ‘intent’ it is not having the intention of something specific – it is the intent of being still and being open and conscious of the moment to moment.
This story does not end with my eventually living the life of Reilly in Atlanta, Ga. In fact within a year’s time I returned to New York…the universe’s involvement with that decision is a story for another time; however, I can end this story stating that I have had a few “Dark Nights of the Soul” and in each and every instance despite what seemed to be impossible circumstances, I have each and every time landed on my feet.
I have no particular religion, I have no particular faith. I lean more towards Buddhism and Theosophy; however, I embrace and dabble in it all and the key message, and the secret in my experience points to: “When life hands you lemons, be still for a moment and do nothing.” The answer will come.
Originally Published March 17, 2012 La Reina Buzz Blog