3 Keys to Staying Present under Pressure

Relaxed Man

“The only pressure I’m under is the pressure I’ve put on myself.” ~Mark Messier   

Back when Earth was cooling, I was a broker at Shearson Lehman Brothers. I still have nightmares about the pressure there—the pressure to sell stocks and bonds, to succeed, to be the best in the office, and to forget what is really important in life.

Now I write books and lead workshops. I live on thirty-three acres with a couple hundred blueberry plants, foxes, incredible people, sunrises, sunsets, and cold dips in a mountain pond all in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains.

While it would make sense that the Wall Street life was hectic and that these rustic acres should provide relief, peace, and relaxation, that isn’t really the case. Each day there is a temptation to put pressure on myself: to write a chapter, or get work done in the garden, or swim a mile, or do something that I consider worthwhile.

I have discovered that it isn’t really the situation that causes pressure and stress, but the lack of familiarity and acceptance of who I am and where I am. I can be as crazy in the mountains as on Wall Street, but I can also, with these three keys relax into myself and my environment.

How About You?

You’re busy. You live with an amount of activity that would make your grandparents’ eyes bug out. You travel more miles in a week than they would in a year. Unfortunately, you may often lose yourself, and your priorities, in your own busyness.

The pressure to get things done can be overwhelming. It can make you frantic and compulsive. You jump from doing the dishes to sweeping the floor to answering e-mails without celebrating those clean, shiny pans.

You live dizzy and busy finding yourself often in a tizzy. All the while who you really are is at peace, deep, calm, and tranquil. You deserve a little dip into that peace, especially when you are under pressure.

Time in the Present is Well Spent

Certainly you have experienced being in the present—those moments when time and space melt into this blissful moment. You are in the wildness of Times Square on New Years Eve and feeling head on perfect presence—present under pressure.

Presence makes the most mundane spiritual. Clarity prevails as deadlines inspire, rather than oppress you. Presence with peace offers you higher energy than usual but with nowhere to go and nothing to do.

Presence surrounds you with resources when you need them most.

Tap into your presence under pressure! You can do it, and these three keys will help.

1st Key: Embrace Perfection

Your life requires no improvement. In fact, the most ecological way to embrace change is to experience this moment as perfect just the way it is.

You just stubbed your toe perfectly. Your boss just yelled at you beautifully. Embrace, love, and flow with the perfection your life continually offers.

Celebrate everything that is. You are surrounded by the perfect present.

2nd: Seek Your Own Approval

Good deeds can be their own reward. Help the frail widow across the street and remember that you aren’t doing it for her. You’re doing it for you.

You have your own values. Trying to impress others or seeking their approval instead of your own can cause you to neglect yourself.

Take care of yourself and do what’s important to you. You will naturally take care of others this way. Be a model for a happy, well-balanced life.

Do the most wonderful, charitable things in the world. Do them for yourself. Do them because they make you happy.

This can be particularly challenging if you have kids, a spouse, friends, or a mother.

Fix your husband tea. Help with the kids’ homework but do it for capital “M” Me. Hold the baby on your knee for the sheer pleasure of it.

When you do everything for you, you are really taking care of everyone.

Years ago I volunteered at Bay Cliff Health Camp, a beautiful camp for handicapped kids. I met Randy, who was nine years old. He was using crutches and fell over, hitting the floor hard. As I bent to help him up, my friend Jo grabbed my elbow stopping me.

With great effort and pride Randy was able to right himself and stand again. Jo later explained to me that Randy’s disease was debilitating, and that he was cherishing his last days without a wheel chair. It didn’t matter that he fell over because he had been standing. Tears came easily as I felt grateful for every step I take. I still do.

Impress yourself. You are your own toughest audience. You have the lead role in your life. Play it up!

3rd Key: Question Obligations

There is nothing that you need to do and nothing you “should” do. However, there are plenty of things you act as if you “should” do.

Being forced to do anything, even by yourself, turns what might be fun into a chore.

When I was little I loved to play the piano. I would spend at least an hour a day just goofing around on the piano, learning how notes fit together and creating simple tunes.

My well-meaning musician parents were inspired—so much so they brought in a piano teacher, Mrs. Sylvester, who thought I “should” work at the piano cured me of wanting to play it. You won’t be hearing me or Mrs. Sylvester playing at Carnegie Hall.

Later I took up the drums. When I was ready I asked my parents if I could take lessons. We found a teacher and I practiced almost constantly. Having a wonderful time, to this day I can hand drum with the best of them.

Relax. Take a breath. Notice what you are doing. Ask yourself if the pressure is justified. You’ll quickly find that many of the sources of pressure in your life are not as real as they seem.

Do what you do. Don’t do what you don’t do. But always celebrate what you do no matter what it is.

Test your presence by doing stuff. Zen it just for the fun of it.

Your Zen Monk Neighbor

Your neighbor’s lawn may be better groomed than yours. His kids may be smarter and spouse hotter.

Who are you kidding?

Comparisons set out to prove a point; the point is that you are either better or worse than someone else.

My Mother used to say, “Comparison’s are odious.” I don’t know what odious means, but I do know anytime you compare yourself to someone else you are bound to suffer.

Be present to how your lawn is, how your kids are, how your spouse is, and how you are. If a beautiful moment or beautiful life could be represented by a beautiful lawn, spirituality would be landscaping, not the mysterious wonderment that it is.

From the wonderment of this moment, step into the mystery of the next. Plant a few weeds, pull a few weeds—what’s the difference?

A weed is a plant where it shouldn’t be. A Bird of Paradise in the middle of your lawn is a beautiful weed. So is a dandelion.

Dance with Passion

Follow your bliss,” said Joseph Campbell.

Notice what you love. Notice what you don’t love. Surround yourself with equal measures of both, and you will discover that love comes and goes but presence is always there within you.

Presence focused gives birth to passion. Passion for this, that, and the other. Passion for everything in particular. Passion for your foot, the callus on your big toe, your ankle bone and your calves.

You will begin to notice passion everywhere; meet it, greet it and embrace it as you fall in love constantly.

Presence under pressure is especially fun. Sitting silently in a cave is one thing. Living present in the world is quite another.

You can do it. Use the three keys above to open yourself to the perfection of presence anywhere, anytime, everywhere all the time.

Relaxed man image via Shutterstock

About Jerry Stocking

Jerry Stocking is a non-guru who will twist your idea of reality on its head and leave you laughing. Lightening Up and Letting Go is his blog on spiritual approaches to modern living with tips on letting go, being present, and discovering unconditional love.

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