There is no job, no relationship, no sport, no health program, no diet, no club, no activity, no holiday, no person, no business, no religion that exists free from stress. Therefore, the ability to handle stress is a big step in quality of life. To go through a day without emotional reaction in the face of challenges gives us the ability to be present, fully experiencing the gifts of those aspects of life without overreacting and causing secondary troubles for ourselves. This is nature at work.
For the past 35 years I have studied in the worlds of yoga, business, Zen, human development, metaphysics, biophilia, sport, leadership, healing, shiatsu, reiki, qigong, tai chi, ayurvedic herbs, tibetan medicine, shamanic practices, personal mastery and more. And I can say this: there is no panacea.
Teachers in each category disagree, category to category they disagree. The solutions proposed in each category sometimes work and sometimes don’t, gurus don’t always practice what they preach, and research done to the most exacting standards in each category can prove and disapprove the philosophy.
This is why nature is a great friend.
Every morning before a Himalayan trek I brief my team on the expectations of the day ahead. Now, when I first started I spoke from a lopsided viewpoint, ground level. In this view I could speak of all the things that would go right and the trials that would be worth the trouble. But I was lying.
In the last 30 treks I explained the day from a helicopter view. Not from ground zero but from a much higher perspective. I would map the trail, show the hills, mark the accomodation, the view points and lunch spots. It was more a helicopter trip over the mountain range rather than a trekker eye view. This I found to be good leadership.
If you take the Earth is a great example of what I am talking about here and travel across to the Amazon you will see deforestation taking place at an unprecedented pace. Standing in the Amazon is shocking, and this is what we call a fragmented observation. Those who have this fragmented observation are in the problem and therefore see the problem from that perspective of a participant. From this viewpoint there is only possibly a shallow solution possible. But if you were to take a helicopter and rise above the Amazon, rise above the atmosphere, and sit upon the moon and observe the Amazon from this perspective you would see the deforestation of the Amazon and the reforestation of some other part of the planet in perfect balance. This is what we would call a helicopter view, or a non-fragmented viewpoint.
Let’s go back to the back pain I mentioned earlier. If my back is hurt then emotionally I am in the pain and I can only see it from that perspective of a participant, it is my back, is my pain, it is my life, it is my problem, it is my stress and therefore my solutions and reactions are 100% based on a participant perspective. In other words I am solving the problem from the level at which the problem was created. I can in no way be unemotional. I can in no way stay in my heart. I can in no way provide an objective solution to the struggle. I can only react. My reaction will inevitably cause a secondary problem and it’s the secondary problem that will cause me the most stress. My back pain is one thing, the loss of opportunity is another thing, but my spontaneous reaction to all that and the emotions I experience will generate more problems by affecting the people around me, my work my relationships and potentially my health.
So the question we all have is how do we get out of our own way and step out of stuff when it happens. Like the car accident or my back problem or even a divorce. But it can be just simple day-to-day discomforts with other people. It can be as simple as somebody pushing in on a bus queue. It can be as simple as spilling coffee on your clothes on the way to a meeting. It can be as simple as having too much to do and too little time to do it in and feeling completely overloaded and overwhelmed. It’s in the smaller situations that we get to rehearse, to practice, to be totally real, to engage our inner centring and so-called spiritual practice in the moment rather than delaying it to have stress recuperation and rebalancing at a later time in the day or week or month or year.
The opportunities to be spiritual in your day are infinite because every time you make a choice, every time you make a decision, every time you react or feel like reacting to a situation you are given a range of choices and one of those choices, only one, will be a spiritually developed position. The key to this spiritually developed position will not be a prescribed metaphor of a motion for example: it will not be gratitude or love or kindness. Rather those emotions might be the result of your spiritually developed position. Let me explain:
A spiritually developed position on any situation, any activity or event, any opportunity for reaction or stress, must be based not on an outcome but on a process of thinking. Too much of prescriptive behaviour bypasses the real opportunity and just lands in a prescribed and very vulnerable stand. For example if you are on a bus and somebody pushes you and you feel the need to respond with anger but know that this is incorrect and instead respond with kindness you have achieved quite a large step but the anger will still exist inside of you and you could develop illness, built-up tension, stress, frustration and even resentment to the situation even though you behave in a very acceptable and admirable manner. So, it’s how do you dissolve the situation into a spiritual awareness without using prescriptive outcomes that bypass the real process of living and thinking in harmony with the universe and nature? This is what I would love to spend the next chapter of this book explaining because it is possible to dissolve stress at the source which is your thought process. If you can achieve this you will free up your mind to be much more adaptable and friendly, less rigid, less argumentative and more enjoyment will come because you will see through situations that are stressful rather than be caught up in them and therefore creating secondary problems out of primary ones.
In this process we are not trying to diminish emotions, nor are we suggesting that some situations are incomprehensibly challenging to see through. But by practising these skills you will eventually learn to trust the universal laws, nature, and therefore know that reactions are premature and that some deeper exploration will reveal something that may not be obvious at first. This is the key. We do not want to live on faith alone that there is an order in all the chaos that causes stress. We want to live the majority of time by experiencing the order in the chaos so that we have first hand experience and therefore trust that when there is a conflict between our emotional reaction and our heart we can delay gratification long enough to explore and find the truth.