Beasts of Burden: What Camels Can Teach Us About Relieving Stress

Cast your cares down.Cast your cares down.

While my family and I were in Egypt, we rode camels several times. Our guide warned me, but I still had no idea how cantankerous these desert beasts can be. They are peaceful, as long as they are walking. The moment a camel is asked to sit down or stand up, he will put up the biggest, crankiest, most stubborn fight.

The camel would rather keep walking with the heavy burden on his back than go through the effort of sitting. In the middle of all this hands-on experience, one of my dearest friends-Amie Dockery, an amazing teacher and pastor in Texas, emailed me.

"Me Ra, I keep picturing the etymology of the Bible verse, "Cast your cares on Him, for He cares for you." The root word translation of the word "cast" in this verse is taken from the meaning of a camel who gets down on its knees and then rolls over to one side, rolling the burdens (baggage) from its back … Perhaps because you are in Egypt near camels or maybe because I sense you are burdened."

I cried when I read her email.

All of us are carrying burdens. In some sense, many of these burdens are the crosses we bear, whether it's financial stress, health, sickness, loss, strained relationships with loved ones, the list goes on and on. We want to cast our cares, have faith and firmly believe that every thing will work out - all our fears will be okay. But the casting is much harder than we'd like to admit.

After reading her email, I identified with the camel because the truth is that I would often rather keep plowing through my own deserts, with my burdens heavy on my back, a weight I've grown accustomed to carrying - than risk resting. When you are plowing through the desert, at least you feel like you are going somewhere.

Related: 20 little ways to de-stress throughout the day

Right? And then I read Paulo Coelho's words in The Alchemist:

"Tomorrow, sell your camels and buy a horse. Camels are traitorous: they walk thousands of paces and never seem to tire. Then suddenly, they kneel and die. But horses tire bit by bit. You always know how much you can ask of them, and when it is that they are about to die."

These words wake up my foolish thinking - the traitorous pride inside me. I can't plow through any desert without rest, no matter how much I convince myself and the world around me that I'm not tired.

Jeff Jochum, one of my long time mentors, once said to me: "Me Ra, you need to always remind yourself that you are the boss. You decided to run your own business because you wanted to be the boss. But like most small business owners, the business starts to dictate your time and you feel like you are working for the business - a slave to it versus the business working for you. When this happens, you need to find the most high pressured moment of your week, and go see a movie - go rest - in the middle of the day. Tell only Brian and escape, and by doing so you show yourself that the world will not come to an end if if you rest. That you can walk away for two, three hours, and everyone will still be waiting when you come back. The demands will still be there, but you will have been refreshed."

The most comical part of this advice is when I did this for the first time, actually went to a movie in the middle of the day, by myself, in the middle of the week, I almost had a panic attack. I truly thought that if I took those two hours off, at the peak of the stress that week, everything we'd built would POOF. It took half the movie before I stopped breathing into a paper brown bag. The "one" other person in the theater must have thought I was nuts. (There wasn't really a paper brown bag, but you get it.)

There are some seasons in life when I feel like I'm living the truths of having faith, believing, trusting and resting with ease. And then there are other seasons when I must remind myself multiple times through the day that this burden is to heavy to carry without rest. What is most striking is that only when I risk casting my cares do I experience being cared for.

- By Me Ra Koh
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