De-stress the Buddhist Way
Getting out of the treadmill of stress may be easier than you think
Why are so many people stressed out... people who work normal job hours and have normal-sized families? Most people assume that chronic stress is due to having too much work and too little time. In my experience the answer is not quite as straightforward. Yes, people who are stressed often have a diary bulging with urgent appointments and their personal life is also chock-a-block with a massive amount of things which do not allow for a minute’s rest. But that alone does not explain why people are so stressed. In order to find the answer to chronic stress we have to look a little deeper than time management and organisation tools.
In my work as a Buddhist therapist I have noticed that there is one thing that many people fear like nothing else – this one thing is empty time. The thought of spending even a single hour with nothing to do – no television, no 'phone, no internet, no reading, no conversation and not even a glass of wine, fills many people with an intense aversion and even dread.
And it is the fearful avoidance of empty time and silence that is one of the main reasons why so many people are stressed. In an never-ending attempt to fill even the last minute of the day with activity and entertainment there is just no room left for breathing .
There simply is no time to relax.
Our fear of stillness and emptiness can take many forms – there is the fear that we are useless and not needed by anyone else, fear of being forgotten and fear of loneliness and boredom. Usually, all these fears are rather unconscious if we are chronically stressed. But if we would attempt to be completely alone and do nothing for just one weekend these fears would become very apparent.
In order to reduce our stress we do not have to spend whole weekends by ourselves. But it would be good to make time for stillness and silence for at least 20 minutes each day. You do not even have to learn to meditate. Just sit quietly by yourself and notice what is going through your mind. Notice particularly all the reasons that come into your mind why sitting quietly for half an hour is ‘a waste of time’, ‘useless’ or whatever else you may tell yourself to avoid doing it. All you need to do is to envelop yourself with a feeling of love and goodwill just like a mother would send love to a child who has trouble settling down.
Once you become accustomed to inner and outer space you will become more comfortable with it. And then you can drop some of your daily activities and allow the possibility of empty time in your daily schedule. As you do this your feeling of being stressed and hurried will disappear.