I think my journey into mindfulness practice has helped me to develop inner calm and assuredness and so the subject is personal to me.
Managing Stress, Fear, Anger
You only need to sit quietly and recall a moderately stressful situation that you experienced in the past and the reaction that it has on your body should be enough to convince you of mind and body interconnectedness. For me one of the stressful recalls is sitting school examinations. In fact if I fall asleep while feeling disoriented or disturbed about my work, my dreams at night are likely to reflect this dis-ease in a way related to examination preparation or a test situation. This is the mind at work, relating my present disquiet to a recorded subconscious fear which I have probably not overcome but have simply stuffed away. Persons who are exposed to teachings of the Science of Mind (ref ‘The Science of Mind – A philosophy, A Faith, A Way of Life’ by Ernest Holmes) will not be surprised by this inference.
Mindfulness & Meditation May Clear the Black Clouds of Stress, Fear and Anger
We Can Be Active Participants In Managing Our Stress
We can do a great deal to manage our stress in natural ways by taking actions upon ourselves. Ernest Holmes in his discussion on the oft repeated mantra - thoughts are things - says “We must become actively constructive and happy in our thinking, not merely passively so. New and wholesome ideas of life, vitality, and hope must be accepted and incorporated into the sub-stream of our mental life, so that a more wholesome externalization may manifest in our bodily condition and environment”. Since more often than not we are unable to re-engineer the situations that we find stressful, it may be more prudent to consider instead, actively changing our perspective of it and thus our reaction to it.
Three Approaches to Being Actively Involved in Managing Stress :
- Mindfulness and Meditation
- Gratitude and The Spirit of Giving
Forgiving Is A Beautiful Feeling
First - Mindfulness And Meditation in Managing Stress
I have taken mindfulness and meditation together because they are closely related. In fact mindfulness is regarded by many as a form of meditation or an entrance into meditation. They both focus on inner calm, inner peace, conscious awareness, mental and spiritual development.
Can We Avoid Stress?
My mother was ninety-six years old in February. She is a happy and active participant in her own living, and in the life of the rural community in which she lives. In fact last year she was on a Caribbean Cruise much to the amazement of my friends but not her family who know her well. She has a zest for life untypical of the very old. And she is also the epitome of gentleness, kindness and forgivingness. She is never angry, never accusatory and almost always willing, and indeed able, to see the good side of a person or situation. She is excited about all the little gifts of life that surround her – the flowers, her fruit tree blooms, the village kids, the newly arrived kittens, the successes of her neighbors. So I ask myself – Does one’s inherent persona contribute fundamentally to one’s quality of wellness and by extension one's ability to evade stress?
Steve Jobs Found Value In Meditation
Qualities Antithesis to Stress Build-up
Recently in one of our think tank sessions at the Temple of Light Centre for Spiritual Living (my church home), our group was asked to reflect on our ‘being-ness’ by identifying the two or three persons who first came to minds for having the personal attributes to which we are most attracted. No age, gender or special accomplishment needed to be attached to the choice. I immediately thought of my mother for the attribute of unconditional appreciation of people, and of life in general. My next choice was my seven year old grand-nephew, Dan. He is precocious, fearless, decisive and true to his feelings. Consequently he cannot be bribed with sweets, chocolate and other goodies, into doing what he would rather not do. The attributes which came to mind in thinking of Dan are honesty and authenticity.
It seems to me that these characteristics – one demonstrated here in the young and the other in the old – are antithesis to stress build-up. However most of us have personalities and lifestyles that are far more susceptible to stress brought on by our daily involvement in living and being, and the fears brought on by life’s incidents. Fear and stress are intrinsically connected. Fear creates stress and stress eventually leads to fear. Our Western societies have responded by generating books, workshops and psychologist to assist us through this troubling state of being. But there are steps that we can take in our own personal lives.
Love Outshines The Darkness of Fear
Mindfulness And You
Mindfulness is about being in the moment, living the awareness of your physical body and its immediate environs. Have you ever driven thirty minutes from home to work and on arriving you almost have to exclaim, ‘Oh am I here already?’ having not been aware of anything along the journey. This is an example of mindlessness. Mindfulness brings you into conscious awareness of the present, the intake and outlet of your breadth, the beat of your heart, the weight of your body seated on the chair, the feel of the earth on your bare feet, the chirp of a robin in the tree above, the wind on your arms, the young man standing at the street intersection begging for a dollar. But mindfulness also empowers you to take charge of your emotions, your fears, your anger.
Mindfulness - A Stress And Anxiety Coping Strategy
The topic has become as central to modern science as it has always been in the teachings of spirituality. Today psychologists and spiritualists are exploring more than ever before the close interconnectedness between mind and body and how meditation and mindfulness can be used as a stress and anxiety coping strategy to assist people in handling strong emotions successfully, and to become more accepting of themselves. MBSR - Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction – is an established program founded initially by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, devised to help patients to reduce the emotion of stress and to better cope with stressful situations.
Tessa Watt in her book ‘Mindfulness A Practical Guide’ describes the purpose of the practice of mindfulness. Here are two excerpts asserting why attention needs to be paid to mind-body interconnectedness : “1. To become more aware of your emotions and how they manifest as physical sensations – as you gradually let yourself feel the difficult sensations and emotions, you will discover you can handle them and that you don’t have to repress them or act on them. [And] 2. To rediscover the body as a home – a place you can trust and come back to. You can re-inhabit the body and feel its natural qualities of groundedness and stability”.
Re-establishing ones groundedness and inner stability create strengths against fear and stress.
Book - Mindfulness
My Introduction To The Practice of Mindfulness
My early introduction into the practice of mindfulness was associated with my yoga classes, over twenty-five years ago. I had no name for it at the time but I always looked forward to the final six or seven minutes of the class when our yoga instructor would conduct the session I now think of as focused mental awareness. I never thought to ask questions about it. All I knew was that it created a calming experience on body and mind – you almost wanted to linger in the experience. We would lie stretched out on our backs, palms up-turned, eyes closed, bodies completely relaxed having gone through minutes of deep breathing followed by mental relaxation exercises. Then our instructor would repeat in a slow lazy voice, combinations of the following statements - “…mentally relax your body; relax your mind; relax; become aware of the sounds around you - the near sounds, the far sounds, all sounds, the soft sounds, loud sounds, sounds in the room, your breath, all sounds, Just be aware as they come and go. Notice the new sounds, become aware of all sounds”. There was one student in particular who often fell asleep, (indicated by the sound of a low rumbling snore) and at the end of the exercise I would touch her gently as she was usually lying next to me. I had no name for this practice and even though it had this refreshing effect it did not occur to me that this was a practice that I could develop and use in my daily life until about four years ago when I discovered the philosophy and practice called mindfulness.
Your Mind Is The Primary Culprit
Our Minds Help to Create the Fear And Stress that Manifest in our Bodies
Our minds can be exhausting. We are constantly regurgitating the hurt, the pain and fears of our recent as well as our long past history. We dwell on thoughts of being wronged by our loved ones, on missed opportunities, unrealised successes, unbearable interactions that we feel compelled to face from day to day in the workplace and in our social spheres. Dr Carolyn Myss in her book ‘The Anatomy of the Spirit’ talks about our emotional energy field that is created by both positive and negative experiences and which influences or manifests as unwell physical body reactions. She states “ … your biography – that is the experiences that make up your life – becomes your biology”. Practice in meditation is in reality a practice in befriending yourself, loving the person inside you, finding your positive energy thus developing your inner strength and knowingness.
As Inheritors of God's Kingdom We Should Have Dominion Not Fear And Stress
If we were truly aware of the fact that we are the children of God and therefore inheritors of His universal goodness – love, joy, abundance, freedom, peace of mind – then isn’t it logical to imagine that fear, stress, lack, unease could be overcome by conscious actions on our part to become more spiritually aligned to God the Universal, individualized as the consciousness within?
Mindfulness and meditation are both associated with the practice of bringing the mind to a state of restfulness, and to a closer awareness of the Godliness in us. Both practices create periods of respite from the turmoil of thought and activity replacing this with mental rest and refreshment. For me the difference in the two practices lies in the nature of the practice. My mindfulness practice is typically done outdoors for about 10 – 12 minutes at a time, whereas meditation is a formal, indoor, quiet, exercise for 20 minutes or more.
The Temple Labyrinth - A Meditation Space
About Meditation Labyrinth
Our Temple Labyrinth pictured above is used as a space for walking meditation, mindfulness practice and prayer. It serves as an outdoor experiential space available to anyone who feels the need to commune with the Godliness within or to connect with Universal Consciousness.
Our Ministry of Peace invites members of the community to a labyrinth 'walk for peace' on the first Wednesday of every months at 5:30 p.m.
Next - Gratitude and Generosity in Managing Stress
Gratitude is not just an expression of thankfulness but also an experience of humility. One should be able to express gratitude for the fullness of life’s experience even when that experience is considered to be ‘bad news’. Every experience creates an underlying lesson to be learnt. It is often said “You learn more from your failures than your successes”. I wrote this statement in a nicely constructed text to my daughter recently when she became distraught and angry over a business partnership which went sour, seemingly suddenly. In fact when she was out of the country on vacation her partners got together and voted her out of the partnership. As I contemplated this statement I felt a lot more at ease over what I at first had labelled “injustice” and “coup behaviour”, and this brought me to a level of understanding where I could analyse the lessons to be learnt and even the positive fact the she was being freed to explore avenues which she had not had the time to consider in the past. Slowly but surely she began to take on this perspective herself and is now looking forward to the next adventure already on the horizon. If we allow ourselves to overcome our self-esteem (and indeed our self-deprecation) over a failure, we are able to recognize the lessons therein. Florence Scovel Shinn says “Man often suffers loss through lack of appreciation”.
Gratitude opens you to the ability to receive more and greater good whether physical, spiritual, love, joy, happiness, or just a healthy positive feeling about yourself.
Jars of Generosity
We Live In An Opulent Universe
I think that gratitude and generosity are bedfellows. It seems to me that when you are grateful for the many gifts of life, large and small, the natural expression is to give in return. We live in an opulent universe which is forever giving to us - love , family, the generosity of friends, money substance, food harvest, the natural beauties of the universe – and as we receive so should we give and more even. It has been said that giving and receiving are two sides of the same coin and in my view giving / receiving is the avenue through which each of us partakes in and of this opulence. Michael Beckwith suggests in his book Spiritual Liberation that you should begin your day with the question “how can I give of myself today?” In his view the act of sharing ones skills, talents, time and energy and resources with others creates a nobleness of spirit and opens your heart and mind to the goodness of the universe through positive energy flow. Beckwith says “I speak from experience when I say the Spirit works through givers in ways beyond imagining”. Thus gratitude and generosity create a heart and a mind that are open, receptive, joyful and in synchronicity with the universe of people and things.
Our ability to manage stress fear and anger is closely related to our willingness to expunge the toxic energy created by these emotions, replacing it with positive re-enforcement about ourselves, through actions we take on ourselves.
Finally - Forgiveness Relieves Stress, Fear And Anger
The power of Forgiveness is liberating because it removes the toxic energy which creates stress and fear. I have listened to a number of stories about the changes in life which occur after forgiveness, and I am convinced that un-forgiveness is possibly the single most toxic emotion we cradle. It is unfortunate that so many of us do not realize that it is the un-forgiver who is truly being hurt in the un-forgiveness relationship.
When you decide to forgive it can be simply a conversation with yourself, a decision to let go of the hurt feeling. But because I believe that some form of manifestation or definitive action can be powerful in relieving the emotion, I suggest the act of reaching out to the supposed offender by some form of communication.
Let us recognize also the overarching need for self-forgiveness. So often the act of forgiveness can't manifest because we are unable to first forgive ourselves of our part of the involvement.
Jesus encouraged us to forgive seventy times seven but I think he simply meant - always.