I’ve been doing a Buddhist meditation course on stress* – or more accurately, how to live without stress. I didn’t feel particularly stressed when I started it but I had done a few of their other ‘courses’ over the last few months and found I was getting a lot out of the simplicity of the teachings and the meditation that formed part of the classes.
Interestingly, during the weeks of this ‘stress’ course I did find myself experiencing some quite intensely stressful times (Tax! Family! Etc!) and was glad I had the framework to deal with it all, fresh in my mind.
Here are my notes from the Buddhism101 approach to stress that helped me through. (These are either the words of the teacher* or my (mis)interpretations of them.)
Stress is, simply, a non-acceptance of the way things are. Tension builds in our mind from resistance to what’s going on. (Stress differs from worry and anxiety in this respect; worry and anxiety are about things that have not happened.)
To live with the stressors that are an inevitable part of life (cos things aren’t always going to go our way), we need to learn to accept how things are. (There is also a bit about doing what we can to change the situation but this is for those situations where change ain’t gonna happen soon.)
One of the ways to learn to accept is to view our difficulties as opportunities to practice patience and acceptance, to train our mind to be flexible.
When we have an accepting, flexible mind, then life becomes easy.
We need to let go of attachment – our expectations of how things should be – and our uncontrolled desire of “I want I want I want”. The delusion underlying attachment is of the “me mind” or self-cherishing – I am more important than others.
When we learn to cherish others, our suffering is reduced. Perspective makes our problems less of a big deal.
We bring these teachings (on attachment, acceptance, delusions, me me me!) into our lives through meditation. 10 to 15 minutes. Everyday. The mind relaxes. The body relaxes. We take the teachings into our hearts.
Some of the questions I found helpful to reflect on over the weeks were:
- What is it in this situation that I’m attached to?
- What am I not accepting?
- Is this situation an opportunity for me to practice patience?
- What would it be like for me to focus on love and compassion for others in this situation?
I’ve always wondered if it’s possible to live without stress and I’m now starting to believe it is. The stressors may remain but we have the power to choose our response:
Or, get on with living a peaceful, joyful and meaningful life?
* the Living Without Stress 4-week course is taught by Gen Kelsang Tsalden from the Tara Kadampa Buddhist Centre in Brisbane.