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by Kay Hutchinson
- The relationship of stress to spiritual development
- How Can We Create a Lower Stress Lifestyle in Our Busy Lives?
What is the relationship of stress to spiritual development?
When we are relaxed, our brains our able to achieve alpha states (associated with meditative states) and theta states (associated with high levels of creativity and metaphysical abilities such as extra sensory perception and spiritual communication with God).
Thus, a relaxed state helps us to cultivate the brain wave frequencies associated with higher spiritual development.
When we are stressed, our brains usually exhibit frequencies of beta state (associated with higher levels of mental thinking, inherent with activities we encounter in wakeful states). Thus, beta states are more about our intellectual processes and less about intuition and spiritual processing.
Practices that integrate mindfulness into daily life help us to train our brains to achieve the alpha and theta states naturally.
Take a moment and connect in with the feeling that you get when you are on vacation and relaxed.
Doesn’t the world seem somehow more vibrant and relaxed? Isn’t it often easier to be more in the moment and positive when vacationing?
Yet, it’s important to develop that relaxed state in our everyday lives because if we limit ourselves into believing that we can only “let go” when we are on vacation, we tend to stay in a perpetual state of stress on some level.
Integration allows us to relax the brain and all parts of our being. In that state of integration, there are no disconnects between parts of ourselves. There is not a “work” self and ”play “self. When one has achieved integration, one naturally integrates that play/vacation state into all activities including work.
So, how do we cultivate that integration in everyday life?
If we take five to ten minutes each hour to simply reset our brains by breathing deeply, meditating on an image that brings peace, or performing subtle qi gong movements, we train our brains to go into alpha and theta states as we move through our days. It is the alpha and theta states that allow us to access different and seemingly contradictory aspects of ourselves to meet experience in an integrated rather than compartmentalized way.
Immediately, you might say, “But I don’t have five minutes each hour to meditate or breathe.” Yet, you do. Each one of us has to go to the restroom regularly, drink some water, eat a snack, walk from one point to another. Why not take advantage of those natural breaks to incorporate breath work or meditative states?
Remember that anyone can achieve alpha states when isolated from every day life during a retreat or vacation. But, the true art of living is integrating that ability to access alpha and theta states while moving through the activities of your everyday existence.
In Chinese medicine a predominant beta state can be linked to overactive thinking, most closely associated with imbalances of the liver, gallbladder, spleen and stomach.
We have all had the experience of responding to a situation with one thought, then embellishing that thought with all the “what ifs” and “woulda, coulda, shoulda” thoughts until we find ourselves experiencing a snowball of tension and stress.
But if we simplify our thinking and stay in the moment (not focus on the future or past), then we can reduce the snowball effect and minimize stress.
My clients often comment that my peaceful and relaxed vibe is similar to how they feel when they are on vacation. They wonder how I achieve that state while running a busy practice with many demands on my energy and time.
I simply make my work a vacation. The same peace I feel when gazing at the undulating waves off South Padre Island or Monterey Bay is a state I consciously evoke whenever I am performing bodywork or listening to a client share during life coaching sessions, or when I am teaching a qi gong class.
It wasn’t always that way. When I first began this career in Chinese medicine, I often was distracted with the many tasks I had to achieve in a day. But, at some point, I realized that the greatest gift I could give to myself and my clients was to be a walking model of integrating alpha and theta states into my everyday walk.
As I cultivated this meditative state more, I found also my brain states opening to new levels of consciousness and spiritual awakenings in every moment including challenging moments.
For example, to celebrate New Year’s day, I went on a nature hike and while attempting to get to a beautiful rocky area not far from river shore, I fell into a very cold river as my feet slipped on algae covered rock while trying to step quickly. My hiking bag with my iphone splashed into the frigid water. Surprisingly, the phone managed to keep on functioning, albeit in a glitchy way (later the phone fully recovered).
Without a change of clothing, and far from any stores, I used fire cycle macrocosmic qi gong to stay warm, and managed to hike about three quarters up a sizable hill in the sunshine, allowing my clothes to dry somewhat to a comfortably squishy state. I found it exhilarating, hilarious, and also spiritually cleansing because a couple of hours after the experience, a very deep meditative state descended.
Most of all, it was an event that inspired deep gratitude for the training with qi gong, such that I was able to keep myself warm, continue the hike, and enjoy the experience of nature. There were no thoughts of “Oh I wish I hadn’t misstepped,” or ”I wish had done that differently.”
Another person might have perceived this event as disastrous, but I perceived the experience as a wonderfully fun adventure that affirmed spiritual and physical strengths–the idea that if one remains focused and breathes, one can transcend most challenges.
So even “accidents” can be a source of great joy if we integrate a meditative state that allows us to transcend the challenge and embrace the bliss of falling sometimes, of just letting go and accepting whatever God hands to us in a moment.
For additional strategies for reducing stress as a tool for ascending the spirit, call Kay Hutchinson on (USA) 512.468.6588 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org