What is Stress?
It’s the state of mind we get into when we’re hurried or under pressure. We get stressed when we worry, or when things arent going according to plan. Stress is when our brain and emotions are strained, but it doesnt only affect us mentally and emotionally. It’s a leading cause of a lot of physical ailments. Stress has been linked to heart attacks, nervous disorders, even cancer.
Who Doesnt Feel Stressed?
Think about it. We surround ourselves with harsh, high stress materials like concrete, steel and glass. Our days begin with an alarm that says, “Hurry up! Get moving! You have a lot to do today!” We work and work to make lives that we need to get away from, and you know who doesnt have stress? The undiscovered aboriginal people living in the depths of the Amazonian Rain Forest. They wake up naturally, hunt and gather, play, make love. Nobody works the graveyard shift, and they never say, “I’m so glad it’s Friday!”
The subject of stress is a major component in every self-help book ever written, so I wont say a lot about it. Instead, I’ll walk you through an easy meditation that can help you feel less stressed, right now. With consistent practice, it can also help reduce the stress you experience during a typical day. A great thing about this meditation is that you can do it just about anywhere and it doesnt need to take a long time. Once you’re used to it, five minutes will do you wonders.
A Basic Stress Relief Meditation
For this meditation, you’ll do better if you’re seated, rather than standing. You want to get into a relaxed state. Back straight, but not stiff. Hands in your lap or on your thighs. This is also a great meditation to do while lying on your back in bed. Some stress relief, followed by a little thanksgiving, is almost guaranteed to send you into a sweet, lovely dream time. Some peaceful, instrumental music or ambient sounds, like moving water or whispering leaves, can be added if you like.
When you’ve settled, close your eyes or fix your gaze somewhere, and feel yourself breathing. Measure it, inhaling slowly and deeply. Dont fill the lungs too much, just enough to expand the thorax a little. Then let the air flow out naturally. Dont blow. Notice how your ribs open up as you breathe in. Feel the air move through your nostrils. When you notice that your thoughts have strayed, simply come back to the breath. Feel the air traveling through the airways and into your lungs. Picture the oxygen being absorbed by them and passed through their walls into the blood stream. Do this until you feel that it’s time to go deeper.
Now, move your focus to the heart. Feel the beat of it. Notice that it is connected to the breath. Also, notice that, together, they are pushing life through your body. Let your awareness follow the path of it, as it moves through your torso to the arms, legs and head. Your whole frame receives the essence of life, as you quietly observe the process. Again, bring your attention to the breath, slow and steady.
Visualize a soft stream of tranquility settling onto you. Very slowly, it travels from the top of your head down to your ears and the stem of your brain. The muscles of your face and scalp relax as it passes downward to your jaw and into the neck. The tension leaves your shoulders, back and chest. Be aware of them relaxing, as you breathe slowly in and out. The warm tranquility moves into your abdomen, the small of your back, and your tailbone. Notice the release as tension there falls away. Serenity radiates into your pelvis and pubic bone. The buttocks ease. Tension stored in thighs and knees flows away, as gentle relaxation reaches your calves and shins. Slowly, visualize it moving downward into the ankles and feet, then out into a puddle that evaporates into the air.
Breathing naturally, feel the serenity that permeates you. Let your body enjoy this time of peaceful equanimity. You’ll know when you’re done. Before you get back to your routine, take a moment to express gratitude for this time of priceless tranquility.
A wonderful thing about this meditation is that its results can be duplicated in only a minute, if needed. Once your body knows the routine, you can initiate the sequence anytime. Many people find this technique effective when confronted with unexpected stress at work, while driving, or anytime they need a momentary break. The main thing, in that situation, is to let go of stressful thoughts. Allow the tranquility to wash over you in the moment and neutralize any negativity. With a little practice, you’ll be an expert.