Tuesday, October 2, 2012

An Ant's Point of View: A Way to Relieve Stress

"Nature will bear the closest inspection.  She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain." - Henry David Thoreau

Thoreau knows what he's talking about.  We've all laid on our backs, feeling the blades of grass as they cushion our bodies.  Every one of us has enjoyed feeling as though we're as tiny as an ant, staring at the tree limbs that sway above us.  It's almost as though its a human necessity that reminds us we're really such a small part of the earth.

The world, after all, doesn't revolve around any one of us.  Sometimes stress becomes so great that it's imperative that we sit still and remind ourselves of that fact.

Does it matter to the mountains which candidate will win the presidential election?

Does the tree care if we can't pay the electric bill?

Yet, these thoughts consume us.  They're valid concerns, of course, but we need to remind ourselves that in the grand scheme of the world, these problems that are so huge to us are really quite minuscule on the large scale.

We want to change the world, even if by 'the world' we're only referring our our own small part in it.  

That's ok.  It's one of the things that makes us human.  It only becomes a problem when we allow ourselves to become so consumed with it that we neglect to notice the wonderful, already glorious things around us.

That's the point at which we need to step back and observe the world from an ant's point of view.

Or at least a really small rodent's...
My stress has been building up for a while, now.  The problems of daily life have a habit of crowding around you if you don't take the time to diffuse them, and I've been so busy that I didn't notice them creeping up on me.

We've all been there.

When this happens I tend to play a little game with myself.  I lay out on the ground, and look at everything around me.

Taking on the ant's point of view, if you will.  

I stare up at whatever life happens to be growing around me, and wait for nature to calm me down.

It's not as easy as you think.

In fact, it tends to become aggravating, because I continue to think about every last one of my problems, and  even come up with several different trails my choices could travel through.  At this point, even a single hair tickling my nose can lead to overwhelming frustration.

I blow it away from my nose, with one thought going through my mind:

Nothing's happening...

After a while, I sigh to myself in complete and total boredom.  I give up.

And then it happens.

I start to take interest in something that has absolutely nothing to do with my problems.  An ant traveling up a branch.  A leaf that sways in a different direction than all the others on a specific limb.  A nearby squirrel, chipping away at a walnut with its itty bitty teeth.

Every time, it's something different.

The release of stress, the tranquility that replaces it, and the rediscovery of curiosity and joy all come for a single reason.  I let go.

Yep.  It's that simple.

Just let go.

Of course, it takes time.  We tend to hold onto our pain so tightly that letting go can be a complicated and time consuming process.  Indeed, the harder we try to let go, the stronger our grip on our stress becomes.

That's why I view things from an ant's point of view.  It's a change from the norm.  I'm out of place.  As much as my mind feels the need to exert its control over things, it's powerless because it's out of its comfort zone.

No matter how much I try to claim otherwise, the reality is that I know absolutely nothing when my point of view is forced to change.

Once the subconscious realizes this fact it lets go, and healing begins.

No, not at all!

Or, at least, not entirely...

There's a biological reason for what happens.

I believe that the desire for control of our situation, and the fear we feel when we don't have that control, is what causes our bodies to go into fight or flight mode.  This biological reaction produces hormones that send our bodies out of whack.

It's not a weakness.  

It's a biological imperative that all humans share, and it has kept the human race alive.  There's nothing wrong with it.  It only becomes a problem when we've been stuck in fight or flight mode for too long, because we haven't had the opportunity to feel relief from our need for control and safety.

That's why we need to let go.

Perhaps the reason that nature "...invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf..." is because it's a balm that soothes the pains of society.

Of course, I could be wrong... 
but you won't really know unless you try it, right?

The next time daily stress begins to feel suffocating, look at the world from an ant's point of view, and see what happens.

It can't hurt, after all, so what have you got to lose?