Unhealthy levels of stress usually come from trying to control the uncontrollable. The “fight or flight” response biologically programs us to respond to challenge with some level of stress, but not all stress is unhealthy and, in fact, some degree of pressure is vital to our well-being. Recent studies show that stimulation for the brain is almost as important as food and water. Most people become bored easily and look for stimulation in TV, movies, or games—activities that have no purpose other than to excite the mind.
Addiction to stimulation
Entertainment moguls use excitement like a drug to hook us on their programs. The next time you watch a TV show or a movie, look for their deliberate attempts to shock you— loud music, sudden scene changes, and odd lighting effects. The nervous system gradually adapts to this kind of stimulation and begins to close down, which is why the trend in music and movies is to get ever more “shocking.”
As yogis we want to find release from addiction to excitement and delusion. The same event affects everyone in unique ways depending on how they react. Your power lies in choosing how you respond. It has been well said that, “pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” Most stress and pain come from wishing that things were other than they are. Learn to flow with life and much of your stress will disappear.
The importance of acceptance
Here is a challenge for you. Tonight, before you go to sleep, mentally review your day and try to see how often you wanted things to be different. Did you wish that you could have slept longer? That you didn’t have to do certain chores, that other drivers didn’t behave the way they did, that people at work were nicer? It goes on and on.
The more you try to control the unchangeable, the more stress you create for yourself. Now go back and accept each and every event. Acceptance begins by understanding that your karma attracts exactly what you need, whether it seems good or bad.
Paramhansa Yogananda said we should train our minds to be even-minded and cheerful in all situations. This is not merely a nice maxim, but a powerful, life-changing technique. Commit yourself to being happy under all circumstances. Watch your reactions to events and as soon as you catch yourself being pulled down, reaffirm your decision to be happy. And let go of old baggage. How long do you have to condemn yourself to carrying around old regrets and grudges?
Love: the greatest stress-buster
Here is a technique for dealing with tense situations, especially if your emotions are becoming upset. There is a link between the breath, the mind, and the subtle energy or aura. First calm yourself by controlling your breath and relaxing your mind. Then, from your heart chakra, project a peaceful aura to embrace everyone involved in the situation. Feel that you are all linked together in harmony. You can use variations of this technique in virtually every situation.
The greatest stress-buster of all is love. Realize, finally, that your true fulfillment comes when you love others, love life, and, especially, love the God that dwells within everything.