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Stress Free in the Garden of God – A Spiritual Story by Jo Leonard

In the midst of a production meeting at the commercial printing company where I work, a co-worker confessed that he couldn't sleep at night because of all the stressors in his life. I saw my own state of fatigue reflected in him. I made a startling discovery that evening when I began to look at the causes of stress in my life.

The truth was, I was actually leaving the house each morning in anticipation of being stressed. And sure enough, I was never disappointed. What I expected is what

I got.
But awareness of a condition is only the first step. I needed to move from awareness of the problem to a solution to the problem. I wondered what I could possibly do about all the outside influences that were causing me to be tense and stripping me of happiness. I think it was Einstein who said something to the effect that you couldn't solve a problem with the same kind of thinking that created it. But how does a person go about changing his or her thinking patterns in order to get out of a self-created house of horrors? The mind is so grooved that no matter how much we try to think different thoughts, we easily fall back into familiar patterns.

I went to work the next morning with my usual defeatist attitude even though I knew I was setting myself up. As expected, the traffic on the Washington, D.C. beltway was hopelessly snarled. It fueled my anticipated tension and further set the mood for the day to come.
Customers and staff alike seemed to be caught in a firestorm of negative emotion. It was ugly and it fed upon itself. One impatient, demanding remark from someone stimulated a rebuttal of equal or worse kind. And so it went, escalating into a madness of sorts.

My already despondent state worsened as computers, printing presses, and bindery equipment, mysteriously sensitive to their operators, began to break down. It was nothing serious, just annoying and time-wasting. I wondered how I could possibly direct the day's workload to completion under these chaotic conditions. “Oh, God, not the Mac computer” or “Oh, God, not the five-color press” became my mantras du jour.

About mid-afternoon it occurred to me that the presence of God, not just the use of God's name as a substitute expletive, was what I truly needed. I believe it was Paramahansa Yogananda who said we must learn to live in the environment of God. I had always called it God's atmosphere. The knots of frustration began to loosen at the very thought of being in that expanded state of awareness. I had been in that place following my morning contemplation. Why had I so quickly forgotten about it and caved into the pressures of the work day? The answer was simple: I had shifted into work mode and began to assume the worse.

I left the front offices where the phones rang incessantly and pugnacious print salesmen resembled snapping turtles. I was assaulted by chemical smells and a cacophony of sound as I power-walked my way through the pressroom. With frazzled nerves, I then hastened through the bindery where workers operated their machinery at nearly double the pace, hoping to catch up after the morning's down time.

Passing through those two bays was like a journey through the lower realms of God's creation, hell to be precise. Finally, I reached the storage bay. There, among the towering boxes, I found an oasis. Exhausted, and disgusted with my own reactive behavior, I sat down on a stack of paper cases. I slowly began to utilize my imagination — the gift of creativity bestowed upon us by God — and envisioned an atmosphere of God surrounding me. I let go and relaxed into it. I breathed the rarified air that surrounded me; I let love fill my being.

The very presence of God seemed to enfold me. It was divine light and sound. It was goodness and gratitude. It was both raw power and tender sweetness. It was solace, regeneration, inspiration, and grace. It was an all-embracing love and…oh, how can one possibly name all the many facets of God? They are as endless as the many names by which God is known. To lean upon a cliché, when we are God-enveloped, the very ground we walk upon is holy ground.

There is a sound that accompanies this presence. To many, including myself, it is known as the voice of God. It has many forms: a high-pitched electrical sound, a powerful but distant wind, the single note of a flute, a soft and endless thunder, heavenly choirs, and more. The human voice and spoken words are but a tiny sliver of the vibration that is the kingdom of God.

When you hear the current of sound that is God's voice, you don't look for messages in the traditional sense of the spoken word. It is beyond that. You just listen. It is like a beacon calling you home to the heart of God.

This voice of God can crack open the most hardened heart, settle the most troubled mind, and heal the most distressed of emotional states. As you listen, you are soothed on all levels of your being. The sound transforms you into the incandescent lover of God, and of all life.

My trip to the storage bay was like a day at the spa, God's spa. I was refreshed and invigorated. I stood up from my seat on the paper cases and began my return trip to the front offices and the tasks that awaited me. I was intent upon doing the best possible job I could, doing it for the love of God.

As I retraced my steps I saw that the bindery glowed with a white light. The workers seemed so organized, so efficient, so harmonious as they moved about cutting, folding, stitching, and boxing. How incredible these people were, how imaginative and creative! I caught the eye of Soi, a Buddhist who chants as she works, and we smiled in recognition of the God who embraces all of us.

I can't say that the smell in the pressroom reminded me of the nectar of God. I'm a realist. The odor was still obnoxious, but I no longer reacted to it in a negative fashion. It was what it was, the smell of press chemicals.

One of the pressmen waved as I passed through. The entire press bay, perceived by me earlier as a dirty conglomerate of ink, oil, offset powder and paper dust, now had a golden glow.

I finished off my day's work with God' voice ever present. There was a myriad of sounds and a slight, comforting pressure on my ear drums. No matter the outer circumstance and conditions of life, living in the atmosphere of God is like living in a garden. A mud hut becomes a palace.

I went to a ballet after work, but not like you might be thinking. The theatre was a busy intersection, the same intersection that had frayed my nerves at the start of the day. The traffic lights were like stage lights. The cars, trucks, buses, bicycles and foot traffic moved in orchestrated harmony — stopping, starting, turning in a balletic fashion. It was a grand dance of life because I was now seeing, not with the mind and its negative programming, but with the ever-new eyes of Soul.

I have been a spiritual seeker all my life, sometimes cranky with my seeming lack of progress toward my goals. But when I stop the search and go to that still place within, like I did in the storage bay, I have no need to reach out and touch God for I find that God is touching me, always and forever touching me, speaking to me, replacing my stress with love.

We make our life what it is by the attitude we hold toward whatever we have our attention on. We have a choice each and every day to live in a briar patch of our own making or dwell in a garden of God. It can be that simple. What do you choose?

Copyright 2008

Jo Leonard is a spiritual adventurer. Her passion in life is to share the knowledge she has gathered after a lifetime of searching for God. She has traveled the world presenting consciousness-provoking talks and workshops to other like-minded seekers.

A published author, her writings, both non-fiction and fiction alike, are spiritually insightful and inspiring. Her day jobs have run the gamut from professional actress to conference planner to operating a commercial printing company. Engaging fully in life has been the grist mill of her personal refinement. She currently lives in Occoquan, Virginia with her husband and two Siamese cats.

To learn more about her, visit jeleonard.com

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