Stress is endemic.
We can all agree with that without much time thinking about it.
The chances are you’ll be feeling stressed yourself.
But what does that actually mean? What actually is stress?
Let’s start with what it isn’t.
Contrary to the backward thinking of modern medicine stress is neither an illness or disease.
I’ll repeat that, because it’s important.
Stress is neither an illness or disease.
To the contrary: stress is a sign you’re alive.
I’ll repeat that too, because it’s equally important.
Stress is a sign you’re alive.
Resist to exist.
The force of existence is ferocious. We each only exist because we resist that force, and manage to keep doing so effectively enough to hold our shape for the brief moment in time that constitutes a human lifespan.
When one phenomenon resists another, it places stress on each.
Eventually the stronger of the two will overcome the weaker element – in this case the force of existence eventually overcomes us and off we go.
This is the natural order of things.
In mundane day-to-day terms we require tension in order to feel release. Without these dynamics life would be ineffably dull and no growth or progress would occur.
But that’s hypothetical anyway because we will always feel that intrinsic tension from resisting (to keep existing).
The modern problem of stress arises from us losing the ancient art of ease, ironically by our collective rush to create and subsume the very technology that was meant to make life easier for us. In many ways it does of course, but at great cost to ourselves – indeed the cost is yourself.
Once you get yourself back however - and that’s ambiguous because the trick to reclaiming command of the vehicle lies in learning to operate it from the back of you rather than the front - you’re able to cognitively determine the degree of stress occurring at any time and be in full command of reducing it to minimum, optimum, levels in order not to turn to blancmange for having too little, or to burn yourself out with adrenal fatigue by having too much.
There are actually as many common stress triggers as there are people and situations, but feeling trapped and unable to speak your mind or being able to say no, feeling trapped by debt or financial obligation, feeling trapped or diminished by obligations to follow someone else’s routine or agenda, feeling rushed, feeling overloaded and saturated with information and details to be sorted, feeling constantly on duty and electronically available, feeling angry and resentful and feeling unable to convey your displeasure for fear of reprisal or abandonment, feeling silenced, and then there’s the secondary but equal stress arising from the self-destruct patterns you adopt to mask or avoid the original stress.
There is a common thread, however, no matter the form of external trigger.
It all boils down to pace and direction.
Stress results from not being in control of your own pace and direction.
A healthy animal in the wild is so in charge of its own pace and direction it doesn’t even think about it.
Whenever we sacrifice either pace or direction or both, albeit in what started out as a good cause, we feel stress, because we’re pushing or pulling against our natural flow. And we’re going against our very real, visceral relationship with the universe around us, whence comes all our intuition to turn left or to turn right (without a smartphone or satnav to tell us which).
This is the Tao, and when we turn our back on that we’re instantly bereft of chi, the power of life.
Stuck in a dead-end relationship, afraid to get out, your pace is hampered and your direction challenged.
Feeling financially hampered - that’s affecting both your pace and direction.
Feeling rushed - that’s pace, obviously.
Feeling overloaded and can’t cope - that’s pace.
If you can reclaim full command over your own pace and your own direction and get that back, you also have your back-back, and be finally fully in command of the vehicle and the levels of stress running through it at any given moment.
Much more on this this week, because it’s important.