Stress is caused by being ‘here’, but wanting to be ‘there.’ Eckhart Tolle
Dear Ones, What is Stress? The dictionary defines stress as a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. But what does that really mean? This definition presupposes a stuck or static way of being, an affliction caused by something outside of ourselves. It doesn’t give us any access to resolving or expanding to meet these demanding circumstances. I want to suggest another definition that allows us to explore what’s behind the word and gives us access to the growth potential that is hidden within. This definition allows us to expand our capacity for working with what we might label as “demanding circumstances.” Stress simply means that something is “too much” to be contained within our current capacity, but too much of what?
Stress is always an invitation, either to integrate unconscious material that creates difficulties in our life, or to develop new capacities. Stress is an opportunity to change, develop, and grow. Thomas Hübl
For the past year I have been doing an hour of meditation each morning. Last month I increased that to 90 minutes a day. My first thought was, “I already have too much on my plate, isn’t this going to make my to do list even longer and my days shorter?” But, in fact just the opposite has happened. My practice begins with an embodiment meditation, I scan my body, not in my mind, I literally enter the interior spaciousness of my vessel. What I notice is that that there are some parts that are more alive, active and accessible than other parts. There are still some places within my body that I am still challenged to feel at all.
I am a trauma survivor, which often leads to a loss of connection with body-based sensations, movements, and feelings. I have been dancing for over 40 years and yet there are still areas of my body that were frozen through dissociation at an early age. For instance, it’s very difficult for me to take a full breath and my solar plexus remains tight and tense, likely a result of having a pillow put over my face by my mother when I cried as a baby. This constricted breathing has been improving with meditation and contemplation and I am finally starting to feel a sense of spaciousness in my lungs and chest. The result is that it is becoming easier to feel an interconnection with others when conflict, tension or fear arises. I’m also experiencing a greater sense of calm, clarity and grounded aliveness, which has left me with an expanded sense of belonging. Another gift from this practice of entering the physical body with awareness and acceptance is that I’m more able to read nonverbal cues from others and experience a greater feeling of connection. Since 90% or more of our communication is nonverbal, this is a very valuable skill..
Embodied self-awareness is a direct encounter with inner knowledge while conceptual self-awareness is a secondhand description of past perception. Sharon Stanley
For over 30 years I worked in the corporate world - I used to say that I worked with heads on sticks - people seemed to primarily use their body to carry their heads from one meeting to the next - and often only have a conceptual awareness of their inner body, based on memories from the past. A direct encounter with the body means that we explore the sensations, feelings and spacious interiority of our physicalness. Being with our sensations leads us to develop a greater capacity to experience empathy and compassion towards others and ourselves,as a reality, not as a concept. By accepting and opening to our bodily experiences, as they are in the moment, we can give ourselves the acceptance and compassion we often look outwards to others to receive.
When we enter into an embodied state we discover that our thoughts have an impact on our physicality. Removing the label stress from our experience, opens us to the possibility of authentic embodied awareness, an opportunity to meet and greet the actual sensations, emotions and tight or frozen places in our bodies as they are... This also reveals the places where we have suppressed or dissociated parts of our essence, our essential soul self. In this way we transform the concept of stress and access our unexpressed potential which expands into the experience of greater spaciousness and an expanding ability to be with greater complexity and challenges in our lives.
You can’t always control what goes on outside, but you can always control what goes on inside. Wayne Dyer
We act as though our stress is caused by the outer circumstances of the world, but this is never true. It is only our reactions from the past that create stress. In the moment, everything is just the way it is and is not! Our job as evolutionary mystics (you didn’t know you were one did you?) is to embrace and love what is arising moment to moment. So, anytime there is stress, conflict, overwhelm or anxiety, rather than avoid or suppress it through distraction, addiction or fantasy, we have the opportunity to stop, breathe and embrace whatever is arising; to just be with it, without trying to change anything. In this way we create the conditions for change to emerge naturally and organically. Change doesn’t come from trying to be what we are not, it comes from embracing who we are and what is going on in the moment. Then the conditions for meaningful change emerge from the spacious clarity of allowing our authentic selves to emerge. We can open our inner world capacity to regulate and choose our life in relationship to the circumstances of the external world.
Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are. Chinese proverb
Over the next few months I will be doing a series of talks and workshops on Transforming Stress into Opportunities for Evolutionary Growth. I hope you will listen in or join us for one of these events. They will be in Vancouver, Gibsons BC, Seattle and online. Our stress, anxiety and overwhelm reinforces our sense of separation. This feeling of being separate is at the heart of all suffering in the world. We hope you will join us in creating the conditions for real evolutionary change to take place in ourselves and our world.
Infinite love and boundless blessings, Michael & Meriel
"If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold onto." ~ Tao Te Ching