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Stress

The Big Bad Boogeyman In Your Brain

Photo Credit: Jose Martin Ramirez

Stress.

Everywhere you look — everyone seems to have it. It’s like the plague.

Life seems to be coming in at us from all angles. With challenges, difficult situations, and insurmountable obstacles.

Which can be a real problem.

Unless, of course, you’re on a surfboard enjoying yourself. In which case the challenge is staying on the board, the difficult situation is riding the waves, and the insurmountable obstacle is finding enough difficult, challenging insurmountable waves to conquer.

Do you see what I mean?

It’s easy to pin stress on the circumstances of your life. Until you become clear that it’s your interpretation of what’s happening that’s creating the stress.

In my experience, and what I discovered in my extensive Zen training, is that stress is completely made up.

It’s a story.

A story fabricated by the voices in our heads that are on a mission to rob us of our sanity.

This is the good news and the bad news.

The good news? Because if stress is made up, and the voices are creating the problems, then something can be done about it. Illusions are illusions, after all.

The bad news? Because if you, like all of us, have been trained to believe that your thoughts are real, it’s going to take some doin’ to stop doin’ that. 

What’s worse is you have been convinced and conditioned to believe that you are in control of what you think. If it shows up in your head, it must have been you who put it there. It belongs to you and you must do something about it.

How’s that going for you?

If you’ve spent any time at all trying to meditate, you’ve likely realized that you have absolutely no say whatsoever about where your mind goes or what it does. You’ve discovered that most of the content of your monkey mind is completely out-of-control gibberish.

So what do you do?

Get it and acknowledge that the voices are causing you to drown in stress-producing stories. A momentary lapse in focus and your experience of life will sink into the depths the darkest parts of something wrong and not enough.

That’s why I say that your life raft is always going to be meditation. And you need to break to the surface for a breath of air in order to begin.

You see, meditation was designed to train you to direct your attention.

Your mind wanders. And you redirect it back to where you want it.

Your mind wanders. You redirect.

Over and over and over and over again.

Practiced enough, you will get better at focusing it volitionally. Until eventually you’re able to do it when you’re off the meditation cushion.

Once you’re meditating, the next step to help you beat stress is to identify the voices that trip you up the most.

What do you hear them say that creates stress? What’s the first one that starts the ball rolling? 

Capture all the voices you hear. Jot down what they say to you in a journal.

Perhaps the subject matter is money. Or relationships. Or career. Or health. Or kids.

Let’s take money, for example. Perhaps you hear something like this:

“You don’t have enough money to buy what you want.”

“You’re always struggling to budget your money.”

“Look at all those people. They seem to be more successful than you. What are you doing wrong?”

“Will there be enough money to hire the help you need?”

“Everything is so expensive!”

“You’re spending too much on things you don’t really need.”

“You’re a loser.”

Get present to what the voices say. Capture them in writing (don’t just mull them over here — DO IT! 

The voices will try to stop you from doing this exercise. Did you hear them?

“Not now. Later. This is silly. You’re just reading this for inspiration, not to actually do anything…”)

Remember, you’re the one with the body and you’re the one who can make choices. 

The voices may seduce you and stress you out. But you can always pull them out of your head, and get them out onto paper. 

You can see through their lies and start directing your attention to what you want it to be on. 

On what can help.

In lovingkindness,
Alex 

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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