The Space between Stress & Bliss (Part 1)
by Laura Warf
Welcome to the space between Stress and Bliss. Is there a way to live with joy on a more consistent basis?
Being happy, peaceful, joyful or even blissful doesn’t mean everything is perfect. It means we are willing to look beyond the imperfections and be happy anyway. There are numerous pathways inward to explore “space”, the gateway is stillness.
For as long as I can remember, I struggled with managing stress well. One of my first recollections was the first week in kindergarten. The teacher singled me out in front of the class and asked me a question in French which I didn’t understand. The tension welled up inside of me and my face got hot, luckily another kid sitting beside me kindly translated so that I could timidly answer the question.
Following my parents divorce, we moved often, and I went to seven elementary schools and two high schools. During those transitions I can recall countless nervous moments. Eventually my mom would impatiently tell me to snap out of it when my adolescent melt downs exploded, I can imagine that I wasn’t very pleasant to be around. As I got older, I realised that any time I was faced with change or perceived my situation to be overwhelming, I went into panic mode. My imbalanced state was usually due to an accumulation of a bunch of small events that were never properly dealt with and the tension inside built up like a pressure cooker in full throttle.
I will share one of the most profound strategies to tune into the natural frequency of calm, centeredness and peace that I have learned from numerous spiritual teachers over the years. When you trust the process and put in the time to practice, it works.
As we take the journey towards living with more joy, more lightness of being and walk through the gate of stillness, we explore the concept of self awareness. Only when we are self-aware can we fully navigate the journey towards optimal well-being. In the book Stillness Speaks, Eckhart Tolle states; “You find peace, not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realising who you are at the deepest level.” Just like anything else you have gotten really good at in your life, this too takes practice. The practice of getting still and tuning in to your own inner landscape.
Sit tall and still. Take a deep breath. Now do it again, and this time notice if you are breathing primarily in your chest/collarbone area or into your lower abdomen. Do your shoulders move first or does your belly? Practice breathing more deeply into the lower lobes of the lungs; two thirds of the breath should first move into the abdomen then the second one third into the rib cage and chest area.
Breathe rhythmically until you notice your inhale and exhale become even in duration, try breathing somewhere between 4-6 seconds on your inhalation and exhalation. If you are tense or stressed in any way, your breath will tell you. When we are relaxed, the breath is smooth, full, comfortable, the heart rate slows, and we connect with the natural space between each breath. When we are tense, the breath will be shaky, sporadic, short, and you may even notice rapid heart palpitations, racing thoughts and nervousness. Keep going until the breath calms. There is a direct link between the breath and mind, by focusing on the rhythm of the breath, the mind will gradually relax. The more you practice, the easier it gets and the faster you can regulate your sense of calm.
Stress is defined as every demand that the body is subjected to; a change in home or work environment, change in exercise or nutrition program, change in a life situation, losing a loved one, being exposed to any form of air, water or earth pollution (chemical, electro magnetic and constant loud noise are included here). The external stressor is not necessarily the problem, it is how we react or adapt to the exposure that can create internal imbalance. When our accumulation of various stressors is elevated, our body will send us signals. This includes internal stressors of an over active mind that generates thoughts tied to emotional responses. Sometimes we get so used to living with elevated stress levels that it feels “normal”: chronic fatigue, negativity, irritability, impatience, exploding easily, headaches, stomach aches, sleeplessness, and that is the short list!
Once you are aware of what is going on in your body and learn to sense the imbalance, you can practice various techniques to release daily irritations before they accumulate and reveal more serious health concerns. Believe it or not, true relaxation needs to be practiced. Achieving deeper states of well-being is more than just collapsing on the couch! We can train our brain and our mind to remain steady and calm no matter what storm is going on in your life. We arrive in a more powerful position of responding instead of reacting to any given situation and achieve a greater ability to move towards a more optimal course of action.
Connect with the Space
“There’s a momentary silence in the space between your thoughts that you can become aware of with practice. In this silent space, you’ll find the peace that you crave in your daily life. You’ll never know that peace if you have no spaces between your thoughts. The average person is said to have 60,000 separate thoughts every day. With so many thoughts, there are almost no gaps. If you could reduce that number by half, you would open up an entire world of possibilities for yourself. For it is when you merge into the silence and become one with it that you reconnect to your source and know complete peacefulness.
Your sense of inner peace depends on spending some of your life energy in silence to recharge your battery, remove tension and anxiety, reacquaint you with the joy of knowing the depth of your own Source, and feel closer to all of humanity. Silence reduces fatigue and allows you to experience your own creative juices.” (Wayne Dyer, 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace)
Accessing More Silence for Greater Bliss
Schedule more time for silence in your life to be present and aware. Honour yourself to quietly savour alone time. One of the most effective ways is to include a daily meditation practice. Witness the rapid, endless stream of thoughts, even those that tell you that you have so many other things to do instead. Stick with it and keep bringing yourself back to your breath. Is the incessant dialogue and internal narrative really serving your well-being? By witnessing your thoughts, you will be able to discern whether they are uplifting or depleting. We have the ability to choose our state of mind every day and those choices shape our daily experiences of how our life unfolds. If stress is ruling your life and you are ready to live more harmoniously, continue exploring the space between each breath and eventually the space in between your thoughts and ultimately the space between the words you speak, so that the actions you take will shape the life you love to live with clear access to abundant bliss.
Laura Warf is the founder of the School of Happiness holistic wellness center whose methods are based on tools from ancient teachings to today’s current research to inspire others to take charge of their complete well-being by following her 8 essential elements to health and happiness. She is a healthy living advocate, passionate wellness educator and mind-body specialist offering services in corporate wellness, yoga, meditation, energetic balancing, and fitness conditioning. Visit www.LauraWarf.com www.SchoolofHappiness.ca