Stress is a killer, no doubt. It has been linked with many health conditions and quite frankly it just doesn’t feel very good. Yoga has many tools that can be used to help “manage” stress. However, the real question is, how do we get stressed in the first place, and how can we avoid getting stressed in the future?
In my experience, stress comes from one place, the ego. It is a sign that we are resisting what is or what we think will be. We could be right about our predictions, but ‘stressing out’ over them is not helpful.
So how do we get rid of stress once and for all? Well it’s quite simple really, stop resisting what is. Surrender completely. Let go of the illusion of control, because you don’t have it anyway.
This does not mean stop acting. You have to act. Even ‘non-action’ is a type of action. The resistance I am talking about is psychological in nature, its in your head and no place else.
Now, I want to be very clear about something. Simple does not mean easy. This is a lifelong practice of first, noticing the resistance in the moment, and then letting go of it. This always happens in the now, in the present. Not in the future, or the past, or on retreat. It happens every moment, moment by moment.
In my experience the best tool to help you with this is an adequate daily meditation practice. With this tool you get better and better at both spotting how you are resisting the moment, and learning how to let go of it.
This is the ‘end of suffering’ that the Buddha promised. As one of my Zen teachers once said, “In the present there is no suffering, there may be pain, but there is no suffering”.
Suffering and stress are actually signs that we are not in the present, that we are believing an untruth. Our bodies do us the great service of telling us when we are out-of-alignment with truth, peace, happiness. They provide a moment by moment indicator of whether we are headed in the right direction, or wrong direction, like a compass. What a blessing!
When we see suffering and stress in this way, we can begin to use them as tools or indicators to help with our awakening. One Zen teacher called this “turning weeds into fertilizer”.
So see stress for what it is. Not something that needs to be ‘managed’ so much as something that can be used to help us to learn and grow. As a moment by moment indicator of whether our thoughts are leading us toward heaven or hell, nirvana or samsara, suffering or bliss.