The world has gotten so overwhelming lately. Staying balanced has taken a focused plan and a commitment to work the plan. Over the last seven months, my list of activities to keep balanced has gone through multiple revisions. I added and subtracted activities as I figured out which ones helped keep me positive. Many activities have been able to maintain their position on the list. One of the activities has been my favorite and most effective go-to activity. Let’s look at the activities.

One of those that has stayed on the list is meditation. I love meditation. There are so many different ways to meditate, and each method addresses another aspect of my life.

But, I can tell you, it was just a few years ago when my life was in a tailspin. The stress and anxiety were so bad. I couldn’t keep a thought in my head. The idea of trying to meditate was unrealistic because I couldn’t quiet down.

I had to figure out what I could do to help find my way out of the overwhelming stress and anxiety levels. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I was caregiving 24×7 for my mother, taking care of my sister as her cancer slowly consumed her, running a business, and in a legal battle on my mother’s affairs. I was overwhelmed, and every time I thought it couldn’t get any worse, another shoe would drop.

I added a new task to my positive list. I required that I find the silver lining. I would say to myself, “What is the silver lining in this experience?” I found a study on stress when I was trying to survive the cyclone of emotions. The study stated stress management skills would equip me for future stressors. In the future, these skills would allow me to handle stress effectively while maintaining my health.

When things took a turn for the worse, and I was sure I could not bear much more, I would say, “What is the silver lining in this experience?” Sometimes it would be as simple as not losing my mom in the store. That task of forcing myself to look for the silver lining in a bleak world helped keep me positive.

Yet, sometimes, that was not enough. I am forever grateful for my practice and education in Chinese Medicine. Through Chinese Medicine, I was able to find the activity which worked the best at helping me break the cycle of stress. A walk in nature.

In Chinese Medicine, there is a theory called the Five Element theory. The classical writers in the medicine talked about the Five Elements, and how nature was the most constructive teacher. I loved that the old texts said you didn’t have to find a guru to understand the Elements. You just had to sit in nature.

In the Five Element Theory, the different emotions are identified and associated with separate parts of nature. I remember when I was caregiving for my mother. I would be sitting in the car with my mother. She would gaze up at the sky and be in awe at how beautiful the clouds were. I could hear how lost she felt.

I had become her caregiver and unfortunate jailer. My mom had just lost her companion of 20 years. She had put in a strong fight to keep him alive. The two of them were so independent and wild.

With his passing, her life completely changed, and she had to move in with her children, a task she never had wanted to do. Grief had become her constant companion. In the Five Element Theory, grief is associated with open skies, almost as if space would allow you to let your grief fly away like a dove.

With each passing day, my mother would slip further and further away. Age and life were changing her. The person I grew up with was no longer there. My sister was slipping away, too. Breast cancer had become her constant companion, and she was on a trial drug that would be her last.

The hardest and richest thing I did was walk alongside my loved ones as they faced the end of their lives. I felt overwhelmed with the duty and responsibility they gave me. Anxiety had crept on top of the grief, and I wasn’t sleeping.

Five Element theory came to my rescue again. My husband and I packed up my mom and headed to the ocean for a long weekend. The wide-open sky helped dissolve my grief while the heavy expanse of water helped calm my agitation and restlessness. My husband watched my mom as I slipped out into the soft beach grass that enveloped the rolling dunes. It was the first time I had been able to sit down and unwind in months. I was finally able to meditate.

I had run across the work by Dr. Valerie Hunt, a Professor Emeritus of the Department of Physiological Sciences at UCLA. She spent her career studying Auras and Chakras. She went to China to study acupuncture and better understand why Chinese Medical healers were successful. You can find her work on the web today. It was her pictures on Auras that captured my attention. I remember her images of a person sitting in nature. Out of all her shots, those pictures in nature had the biggest aura.

When I had gone out to the ocean that weekend, that was the first time I had chosen nature based on the Five Element theory. I had found as my anxiety continued to escalate, I needed big water to help cool down that fire within. The process of helping my mother and sister walk their final path was crippling me with unexpressed grief. I needed as much open sky as possible to be able to breathe. I sat in the tall reeds, and within a half-hour, I had found myself again.

I took those lessons forward with me today. My nature selection is a little different today. The stress and anxiety are coming from another place. I feel more ungrounded today and unbalanced. These emotions pull me into the forests to get swallowed in the depths of the trees. The larger the trees, the more relaxed and grounded I feel.

Nature is so much wiser than me. Today, when I walk under the enormous Dougfir or Cedar trees of the Pacific Northwest, it feels like I’m walking with the sages of ancient China. As I spend more and more time searching for my face before birth, I love that the gurus of the past pointed me in a direction to help find my fate.