Stress is caused by being ‘here' but wanting to be ‘there’. Eckhart Tolle
What irony, I’ve scheduled a course on transforming stress, and I'm having an extremely stressful day and week. Today my landlady came pounding on my door to give me eviction papers, while I was being interviewed on a live talk show, which she was aware of. I just returned from searching for a home in the Kootenays and it turns out that the paint job on my brand new Prius was destroyed by snow and road sand. Plus my current already busy schedule seems totally out of control. Ah! My breath is restricted, I feel exhausted, disorientated, confused, my body is tense and aches all over and my stomach is upset. All stress symptoms. What a perfect time to write about stress and discover its gifts!
Stress is a word that really doesn’t give us any access to healing, rather it tends to obfuscate what’s really going on. It’s like saying I’m sick, ‘Oh you’re sick, do you have a cold or stage 4 cancer?’ Stress is the same type of word. It only makes us more anxious when we say, ‘I’m stressed’! So, what is stress really? When we say I’m stressed we’re saying that my current capacity is insufficient to meet the challenges in my life at this moment. So stress is really an issue of capacity. Capacity is directly related to cultivating inner spaciousness which is a product of physical, emotional, and mental maturity and alignment. This is available to us through the practice of meditation, contemplation, and a commitment to our spiritual development.
Maturity has to do with developing the capacity to witness and stay present…Thomas Hubl
Many of you have meditated with me or been in one of my meditation workshops. Most of us have a distorted view of meditation. We have the belief that it will calm us down and take us into higher states of bliss and equanimity. Which it certainly can do, but the most important thing about meditation is that it creates inner spaciousness. We live in a frenetic and fragmented world where things like war, abuse, separation, and inequality have become seen as normal and inevitable. We have all had experiences from the past that were scary, hurtful, and a threat to our survival, at least the survival of our identity. Our very intelligent nervous system, in its innate wisdom, protects us from overwhelming situations and fragments off parts of our essential goodness and wholeness. These experiences from the past become unintegrated and frozen in our bodies. Meditation creates the inner spaciousness for us to be able to meet and integrate these unwanted and undigested parts from the past. This process can be very scary and overwhelming. The nervous system keeps the suppressed parts hidden until we create enough space to safely embrace, witness, and love them. In meditation, we ground and open to our essential goodness as we expand our ability to lean into and meet these unwanted parts of our suppressed selves. We can learn to presence, witness, and embrace them with training and practice. In doing this we can learn to self-regulate ourselves when powerful experiences from the past arise. We can meet them with love and embrace these disowned parts which bring us into a greater state of wholeness, harmony and expanded awareness. Sometimes we need to have someone else to help us to co-regulate and hold our hand when the process gets too overwhelming.
In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers. Fred Rogers
The Buddhists have a wonderful term called interdependent co-arising, which speaks to the idea that we are all coevolving with each other, nature, and all the elementals as well as the unseen forces of the universe. In terms of evolving beyond the stress, anxiety, and overwhelm, it means that by becoming more attuned to each other we can learn to coregulate our stress and expand the limits of our perception thereby creating both more inner and outer spaciousness. When I become attuned to my interior landscape and aligned in my physical, emotional, mental, and relational awareness, I create the safety and space to digest the unintegrated parts that have been frozen in time.
My experience with teaching classes and workshops is that powerful healing can happen and be accelerated in a group setting, especially when the participants feel safe enough to feel unsafe. In this kind of spiritual sanga we can deepen what Thich Nhat Hahn calls inter-being. This allows our nervous system to identify others, who appear separate, sometimes at great distances over the internet, to experience the other person as a wave inside their nervous system. Experiencing each other in our interior reveals the boundaries of our own personal narrative, creating an opportunity to experience expanded awareness and a greater sense of self. A safely held group container helps to dissolve the myth of separation and opens up the possibility of deeper states of love and compassion...
Our stresses, anxieties, pains, and problems arise because we do not see the world, others, or even ourselves as worthy of love. Prem Prakash
So how do we transform the stress in our lives? We learn to love those things that we believe are causing us stress. If we can’t do that we learn to love not being able to love the source of our overwhelming stress. To love is to bring ourselves into a state of immediate presence and let go of the way it “should” be. When we meet things as they are, and embrace them with our awareness, the hard edges of our identity will soften and we expand our capacity to embrace and love the unwanted parts of ourselves. The mind may still want to grasp onto the upset or difficulties, so we breathe, attune with the body, feel the emotions and ground ourselves in the present moment.
Once you start approaching your body with curiosity rather than with fear, everything shifts. Bessel A. van der Kolk
The body is our vessel, the container of the universe and connection to our ancestors and all that has been. It is an evolutionary vehicle that connects us with all of life. Perhaps it’s this vast expansiveness that frightens us and has us focus our attention on the outer world. When we bring a sense of awe, wonder, and curiosity to the inner body a vast new world emerges from the dark recesses of our infinite interiority. I don’t think the final frontier is outer space, it is the rich fecund universe that lives within that connects us all that has been…
This inner journey initiates a process where we can learn, explore and discover our infinite potential, abundant creativity, and profound interconnection with all of life. We invite you to join us in the upcoming Transforming Stress, Anxiety and Overwhelm program where we can work in a safe community container to learn together how to use our stress to grow and expand our capacity to meet, hold and love the life we’ve been given. Life wants to live and flourish, we just have to let go of wanting it to be something other than what it is in each moment… Awareness is precision, the more we attune to what is, the greater the opportunity to expand into the greater mystery of being here.
Don’t try to force anything. Let life be a deep let-go. God opens millions of flowers every day without forcing their buds. Osho
In love and healing, Michael & The Well Of Light Team