by Larry Barsh, M.S. C.H.T.
If you are living in a physical body, you are experiencing stress to some degree. Stress has been called a “silent epidemic”, and is cited as the cause of, or major contributor to, about 80% of all illness. And while most people talk about stress, very few understand what it is, or how to manage and release it.
The concept of physical and emotional “stress” was first presented by Dr. Hans Selye. The term “stress” refers to the wear-and-tear on the body caused when a person physically and/or emotionally reacts to a real, or imagined, event. Keep the word imagined in mind for a minute. It’s a significant key to relieving stress.
There are several types of stress. One is environmental stress – the irritation caused by pollution, pesticides, fatty foods, electromagnetic and other radiation, consistent loud noises, etc. These stressors put a load on your body, and your body has to work harder to compensate and balance for their effects.
Another type of stress is Eustress. This is relatively good stress – laughing, loving, singing, bliss, proper exercise. These stressors also cause the body to have to re-balance, but their overall results can be to release bad stress and create greater physical and emotional benefits.
The third type of stress (there are more aspects to stress, but for the sake of this discussion we’ll simplify) is called Distress. This is where the word imagined comes in. Most of the stress that affects us is created by our beliefs. Our beliefs (preferences, desires, ethics, prejudices, fears, priorities) cause us to react. For example, if you have a nightmare, you might thrash about, call out, feel fear, have an increased heart beat, and perspire. You may wake-up confused and breathing hard, feeling tense. You have experienced a stress-filled event, and why? Because your mind created an imagined story (based on some part of your belief system), and then your mind believed it, and your body reacted. That is a familiar example of how distress occurs. And the good news is that you can re-evaluate the beliefs that cause fear, anxiety, and other distress.
Beliefs are programs that run in the computer which is our mind. If your mind were built to scale as a mainframe computer, it would have to cover an area the size of the entire state of Texas. With a mind as big as Texas running a negative, stressing program, to which you physically and emotionally react, is it any wonder that the body can be adversely affected? The solution is to identify the stressors in your life, and eliminate them, or, alter your perception of them. That can take a little time, but it’s not as hard as it seems, and you’ll see and feel amazing changes in your life and health. It’s important to know that you are not stuck with your stress!
While you are considering making changes in your life to manage stress, there is one technique you can use, right now, to help relieve stress. It is the Thymus Tap. First, find the bone at the top of your rib cage, just below the soft skin at the bottom of your neck. Now, think of what you want to make better, and say it positively, in the present tense (I am calm, I feel strong, I am comfortable, my mind is clear). Next, as you repeat your phrase/s, tap on that bone with one or two fingers. Do this for thirty seconds to one minute. You will probably feel improvement quickly.
Behind the bone where you are tapping is the thymus gland. For some reason, the thymus seems to broadcast your phrase throughout the body, and the physical body takes appropriate action. I suggest practicing this technique about 12 times per day, for one minute. Each time you practice, your mind and body respond more rapidly and effectively. As simple, or odd, as the Thymus Tap may seem, I have gotten reports from world-class athletes, business people, children, heart patients, and many others that it works. Some have even said that it saved their lives.
Perspective on Stress Management by Larry Barsh
The practice of meditation is one of the best ways to reduce stress.
Several decades ago, Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard University began testing people, while they meditated, to see what their bodies were doing. He found that the minds of meditators were quieter, that heart rates slowed, stress hormones in the bloodstream decreased significantly, muscles relaxed, and the subjects expressed a greater sense of well- being.
Years later, a large health insurance company asked people at Maharishi University, in Fairfield, Iowa to participate in a study which would compare their general health conditions with 600,000 of the company’s current clients after one year. The stipulation was that the Fairfield people would meditate twice daily, for twenty minutes each time. At the end of the year, the meditators were always at least 50% healthier than the current clients, and most often scored 70%-80%-90% and 100% better in the categories studied (i.e. incidence of heart problems, stroke, emergency room visits, accidents, cardiopulmonary disease, diabetes, etc.).
So, what is meditation? And can anyone do it?
Meditation is simply the practice of learning to quiet the mind, to engage in focused relaxation. Your mind says about 35,000 negative things to you each day. It nags, remembers bad things, awfulizes, and limits your abilities. By learning to actually “sit still, doing nothing (this is one definition of meditation),” you can ease the constant flow of negative thought, clear your mind, and begin making positive choices for being and feeling better. Anyone can do this and receive beneficial results. The key is to begin, and keep meditating.
While the aim of meditation is to learn to quiet the mind, many other rewards occur. Along with those found by Dr. Benson, I have seen many clients heal faster because their calmer bodies could devote more energy to recuperation. Meditation can also lead to increased energy and greater ability to focus and think clearly. Because muscles and nerves are more relaxed they actually become stronger and can function better. Many world-class and professional athletes utilize some form of meditation to enhance their athletic performance. And, benefits of meditation produce positive affects for people of all ages.
Throughout history, all religions and spiritual paths have relied on meditation and contemplation as a significant part of daily practice and observance. To learn how to meditate, you can find a book that explains meditation and follow the instructions. That book should be brief, and to the point. Unless you want to be a meditation scholar, you just need the “sitting still, doing nothing” basics which will include some mind focusing techniques, easy breathing techniques, methods to bring your mind back when it wanders, and answers to the questions which all people ask when beginning meditation.
Locating a meditation teacher is a preferred way for many people to learn meditation. Personally, I like to have a human being available to answer questions. In eastern Iowa, I am aware of only a few places where you can go and learn meditation from a teacher. I believe that the Fairfield, Iowa area has several teachers of Transcendental Meditation (as should Maharishi University), and the cost can be substantial. In Iowa City, the Zen Society teaches and welcomes anyone who would like to come and meditate with them. I also teach meditation, and create an audiotape program with individualized instruction which can be followed until meditation becomes familiar to you. There is a charge for the tape and instruction.
One other good way of learning meditation is by listening to commercial audio programs which teach meditation. While the instruction is solely on tape, there are some accomplished meditators who have designed easily understandable approaches to basic meditation. Larger, local bookstores should have a selection of these taped programs, and, of course, there is always the Internet. The Sounds True audio publishing company would also be a good place to investigate. They produce good quality products.
Finally, think of meditation this way. Is it worth taking twenty minutes once, or twice, a day to relax and probably greatly reduce stress, add balance to your life, and help your body feel and be better? It is to participants in Dr. Dean Ornish’s program. They used meditation, along with eating nutritionally well and exercising, to unblock arteries and improve the overall conditions of their heart systems. And how many times each day does twenty minutes slip by while you’re resting or daydreaming? Why not add a little extra to those times, and experience the surprising benefits of meditation?