Giving you the drum…

“Tight as a drum” is an old saying, easily recognised by my readers as meaning ‘all tensed up’. Drummers will tell you the golden rule: ’Over-tightening will only stress and damage the instrument’. I have learned that the same rule also applies to us!

Recently I attended a small group session on-line when we were encouraged to recognise and avoid the consequence of ‘over-stress’. It’s quite normal that we feel stress in every aspect of our lives, and that’s OK. Some stress can sharpen our minds and, like a violin string, produce a beautifully correct outcome! It’s the ‘over’ part that’s the problem! Constant over-worrying, sadness, depression, or just being miserable is not only detrimental to our health it is also socially disastrous. Who wants to be in the company of someone full of misery about themselves? At times we all need to find a way out of that abyss when we can only see and feel worthlessness and insecurity; but it’s not easy, is it? That’s why I was heartened to think ‘outside the square’- or that bottomless pit! Because it’s true, isn’t it, that when we are feeling down it feeds on itself, becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy, and we become trapped there: the sadder I feel, the sadder I get.

The session suggested what should be obvious: that we learn to stop and take time out. To find a way to still our mind by simply concentrating on something outside of ourselves, to focus on an object or a space; to concentrate and visualise – anything. Try it! It does require a mental effort and a mindful step. I took that first step when I joined a small group of like-minded people and accepted some professional guidance. The result is that I now have a simple technique that helps me regain and restore a degree of normality, or at least sociability, when otherwise I might feel like crawling under a rock!

The method is like a self-administered tonic. No drugs, no pills. The key word is ‘stop’. Stop and clear your mind; stop every internal and external thought and current influence and simply focus on some ‘thing’ or object close by, or outside through the window. Sounds easy, eh? Stop frowning, clear your mind, and try it! So easy, and it works! Now you know my closely guarded non-secret, you can do it! Just stop. Sit comfortably and relax. It’s like taking your mind on a holiday, away from imagined pressing realities and necessities. The world kept spinning didn’t it?

With a settled mind and optionally with your eyes closed it becomes possible to ‘visualise’ – and that’s the key word. What you visualise in your mind’s eye can be anything – your choice. In my case, with eyes open I focussed on the gently waving tips of a nearby gum tree. Another participant explained later they thought about (with closed eyes!) the seashore, the smooth sand, and gentle breakers. Our facilitator used that scenario to then verbally take us down deep into the ocean, to a place where the surface turbulence was stilled, where it was peaceful and quiet. After we’d totally relaxed, and with a clear mind, we could take control of our upward journey again, back to reality. Refreshed and calm, not frowning and tensed. Maybe that won’t last…but we can go back, any time…..…..

That mental exercise demonstrated how we are totally capable of being in control; that our muddled minds can be gentler, relaxed, and competent, not mentally compromised, and certainly not stressed. We simply need to be self-aware. Aware of the destructiveness of tension and stress, which only feeds on itself.

So, from this point on I will try to not be a ‘frenzied friend’ who is no fun to be with. I’ll try to remember that a drum is a necessary part of a band and works best, like us all, when it’s not over-tight! I also learned at that session to value the ‘sounds of silence’……..