We all have a part of our brain that controls our actions such as breathing, digestion and such activities that the body does automatically, involuntarily. Nature has designed a fail-safe system in a part of our brain called hypothalamus. This part of the brain also includes what biologists refer to as the reptilian brain. Behavioral scientists often talk about the fight or flight response. When the body-mind system perceives a danger to our survival the hypothalamus is alerted by our unconscious mind. The unconscious mind functions at speeds a million times faster than the conscious mind. So even before we consciously become aware of danger, we instinctively become alert. The hypothalamus activates the pituitary gland, the master gland, which then activates the adrenalin glands that secrete the adrenalin hormone, which is pumped into our extremities, the hands and legs. We then get ready for the ‘fight or flight’ reaction – either the energy prepares us to fight the threat or to run away from the threat. The unconscious reptilian brain takes the decision to release chemicals into our body to protect us. This worked very well in the days of the caveman when he faced lions and tigers. He had to be ready even without thinking to fight or run away.
To study the effect of adrenalin on human beings today, experiments were carried out on athletes. Sprinters were lined up at the starting block and moments before the pistol was raised to signal to them to start running, the umpire lowered his arm. So, the sprinters had to fall back and reposition themselves. This was repeated six times. Without even running a meter the sprinters collapsed at the starting block! The adrenalin level in their bodies had become dangerously high. The life saving adrenalin can become a killer when it is produced without reason.
The chances of our meeting a tiger or a lion are quite slim these days. Nevertheless our unconscious mind keeps sending signals of such danger. I call them ‘fear strokes’. Psychologists estimate that we face at least half a dozen such fear strokes every day. These fear strokes produce large quantities of adrenalin in us. It has been established that depression is a direct result of such adrenalin production. Depression in turn is considered to be the main cause of many chronic and fatal illnesses. Medical research has found that many young people in rich countries, even teenagers, have arteries so badly blocked that their arteries are similar to sixty-year-old people! Doctors have established that the physical condition is only one part of the problem. A much larger part is the emotional condition. It is now fairly well established that an emotional trigger causes the immediate onset of a heart attack or stroke, even though the physical condition may have been present for a long time. Nowadays, cardiac physicians routinely request people to fill in a questionnaire on stress factors in addition to conventional tests to determine how prone they are to cardiac problems. Doctors have found that major traumas in life such as death of a loved one, loss of job, loss of money and even transfers in job and moving houses can be serious stress factors that can lead to heart attacks.
What is true of heart attacks is true of many non-life threatening but highly debilitating ailments such as backaches, migraines and ulcers. The underlying emotional or psychological factor is far more relevant than the superficial physiological causes.
Stress is a killer, but it is in the mind.
We create fear strokes through worry. We create them through conditioning. You can correct the situation temporarily through medicines. Unless the underlying cause is removed, no medicine can be effective in permanently curing the ailment.
People who work in corporations can relate with this incident. People who make decisions and commitments are often out of touch with ground reality. Once such decisions are made their egos are in play. Anything can be sacrificed but not the ego! A simple study of corporate history can show how many companies have failed because of the egos of the people who led them. I am told by some of my disciples in the corporate field about something called Level 5 Leadership. This is about those corporate leaders who put themselves behind the needs of the company and the people who work for them rather than placing their own ego needs first. Research has shown that the Chief Executives of companies that have been commercially successful consistently are hardly known to the outside world! These leaders are so humble, and focused inwards.
In life, there are two categories of people: those who are stressed and those who are not. Those who are stressed are those who wish to control life. They like to mould life in the way they wish it to be. They are focused only on themselves. Those who have no stress are those who flow with life. They accept without complaint what life offers them. Their focus is about what they can do for others. You feel the stress when you flow against the current, not when you flow with it. You lose yourself when you flow with the current.
You can choose to get stressed just by staying at home. It is not necessary to go out and work. Research shows that the highest frequency of divorces happens between the ages of forty and fifty. People tend to divorce more when children grow up and leave home. Till then children have been the buffers between their parents. When children leave home, husband and wife do not know what to say to each other. Silence creates stress!
Stress at the workplace starts with our education system. We start ranking children from a very young age. When in a group three people are graded as heroes, the rest of the group feels useless. We are taught to compete from a very early age. This comparison continues into the workplace and converts it into a battlefield. The moral is: to be sitting and doing nothing, you must be sitting very, very high up.
The so-called Human Resource programs specify that people must be categorized. I am told that in many corporations it is necessary to show that ten or fifteen percent of the people are bad performers. People are reduced to statistics! In order to survive people are forced to make others victims. This is probably why they call these offices ‘concrete jungles’!
As long as people are driven by fear and greed, they cannot be inspired. They can be controlled and made to perform routine tasks, but they cannot be inspired to do the impossible. This is the dilemma today’s corporations face. They need people to perform, but their kit of motivational techniques is not enough. It contains the whip and the carrot, nothing more.
Human beings are not satisfied merely with material things. Psychologists in the field of management recognize this and say that salaries and perquisites are dissatisfiers and not satisfiers. What they mean is that if people are poorly paid they are unhappy, but they do not become happy by being paid well. They look for something more. They look for recognition.
A well-known psychologist built a model of how human beings move up in their desires. This is now named after him as Maslow’s* hierarchy of needs. At the base of this pyramid are one’s survival needs of food, shelter and other material essentials. People then look for fulfillment in the society they live in, such as building a network and so on. They then seek love and attention. Then they look for respect, name and fame. After all this they are still dissatisfied. They feel that there is something still missing in their lives.
That something is within. Maslow* called it self-actualization. This is the zone where we flow free of stress. This is the zone of inner realization. This is the zone where you know that you are one with the universal energy. Whether you work at home, in an office or factory, or you do not work at all, you still look forward to this state where you are centered.
This is what we teach in our basic Life Bliss Program courses. The five levels of the pyramid that Maslow* drew correspond to the seven levels of energy that we carry within us. These seven centers of energy are called chakras* in the vedic system. Each chakra* represents an emotional state as well as a state of desire. As we fulfill the needs of each chakra* we move up in energy till we reach a state of fulfillment. It is a process many thousands of people have gone through with remarkable effect. We have taught these programs in many corporations worldwide. I call this a ‘Guaranteed Solution’.
I referred to the Level 5 Leadership concept earlier. If this concept is about developing people who are more concerned about what they can do to help others and the world and through that process themselves, then our Life Bliss Programs are a simple route to developing such Level 5 Leaders. Such leaders not only do not suffer from stress themselves, but they also do not induce stress in others.
To sum up, stress is an inevitable part of life. There can be no life without what we term ‘stress’. It is just the mind-body response to what happens outside of us. It is not the disturbance outside that creates the trouble, the stress. It is the disturbance inside that does it. That is why we said earlier that we are the disturbance.
This is why, what causes stress in one person does not necessarily cause stress in another person. Someone said that the reverse of ‘stressed’ reads as ‘desserts’! What is poison for one is nectar for another!
Stress is such an important issue in the corporate world. They estimate that trillions of dollars are wasted because of stress. As long as stress affects only people no one cares. The moment it affects what they call the bottom line, of course something must be done about it. Talking about stress and offering solutions that work temporarily at best is a huge business.
There is nothing that you can do about stress by playing with things outside, rather than fixing what is wrong within. How long can you run? From what will you run away?
What you can do is to change yourself. You can make yourself stress-proof. It is so simple. Choose not to be affected by what happens outside you. This is not impractical. This is a simple truth. It is your conditioning that makes you get affected by what happens to you through events that are beyond your control. Nothing is inherently good or bad except what we judge them to be.
Drop your judgment about yourself, people around you and situations. You will be free of stress. That is all it takes to be liberated from stress. Meditation can help you with this liberation. It helps you reach the restful mind state from which you can witness events around you without being touched by them.
You really have nothing to lose by trying, except your stress!
This is a simple and yet a powerful technique to clear stress.
We teach this technique in our Programs for unblocking the manipuraka chakra or navel energy center, which is the seat of stress. This technique should always be practiced before a meal, when the stomach is empty and a few hours before sleep.
While standing, shout, scream, rave and rant in a language that you do not know.
If anyone is listening, it should also not make any sense to them.
Be aggressive in letting out all your emotions and feelings that will start pouring out of you once you start.
Cry if you so wish.
Roll on the floor if your emotions drive you.
This technique is a powerful meditation. It unblocks your unconscious and allows all the negativities stored inside to dissolve. Typical psychoanalytical sessions when patients talk to their analysts or even throw things around for catharsis, are still conscious processes. Only ten percent of your stored memories will be released. Processes such as hypnosis are through the unconscious and you have no control. This technique is a superconscious process in which you retain awareness while cleansing yourself.
This is a simple and yet a powerful technique to clear stress. We teach this Practice this technique for twenty minutes. Then sit down and allow the energy to spread within you in silence for ten minutes. During this silence just be a witness to your thoughts. Do not suppress them or chase them.