Smile of contentment

Her smile beckons me; it is captivating, friendly and full of warmth. She cuts the paddy stalks rhythmically with the other womenfolk labouring under the harsh afternoon sun. They giggle as i wave out to them and ask if i can join them in their work. The woman with the warm smile shyly points out that such hard work is not for the likes of me. The rest start laughing. I too join in the laughter, in response to the simple truth of my inability to swiftly cut paddy stalks with the sun burning my back. Theres so much hard work, harsh circumstances , and little leisure in this remote tribal hamlet. Later she speaks to me about her life cheerfully with no trace of the grim circumstances that engulf her. She connects with a smile of contentment.

Happy responses to lifes travails are confounding. Is this a mindset that has decided to quietly accept what life has to offer as ones destiny or a smiling dare you to challenging circumstances Surely it is the latter. In each one of us is the innate desire to connect to our circumstances, share moments from our life with another and brave it out. That is the inner core from where each one of us draws energy to live life through hard times.

A smile reflects whats inside us and communicates our desire to experience connectedness with another.
Smiling at another is a fleeting moment, but sublime nevertheless. Contentment is a natural outcome of engaging in such moments. Leading a meager existence is not very appealing. Despite that, with few resources to indulge in materialistic extravagances, there is a simple understanding among these people on the endless bounty of connecting to others and finding contentment.

At the other extreme, the modern world is all set on a great march to fulfill an ever-demanding cycle of needs. Rushing past our fellow travelers, there is forgetfulness in our behavior, little attempt to connect, fear of looking in the eye and displaying feelings. But the deep reservoir of emotions within us is waiting to connect. It is in anguish at not being able to express. And in anguish, there is little scope for contentment. Contentment becomes most elusive, and ironically becomes a never-ending search for all of us. In this elusive search, several paths are explored in the hope to somersault into a life of deep contentment . Whether or not one makes it to that point of bliss becomes inconsequential if it means sidestepping connectedness with fellow beings. For even if the need to connect for the exalted soul becomes less important , there are many who crave for a connection with another being as a means to walking the path of contentment.

It is said that all beings are one, but that they manifest in different forms, and scientific studies have proven that life forms of all kinds respond to warmth and make an effort to connect. It must be this fundamental connectedness that beckons me to the warm smile of a total stranger in a remote tribal hamlet. The lighting up of a face with an exuberant smile, the brushing aside of the daily tirades of life and taking the circumstances as a given is nothing but the opening up of our souls to the many opportunities of exulting in this moment of existence. Then why the search Connecting with a smile is perhaps a way to finding ourselves in a state of contentment.

Stressed? Who, Me?

Signs and symptoms

It is important to understand what is happening on a physiological level when you are feeling stressed.When you are feeling stressed your brain perceives a threat and the fight or flight response is triggered. In a potentially threatening situation this response is invaluable and may save your life or the life of another. However, living in this state of heightened arousal (which short or long-term stressful events can generate) is not good for you and your body may begin to signal this to you in a variety of ways.

Physical

Physical symptoms experienced include:
✦ a pounding heart
✦ elevated blood pressure
✦ sweaty palms
✦ tightness of chest
✦ aching neck, jaw and back muscles
✦ headache
✦ chest pains
✦ abdominal cramps
✦ nausea
✦ trembling
✦ sleep disturbance
✦ tiredness
✦ susceptibility to minor illness
✦ itching
✦ easily startled
✦ forgetfulness.

Thoughts

You may experience:
✦ your mind racing or going blank
✦ not being able to ‘switch off ’
✦ a lack of attention to detail
✦ your self esteem and confidence plummeting
✦ disorganised thoughts
✦ a diminished sense of meaning in life
✦ a lack of control or the need for too much control
✦ negative self statements and negative evaluation
✦ difficulty in making decisions
✦ a loss of perspective.
You may be:
✦ making ‘mountains out of molehills’
✦ driving yourself too hard with ‘I must do this, ought to do that, should do the other’ or demanding too much of others as well as yourself.

Behaviors

You may:
✦ become withdrawn and not want to socialise
✦ increase your alcohol, nicotine or drugs intake
✦ under eat or over eat
✦ become accident prone and careless
✦ become impatient, aggressive or compulsive – pacing, fidgeting, swearing, blaming, throwing and hitting!
✦ work longer hours – not take breaks, take work home, procrastinate with important projects, take the ‘headless chicken’ approach when under pressure, and manage time poorly
✦ no longer have time for leisure activities.

Feelings

You may feel:
✦ irritable
✦ angry
✦ depressed
✦ jealous
✦ restless
✦ anxious
✦ unreal or hyper alert
✦ unnecessarily guilty.
You may experience:
✦ panic
✦ mood swings, crying easily.

Thank goodness you won’t experience all of these symptoms all of the time! Individual responses to stress vary, so you may experience some of these some of the time.This will be your body’s way of saying that you are overdoing things and it is time to reflect and take action in order to reduce and manage the stress response.