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Stress: An Opportunity, Not a Problem

We All Live with Stress

Do you live with stress? Do you have a sense that something is always being asked of you, and that t_brach5things just keep on coming?

These are questions addressed by Tara Brach in a dharma talk I find extraordinarily wise, Stress and Everyday NirvanaWe all live with stress; that is a given. The interesting question is what we do about it. How do we metabolize stress? What follows is a summary of Tara Brach’s insights.

Stress triggers anxiety about how things will turn out. Stress can become a background climate informing our lives. We find ourselves living with a sense that we don’t have enough time, or that things need to be different than they are.

We also live with the assumption that stress is a problem: we experience stress over finances, work, how our children behave.

A Different Perspective

Buddhist thinking offers a different perspective: it isn’t stress that causes suffering. Our attitude about woman-481760_960_720stress causes suffering. We all experience stress; the issue is how we respond.

If we push away from what is causing stress, or resist, we suffer. But freedom is possible when we shift how we pay attention and respond to stress.

Stress isn’t bad; it moves us to respond and evolve. Our instinct when we experience stress is to move to “fight, flight, freeze” mode. The challenge is to respond in a wise way.

A More Evolved Response

The key to moving to a more evolved response to stress is realizing that stress isn’t a problem; it is a portal to awakening. What presents is stress is asking for attention. This is the time and place to witness the old habitual response, remember the suffering that comes along, and be available for a new way to emerge. We already know how to respond in a new way, if we pause and pay attention to the suffering attendant to our old habits.

This can be a hard switch to make. When stressed, we often get irritable and lash out. The assumption is that either I am wrong or you are wrong. Instead, we are called to identify the things that trigger stress and t0 notice how we respond.

Attending and Befriending

Stress times resistance equals suffering. Stress times non-judging presence interrupts the pattern and allows us to evolve.monk-555391_960_720

We can change our way to responding in every day affairs. Do errands with a sense of purpose. Wash the dishes more slowly, feeling the warmth of the water. Slow down eating, and savor the meal. We can evolve in the midst of everyday stress.

Attend and befriend rather than fight, flight or freeze.

Stress Can be a Friend

Without stress, we don’t evolve. Whatever arises can serve the unfolding of our full potential. Ask yourself how stress can serve awakening. Stress can be the path to bringing forth wisdom and compassion.

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