i would venture to say that virtually all our “mental and emotional stress” and “discomfort” are actually due to body stress and discomfort.
In the coming years, i believe it will become more and more obvious that our human “feelings” and “emotions” are largely nothing more than “intellectualized” body feelings.
So, although we may say “i am stressed because of this reason or that reason”, the sense of being stressed is controlled by the body and its ability to “knot up and store” these feelings.
This can be overwhelming at times, and can cause panic attacks, anxiety and even depression.
i say this because every “dropping off” of a worry, or of an anxiety, can be facilitated by a releasing or dropping off of a muscle knotting somewhere in the body (and if the dropping off of the emotional anxiety happens first, it MUST be accompanied by the dropping off of the associated muscle knotting). If the muscle tension doesn’t go away, the sense of still being stressed will also not go away (or will return), even though the circumstance which caused it is passed.
This notion is indicated by the level of tension we habitually carry around in our bodies.
Examples of what we do to relieve our sense of tension:
– Yoga is a stretching out, or wringing out of tension in our body, and leaves us with a more wholesome sense of body, and a less scattered sense of our “self” as a whole.
(Possibly the most important point that can be made here is the decrease of a sense of scatteredness and the increase of a sense of “wholeness”)
(Also, the “self” i am referring to here is simply the general awareness an individual uses to sense the world around them, not in the normal sense of the word self)
– Exercise is beneficial, not just because it exercises the body, lungs and blood circulating system, but because it provides relief from built up tension in the muscles by moving and stretching.
– Posture is extremely important in regards to our sense of well-being, because hunching and tensing puts pressure on our internal organs, and allows us to have tension knots in our body. While we are in this state of pressurizing our internal organs, it brings a sense of anxiety and stress to the whole body. Then we become accustomed to doing this and it actually becomes habitual response to outside circumstances. (i.e. this kind of stress creates a body knot here, and that kind of stress creates a body know there) When the circumstance has past, we continue to carry that tension knot in that location in our body. This is why sometimes we are hunched even when we are not stressed….. as a very inquiring mind once said “the stressor is gone, but the stress (tension) remains”
– Drinking water can sometimes relieve the sense that there is some impending situation about to occur, because the “impending” sense is often a body anxiety due to dehydration. How could that be, unless that sense were largely due to bodily functions and not emotional functions.
It is said that the body acts as the minds soldier… that the brain has no muscles in and of itself, so it uses the nervous system to send signals to the muscles, and cause them to tense up in order to hold onto an “attitude” it wants to hold on to. (We fixate on something which made us angry, and don’t want to let go of that anger, so the brain continues to send signals to that “tension knot” to continue, and to hold onto it, until sometimes, we are not even aware anymore, of why that knot is there…..
Example of stress and tension: Joe wants to get home quickly after work, but the boss needs him to stay and complete a task. It is Joe’s sons birthday, and it is really important that he get home, but Joe’s boss is a prick, and doesn’t give a rip about Joe’s problem.
Joe’s brain sends a message to his heart to start pumping harder causing his blood pressure to rise,then the brain sends a message to the muscles in Joe’s shoulders to tense up, causing an uncomfortable feeling due to blood flow being constricted in that area (i do believe that this is where the concept of “qi” energy being tied up in some area of the body comes from) …..
After Joe arrives home late for the birthday party, and his apologies have been accepted, he asks his wife if she will rub his shoulders, because he feels stressed and tired.
While the stress of not being able to get home on time is gone, the tension is still there… not to mention that Joe has allowed his boss to install a permanent stress in his shoulders, because Joe focuses on his boss being a prick…. 🙂
Over time, our body gets conditioned to and contorted by the signals the brain sends to call “tension soldiers” to action. The body does not immediately release those tensions when the “reason for tensing” is gone… Each persons body has different ways of instituting those muscle knots, and how long to carry them….
The over all long term effect, can become the base for nervous disorders, undue aging, most aches and pains, general feeling of tiredness, and also opens us up to disease disorders in relation to the location of our body knots. (What is a disease, but an ongoing condition? and, Yes, i do understand that there are conditions caused by our DNA makeup and not life situations)
My personal practice includes:
– Yoga daily, to stretch out the knots, and to expose knots i didn’t know were there. (We have a simple yoga regimen of approx. 25 minutes)
– Proper posture through the day (sitting and standing zazen posture)
– Paying attention to places in my body where i am tensing, and releasing them, (Possibly the greatest effect)
– Watching tension when it rises, and telling myself – 1) this will pass soon, and 2) this circumstance only makes me tense if i allow it to (the old “vampire at the door asking for permission to come in” it is WE ALONE saying yes or no… not anyone else!)
– Paying attention to my breath, to keep it slow, deep and relaxed. As often as possible and as constantly as possible through the day. This continuous practice can bring clarity to the whole day.
– Letting my sense of “physical center” drop down to the hara region, just below the navel.
– Daily zazen, which among other things, can remind me of what “perfect relaxation” FEELS like.
Deciding not to let an emotion “run away with me”, but to rather to focus on these internal processes is the answer to most of life’s stress.
Also, it helps me to make clear choices about what activities and practices “put me out there in the middle of busy traffic”, so the anxiety i bump into by making poor choices is also decreased.