‘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?” The answers called out ranged from 8oz 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 stress and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them for 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.” Always remember to put the glass down.’
You have probably read this story before, at least in one of its numerous versions circulating on the Internet. And there is a good reason why this story is so popular: it offers a very powerful metaphor of how our minds often tend to process things. We obsess and hold onto things. Worse: we keep stirring the water, so the mud does not have much chance to settle for the water to clear up. When you consider that water makes up approximately 60% of human body and 70% of our brain, you want to pay attention to what a water story can tell us!
So: How can you put your glass down? How can you put your worries down for a little while?
Pause – Learning to pause is one of the most important skills in life. You probably have an extremely busy life but, even in the midst of all the things you have to do on a daily basis, you can create short moments of downtime even if it is just when you go to the restroom. Create moments of complete silence by turning off the radio when you drive and take deep breaths at the stop light. Take short walks, even in your office, include meditative practices (like drinking a cup of tea) or spend time in nature even if it is stepping outside for only five minutes to put your feet in the grass, admire a tree or stare at the birds or the squirrels. The possibilities are endless and it doesn’t take much time for the traffic in your mind to slow down. The ripples stop and the mud settles. This allows clarity and space for the brain to make the connections on its own. In those moments, we see ourselves reconnecting with the stillness at our core, that part that is as quiet as a feather, and – paraphrasing Lao Tzu – remaining in the center, watching, and then forgetting that we are there. Our soul speaks to us in those quiet moments in between our thoughts, when we less expect it.
Stop the urge to understand and explain everything – When I journey for clients, Spirits don’t necessarily offer an ‘explanation’ for everything. More often than not, they would suggest that ‘now is not the time to learn’ (or uncover) the particulars of a story, especially if it is traumatic. Our urge to understand (and to even often explain) has its benefits. This includes, in part, having allowed our species to adapt its reaction to an ever changing environment and to survive as a species. But what might be useful as a survival strategy might, in time, become counterproductive if it does not allow us to tap into what may not be accessible to the rational mind. I read somewhere this metaphor that explains this: “The deeper we drop down away from the direct sunlight of our attention, the more we become more subtly reflective, a little bit like the moon.”
Stop judging – Pausing has a lot to do with cultivating awareness. When we allow our awareness to focus on what is in the moment, outside of the activity of our mind, “we contain all of what’s arising without the process that decides whether it’s good or bad, how it should or should not be” (Cheri Huber). Stopping this judgmental part of our thought patterns is another important way to move beyond our usual blocks and schemes, providing the mind with a new level of clarity, not needing to put things in our usual mental (and moral) boxes.
Un-learn – There is also a lot of un-learning involved in the art of pausing: forgetting what we already know. In my shamanic practice, I have experienced over and over that I am the most in my knowing when ‘I don’t know anything’ or forget everything I may think that I know. As I drop into that place of eternal silence and nothingness and let Spirits and the energies be in charge, and hold that space for my client, I can listen more deeply to what is said and shown now. This includes the uniqueness of each person and of each moment. I can let what is deeply needed now emerge. I know, first hand, that this is more complicated to apply to one’s own life challenges but it is always very empowering to ask oneself the ‘what if’ question: “What if I did not know anything about that problem or that situation? What if I was looking at it with an outside eye? What if I was just sitting with the idea that I actually don’t know anything?”
Reclaim our divine birthright to consciously create – We were created to create, not to react. Actually, we are creating all the time but the question is whether we are doing this consciously or unconsciously. Recently, a client shared with me that after a session she had been feeling as refreshed and re-inspired as if she had gone for a week long vacation in an exotic place. This is what ‘putting the glass down’ allows for: a space to create, consciously, as a choice, and to move beyond all your ‘issues’, reconnecting with that part in you that is already perfect and whole, the core of your being, that energy which is who you are before any story.
So, let’s pause together and put our glasses down. Try it and share your experience below. Leave a comment.
Béatrice Pouligny | Contemporary Shamanic Healer
With Special Thanks to Alison Carter and Pam Sanders
May 14, 2014