Don’t avoid those stressful moments; embrace them

4 October 2017 | beando_admin

We all want to be happy. Not many of us really want to be unhappy, do we? So if that is the case why can’t we just think happy thoughts and emotions all the time so that we never have to deal with stressful moments?

The problem is you, your mind and the world does not work that way. We can’t avoid confrontation, challenge, work deadlines or other people. But you can change the way you respond to those experiences. Don’t push those stressful experiences away; use them and embrace them. It may sound counterintuitive but it’s the only way to make progress.

“Man is not troubled by things, but his opinion of them”

Epictetus

Resistance is Futile 

A study undertaken at UC Berkeley has recently looked at how emotional and mental acceptance, a technique developed through meditation, can bring positive impacts to psychological health. The results show that people who try to resist their negative thoughts and emotions, who try to control and stop them, ended up only intensifying their psychological stress and anxiety.

In contrast, people who learnt to just be alongside their negative thoughts and emotions, rather than push them away, noticed the psychological impact became less intense, eventually falling away. 

So by embracing what is happening without wanting to control it, identify with it or fight it, maximum control is gained.

So when we learn to let go through meditation practice we learn to stop resisting. This is often confusing for people who are just starting out. Surely if you feel bad you should do what you can to make it stop and resist it? Ironically, it is the resisting that intensifies the experience of feeling bad.

In our modern meditation training courses we often describe meditation as a simple change of perspective in the cognitive shift, which leads to a relationship between inner being and outer doing worlds. 

In short, we are learning to create a space between you and the world. This involves learning to let go, not so that you don’t care what really happens, but more so that you are engaged and have a deeper connection to what is happening right here, right now. This is letting go with a purpose.

The Middle Ground

When we learn to let go and just be alongside experiences, feelings and thoughts we are occupying ‘the middle ground’. In reality, there are no bad or good thoughts or emotions; there are just thoughts and emotions that rise up, stay around for a while and fall away. It’s only our judgement and identification with a particular thought or emotion — in other words, your relationship to them — that intensifies the feeling.

“Why, then, ’tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To me it is a prison. Well, then it isn’t one to you, since nothing is really good or bad in itself—it’s all what a person thinks about it”.  

Shakespeare: Hamlet: Act 2, Scene 2 

In our classes, we often say that you are not your thoughts. The thoughts may appear real because we feel them in the body and they play out as a story in the mind, but in reality thoughts are just things that you have collected over time.

Thoughts can’t think themselves. But you can think yourself out of thoughts. Try it. 

If you’d like to learn to embrace the stressful moments, why not sign-up to one of our modern meditation programmes?

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