Thursday, July 19, 2007

STRESS....! and Meditation

I have a major writing assignment to complete. I have an interview scheduled this afternoon with an artist for my Art of Outrage series on Artscene Visual Radio. We have a contractor coming over this morning to talk about some work that we need done on the house. I need to renew prescriptions, pick up pills. And the cleaning! We leave tomorrow at noon to spend the weekend at our beach house (poor us...!) And Tuesday of next week we leave for ten days in Canada. What to pack? What bags to take? What instructions to leave for Cardozo, who will be staying at our house?

Have we thought of EVERYTHING?

And of course, there's always the next entry in The Buddha Diaries... Especially now that the readership is expanding, both geographically and in numbers, there seems to be a kind of near-obsessive obligation to keep punching it in every day, as though anyone would miss me! Performance anxiety! (The truth is, I would miss the practice more than anyone would miss me.)

It all amounts to.... S.T.R.E.S.S.S.S.S!!! I don't know about you, but I feel it in the gut. A kind of continual seething, a perpetual sense of something left undone without being able to focus quite exactly on what it is. You know what I mean? That, and the familiar tightening in the neck and shoulders, a hunching-up that adds to the general feeling of discomfort, of not-well being, of dis-ease. And the ANGER that results.

I wish that my meditation skills were up to so formidable a task, but I'm aware that I still have a long way to go. Sure it helps. That half-hour, forty minute sit in the morning serves me well, I'm sure, throughout the day. And I know enough, when I think about it, to stop for long enough to recover consciousness, and breathe... and I feel the benefit, at least a momentary relief.

You'd like to think, wouldn't you, that ten years of practice would have resulted in release from the stress that every one of us feels? But that's perhaps a little like expecting earnest practising Christians to have learned not to sin. We're all human, after all.

So what I'd like to know is this: are others more successful in reducing stress with daily meditation than am I? What's your experience? What is your skill level, in this regard? Do you have to practice longer--or more often--for the desired result? Or am I just, as I suspect, a human being like the rest of us?
photo credit


lindsey said...

I'm no good at sitting meditation. I haven't yet learned to clear my "monkey mind" enough to benefit.

So instead, I practice mindfulness. It might sound silly but during finals or when I had papers due, I'd make a mindful peanut butter sandwich. (I'm laughing at myself right now, I must admit.)

I would make myself a sandwich, but while I was constructing it I would focus my energy into completely being in the moment with that sandwich. I would listen to the sound the lid made as it was unscrewed from the jar of the peanut butter. I would listen to every sound, feel every feeling and remember to be alive in every moment. I would breathe and be thankful for every breath.

After that moment spent in mindfulness, the world would seem to slow down and I could focus.

I'm slowly beginning to get better at my seated meditation, but in the meantime I look for moments of mindfulness.

Good luck to you Peter!

PeterAtLarge said...

Hello, Lindsey! Thanks for the comment... The peanut butter sandwich sounds like a good way to go. And the result, I imagine, is pretty tasty, too. There are an infinite number of ways of being mindful. As for sitting meditation, I told myself for the longest time that my mind was too busy--and in fact I started out with chanting, because I thought that would give me "something to do" to distract the mind. As it turned out, a silent, sitting meditation proved the better option. Very hard to start with... and the monkey mind still loves to play, after all these years of sitting. I guess the trick is to learn to be patient with it, catch it at play, and bring it gently back... Have a good sandwich! Blessings, PaL

Pandabonium said...

Perhaps it is a Western way to view meditation as a kind of bandaid or tool or pill. We get stressed, we take a pill, or we do meditation.

If instead we accept meditation into our life and let it transform us, then events become less stressful and we become more mindful.

Perhaps we won't do away with stress, but if we practice meditation- sitting, or breathing, or walking, or making peanut butter sandwiches, so that it becomes our way of life, then stress will not arise so much or so strongly. After all, the stress is just the result of how we view things.

khengsiong said...

I had a co-worker. He didn't meditate, yet he was happier than me. The reason: he was an easily contented person, while I had too much desire.

Meditation may be the 'jewel of the crown' in Buddhist practice, but it still has to be supported by other factors.

Sender-Barayon-Morningstar said...

Hi Peter: I think many of us can identify with your situation. I'm not particularly successful with meditation as traditionally practices, but along the way have develop various ways to expand my bliss tolerance (relaxation response). My bumper sticker reads:
"Stressed by traffic? Flare your nostrils, not your temper, on the inhale."
This is just one of various exercises that include those posted on:
Currently I have a group of folks beta-testing the thwizzler:
Although I don't usually offer them without charge overseas (I do in the continental USA and Canada for the time being), if you mail me an address, I'll mail you one.

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