Lisa is a middle-aged woman who works for an accounting firm in New York City. Her boss is an overbearing man who likes to flirt with some of the younger employees. There are always pressing deadlines and far more work than can be easily accomplished. Today has been especially stressful, and Lisa is aware that she has forgotten to eat lunch. She is vaguely aware of the presence of the new hire, an attractive young secretary who appears to have done little more than talk on the telephone all morning.
Suddenly, Lisa’s boss runs into the office and yells at her about a report he needs for a meeting in one hour. Lisa can feel herself become tense and flushed, but she doesn’t say anything. Instead, she finds herself grinning idiotically at her boss and stammering something about getting it done as soon as possible.
At this moment, Lisa’s boss sees the young secretary sitting across the room and waves at her. “How would you like to come out with me for lunch?” he asks. “I’ll teach you a few things about this company!” Lisa’s grin now resembles a grimace. She feels frustrated and drained, and wonders how she is going to summon up the energy to get through the rest of her day.
Most of us have faked a smile at some point in life, but if this is happening on a regular basis, something is definitely wrong. Lisa needs to take some time out of her busy schedule to look after her own needs. Had she done this, Lisa would have recognized that her workload was unreasonable and that by agreeing to continue, she was actually contributing to the problem. If Lisa persists in ignoring her feelings, and pretending to “please” her boss, it is very likely that she will become ill. Her body will simply be unable to overcome the enormous stress of hiding her unhappy emotional state from her conscious mind.
Self-awareness is a huge part of connecting with our inner healer. In fact, without it, our ability to heal our body with our mind will be lost. By living in the moment, we can avoid the pitfalls of getting caught up in someone else’s problems, bottling up frustration, or lashing out in anger. By stepping away from the situation, we allow ourselves to become conscious of just how much strain we are exerting on our mind and body.
Lisa was so focused on her massive workload that day that she was unaware of how exhausted she really was. By ignoring her emotions and bottling up her anger, Lisa was seriously compromising her health. When we pay little or no attention to our emotions, an acute health scare is often the next message our body sends out, begging us to stop and take care of ourselves. A crushing pain in the chest is much more difficult to ignore!
Lisa’s success story:
Now let’s take a look at how differently Lisa might have reacted had she been mindful of how she was really feeling. First of all, Lisa should have made sure that she took a lunch break in order to provide her body with important nutrients. Low blood sugar and a growling stomach will take away from anyone’s ability to handle a full workload. Lisa would also have taken the time to monitor her physical state, relaxing her tense shoulder muscles and taking some deep, cleansing breaths.
By simply acknowledging and accepting the flow of events that had taken place at work, Lisa would have avoided triggering a massive emotional response that released harmful negative energy. Instead of feeling overwhelmed, Lisa would have been able to look at the situation from a different perspective, enabling her to react from a position of strength and power.
When the boss arrived with an unreasonable request, Lisa could have stepped back and assessed what was going on. She might have recognized that her boss was asking her to do the extra work, which no one else was willing to take on! By calmly explaining that she was already swamped with work, Lisa would have demonstrated that she was willing to take charge of her own well-being, and would not risk her own emotional and physical health, just to please her difficult boss.
When her boss “hit” on the attractive young secretary, Lisa would have been able to shrug it off as yet another example of her boss flirting with staff. Later, Lisa would have been able to make time to talk to the new girl, who was almost certainly already aware of her boss’s reputation around the ladies.
By staying faithful to herself and promoting an awareness of the situation as it really existed, Lisa soon freed up her mind to take control of her stressful work situation. By refusing to suppress harmful emotions by faking a smile and ignoring her feelings, Lisa took some important steps toward ending the separation between how she was acting and how she really felt. This simple technique allowed her to use self-awareness to balance herself and allow a release of toxic energy from her body, promoting a sense of calmness and wellbeing.
Let’s talk about how you can learn to practice the simple technique of mindfulness or self-awareness, in order to encourage the same sense of inner peace that Lisa experienced in the second half of her story. Don’t worry if this is difficult at first. We are so used to being bombarded by the endless chatter that flows from our brain that it may feel odd when you stop everything and concentrate instead on your immediate surroundings.
You may want to take a moment to find a quiet, relaxing place to unwind. For some people, this is a peaceful room where they feel calm and secure. For others, a retreat outside into the fresh air is restoring to the soul. Regardless of where you choose to practice self-awareness, make sure you won’t be disturbed. This is your special time to look after your needs and take care of yourself.
Sit yourself down and take a few deep, cleansing breaths. Become aware of your breathing as you breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Slowly relax your muscles, and feel the strain and tension drop away. Close your eyes and focus on where you are right now. You are safe and everything is okay.
Allow yourself to become aware of any strong feelings that surface. This is not a bad thing. It is your inner mind letting you know that you need to unwind and restore balance. Welcome these feelings, because they are the first sign of healing.
Now, slowly and intentionally, visualize yourself as you go through your normal routine and calmly reflect upon what is happening as an outsider might. Simply observe what you see, without expressing judgment or emotion. Avoid trying to “solve” any problems that arise. That is not your job right now. You are a good and capable person, and all is well. Feel the release of energy that comes from the deep realization that life is good.
Don’t worry if it takes a while to focus on your innermost self. That is perfectly normal at first. You may need to bring your attention back to the moment when your mind wanders, as it surely will at first. We are so used to the circus that plays out in front of our eyes that it is all too easy to become distracted and sidetracked. Relax and concentrate instead on how you feel right now, in the moment.