A few years ago I became aware that the biggest form of pollution in my life was me. My reactions, my furrowed brow, my stressing. I saw how these things often caused a negative chain of events around me. Something annoys me, I blame someone for it, they feel bad, they blame me or someone else, and more bad feelings go rippling out. So I started working with Gandhi’s famous quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I was frustrated about the environment, but could see that if I wanted a greener planet, I’d have to start going green on the inside first, and taking responsibility for my stress. I wanted my child to grow up in a harmonious home, and take that experience out into the world—and to do that, I needed to be actively creating harmony within me. Except that for the most part, I didn’t feel harmonious on the inside. I felt stressed out.
I used to think of stress in terms of work pressure or external circumstances, like divorce or moving house. But through my training I began to see it more in terms of energy, and realized there was more to it than fixing what was happening out there. I learned to perceive the effect that stress has on our energy body—the foundation of our mental and physical well-being—and was fascinated (and less stressed) by the results.
Basically, anytime we feel out of balance—for example feeling frightened, angry, hurt or confused—we’re experiencing some kind of stress; a contraction of our energy. And when you feel stressed about something, it can be read as a sign that part of your energy field is in need of strengthening. Our life brings us what we need in order to grow. For example, if you’re overly fearful about your child falling over and hurting themselves, you need more energy at your navel—the seat of your courage and trust. If you can’t stop questioning your partner over where they’ve been and who they’ve been with, you’d benefit from more energy at your forehead—the home of clear thinking and bright moods.
Every form of stress we experience corresponds to a lack of energy within ourselves. It’s a pretty radical way of seeing things, as suddenly no one else is responsible for how we feel. Sure, someone can be acting in a negative way towards you, but does that mean you have to get angry or feel hurt? No. Because if your energy is strong you won’t feel stressed by their actions. If you feel stressed, then they’ve done you a favor by showing you a part of you that needs to become stronger. And the stronger your energy, the more appropriate your response to any given situation will be.
I remember a time when my partner told me that, for reasons out of his control, the romantic weekend away without the kids wasn’t happening. I felt uncontrollably emotional. But I knew in that moment that I had a choice. Either I could wallow in self-pity and make him feel bad for not taking me away, or I could do something to change my energy. I sat down to meditate and calm my breathing, bringing my attention to my breath, but I was too disturbed to concentrate, so I went for a power walk (a walking meditation taught by the School of Energy Awareness to eliminate stress from the energy body). After power walking for about twenty-five minutes, I was much calmer. My energy had changed. I still felt some stress over the situation, but I was able to see what I needed to do. The power walk had given me the clarity to accept the situation, instead of feeling bad about it. I wasn’t angry anymore.
Another time I was rushing out of the door with my son to an appointment. Just as we shut the front door he said, “Mum, I need the loo!” So back in we went, and I stood outside the bathroom door, telling him to hurry up, while feeling annoyed at him for making me late. Then I noticed my energy. I felt stressed. Why? It wasn’t my son’s fault (when you gotta go you gotta go) and these things can’t be hurried. So I said “It’s okay, take your time” and went to meditate in the lounge. In that moment I decided to stop the stress and use the time in a positive way. Both my son and I gained from me having made that choice.
It’s these kind of choices that can successfully transform the stress being experienced into positive energy. And if you want to live a peaceful existence and not let yourself be knocked about emotionally by other people’s actions or stressed by the amount of things you have to do, then you can practice making this choice in times of stress. Do I carry on losing energy and feeling bad? Or can I do something to increase my energy and feel better again?
When you live your life in this way, things change. It’s not something that happens overnight—it’s a process, full of ups and downs. There’ll be times when you scream and shout “It’s not fair! It’s not my fault!” but those times get fewer and fewer as your energy becomes stronger. Slowly, you notice that even though you’re still affected by things, it doesn’t last as long as it did before. And then, over time, you realize that you’re less affected by what’s happening around you. Eventually, you stop being at the mercy of your circumstances. It’s a bit like going to the gym. You expect to have good days and bad days, but you know each time you go you’re getting fitter. And that’s what’s happening when you start trying to change your energy. It may feel like you’re getting nowhere, but every time you choose to not react in the usual way, and instead choose to act in a way that helps your energy, you’re making a big difference to your future. You really are creating (or revealing!) a happier, peaceful, and more balanced you—which of course goes a long way to creating a happier, more peaceful and balanced world. Which to me, is what being the change is all about.