Wednesday, May 23, 2012

One Easy Stress Reduction Practice

Stress is not difficult to figure out. Right there in this body, is the indicator.

I have now taken up the practice of stopping often throughout the day, and ask this simple question: is there tightness in the body? If the answer is yes, as it most often is, then I know. My body is stressed, and so is the mind. 

Getting in touch with the exact place where it feels tight, I tell myself 'clinging', 'clinging at work'. Sometimes thoughts are present that clarify the source of the clinging, either wanting something I cannot have, or not wanting something I do have. Sometimes there are no conscious thoughts. Regardless, I know what to do. 

To observe the tightness/clinging, and the unpleasantness of it. Not getting lost in its object. No, rather feeling the whole pain, and giving the tight spot a chance to relax a bit with each breath, assuming the body is willing. And trusting that the noticing in and of itself is already a big step towards de-stressing the body, de-stressing the mind.

And of course, there is the added long-term benefit, of growing tired of the pain from all this repeated clinging . . . opening the door to disenchantment, renunciation, and freedom.

I just wonder. Is there anybody else that does that practice as well?

14 comments:

  1. Yes! When approached by causes and conditions (sometimes named Gyokuden, sometimes just a rock in the soil) I practice: Soften, let go. Soften, and crush these bones to milk.

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  2. I think some people do this quite naturally, without any kind of formal training. I remember my grandmother was like that, somehow always cheerful even in the midst of physical pain from illness or disease. When I was about 14 years old, I was helping her to zip up her coat, and I accidentally caught the skin of her hand in the zipper. It must have been painful, but she didn't seem to flinch at all and just told me it's ok, as if she was more concerned about me worrying about her than she was about any pain. I have the impression she was very much aware of pain in her her old age, and very much at ease with it.

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  3. Interesting that you should post this at this moment. I have battled a torment of an itching ear for years, suspecting sinus and/or TMJ (the later as it turns out). It occurred to me to try relaxation and mindfulness practice, to be aware of tension that led to the intense sensation. When I began to focus on breathing and let the muscles relax, let tension in emotions, mind, and body flow through rather than clinging to them, let the pain be a sign, a bell to call me to meditation as it were - and the painful symptoms seem to melt quickly.

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  4. I think that's a great practice and I have done it in the past. But often I find myself so busy and stressed that I blow off acknowledging the tightness and stress. I say to myself, "I'm too stressed now to stop and be aware of my stress. When I'm less busy and less stressed then I'll start the practice again." Isn't that the most ridiculous thing ever? Stopping, noticing and becoming aware is really the only thing that can help in situations like this.

    Have you ever done that? Do you ever procrastinate mindfulness practice because you're too busy or stressed or is this unique to me?

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  5. Pigasus, always love your zen touch! crushing those bones to milk, yes :)

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  6. Anonymous, how fortunate to have a grandmother like yours!

    One thing I would like to add, though, is that it is hard to judge one's inner experience from the outside. This practice gets to the subtleties of one's experience moment to moment, and the realization that stress from clinging is pretty much always with us, to various degrees.

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    1. No doubt true. For that matter, it's hard to judge one's inner experience from the inside with complete accuracy, and it's easy to miss the subtleties under the subtleties. They're called blind spots for a reason; we don't see them until we see them.

      I appreciate the acknowledgment that there is an operation of trust at work in this practice, which always raises the question, trust in what, or in whom? Trust in something inside, or outside, or is that question meaningless?

      For me, the memory of my grandmother and my interpretation of that are more inspirational than anything else. I recognize the potential for a degree of letting go which I often do not experience. Whether she did in reality experience some degree of non-clinging is, to me, not really the issue. I trust that it is possible in any moment, though.

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    2. Yes, a great gift indeed. Your experience of her and how you internalized that experience is what really matters.

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  7. JDB, I once saw someone in my practice who had pretty much the same experience, except hers was with the inner perception of some unwanted noise. That too went away with her gentle, mindful attention.

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  8. Jonathan, yes, remembering to be mindful is a challenge especially when we are hurried and 'stressed'. However, I must say, for me, the minute I am aware of the tightness, I naturally go to it and engage in the practice I describe above. It is such a kind way of being with myself that I have grown rather fond of it . . . Maybe don't think about it as practice? 'practice' is a loaded word for some of us. Just think about it as noticing, that's all.

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  9. I think to a large extent stress depends on lifestyle.Many people these days seem constantly to be running around trying to do 6 things at once.Often the reasons for this are
    various desires to get stuff or get rid of stuff (for example material possessions or assorted mental states.)Inevitably this leads to the body being frequently ill at ease.

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  10. love this. Thankyou thankyou. Your blog is sometimes like cool water when I am thirsty. :)

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  11. Michael, I agree with you. And of course, there are many degrees of stress. My experience of practice is of developing awareness of the many ways that stress manifest, some less obvious than others. My understanding is only when fully enlightened does one experience a completely stress-free life. Until then, much work of uncovering and letting go . . .

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  12. Kel, thank you for gift of your appreciation. It made my morning! May you continue to drink from the Dharma well, here and elsewhere, including within yourself. Much metta. marguerite

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