Yesterday's post (Samsara vs. Nirvana) touched on the subject of stress without actually defining "samsara" as stress. But, in effect, samsara or chaos, IS stress. Samsara is all the stuff you can't control which is just about everything. And if you are a control freak, like me, this is pretty stressful.

The stress response itself, fight-or-flight, is the polar opposite of the response we are trying to create when we practice meditation. The stress response, and the stress hormones which our bodies release when we feel threatened (whether the threat is real or imagined) push us toward anger (fight) and fear (flight.) Sometimes, say when a saber-toothed tiger is chasing you, this response is helpful. Those hormones will prod your body into running faster and possibly escaping. But most times, we are reacting (or OVERreacting) to a perceived threat, say a traffic jam or an insult, and the flood of hormones does nothing but wreak havoc on our minds and our health.

Life is filled with stress. And this is not necessarily a bad thing. Plenty of positive situations can be stressful. A job promotion, for example. The birth of a child. Moving into a new home or a new city. Changing your diet. If every tiny change in life is met with a flood of adrenalin and cortisol, we are going to constantly feel stressed out. And our poor, taxed organs are going to suffer. Including the liver, which has to process all of these excess hormones, and the heart, which we have already discussed in numerous posts as being particularly sensitive to stress.

If you are prone to getting stressed out, like me, what can you do to avoid this constant onslaught of stress hormones in response to the tiniest changes and perceived threats?

Practice meditation. You could practice other things, like denial, but I am a bigger fan of meditation. Just because I believe it works. Denial is good in a pinch, if it's all you've got, but I'd put my money on meditation for the long haul.

Meditation is simple. (Not necessarily EASY, yet definitely simple.) You don't need any fancy tools, clothing, music, books, shoes, or equipment. (Am I not selling this properly? You could certainly buy some awesome shoes and then meditate in them.) You can meditate anywhere. At your desk, in bed, while driving in your car, while walking in the woods, while practicing yoga or tai chi or quigong, while chanting, while riding a bike, while eating a meal or sipping green tea, in a box, with a fox, here or there. You can't be too busy to meditate since you can always add it to one of the above activities which you are already doing on a daily basis.

Because there is no escaping stress, it's important to formulate a plan to deal with it. You know it's going to rain so you bring an umbrella. You know you're going to the beach so you bring a towel. Same with stress: you know stuff is going to stress you out, so you plan ahead. Plan to meditate and you can get a jump on the stress response before it even happens. Pretty sneaky, right?