What Israel Has Taught Me About Stress
Israel just may be one of the most stressful places to live.
Many of us don’t feel that way when we’re going about our daily lives — it will only occur to us when we are leaving or re-entering the country. When I pay my yearly visit to Michigan, a long-forgotten sense of calm and spaciousness comes over me like a fresh waterfall — after all, I am in the midst of abundant Michigan sweet-water.
The minute I land back at Ben Gurion Airport, I realize I am entering a hot, humid pressure cooker. Is it the life I’m leading? Or is it something in the air? Seems like no matter how much my gentle Midwestern soul avoids the news or crowded spaces, the fact of the matter is that the dense energy of this country escapes no one.
Jerusalem Stress Relievers
Naturally, life in Israel holds many lessons on the issue of stress. One of these is the tendency to form oases of peace and quiet — places that may be used as a momentary escape from our crazy lives so we can re-enter them with replenished energy and resources.
A common strategy is leaving as often as possible — perhaps paying a periodic visit to Michigan or another location of choice. But there are more subtle oases. Almost 30 years ago, such a place was born in Jerusalem — a little school for the healing-art of Zen Shiatsu — the first of its kind in the country. These people, who have chosen to dedicate their time and energy to learning how they can improve their well-being and that of others, given the harsh conditions, are making a fine contribution to reducing the stress in people’s lives and helping others with stress-management.
So what about it? Is stress such a terrible thing? What if our lives were stress-free — would we be happier?
My view is that as modern people we live terribly stressful lives — not just in Israel, of course. We are competitive; we want everything fast. We are a production-oriented society. And we pay a high price for it. Just as we are draining our own personal resources by overworking ourselves; we are draining the Earth’s precious resources as well with our rampant production habits.
On the flip-side, we cannot grow without stress.
A tree’s roots grow deeper and stronger the more storms it has endured. Just a few years ago, Jerusalem endured a snowstorm that put the entire city on hold for several days. Many a trees collapsed beneath the weight of the snow because they never had the chance to build enough endurance in the region’s temperate climate to survive a full-fledged snowstorm.
Stress is relative. If we are a pine tree in Jerusalem, we’d better not take on a severe snowstorm all at once. But if we are a Michigan birch in Bloomfield Hills, perhaps our history and genetics immediately allow us to handle more than that Israeli pine can at first. Is one tree better than the other? Absolutely not. So we want just the right amount of stress to help us grow, without working ourselves to total exhaustion and draining our precious resources.
What is the right amount of stress for you? If you can find out, you’ll be doing yourself and the world a great service.