What Produces Stress? A Paradox
By Derek Ayre
The following article is going to create more questions than answers to the problem of stress. But that is good in a way, because it will force the reader to find his/her own answers, be his/her own master of destiny and not give me (the author) or others control over his/her life. So treat this as a sharing of knowledge that I have discovered in my meditation
Stress is a fact of life, so I would like to refer to what most of us consider to be stress as "over-stress".
It could be stated with a high if not absolute degree of accuracy, that uncertainty produces over-stress - quite a lot of over-stress. If that's the case then the opposite (certainty) would be a great antidote for this modern "disease". So how is one supposed to be rid of uncertainty?
In this present moment, this moment of now, there is certainty. You know it. You are living it. Uncertainty arises because of anticipation of what is going to happen next, in a few moments, hours, days, weeks, years, etc. Without such anticipation your mind could be functioning in present time, focused on the moment of now, and there would be an experience of knowing; an experience of certainty.
Now if you were to concentrate on the question, "what is now?" you would realise that it is the only reality there is. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow does not exist, there is only now. Once an experience is manifest, there is no anxiety, only the experience. Even an experience of pain is just that - an experience of pain. It is happening now so there is nothing to be anxious about, it is too late to be anxious about it.
Yes, there is stress, because pain is stressful, but only when one tries to mentally escape from the experience that the stress increases and becomes over-stress. Now I am not saying here that if somebody is hurt, he/she should not seek a resolution in the way of medical attention or some other resolution. What I am saying is that
If you were to totally accept whatever is going on right at that moment in your experience, the over-stress would reduce and as a result, your experience of the pain would also reduce. It would reduce a lot faster than if you were in resistance or denial of what was going on in your body or mind.
If you look closely at the way modern human-beings assess a life that is good, you would probably notice that success is regarded as good, regarded as a sense achievement. Nobody wants to just be. Most of us wants to achieve something even if it's just doing as little as possible for as much reward as possible, at one end of the scale and in a constant state of activity as the other. So here we meet another conflict...
If we could just be, and not strive to achieve anything at all, we would exist in the moment of now. We would not be bothered about what is to come and as our future tends to reflect what we have done in the past (karma), there would be no stress, but not much of anything else either! So if that was to be the human condition, the entire human race would stagnate and not evolve consciousness or much else at all. In Zen, we tend to call this paradoxical state of affairs a koan. A question to which there is no answer. Do nothing at all and we stagnate and maybe even cease to exist as food and other necessities run out
Doing something just throws us into resistance of what is and creates over-stress and anxiety of some kind or other about the outcome.
So the answer is in the question
How can we take care of the future without over-stressing about it?
Of what is wanted and needed in the future, then focus on doing what will bring that about in the here and now and let go of what is to be the result. It can be done and when one is aware of doing it, it is incredibly liberating.
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Derek has been in practice as a registered therapist(UK) since 1976 and has helped many people, realize their goals and improve the quality of their life, on a face to face basis, in groups and on line. He is a Zen practitioner and this reflects in his work.