Pressure

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I am on a vacation from the community that I live in – spending a week skiing and hiking and sitting in coffee shops.  And as I stepped out of the flow of community life, the first thing I noticed was how a pressure was lifted.

Suddenly I’m in a town where people don’t know my story – my habits and my background, my strengths and my weaknesses.  And suddenly I can breath more fully.

So what is this pressure? Where does it come from?  What is the source?  And what is the cause?

In community living there are a lot of pressures.  I get into disagreements.  I get feedback about how I could have done something better.  I give feedback about how I feel like something could be done better.

And there’s a pressure that comes with being seen by my community.  There’s no hiding my habits or choices.  Everyone knows and everyone is free to comment.

I’ve been in situations before where someone is trying to put the pressure on me – convince me to do something in the way that they would.  And it’s easy for me to step out, to let go, to breath, to not take on the pressure.

So how can I do this where I live and work now?  How can I notice the pressures but not take them on?

The first step is where I am now – to see the pressures and to acknowledge that they are impacting my life.  And the next step is learning to step out when I don’t need to be in them.  Taking a deep breath and realizing that what is happening doesn’t need to be taken personally.  Acknowledging the facts and at the same time to not say it’s “all my fault.”

And my life in the community is the perfect place to practice this.  Pressure will come up and I have a choice of how to work with it.

So Tuesday I step back, into the community, into the flow and into the pressures.  By stepping out I could see what was happening.  Now I can step back in and make a change.

Each day is a gift.

One of my favourite poet’s, John O’Donohue, writes in To Bless the Space Between Us, “Each new day is a path of wonder, a new invitation.   Days are where our lives gradually become visible.”[1]

I’ve recently started a new practice of walking down to the water every morning before breakfast.  Growing up in Ontario, lakes are my home – the places where I feel safe, relaxed and free.  And now each morning I walk down the steps, past the prayer rooms to the beach.  The pebbles crunch under my feet, the waves lap against the shore and my world opens up as I reach the edge of the lake and suddenly I can see for miles in each direction.

I live in the mountains now, far away from rolling hills of my Ontario home, but nature does not mind what side of the country it is on.  The fall still passes into winter, the dawn lifts into morning.  As I stand beside the shore I connect to the rhythms that I know well.  The waves lap, the wind blows, the sky opens up and I remember that I am a part of life.

I pause to take it all in and then turn to walk back towards my community where I face the responsibilities, joys, and challenges of working with others towards a shared vision that I care deeply for.

These precious morning moments are brief but they are not lost when I enter into our main building or sit down at a community meeting.  The remembering stays and helps me to navigate my life.

O’Donohue writes, “No day belongs to us.  Each day is a gift.”[2]

Early morning drawing of Kootenay Lake
Early morning drawing of Kootenay Lake

[1] Donohue, John. To Bless the Space Between Us. New York: Doubleday, 2008, p.189.
[2] Donohue, John. To Bless the Space Between Us. New York: Doubleday, 2008, p.190.