Welcome back as we follow Kevin Schoeninger’s messages on Spiritual Growth Monthly. This week, Kevin concludes his discussion of Life’s Big Questions, by talking about stress. Stress is everywhere. As soon as we get over one stressful situation, something else seems to happen, causing us to wonder “how do I handle the stress I am feeling…right now?”
One of the most frustrating things about the daily stress we experience is the very fact that it keeps happening every day. We want it to be over. We want to be done. And we may feel even more stress because we get so tired or angry about having to deal with things we’d rather not have to face anymore.
Now, I write a lot about stress. They say write what you know. But Kevin always seems to have insights that help me take a different look at stress. He is able to change my perspective. He took a deep look into the idea of perspective last week, and while addressing stress this week, he returns to that same theme. He suggests that it is not really the individual stressors that tie us up in knots, but our perspective about each situation.
“Stress is the perception of demands and challenges combined with the perception that you may not be able to handle those demands and challenges.”
I found this a rather revolutionary idea. The demands and challenges that seem to constantly bombard us are not really the problem. They are impersonal. They don’t spot us from the edges of the universe with a target on our backs. They just happen. They just are.
The problem is the deep conviction that somehow we won’t be able to handle whatever happens. That we will falter, buckle under, or not survive.
Kevin reminded us last week how “our consciousness shapes our experience.” What he calls the Law of Perspective says:
“The experiences you have are the result of the way you are looking at things, the perspective of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors you are engaged in at the moment.”
We sometimes brush off this idea, believing our experiences are based on outside events. We may even think it can’t be right because there is no way our thoughts really influence the world around us. But when outside events happen, is that what we really experience? Or is our experience only what we feel about it? Maybe all our experience is inside ourselves. The good news is, we can change the feelings part. We can change how we react to stress, and thereby change the negative effects it has on our bodies and our lives.
Meditation can empower us to change our perspective.
When our perception is based on the notion that we’re not up to meeting the challenges of life, it makes us feel powerless and out of control. This is where meditation can help us. It strengthens our natural response mechanisms and how we react when stress occurs. It empowers us.
Kevin’s second revolutionary idea is that the ability to meditate belongs to everyone. Well, that’s cool. That means we aren’t born with special skills that allow us to meditate, like people born with perfect pitch or a natural ability to throw a great pass. Meditation is not a talent. It’s a skill, and like any skill, it gets better with practice. Accepting this idea means we can stop beating ourselves up when we try to meditate and don’t think we’ll ever get it right.
This alone is empowering. Few kids get on a bike or roller skates the first time, fall down and say, “I’ll never be able to do this. I’m done.” No, children get back up. They seem to know instinctively that you have to keep practicing to learn what you can do. And as soon as you learn one thing, it gives you a feeling of power that you can do anything you want.
Kevin defines meditation as “a practice of consciously guiding your attention to relax your body, calm your emotions, and clear your mind.” If our relaxation response is a natural part of us, then practicing the control of it through meditation gives us a natural defense against stress. The more we practice, the more we are able to release the “accumulated stress” that may have built up in our bodies through our entire lifetime.
Guided meditation to go from Stress to Empowerment.
The second part of Kevin’s message continues with a guided meditation, geared toward taking us from our stressful feelings to a sense of empowerment and calm. He asks us to recall a specific situation that causes us stress, and then use a 3 step process to transform our perspective on the experience.
1. Observe and accept your thoughts and feelings without getting involved in how they feel. Look at them as if you were an outside witness, safe and apart.
2. Release those thoughts and feeling by using Conscious Relaxation techniques. This includes deep breathing, inner smiling, realigning your body, and feeling your body’s inner sensations.
3. Sense Inner Guidance. Trusting that we have inner guidance helps us gain our sense of empowerment and strength.
You don’t have to worry about the steps as you get started. Kevin’s deeply relaxing meditation guides us through every step. The more we practice, the more we improve our ability to practice these steps on our own.
This has only been a brief overview. I encourage you to read or listen to Kevin’s entire article, at www.spiritualgrowthmonthly.com. This may be one of most helpful I have read so far, because being able to change our perspective could change everything we feel about stress. And in turn, everything we feel about our world.
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