An unexpected book arrived in the mail the other day. A gift from my friend’s at Wisdom Publications. Zen Master Raven: The Teachings of a Wise Old Bird. by Zen Master human form, Robert Aitken. Here the koans are told by and to animals of the forest: raven, porcupine, owl, woodpecker, badger, black bear, and […]
It’s been a a while since I’ve linked to my weekly posts on Connecticut Watchdog website. These columns, DESTRESS, focused on how to apply mindfulness to everyday stressful circumstances. I’m changing the emphasis from DESTRESS to THRIVE to include a positive psychology approach. Mindfulness fits well within the broader field of positive psychology, so look for these posts over the coming weeks.
To catch up on my previous DESTRESS posts explore below:
Much of our stress arises out of our relationship to time. There are three time frames to consider: past, present, and future. And in any given moment we are always in the present. That present can consider itself, the past, or the future.
The psychological present, which lasts about three seconds, directs attention. It can be focused on reality or fantasy. Future and past are fantasy, products of imagination. The past already occurred; the future has yet to occur. Even if the content of those fantasies are real, that is, events that did happen or will happen, we are still using imagination to access them. We can also access imagination in reference to the present when we are engaged in commentary about the present.
Talk about stress, imagine having the entire world watching your every move; expecting you to fulfill some heroic destiny. Imagine that you are doing it. In fact, exceeding everyone’s expectations; breaking records. Imagine that you have to do this not once, twice, or three times, but four times. Each time the pressure and expectations build. Each time the consequences mount.
You don’t have to imagine this situation, it is unfolding at the 111th playing of the U.S. Open Golf Championship hosted by the USGA, the premiere golf tournament in the world and notoriously the most difficult.
We might as well be talking heads, disconnected from the living reality of our bodies for all the time we spend involved in mind-spun stories. It seems that the more we think, at times, the more trouble we get into. So, why not put all that thinking aside? Why not spend a moment dwelling in the unfolding dynamic of this moment?
It’s hard to be stressed without some significant circumstance in conjunction with thoughts telling stories about that circumstance. Not everyone in an earthquake develops post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Sometimes when we have a change of scenery we can see things from a fresh perspective. Away from the usual sights, sounds, and smells of home we can move away from our habitual associations to seeing something new.
It doesn’t last for long, of course, because we have to return home eventually, and of course we take our minds with us. So unless we can also change the internal geography, we’ll revert back to our habitual patterns.
I just read a fascinating story about Wim Hof, the Dutch “Iceman” who is able to withstand prolonged cold temparatures that would kill the rest of us.
Folk wisdom has suggested for a long time that dog’s are humanity’s “best friends.” Research over the past thirty years has demonstrated the stress-relieving benefits of canine companions. Reduced blood pressure and stress hormones were among the findings.
“Therapy” dogs are commonplace at nursing homes and in hospitals for their therapeutic benefits. If you have a dog already, you know these benefits. If you don’t have a dog and experience stress that is difficult to handle, you might want to consider the benefits of a canine friend.
There is a concept know as “flow” in psychology. This termed was coined by positive psychology pioneer (pronounced me-hi chick-sent-me-high) and it refers to an optimal state where our skills coincide with the challenge of a situation. When in flow, time diasppears and we are fully engaged in the action of the moment. These tend to be very happy moments.
Sounds a lot like mindfulness, doesn’t it? Flow is more specialized and I would consider it to be a subset of mindfulness. Through mindfulness we can access flow more readily and not just hope for the right conditions to come around.
I was walking into my local supermarket yesterday and once again noticed the sign placed by the front door: “Pharmacy Within.” Interesting. Such an odd wording.
Of course, we have a “Pharmacy Within” our brains and the rest of our bodies. We run on neurotransmitters, neurohormones, hormones, and other chemicals. We are a veritable apothecary. Our brains contain endogenous (coming from within) forms of opioids (morphine-like substances) called endorphins that are two hundred times more potent than actual morphine.
Up here in Northern Vermont there are finally signs of spring (probably these have been with you for a while where you are). The snows in the lowlands have melted, the grass is greening, and buds are making their bold announcements of life. For certain, I’m still running the wood stove, but mud season is upon us!
Spring is a time of transition and is a stunning example of the types of transitions that occur in our life every day, in fact, every moment of the day. Stress arises when we relate to these transitions in particular ways.