How Can I Know That I'm Really OK?


I'm going through a very challenging time right now. My grown children are fighting among themselves, and my husband—from whom I'm separated but not divorced—may be having a nervous breakdown because all of our investments are bottoming out.

I think that I'm doing ok. Of course, this is all very stressful, but I'm functioning pretty well on a daily basis, and my health is good. I am having a hard time sleeping at night, even though I don't think that I'm obsessing about all these problems.

I do spend a lot of time at the computer, while watching the hourly reports about the Florida election fiasco. How can I know that I really am ok? I've come to learn the connection with mind/body and spirit, and how they are all connected. I know that this kind of stress can affect my health. How can I know if I really am dealing with what's occurring in my life, or if I am in denial of what's really going on?

-SM in CA-


The description of your trials reminds me of a time when I was going through a "dark night of the soul" period in my life, several years ago. It is not unusual to experience times when we are truly challenged by life circumstances, feeling as though we're being cast into a very dark and deep pit with no way out. I experienced an increasing feeling of inching deeper into darkness.

My ex-husband had driven up to Northern California (where I had moved my two children after my divorce) to pick up my fourteen year-old son and bring him back to Southern California. My son would now live with his dad and new stepmother. My daughter had left home, never to return to the nest. (She now lives very happily in a far-away country, having trusted her own guidance that has led her down her own, very unique path).

Now, my last child was leaving the nest. The three of us had been through a lot together. I had envisioned that the children would live with me in our new home a few years longer than current events would indicate. I watched my son look back at me in the rearview mirror of the rented moving van as he and his dad pulled away, slowly turning the corner. It was heartbreaking for me.

When I could no longer see the van, I walked back into the house, went upstairs and seated myself at my office desk. I turned on my computer and then reached for a glass of wine—that wasn't there. This was an automatic response, a trailer from an earlier time in my marriage.

I turned off the computer and forced myself to just sit there. I intentionally allowed myself to sit and feel the impact of all that had just happened. I had a good—but surprisingly short-lived—cry. As time went on, I became attentive to the amount of energy that I would unconsciously dedicate to avoiding painful feelings and integrating the full impact of what was going on.

It was through this kind of detached observation of myself that I was able to notice additional unconscious, triggered responses to stress. For example, I noticed that the more critical I might feel about myself on any given day, the more reflexively I found fault with others. Conversely, the more accepting, the fewer jerks—I was certain—existed out there.

It is so important to observe the oftentimes obsessive need to fill in the empty spaces of our lives; our tendency to block out whatever feels uncomfortable. Once we make such observations, we must turn off the busy-ness, just sit still and allow it all in. "Show me what's true," is my prayer in those moments. "Gently," I always add.

I mention in Heart-Links, the importance of sanctifying special place in your living space. Do nothing else in that space, but sit quietly, pray, meditate, journal. Be with yourself, alone and quiet. Let BF Skinner's behavior modification principle of "discriminative stimuli" do its thing, pairing the quiet activity with that specific environmental stimuli. Eventually, that space will "occasion" the behavior of quiet, peaceful, deepening. Depak Chopra calls "going into the gap."

This way of checking in with yourself will surely lead you to deeper truths. And let you know how you are really doing with your stress. And open you up to the guidance that awaits you.