Stress - Ancient solutions

by Derek Ayre


Did the indigenous people of thousands of years ago suffer from stress to the degree that we suffer today? It is generally not thought so, so I believe ancient knowledge can help us give meaning to our lives today and help us manage our stress. Because if our lives have meaning, our stress is of the positive sort and not negative. It is not stress that causes the problem, but the way we deal with it - the way we manage it. With good stress management we can turn all negative stress to positive.

The evolution of our brains and mind has brought us new technology but the technology does not seem to be used to improve the quality of our lives in some respects. We pursue material wealth and comfort, but does it really also bring us a sense of spiritual well-being?

If we look at indigenous peoples - some who are still around today living amongst all the technological advances that we enjoy - what stands out is the way they seem to live in harmony with the universe around them exactly as it is. This is something that Western Man seems to have lost. However, as our stress levels have risen, we seem top be looking more and more towards Eastern philosophies such as Yoga, Zen, Tai Chi and others.

When I first became interested in Zen and other Eastern philosophies about thirty years ago, I was in the minority. To the secular person I was a little eccentric and to a few of the orthodox religious ministers I met, I was in league with the devil and my very soul was at risk from eternal damnation! But even in the face of such opposition, I knew, in my heart of hearts, that what I had found in Zen, was a spiritual discipline that encompassed both everyday and spiritual life.


In Zen, the practitioner aspires, through his/her meditation, to realise "at-one-ment" Meditation at first becomes a struggle as the ego fights "tooth and nail" to maintain the individuality of the practitioner. This is because the ego is terrified of being annihilated and lost in a sea of consciousness that has been described by the Zen Masters as the "ALL", "NOTHINGNESS", or the "VOID".


But annihilation is not what happens. What really takes place is really difficult to explain with words and it really has to be experienced. But even though words are inadequate to describe the state of Enlightenment, they can motivate a person to take the (not always easy) path that leads to the experience.

There is a realisation that all is one and one is all. But this is not the experience that the ego dreads. One does not lose his/her individuality, but in a paradoxical way, the practitioner realises he/she is both individual and the whole. Part of everything that exists. Therefore, if harm is done, it is done to the whole and the self. If good is done, it is done also to the whole and the self.

But as mentioned earlier, these words are just not adequate to describe such an experience. And such an experience doesn't emerge to be written about, but to be experienced. All the written word can do is to say that such a state exists, thus motivating the reader to strive for the reality him/herself.

Thanks for reading.



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