This article first appeared in Unity Magazine’s March/April 2016 edition. VIEW SOURCE.
Constantly overwhelmed? You’re in good company. Here’s how one woman put spirituality at the center of her life and transformed stressed into blessed.
It’s hard to say exactly where the chaos began in my life. In some ways it was always there—sort of like an old friend I didn’t like very much but had grown accustomed to having around. In grade school, I was always the kid whose desk looked like a tornado had hit it—papers hanging out the front and books strewn sideways (some half-open with the pages crumpled in a heap). I lost track of things, couldn’t focus on the task at hand, and had difficulty organizing myself throughout the day.
I remember people telling me I just had to “apply myself more,” and I would do better in school. They said I was smart but needed to “try harder.” Didn’t they see that I was already trying as hard as I could? But somehow putting things together in an organized fashion didn’t come to me as naturally as it did for other kids. Today we have labels for what I was experiencing, but back then, impressive-sounding monikers such as “executive functioning disorder” and “attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder” were not part of our cultural knowledge base. So as a child I was seen as distracted, impatient, and (worst of all) lazy.
My coping mechanisms took an unhealthy turn early on when I began using alcohol to numb the psychic pain of my disorganized mind before entering my teenage years. The numbing calm of the alcohol felt like a warm respite from the constant pressure to perform in ways that were beyond my grasp. Living with such chaos—first in my neurology and then made worse by pouring alcohol on that wound—inevitably caused disharmony in my relationships and subsequent depression. I began dating multiple people at the same time early in high school, and that pattern stayed with me for far too long. In other words, I was a mess!
Despite these challenges, I managed to get through the maze of academia. I played four varsity sports in high school and two in college. I loved being active and worked two or three jobs to pay for my tuition. Even though I was a mess in so many ways, somehow—by the grace of God—I was also finding my way in life.
Quirk of Faith
I was raised “very Catholic” and then attended a conservative evangelical Christian college. I was always looking for ways to get closer to God—or better yet, perhaps God was always calling to me. My faith kept me sane, and yet sometimes it made me crazier. How could a loving God make my mind such a mess? I wondered.
Despite the fact that the only theology I knew at the time was the “God-out-there” model, I sensed that there must be a way to calm the chaos in my mind and live life through faith and prayer. I just didn’t know how. In fact, my years of delving into evangelical Christianity heaped shame on top of my confusion as I learned to quell my insanity with “prescriptions” prohibited by the conservatives in my social set. As I put down the booze, my depression and relational drama intensified. At one point, the quagmire of my life got so fascinating that my therapist published a case study about our work together for a professional journal.
Remarkably, I was able to earn a graduate degree and begin a career in mental health, despite my difficulties—or perhaps because of them! I was in my early 30s when many of my friends who were also young clinicians encouraged me to get evaluated for adult attention deficit disorder. It was around the time when Edward Hallowell, M.D., and John Ratey, M.D., wrote their seminal book, Driven to Distraction (Pantheon, 1994), unleashing the notion that adults, as well as children, could suffer from this neurological condition.
After many months of resistance, I finally called the Hallowell Center in Sudbury, Massachusetts. I remember driving there on a cold, clear, fall afternoon. Something about the stillness of the air and the clarity in the sky bolstered my confidence that my mind was getting clearer and that I would probably sail through the battery of testing.
The tests occurred throughout a couple of afternoons, and the following week I returned to review the findings with the clinicians. Still feeling an air of optimism that my neurological functioning would be found to be completely normal, I soon learned the sobering news that I had every marker of adult ADD, and that I had likely had this condition my entire life.
After picking up the pieces of my shattered self-esteem, I started taking the prescribed medication and was immediately stunned by the impact it had on my mind. I was organized, clear-headed, and efficient for the first time. I could find things, I could remember things, and my focus significantly improved. It was remarkable!
How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. There is no “someday.”
More Healing Ahead
However, my faith in God kept gnawing at me. I believed that if there was a condition in my neurology keeping me from the fullness of my potential that there had to be a spiritual solution to this problem. By this time, I had discovered Unity, and with it, New Thought Christianity. I’d begun to study the notion that we can heal our lives by elevating our consciousness. I believed in what Unity cofounder Myrtle Fillmore was able to demonstrate with her physical healing through faith and spiritual practices, and I knew I could do the same.
The following summer I went on a silent retreat to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and dove deeply into prayer and meditation. I asked for guidance from Pure Intelligence, the indwelling Mind of God, to see how I could learn to calm the chaos in my life and help others do the same. What emerged from this process was profound. I received a download of information that was philosophical, spiritual, and deeply practical, outlining how I could develop specific skills and mental conditions. This would begin putting my frazzled mind and emotions back together without relying on medication.
At its core, I realized that the traditional methods we use for managing time all focus on external activities rather than our internal state of consciousness. Yet we live in time, and how we move through and relate to time determines the quality of our experience in life. In short, how we spend our days is how we spend our lives. There is no “someday.” There is only today and how we choose to use the resource of time at our disposal.
This realization was no overnight fix. What came out of the weekend retreat was a life-changing set of principles, tools, and structures for managing energy (rather than time) that have governed my life for the past decade—principles I later outlined in my book, Calming the Chaos (Next Century Publishing, 2015). Those principles are:
Awaken to your current time consciousness by observing what you say about time and how you use your time. Notice how you participate in cultural conversations about being “crazy busy” and the degree that you are living in overwhelm.
Do everything as an expression of your mission and core values. Do not allow yourself the luxury of living in survival or victim mentality. Be committed to your mission without being attached to how it unfolds. Live the truth that your life is always unfolding for your highest good.
Understand that the best way to be sure you are living your mission and values is by planning to do so. Decide how God wants to express as you, and then set out to create your life as an act of devotion to God. Use your schedule as a tool for planning and fulfilling the activities that reflect your God-Self-on-Earth.
Realize that your purpose in life is to grow in energetic consciousness back to the divinity from which you came. You are here to be your God-Self-on-Earth, following your passions and fulfilling your desires. Let your Christ Light shine by living in faith rather than fear, following your deepest desire of your Christ Nature rather than making excuses for why you cannot do so, and being committed more to transcending your ego than to maintaining the status quo.
Living this way requires tremendous spiritual maturity. So many people talk about elevating consciousness but then walk around so stressed out, chronically busy, and overwhelmed that they are truly a living example of “survival consciousness.” The mass consciousness of overwhelm is all around us, but we are called to a higher way of living and being.
Not only have I fulfilled my vision of being an author, teacher, and speaker, but I’m also finally at peace. While I am still amazingly active, I am not chaotic. I don’t feel overwhelmed. I feel fully engaged in creating my life in alignment with Who I Am and Who I Came Here To Be.
This was not going to happen without my finding the Truth principles of Unity and intentionally putting them to work in my life. We are students and teachers of Truth principles and that charge calls us to live beyond the chronic overwhelm of our time. We are awakening to live lives of meaning, purpose, contribution, and joy, knowing that we are here to be a demonstration of the Christ Nature within.