Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Towards The Still Point 3


Sunset, Phoenix Park, June, 2006
If you have been reading these last several posts you will now be tired of my repeating like a mantra that life is a journey.  Here I would like to repeat like yet another mantra that life is stressful.  I suppose it has always been stressful even back to the earliest of times when we were mere cavemen and cavewomen in Stone Age caves.  The men were hunters and gatherers while their women were nurturers and rearers of children.  One of the most important automatic or reflex responses that early humans developed was that of the Fight or Flight Response.  This was an important natural response to develop because if we had not developed it we simply would have been eaten by the nearest predator. 

The term Fight or Flight is a reference to the fact that we may at times be faced with dangers or threats that will require us to respond by either fleeing or defending ourselves (an ancient response developed for our survival in ancient times as I have explained above).  This anxiety response enables us to do so, with added energy, alertness and strength, so that we can escape without injury or at least minimize injury when possible. This is accomplished by the adrenal glands that respond to danger signals from the brain and provide increased levels of adrenal hormones, the main one being “adrenaline”.  Once the level of adrenaline rises, breathing increases, as well as blood flow to the muscles. The body will begin to sweat which according to anxiety research, may be the body’s way of creating more difficulty in being grasped and held by an intruder, due to the skin becoming slippery with moisture. All of these bodily responses are designed to protect us but danger signals may at times be sent to the adrenal glands, from the brain, when no actual danger is present, such as when viewing a movie thriller or riding a scary amusement park ride.

Sky, Phoenix Park, June, 2006
This response is literally harded-wired into us from prehistoric and primordial times because it was so necessary for our survivalToday we have become almost victims of this natural response.  We no longer have to flee from our enemies or fight them off as often as we did when we were cavemen and cavewomen.  However, this response happens to us when we are in any stressful, though often not physically threatening, situations like speaking in front of others, studying for an important exam or interview, going for medical tests, driving our cars to and from work, fighting our way through the crowds in modern cities, facing a job we hate, rearing obstreperous children etc.  To this extent anxiety becomes “disordered” and it begins to trigger at times it is not actually needed. It may then be perceived as very unpleasant because increased energy levels are becoming available when they are not needed. Not being able to channel the Fight or Flight symptoms in a positive direction will cause a person to perceive them as fear rather than strength or as panic feelings, rather than the ambition needed to accomplish a task at hand.  Some few individuals develop what are called Panic Attacks which are extremely disempowering and which does require appropriate therapy to relieve the dreadful sysmptoms and hopefully get to the root cause.

Here I wish to offer a brief stress reduction exercise which I have written for my students at school.  I do hope the reader will find this helpful:

                                           Stress Reduction Meditation
  • Sit in a relaxed position, perhaps on an upright kitchen chair. Keep your back straight with your feet flat on the floor. You could also sit on the floor in your bedroom, with your back against the wall and your legs crossed in front of you.

  • Close your eyes. Concentrate on how you feel. Check in with all the parts of your body beginning with the top of your head. Notice if there is any feeling or stress there. Then bring your attention to your face and notice how that feels…Then do the same for your neck, shoulders, arms, back, hips, knees, ankles and toes.

  • As you progress down through your body, you will notice that you are becoming more and more relaxed.

  • Next concentrate on your breathing. Just notice how quickly or slowly you are breathing. If you are breathing too quickly, slow your breath down to a nice even and peaceful pace.

  • If you notice stress in any area of your body, imagine that area filled with black dots and each time that you breathe out imagine that you are breathing out that stressful black patch, dot by dot. You are breathing in the bright energy of the sun which will bit by bit dispel that black area of stress.

  • Once again call to mind how peaceful and relaxed you are. There is no pain, no stress, and no turbulence in your body. There is no stress, no strain, and no turbulence in your life. Everything is relaxed, peaceful and as it should be.

  • Become aware of how good it is to live in your body. It is your body, and your body is good and healthy and relaxed. You received your body as a gift from your parents, and ultimately from God.

  • Become aware of how good it is to be you, to be the person who you are, with all your gifts and talents. You can learn to live with all your bad points too. Those that you can change, you will attempt to do so. Those that you can’t change you will have to learn to accept. The whole point is to be comfortable with yourself. Just as you are comfortable in your body now, just as you are relaxed in your body now, you become relaxed and comfortable with the person who you really are.

  • Once again become aware of your body, what it feels like as you sit now on the chair or on the floor in your bedroom. Try and become aware also of your heartbeat. Notice how peaceful it is, how slow and dependable and strong it is. It is what keeps you alive.

  • Now begin gently to move your fingers and toes. Begin to open your eyes gradually and come back to an awareness of the room.
  • It might help also if you put this meditation on tape and read it out slowly with a little gentle background music. That way you could listen to the tape on a Walkman as you meditate.

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