(In Our Practice, Summer 1997)
By Cheri Huber
Thursday evening mini-workshops at the Mountain View Center have been focused on stress during the month of June. At a recent Tuesday evening discussion we continued our inquiry and posed the following question: Do you experience a difference between 'life living" and "urgency urging"?
Is it possible to be with life as it lives? Being with life as it lives could be called relaxing or enjoying or resting. When we're not competing or striving or efforting, we can just dissolve into life, as in meditation.
Egocentricity, the conditioned survival system, has to do. It has to do something other than what is, outside the moment. It has to have a role that is separate from all that is. When it is not doing, it doesn't feel red.
Most people feel that stress and life just go together. But, in fact, the only relationship they have is the one we give them when we put them together. It is possible to feel stress-filled when there is nothing going on, it is possible to be stress-free in the midst of calamity.
Conditioning wants us to believe that if we are stressful enough, pressured enough, feel enough tension, we are in control of life, we are making life happen, making life go the way it should. We have the opportunity to realize that life is life and it goes the way it goes and we can have tense muscles, ulcers, migraines, and bad backs while we allow egocentricity to maintain the belief that this is how it keeps control of life. OR we can practice with an understanding that this stress, this anxiety, we feel is controlling us and serves conditioning. The net result is that instead of having the life the stress promises to give us, it keeps us from having the life we want, the life we would have if we didn't have the stress.
My encouragement is that you begin to see that stress and urgency don't contribute anything to life except suffering. Begin to prove this to yourself. See if you can suspend your belief about what causes urgency, anxiety, and stress (stop focusing on the content, the "what" that is currently going on), and turn your attention to the origin of the feelings, the sensations in your body. Pay attention to the feelings of stress rather than believing the perceived situation and what you need to do about it.
Doing something about stress is not the answer!
Two quick ways to practice this: One, in meditation, during which we're supposed to drop everything and just sit still in the moment; and, two, when it's time to relax. Instead of reading or watching television, just sit or lie there and do nothing, do not doing. (It makes conditioning crazy!) When conditioning tries to regain control ("But what about...?" "You should..." "You need to...") at least you will see it coming. How you are being controlled will be clearer to you. Start small. Just short periods of time doing nothing. (Isn't that a great phrase? "Doing nothing." It is a koan.) See if you can simply be in your body, breathing, feeling the life force animating you, aware of your senses, present, alive! Doing nothing, but being.