Stress is caused by our interpretation and attitude towards the circumstances we find ourselves in. Attitude colors interpretation, it prevents us from coping at optimal levels, it can solve 90% of issues by allowing the freedom to creatively address what otherwise might be viewed as a crisis.Stress is largely the result of our own decisions. We place ourselves in circumstances. We choose to care. We lose self awareness in the moment, and react emotionally. Our attitudes in dealing with the consequences of our decisions then come into play.
Stress is also directly keyed to physiology as well as the psychology. Health is a key factor. If my diet is off, if I have not been to the gym to release some energy in a positive fashion; my stress levels rise. I need to take care of my body as a baseline, to then be able to take care of my brain.
Most of the articles on this site directly or indirectly relate to dealing with stress, whether it be accepting responsibility for your life, learning to change your beliefs and attitudes, or meditation.
Ari makes the important point that stress has physiological components as well as psychological aspects. In much of the conversation we talked about some of the physical things we can do to relieve stress. One of the keys to this is getting enough exercise. The body is designed to move. We aren't built to be sedentary creatures. The mind-body is a whole, not two completely different things.
One of the ways we can combine the two is to practice a movement meditation. There have been many forms of movement mediation developed over the years. Tai Chi, Qigong, and Yoga are obvious examples. There is another form of movement meditation we can all do that does not require a teacher or books. Walking.
Walking meditation isn't difficult. As with all meditations, you focus. Here you focus on two things - walking and breathing. As you walk, you concentrate only on your next step and your breathing, tying the two together in one rhythmic whole.
- Inhale on the first step
- Hold on the next step
- Exhale on the next step
- Hold on the next step
The important thing is to keep your breathing in time with your steps. If one step for each section of the cycle of breathing seems too short, try two or three.
In normal breathing exercises we eventually build to a ratio of 1:2:4:2. For each count of inhalation, we exhale for a count of 4 and hold our breath for a count of 2. As you perform walking meditation, you can do the same thing. After you become comfortable with the 1:1:1:1 ratio, develop comfort at a ratio of 1:2:2:2. When you become comfortable with this, develop the 1:2:4:2 ratio.
Effects of Walking Meditation
In Be Still and Know I discussed the physical, psychological, and spiritual benefits of meditation. These include a decrease in stress and its effects on the body, an improvement in immune system function, a decreased need for sleep, a decrease in the symptoms of depression, an improved outlook on life, an improvement in your ability to relate to other people, and an integration of the various states of consciousness.
Walking meditation combines these with the health improvements that accompany all exercise - a decreased susceptibility to stress, improved physical endurance and cardiovascular function, a decrease in the effects of diabetes, improved coping with arthritis, improved mental outlook, weight control, and a decrease in susceptibility to osteoporosis.
For good general health, walking is hard to beat. Combining walking with meditation is a winner on all fronts.
[tags]meditation, walking, exercise, stress[/tags]