Anxiety – Can spiritual learning help reduce it?

anxiety
Nigella Lawson

 

Nigella Lawson is well known as a television cook who takes a relaxed and casual approach to cooking for her own pleasure.  However, it seems like most of us she is not immune from anxiety.

“At some stages of your life you will deal with things and at others you are overwhelmed with misery and anxiety.” (Nigella Lawson)

The trouble with anxiety is that there is usually no specific fear you can see to tackle; just a very alarming sense of danger or threat.

Some people are more vulnerable to anxiety – for example those who have had emotionally absent parents during childhood, who have an emotionally unstable temperament, or who have a currently stressful life-style.

However, anxiety is quite common. Many elderly people for example have anxiety about getting old, anxieties about health, mobility, access to facilities, and simple routine care and attention. and many younger people from time to time experience stress-related illness, bodily tension, worry, unease, even panic. Anxiety is so common a problem in fact that there just aren’t enough counsellors to go round to help us all feel better.

The question thus arises is there anything you can learn that will equip you to deal with life more calmly? Is there any spiritual knowledge that can effectively help reduce anxiety?

Jim’s anxiety

Jim’s problem of anxious worry concerned his sports injury. He was plagued with the idea that he was never going to recover full use of his arm. His thoughts about this kept going around in circles without getting anywhere. They kept him awake most of the night.

Jim is a young man. He said that his anxiety is worse in the morning or on weekends when he hadn’t so much to do. I do reckon that focusing on some useful activity does help distract one’s mind from one’s concerns.

“An idle mind is the devil’s playground.”

Jim found it helped to talk to a friend who was sympathetic to how he felt and who tried to put things in perspective and to see things from a different angle. The trouble was Jim kept asking the same person over and over again for reassurance, which unfortunately was beginning to drive that person to distraction.

Distraction and ventilation can only postpone anxiety. The same goes for tablets from the doctor or for that matter any drug such as alcohol. Something more radical is needed.

Anxiety and CBT

Cognitive-behaviour therapists maintain that it is possible to change anxious habits of thought that adversely affect us. Once you bring such attitudes out into the open, you can examine them in the light of day and challenge them if unrealistic. Looking for more sensible ways of thinking it becomes possible to adopt a calmer attitude.

They thus encourage the anxious person to notice the illogical thoughts which accompany anxiety and discard them as mere habits of thought, which can be replaced by some rational common sense.

Anxiety and Swedenborg

An idea along these lines, but in my view a little more powerful, can be found in the books of the eighteenth century mystic and philosopher, Emanuel Swedenborg. He has given posterity a great deal of meticulously recorded information regarding what he claimed were his daily awareness of spirits inwardly present with him. He writes about certain spirits who he says he has seen and heard in a psychic way, and who, when present with him, were the source of an anxious state of mind.

“I have talked with them, they have been driven off and the anxiety has ceased, they have come back and the anxiety has returned, I have observed its increase and decrease as they drew near and moved away.” (Emanuel Swedenborg)

Anxiety and Buddhism

Professor David Loy whose studies in comparative philosophy and religion have been published widely, points out that Swedenborg’s startling and counter-intuitive idea – that we don’t really generate our own thoughts – is also found in Buddhism’s doctrine of ‘no self’ where it is said to be an illusion of self-hood.

“Since there has never been a self, only the illusion of self, the point of the Buddhist path is not to eliminate the self but forget oneself, which is accomplished by becoming so absorbed into one’s meditation exercise that one becomes it. For Swedenborg as much as the Buddhism, the path is letting go of oneself.” (David Loy)

For Swedenborg the reason for the illusion are spirits inflowing their thoughts and feelings into our consciousness. He is saying we don’t create our own thoughts because they come to us from elsewhere. A spirit is unconsciously present within our mind if it can harmonise with our desires: he or she secretly enters our way of thinking and is accepted by us as our own.  According to this view, the influence, of calming thoughts from angels and anxiety-laden thoughts from lower spirits, accounts for much of what we understand as our mental and emotional life.

In line with this way of thinking, as long as you identify with your anxiety-laden thoughts, then unfortunately you will continue to be under their control. The alternative is to be mindful of such anxious thoughts, learn to dis-identify with them, let go of them, neglect them, become unattached to them, and see them for what they are, the harmful fantasies of unwanted secret companions with whom you are free to distance your self.

Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotionconal problems

http://www.spiritualquestions.org.uk/

Posted on3rd April 2014CategoriesConsciousness, Spirit awarenessTags, , , , , , , Leave a comment

Live with less anxiety and more joy

WORRY CAN’T CHANGE OUR PAST OR FUTURE, BUT IT CAN RUIN THE PRESENT.

We choose the lenses with which we view the world. To correct our lens, though, we have to take steps to change:

Reflect on our attitude or perspective about a situation. When we see a negative pattern, take responsibility for avoiding that mindset. Realize that we have no power on our own. Pray to the Lord for His strength. Try to stop worrying. We have the ability, with the Lord’s strength, to meet any challenge. Use every opportunity to practice using this new lens. Remember that the kingdom of heaven is not out there, but within us.


When we learn to love and accept the situation we’re in, we find the power to change–not the situation–but our perspective.

Worry

During stressful times, when unpaid taxes still lie on the table, the children argue upstairs, and images of war flash across the news, hope and patience seem hard to come by. Worry seems inevitable. But how much can we really gain from our furrowed brow? Consider this quote: “Worry is like a good rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you anywhere.” Another way to think of the futility of worry is to imagine someone carrying around a suitcase of old junk that he doesn’t use. If he complained to you about his aching back, wouldn’t you suggest he drop the suitcase?

But we tend to do the same thing, feeling troubled, tired, and pulled off-balance. We hang on to our burden because (we think) something bad might happen if we let it go. But the answer is so easy. If we simply let go—if we trust in the Lord—we suddenly feel lighter.

We hear this same message from the Lord’s own mouth when He says to His disciples, “Do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them…. Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Luke 12:22–24).

If we try to take the Lord’s command seriously, and avoid the habit of worrying, we can make a distinct difference in our inner nature. In the Heavenly Doctrines given through Emanuel Swedenborg, the book Secrets of Heaven 8474 describes the type of people who worry about the future: “They are not content with their lot, do not trust in God but in themselves, and have solely worldly and earthly things in view, not heavenly ones. These people are ruled completely by anxiety for the future….”

The passage goes on to describe, on the other hand, the kind of people who trust in the Lord: “Those who trust in the Divine are altogether different…in that they are not anxious, let alone worried, when they give thought to the morrow… They know that for those who trust in the Divine all things are moving toward an everlasting state of happiness….”

Impatience

Whenever worry enters our minds, another emotion tends to tag along with it: impatience. Often we grow impatient by worrying that life won’t turn out the way we think it should. We may unconsciously say to ourselves, “The Lord can’t handle it, so I’m going to worry for Him.”

Consider the following Biblical story, where King Saul becomes impatient with the Lord’s command, and relies on his own judgment instead. The setting is this: the Philistines have accumulated a huge army, and Saul is waiting for Samuel to offer sacrifices so he can go into battle with the Lord as his ally. “[Saul] waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. So Saul said, ‘Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.’” As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came” (I Samuel 13:8–11). When Samuel shows up, he’s not happy with Saul. He says, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. . . .now your kingdom shall not continue” (I Samuel 13:8–11, 13–14).

Just as Saul—when facing his enemies—worries about the risk of patiently following the Lord’s orders, we tend to feel the same way when we’re under pressure. We worry that if we follow the Lord’s way, it won’t turn out the way we want it to. Because of this impatience, worry, and lack of trust, Saul lost his kingdom. We also may lose out when we become impatient. Specifically, we lose:

Enjoyment of the situation. We think about being somewhere else or being with someone else, so we lose the delight of that moment. Infidelity thrives on this notion. Consider this quote: “A happy marriage is not about finding the right person. It’s about being the right person in the relationship.”

Forward spiritual progress. If we aren’t thinking about the present, we’re either worrying about the past or the future. We get concerned with time, and this skews our perception. We think physical, lower thoughts, and we forget higher matters. Worry can’t change our past or future, but it can ruin the present. When we dwell on the past or future, we lack motivation to make progress now.

Trust in the Lord. We begin to think the Lord isn’t managing the universe very well. Just as Saul lost the kingdom because he trusted his own agenda, when we trust in our own ideas, we make poor decisions. Scholar Christopher Syn wrote, “Anxiety springs from the desire that things should happen as we wish rather than as God wills.” This causes us to lose the kingdom—the happiness—the Lord wants us all to have.

So how can we achieve real patience, and gain back these things we’ve lost? First, we can make an effort to find contentment with what we have, and focus on being that person who is kind and loving rather than looking for that person elsewhere. Second, we can strive to make the best of our present situation, looking for opportunities to use our talents and reach out to others. And, finally, we can trust the Lord to bring good out of every situation, believing that what He says in His Word is true.

In his work, Secrets of Heaven (3827), Swedenborg explains how we can rise above impatience to an angelic state of love and acceptance, where time no longer matters: “When you are in a state of love…you are in an angelic state, that is to say, as if not in time…. For impatience is a bodily affection, and insofar as you are in it, so far you are in time…. By the affection of genuine love, we are withdrawn from bodily and worldly things, for our mind is elevated toward heaven and thus is withdrawn from things of time.”

In other words, if we focus on the fact that we’re not enjoying something, it becomes tedious. A student squirming in a class believes there’s somewhere else he needs to be. As soon as that bell rings, his whole world seems to change. But has it? We live in the world of our mind, our heart, our thoughts. A bell doesn’t change that world, but what we attach to that bell—our attitude—can change. Patience comes from being withdrawn from worldly things. When we learn to love and accept the situation we’re in, we find the power to change—not the situation—but our perspective. Because when we love something, we’re not paying attention to time.

Life is often compared to a journey. We can shuffle our feet and mope about the path we’re taking, but anxiety and impatience don’t change our speed or route. Instead, we can enjoy the scenery, confident that the direction of the stream of Divine Providence will steer us toward a more beautiful vista. So don’t waste today worrying. Cast your burden on the Lord. Take a glance at the flowers, or listen to the birds, and remember that the Lord is taking perfect care of each one of us, in every single moment.

By Rev. David Roth, pastor of the New Church of Boulder Valley in Colorado

This website contains a wealth of information about the New Church, and a practical, spiritual path to happiness. Read more about the beliefs of the New Church.

https://newchurch.org/

Full issue

How does prayer work?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

When I was considerably younger than I am today, I used to think I was lucky; fortunate not to often get het up, upset or worried like individuals I noticed around me. Then I met the real world – the demanding boss, the troublesome colleague, the awkward neighbour – and I realised I could get as emotional as the next person. I do feel irritated when things go wrong; I do get angry when people are inconsiderate; I do find myself nervous in unfamiliar social situations.

Just as I am writing these words, I am very much aware of a telephone conversation in an adjoining room. I cannot hear the words but I’m half listening to the tone of voice of my wife as she is talking to someone we are fond of who is having a bad time of things just now. So I’m naturally concerned. It’s distracting my mind. I feel uneasy, unsettled, even anxious.

We get so immersed in the hectic daily round that we forget those past occasions – perhaps infrequent and brief ones – when we actually felt content with life, and there was a sense of inner peace. Only when we concentrate hard do we vaguely recall  having had that state of mind –  when the stress of everyday life was forgotten, when we were becalmed in what had been a stormy sea, and when we sensed a harmony with everything around. Those were the times when we felt we had found refuge and protection from the conflicting and unsettling pulls of what was going on around us.

People ask, ‘How does one engineer this sense of calm in the muddle, disarray, and emotions of daily life, when one feels anything but tranquil?

When I think about it, these moments of inner quietness for me have occurred in prayer. I’d love to talk in a simple down to earth way about such times. But mere words seem so inadequate. The experience of profound stillness is so different from ordinary consciousness.

Other people who have talked about such peaceful moments may have travelled a different path but I can’t separate these special moments from my religion. A Divine state of peace comes from a ‘place’ deep within oneself and yet it is also an inflowing presence from above. This probably sounds a bit odd if you are not of a religious persuasion, but all I can say is it is very real for me.

The trouble is I’m not sure whether I want to tell others about it even if I could find the right words. The sense of the Divine Presence while conversing with God feels such a personal and private matter. The mystics have been willing to put it into words, but for me it seems like betraying a secret as if one were telling people about an intimate moment with one’s lover.

For love seems to me to be the essence of that inner sense of peace; feeling fully accepted warts and all, fully embraced by the unconditional compassion and mercy of selfless love. This is a very different picture of God to that of the old religion based on a literal understanding of the Bible. For the traditional idea of a judgmental, punitive, vindictive God is not my religion. It is not a picture of God that I could turn to for rest and peace, but rather one to turn to in fear and guilt; for we don’t find inner peace by condemning ourselves.

I think that perhaps another obstacle to experiencing inner calm is our negative reactions to other people.  I’ve found that only when I give up mulling over unwelcome things said by others can I hope to experience the peace of forgiveness. In a state of anger, peace cannot be found.  For only when we bring peace to others can we find peace within ourselves.

Also I would suggest that it’s no good praying merely to get confirmation for our own views about things. We need also to be prepared to have our eyes opened. Prayer is like any worthwhile conversation; it has its awkward moments when we realise we have said something daft or unfeeling or when we realise the full implications of some casual comment.

What counts is what comes from the heart and not whether we are using smooth phrases.  For me, prayer is the focusing of one’s thoughts on the Christ within and this must necessarily involve our whole being.  Only then can we become fully in touch with the Divine Peace that passes all understanding.

My own problem is one of complacency. Things go along hunky dory for a while, life seems to be running smoothly, and I forget to make contact with the Source of peace. Thinking about it, I realise that repeatedly, it’s usually only when I hit the rocks and suffer hurt and sorrow that I spend sufficient time in prayer.

For only then do I really try to surrender my own ideas and hopes. Only then do I really ask about what God wants in the circumstances I find myself in. And only then do I get an answer which gives such a sense of serenity. We don’t find rest from problems unless we speak with God sincerely, fully opening ourselves to the Divine Presence.

This article was first published as A Time to Keep Silence and a Time to Speak in New Vision Magazine July/Aug 2010

http://www.spiritualquestions.org.uk/

Posted on2nd July 2010CategoriesMeaning of life, ReligionTags, ,, , , , , , , , , , , ,  Leave a comment

Pet cats – What can we learn from them?

pet
Our pet Geoffrey

My wife and I have a pet cat called Geoffrey. We have got to know him quite well – his eating, relaxing, communication, play, and so on. Animals live on an entirely natural level and I realise it would be a mistake to attribute human emotions to them. But is there anything we can learn from our pets about the deeper side of life? Any thing about them that points us to an ideal way of human living?

Contentment in our pet

We often see Geoffrey lying on his side with his paws stretched out in front of him, with a sleepy look on his face and with half closed eyes. Very different from a cat who swishes its tail, has ruffled-up fur or is heard hissing. Sometimes he may roll over on to his side to show his tummy, communicating that he feels relaxed enough to expose such a vulnerable area.

Sometimes I wish I could be as relaxed as our pet and delight in simple pleasures. He doesn’t put himself under unnecessary stress. If a dog barked at him, which happens occasionally, he shows no after-effects. Unlike us e.g. who, when shouted at by an angry car driver, would likely be a bit tense for a while afterwards.

Anyone who has tried to meditate will realise that the mind is restless. Inwardly we jump from one worry to the next, one guilty secret to another. Inwardly chattering away, the mind has a mind of its own, creating unnecessary emotions like anxiety, anger or gloominess. Our cat is showing us the importance of stilling and calming the mind. You can learn to do this, if you don’t do so already, by creating space in your day for quiet reflection, meditation or prayer.

Awareness in our pet

If we change the furniture round in our home or introduce any sort of change outdoors, Geoffrey soon looks into every nook and cranny. Our neighbour once saw him exploring over 40 feet up the trunk of a high tree. They say ‘curiosity killed the cat’ but ours is still alive and well.

I wonder if we are sufficiently willing to explore what is really going on around us.  Are you awake to the ‘here and now’ rather than focusing on automatic habits of thought?

“The past is history,
The future is mystery,
This moment is a gift.
Which is why it is called ‘the present’. “
(By an unknown poet)

Are you sufficiently curious about what others think so as to become a better listener? People convey an enormous amount of information about themselves through subtle movements and tones of voice.

Do you notice things of beauty in what is going on around you? A child playing, moonlight shimmering on the water, a tree swaying in the wind. Are you fully aware of your physical and social surroundings and want to investigate them?

Independence in our pet

You can’t herd cats. Like all of them, Geoffrey shows independence. He is quite happy to spend time on his own each day. He responds to enticement rather than ordering around. A clicking of the fingers and verbal encouragement can get his attention and interest in coming over to me. But unlike a trained dog ordered to ‘heel’, he won’t do as he is told.

A quality of independence is something one needs in order to be a spiritual thinker in the face of materialistic society. Without individual reflection and perception, how can one rise above the social pressures of the crowd.

Non-aggression in our pet

Another quality in our pet cat is non-aggression. The public walk their dogs off the lead along the woodland public right of way that goes right through our garden. Geoffrey has learned to watch carefully. He is quick to avoid danger of being chased. He runs away or climbs a tree when he sees a threat. Only when cornered by a barking dog will he flatten his ears and hiss as a warning to stay back.  He could cause painful injury lashing out with his sharp claws but most cats only attack defensively as a last resort in such a situation.

Some of us have a tendency to show hostility to others after little provocation. It is as if we believe ‘attack is the best form of defense.’  Instead, shouldn’t we adopt a more socially acceptable form of non-aggressive behaviour to assert what we think is right and stick up for ourselves?

Friendliness in our pet

Geoffrey is our only pet and so we are the only social group he has. He likes to come to us for a fuss, perhaps a stroke or grooming or be allowed to lie on our laps. He purrs and sometimes tries to lick us at these times. So we get companionship and affection from him.  When we are in the garden we often find him near by. There is a quarter of a mile walk along a woodland path from our home to get to where our car is parked and he invariably walks with us and stays waiting until we return sometimes several hours later. Then he greets us with a meow with tail up, pleased to see us again, sometimes rubbing his head against our legs.

Some of us are naturally more friendly and agreeable. Others of us are distant and less communicative. But I believe what our pet’s expression of affection suggests is the possible ideal of loving kindness. This is the feeling praised by all the world’s main spiritual and religious traditions.

The lesson here is not just expressing feeling – although that is important – but us having a generosity of spirit, being agreeable, kind, patient, tolerant, considerate and forgiving and even compassionate.

 

“Earth’s living creatures correspond to affections, the mild and useful ones to good affections, the fierce and useless ones to evil affections” (Emanuel Swedenborg mystical philosopher)

Copyright 2017 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

 

Plant growth – A lesson in spirituality?

My wife and I have recently taken on an organic allotment plot to try our hand at vegetable and fruit growing. From what I have so far learned, I have been wondering whether plant growth might have something to teach us about the human side of life. What might be the deeper lessons in nature for us in our personal lives?

Weeds

plantThe bane of all gardeners is the weed. Covering the ground, it crowds out the vegetable plant, stealing both its sunlight and the nutrients in its soil. Everyone says one has to be persistent in noticing whenever these wretched things appear. And keep hoeing annual weeds and digging up deeper rooted perennial weeds.

Isn’t it the same in our private life? Bad habits of thought can easily take root in us if we let them.  Our self-orientation attracts all sorts of these self-indulgent, envious or proud ways of thinking. Become too rampant and they are likely to choke out our better side. They have the potential to become the root cause of conflict, revenge, greed, and all the unhappiness.  One needs to be constantly vigilant in turning away from such harmful thoughts.

Soil

compostWe took on our plot at the end of autumn and were told to focus on preparing the ground for the next growing season. This has meant enriching the soil with compost and well rotted manure. We’ve also put in some seeds of so-called green manure which after sprouting will take nitrogen from the air – another way of feeding the earth.

In these ways the gardener hopes to foster vigorous vegetable plant growth and prevent plant disorders associated with malnourishment.

I would say our minds also need nourishing. Parents give children many useful learning experiences. Teachers provide food for thought. Books can provide the reader with enriching experiences. Just as the plant cannot grow without nourishment from the soil, so also our minds cannot develop without knowledge about deeper matters gained from others.

Light

Overhanging trees, which cause shadow on the growing vegetable plant, are not welcome to the gardener. The reason is a plant needs light in order to grow. plantPhotosynthesis is a process used by plants to convert light energy into chemical energy that can later be released to fuel the plant’s activities.

We were advised to create pathways across the plot, rather than walk on and thus compact the soil where the crops will grow. Unlike on the vegetable beds, you can cover the paths with membrane and bark chippings to stop the light there and thus prevent weeds growing.

Here then is another lesson from nature. The importance of light. No one wants to be kept in the dark about something. How could we understand what is going on? Hopefully, this article can help shed light on something for you the reader. Not everyone is willing to see things from a different perspective. But when new light dawns on something of personal significance, it can show us the way forward beyond our difficulties. It energises us with hope and opens up a new avenue.

Warmth

plantThe gardener is aware that plant growth also requires warmth. He or she will protect against frost by covering the ground to keep it less cold ready for planting when the weather improves.   Some seeds are germinated indoors or under cover for the same reason. Plastic cloches cover vulnerable plants to keep the cold wind off.

Isn’t it the same with us? How can a tender mind flourish in a cold and bitter home environment? What person doesn’t need some warmth of affection or come into regular contact with warm-hearted neighbours, friends and work colleagues in their lives?

Pests

Our allotment is on a farm with woodland to one side. With all those trees it is a natural habitat for birds and other wild life. Some plot holders use electric wires or high fences to discourage the badgers from eating their produce. plantPigeons will strip brassicas, fruit bushes and strawberry beds. Employing nets is a good idea to keep birds off as they soon become blasé about scarecrows.

Some insects are also a pain in the neck. They tunnel into crops and feed on plant tissue and ripening fruit. It’s a good idea to encourage hoverflies, lacewings and ladybirds who feed on troublesome aphids such as blackfly and greenfly.

Day to day life for us humans is also not without its trials and tribulations. The key to personal well-being is not the presence of difficulties but how we deal with them. One must do as the gardener and take active measures. How we effectively deal with pests in our day to day lives will vary but it will take an act of will and determination. Perhaps, facing up to worrying issues, fighting against what is wrong, or challenging certain noxious people. Our inner growth means being free from what is destructive around us.

Plant Disease

plantPlant diseases are shown by a variety of signs, including moldy coatings, wilting, scabs, blotches, rusts, and rot. They are caused by fungi, viruses and bacteria. After, if possible, cutting off the diseased parts of a plant, the organic gardening approach is to keep the growing area clean; like cleaning soles of boots, tools, pots, seed trays. Plant debris are cleared away and any diseased material is destroyed.  One of the reason for crop rotation is to prevent the build up of diseases as plants of the same family will suffer the same disorders.

Just as a diseased plant cannot prosper, so emotional sickness can hinder spiritual growth in a person. In tackling plant disease the organic gardener does not use unnatural chemicals. In a similar fashion, states of depression, fearfulness, stress and depression can be reduced without resorting to artificial means; for example by clearing away harmful and irrational ideas, unethical thoughts or unhealthy fantasies from the mind.  This is the opposite of the artificial approach of depending on alcohol, video games or antidepressants to reduce stress.

Conclusion

The gardener has to work hard but in the end it is mother nature that changes seeds into crops for eating. Similarly, we each need to work on our personal growth. Yet, alone of ourselves we cannot bring to life what is good. The organic gardener co-operates with light and warmth to grow the plant. In order to cultivate our spiritual mind, we each need to co-operate with something beyond ourselves. I would suggest this is the light of wisdom and warmth of love that comes from our Divine Source.

Copyright 2016 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Posted on29th October 2016CategoriesLatest post, Meaning of life, Spiritual meaningTags, , , , , , ,, , , ,

The pace of life — How to reduce it?

Pace of lifeThe pace of life seems to have increased. Do you long for a break from the merry-go-round of deadlines, things that must be done, demands from relatives, children, and the job? Do you often feel that you never having enough time in the day to fit everything in?

In an ICM poll, half of British adults said their hectic pace of life had caused them to lose touch with friends — doing overtime to make ends meet, or doing extra unpaid work at home, getting the kids to playgroup or school, improving the garden, shopping for the latest fashions and gadgets, going along to an art course, grabbing the odd moment with one’s partner etc. What with the rush of cramming so much in, people are desperate for a rest and it is perhaps no surprise that stress-related illness has become common — whether it be headache, sleeping poorly, high blood pressure, breathing problems.

Reasons for the pace of life today

There are one or two obvious reasons for the higher pace of life. One is information over-load. There just isn’t enough time to respond to all the information that bombards us from mobile phone, text messages, email, TV, radio. Another reason for time shortage is the huge rise in house prices in Britain over recent years which means people have the burden of working longer to pay the higher mortgage repayments.

Deeper causes

But we may also wonder if there are some deeper causes. Is part of the problem that we tend to assume that our well-being depends on filling every moment with some thing? That being less economically active not only stops us getting on in life but also leads to boredom and not keeping up with others? Perhaps this assumption is right, but don’t we sometimes take it a bit too far? In a Reed Survey of 5000 UK workers, 60% said they would not be using their full holiday entitlement in 2003

Perhaps part of the problem of the hectic pace of life is to do with our attitude to time. The book In Praise of Slow by Carl Honoré draws attention to this. If the biggest deadline of all is seen as death then no wonder we feel that time is short and we ought to make every moment count! However, the consequences of not hurrying is getting more out of the things: not trying to speed-read the newspaper or novel but allowing ourselves to become absorbed in the material. We may not get through so many articles or books but what we do have is quality over quantity. And this applies to everything. Is it not preferable  to do fewer things better than more things worse?

The idea here is that every living being, event, process or object has its own inherent time or pace. It is soothing to walk slowly. Honoré says that doing things at the right tempo may mean doing less things but it will result in better health, better work, better business, better family life, better cuisine, better exercise, better sex. The proverb ‘Less haste and more speed’ springs to mind as does the fable of the race between the tortoise and the hare. The pace of life can ease.

Spiritual dimension

Every religion teaches the need to slow down in order to connect with the self, with others and with a higher force. The Bible says

“Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10)

The non-religious can recognise in this the need to create time for a meaningful connection with the deeper side of being, reflecting on the values and things we hold sacred, and being mindful of the situations we are encountering. In this way the pace of life can slow down.

In The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle writes of an incessant mental noise in our ordinary consciousness which prevents awareness of an inner realm of stillness. He suggests it is possible to find an inner calm when the individual starts to mindfully reflect on the present moment instead of living in the past and worrying about the future – a state of consciousness, free of the burden of time.

In Emanuel Swedenborg’s Divine Love and Wisdom  we read about the difference between material time and spiritual time. In his day the measurement of the former depended  on movement through space, specifically the orbital motion of the earth around the sun. However, he also describes a spiritual world with its own time. This spiritual world is said to be a non-physical reality within our minds of which we become aware after the death of the physical body. The pace of life there reflects the pace of life in our minds.

Spiritual time seems to be similar to what we think of as subjective time which passes too quickly when you are enjoying yourself and too slowly when you are bored. Thus in the spirit, time appears to be real but actually corresponds to one’s inner state of mind.

Further he says that when people are not in touch with the spiritual dimension they are time-bound. According to this view when we have the spiritual more closely present with us, we are less troubled by time: just as the spiritual is from a God of infinity not of space, so it is from an eternity not of time.

Conclusion

So what is my conclusion? That we can reduce the pace of life in several ways. We can basically transcend our time-bound problems by getting more in touch with the presence of the spiritual dimension of life.

Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Patience – how to feel less frustrated?

patienceYou wait for the mouse but it doesn’t appear. You make a phone call but there is no answer. You’ve hurt your foot and can’t get on with some activity. It seems that having to suffer some delay, difficulty or discomfort is a common event in everyday life. Who doesn’t feel irritated by the frustrations of life? When in the grip of such emotion it is easy to lash out, to put others on the defensive and make the situation worse. How can you avoid feeling frustrated? Here are some tips for transforming aggravation into patience.

Remembering the benefits of patience

Gardening teaches the benefits of patience. You plant something and it can take a year to flower or longer for a tiny seed to grow into a tree.

If you are prepared to calmly wait instead of trying to grab what you want, you will be investing quality time in something without giving up or giving in. Having patience avoids  the stress of getting all steamed up over things you cannot change. When you can stay calm, centred and not acting rashly out of frustration, all areas of your emotional life are likely to improve.

Patience from reflection

Reflecting on the possible causes of delays and frustrations can help you to understand why things are likely to take longer than you had expected. In this way you can avoid jumping to unwarranted conclusions and challenge your fanciful imagination. This means you are making a conscious choice to become clearly aware of your hasty guess e.g. that someone intended to cause you grief. Then you can assess the likelihood of it really being true. Such reflection can help induce a state of patience.

Patience from looking

When you are obliged to wait for what you want, why not look for something in the present moment experience that might arouse your interest. Like empathising with an overwrought shop assistant. Seeing things from someone else’s perspective can only reduce one’s own sense of grievance. Perhaps you can find something pleasing that you hadn’t noticed at first. Looking for the good in a situation instead of being preoccupied with the bad. This is an example of an attitude of mindfulness i.e. living in the moment and being awake to experience.

Patience from not justifying impatience

It can feel unfair if you are told to have patience and to accept a delay. After all it wasn’t your fault that you have been blocked. It seems unreasonable that you shouldn’t push to get what you need. This impatient attitude is seeing patience as equivalent to passive resignation. Seeing patience as apathetically giving into difficulty that instead should be seen as a challenge. You want to override whatever is stopping you moving forward. So you might agree with Ambrose Bierce who once said that ‘patience is a minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue’. Or with Kin Hubbard who said that ‘lack of pep is often mistaken for patience’.

But aren’t many hindrances just beyond our ability to control? You cannot alter some things in life – such as bad weather or a general economic recession. Okay, it may be true that there is something one can alter to make some progress. But jumping the queue or trying to rush things may be bad for someone else and possibly counterproductive for you. Is this really what you want? One of my favourite sayings is ‘You can only do what you can do.’ I would suggest patience doesn’t make anyone a doormat. In order to follow one’s principles, one cannot immediately expect to get one’s own way all the time.

All this amounts to examining your ways of thinking. This often will show how it is the mind that is the cause of discomfort, not the outer circumstances. What is crucial is the choice one makes when faced with any particular situation. You either wait on the phone listening to music or you phone back at a less busy time. In other words a feeling of impatience is a habitual response to an external trigger – a response that could be different.

Patience from honesty

Try answering these questions. ‘What are you impatient for?’ and ‘Why the hurry?’ Is it to do with pursuing something really worthwhile or is it something that can wait. Are you really desperate for that bit of information to satisfy what may turn out to be idle curiosity, or that food snack to remove pangs of hunger, or that way out of a social obligation so that you can get on with what we want to do.

“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.” (Franklin P. Jones)

Aren’t we all prone to wanting immediate gratification? Learn to recognise the impulse ‘I want it now, and later simply will not do.’ And then consider an alternative way of thinking.

Patience from a considering religious perspectives

Sacred writing encourages patience in the context of inner conflict and temptation. For example in the Bible, the book of Revelation offers hope to those with patience suffering persecution for the sake of what they believe to be good and true. How tempting it must be to give up one’s principles because of the ridicule and contempt of others for what one holds dear.

One such principle is that of trust in a divine power who provides for one’s eternal needs even if temporal ones are frustrated.

According to this view, patience comes from a deep attitude of contentment with life as it is. I would suggest that this inner patience comes easily to people when they allow themselves to be led by the lessons of life rather than indignantly dwelling on the unsatisfied desires of ego. When you don’t get what you want, are you willing to patiently acquiesce to the providential flow of life?

“We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.” (Helen Keller)

Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy

Author Heart, Head & Hands (http://spiritualquestions.org.uk/2012/10/heart-head-hands-ebook/)