Categories
Mindfulness Meditation

The Science of Stress

From the materials furnished to me years ago from the University of Massachusetts Center for Mindfulness, as part of the teacher training I received in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction:

WHAT IS STRESS?

“Stress is the nonspecific response of the organism to any pressure or demand. A Stressor is any stimulus, whether in the external or internal environment, that produces the body’s stress response. For example: An overwhelming stress response (caused by prolonged starvation, worry, fatigue, or cold) can break down the body’s protective mechanisms. This is true both of adaptation which depends on chemical immunity and of that due to inflammatory barricades. It is for this reason that so many maladies tend to become rampant during wars and famines. If a microbe is in or around us all the time and yet causes no disease until we are exposed to a stress, what is the “cause” of our illness, the microbe or the stress? I think both are – and equally so. In most instances, disease is due neither to the germ as such, nor to our adaptive reactions as such, but to the inadequacy of our reactions against the germ.”

– Dr. Hans Selye

Exposure to Stressors → Stress Response (release of Cortisol)

Stress Response = ↑ Blood Pressure, ↑ Respiration Rate, ↑ Muscular Tensing, ↑ “Voiding” Response (bowels & bladder), ↓ Sleep, ↓ Gastrointestinal Activity, ↓ Immune System Activity, ↓ Libido.

Chronic exposure to stressors leads to the mind, sympathetic nervous system, and the neuroendocrine system engaging in a feedback loop, initiating a body/mind state of chronic stress:

Chronic Hyper-vigilance (Cognitive) → Chronic Cortisol Release (Neuroendocrine System)

Chronic Cortisol Release → Chronic Bodily Responsiveness (Sympathetic Nervous System)

Chronic Bodily Responsiveness (Sympathetic Nervous System) → Chronic Hyper-vigilance (Cognitive)……

Over a period of time chronic stress, initiated by a chronic stressor, can take on a life of its own as the mind stays in a state of hyper-vigilance, causing the body to go into a stressful state even when the chronic stressor is no longer present.

We often try to escape this stress cycle by trying to think our way out of it. This usually fails, absent doing the work of bringing the body back to a relaxed state. Today’s meditation is a hybrid of the classic body scan and a technique called Progressive Muscular Relaxation. The intention is to teach a tool that can be used to help us recognize when the body is being held with stressful tension, and having an easily applied antidote to relax the body and the mind.

Video of today’s meditation:

Audio of today’s meditation:

Peace!

Jim

Categories
Mindfulness Meditation

Finding More Light

Can finding contentment be so simple: find more light every day. Without light there is no life, at least not life as we know it. Light warms and energizes ourselves, our planet. If “to love” is to hold dear, to cherish, to nourish and care for, then perhaps light is the most primal manifestation of “loving” that we experience.

Our practice of mindfulness is quite simple, in a way. We learn to notice what is happening in this present moment, and we notice it openly, honestly, authentically, and, most important, without judgment. To be mindful is to be receptive. Looked at from a different perspective, to be mindful is to form the intention to love life as we experience it, moment to moment.

What could be simpler than to notice the light, both literally and figuratively, that surrounds us every day? And in doing so mindfully, we love the light in return; love after love.

Today’s meditation includes some brief quotes:

Excerpt from The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman

When day comes we ask ourselves,

where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry,

a sea we must wade.

We’ve braved the belly of the beast

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace

And the norms and notions

of what just is

Isn’t always just-ice

Excerpt from Lights in the Windows by Naomi Shihab Nye

Years ago a girl handed me a note as I was leaving her proud town of Albany, Texas, a tiny, lovely place far in the west of our big state.”I’m glad to know there is another poemist in the world,” the note said. “I always knew we would find one another someday and our lights would cross.”

Our lights would cross. That girl had not stood out to me, I realized, among the other upturned, interested faces in the classroom. How many other lights had I missed? I carried her smudged note for thousands of miles.

To me the world of poetry is a house with thousands of glittering windows. Our words and images, land to land, era to era, shed light on one another. Our words dissolve the shadows we imagine fall between.

Video of the guided meditation:

Audio of the guided meditation:

Peace!

Jim

Categories
Mindfulness Meditation

Heading to the Light

Whether we choose to head toward the light or the darkness, the light always moves with us.  Light never stops; never loses faith that we will turn and embrace it, even when we choose to embrace the dark and turn away.

What are you doing with your one, true life?  You can choose to embrace the light, the love, that is waiting for you, the light that is always willing to hold you in its warm embrace.

Here’s one way to embrace the light. On February 1st, 2021 in northern Delaware there were 10 hours, 12 minutes, and 26 seconds of daylight.  Today, February 2nd, there will be 10 hours, fourteen minutes and 34 seconds, over two more minutes of light.  By February 28 there will be 11 hours, 17 minutes and 7 seconds.  If you form the intention, you can choose to notice this daily delivery of additional light into our lives! Have Hope!!

Thinking more about the light, I’d like to turn to Barry Lopez’s wonderful book “Arctic Dreams.” After meditating on the light in the Arctic, which is a special and unique light, and comparing it to the light in the great cathedrals of Europe, a light which seems to see into infinity, Mr. Lopez wrote: “There is a word from the time of the cathedrals: agape, an expression of intense spiritual affinity with the mystery that is ‘to be sharing life with other life.’ Agape is love, and it can mean ‘the love of another for the sake of God.’ More broadly and essentially, it is a humble, impassioned embrace of something outside the self, in the name of that which we refer to as God, but which also includes the self and is God. We are clearly indebted as a species to the play of our intelligence; we trust our future to it; but we do not know whether intelligence is reason or whether intelligence is this desire to embrace and be embraced in the pattern that both theologians and physicists call God. Whether intelligence, in other words, is love.”

During the meditation I read an excerpt from Mary Oliver’s poem “Poppies.” Once again, we consider the light in our lives:

But I also say this: that light

is an invitation

to happiness,

and that happiness,

when it’s done right,

is a kind of holiness,

palpable and redemptive.

Inside the bright fields,

touched by their rough and spongy gold,

I am washed and washed

in the river

of earthly delight—

and what are you going to do—

what can you do

about it—

deep, blue night?

Video of the Guided Meditation:

Audio of the Guided Meditation:

Peace!

Jim