A friend sent a definition of stress, as defined by one of her former housemates, that goes as follows: Stress is the pressure that one experiences automatically in reaction to the perceived expectations of others.
I loved this conception of stress because it enables one to see how the source of stress lies within us. We are the one’s perceiving the expectations of others, we are the one’s having the automatic response to those expectations, and we are the one’s experiencing the pressure of those automatic responses. Thus, if the experience of stress lies within us, so to does the solution.
Like most things though, knowing the truth of something and actually being able to act upon that knowledge are two different things. More often than not, the action required is more challenging that the information acquired. This is where the second piece of wisdom of the week comes in.
In an article I read about mindfulness and health, the author suggested the best way to combat one’s vices was not through efforts requiring great will power or strength. Instead, the reader was invited to simply sit with and become present to the various thoughts, feelings, and sensations that come up as one engaged with the less than favorable behavior. The idea being that if we are able to be completely present – instead of lost in the thoughts of judgment, guilt, blame, or shame – we might better be able to see the implications and consequences of our actions immediately and further down the road. Thereby leaving the individual not only less stressed about his/her decisions, but also in an empowered state of choice.
So the question that I have for you, the question I am working towards answering myself, is what do you wish, with all your might, you could stop doing? This behavior might an attempt to control everything around you in order to feel safe. It might be the tendency to hang back and to relinquish all sense of personal responsibility and autonomy. It might be the tendency to react to everything as though it was a personal assault on your character. Or it might be to accept everything another person says as gospel? Whatever it is for you, can you begin to become present to the action and notice what happens? Begin to notice the possible effects these choices are having within your life?
Remember: These questions are not intended to insight guilt, shame, or critique. The purpose is solely to observe the natural course of events that follow a given behavior.
As you continue to say with this observation, begin to notice how you feel within your body. What physical effects are your actions having on you? How does doing this thing, whatever it is, making you feel? Where does it reside in your body? What effect/impact does that sensation have on other aspects of your physical, energetic, emotional, and spiritual body?
Again: The goal of this exercise is not to inflict additional pain on ourselves through judgment. It is simply a tool to help us realize where we are, what we are doing, and ask whether what we are doing is really serving the need we’d hoped it would.
Take a few moments to stay with this meditation, allowing some gentle breath to cleanse the body. Once you are done, feel free to note any insights you may have had.