Stress Stops with Love
In 2007, British psychologist Cary Cooper called stress the modern day Black Death, and nearly 10 years later, it seems this epidemic has yet to peak.
Sure, we're reading all sorts of easily digestible blurbs on the importance of exercise, breathing, healthy eating, and screen-free time. But all of these positive components serve simply to keep us up and running, rather than healing and thriving.
We're encouraged to throw meditation into the mix. Like yoga, and hiking, and journalling, it can do wonders to reduce stress. Mindfulness-based practices are the bedrock of the practice and hold tremendous potential for transformation. I believe that there are two other things that we need to cultivate if we are going to thrive in this modern web of gadgets and information:
Time and Compassion
By time I mean spaciousness and relaxation. The kind that comes only with time. Time spent staring at the sky through the leaves of a tree, time spent lounging around without a device, time spent wandering, day dreaming, enjoying simple pleasures, and nourishing the body.
By compassion I mean the sincere understanding that we are all connected. Your bad moods affect me, and mine affect you. My relaxation can make you more relaxed. Your dedication to taking care of yourself, to learning how to better cope with your anxieties and fears, makes my life easier, and vise-versa.
Cultivating compassion starts with this intellectual realization that we are all deeply connected, despite how isolated we feel when we are upset. We all want to avoid suffering, and we generally go about it in ways that makes us suffer more. And we all want to be happy, but we generally chase happiness in ways that make us feel empty. We're all in the same boat, and we're all trying our best.
Meditation: Bring to mind something that has bothered you in the past 2 days. Replay the situation briefly in your head, and notice any physical sensations that arise. A pit in your stomach or throat, increased body temperature, tension in your shoulders, the desire to slump, etc. Feel your breath, and simply notice the sensations from a spacious, relaxed place. Use your breath to bring more space into your body and mind. Now bring to mind the person involved. Recall that like you, they are trying their best to avoid suffering (and probably creating more suffering in the process). Feel how much you want to be happy. Howe much you want to feel relaxed and loved. And know that deep down, this person desperately wants the same thing. Now check back in with your physical body, and notice how you feel about the upsetting exchange. Continue to create space with your breath, and notice if anything has changed in your internal landscape? Do you feel more understanding toward this person?
Megan Mook's MNDFL class notes. Sept 26, 2016.