What is Stress?
The best way to view stress is as tension in the mind when we meet unpleasant situations such as encountering things we dislike and failing to satisfy our desires. This mental stress can arise through anticipating future problems. We can’t say in truth that an external situation is stressful. The problem lies in our reaction to these events. If we can learn to respond with a peaceful and patient mind then stress will not arise.
What are the inner causes of stress?
The main cause of stress is non-acceptance of the situation in our mind, whenever we say ‘this should not be happening’. This often leads to blaming others for the unpleasant feelings in our mind and then to anger. Stress arises because we lack patience. Patience is a mind that is able to accept, fully and happily, whatever occurs. It is much more than gritting our teeth and putting up with things. Being patient means to welcome wholeheartedly what ever arises, having given up the idea that things should be other than what they are. It is always possible to be patient; there is no situation so bad that it cannot be accepted patiently, with an open, accommodating, and peaceful heart.
Dealing with stress.
There are many techniques that we can use to reduce and eventually eliminate stress in our lives. In general meditation makes our mind more and more peaceful and when our mind is at peace we shall be able to keep a calm and spacious mind in the midst of difficult situations. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso says:-
We can see from this practice that it is possible to experience inner peace and contentment just by controlling our own mind, without having to depend at all upon external conditions. When the turbulence of distracting thoughts subsides and our mind becomes still, a deep happiness and contentment naturally arises from within. This feeling of contentment and well-being helps us cope with the busyness and difficulties of daily life. So much of the stress and tension we normally experience comes from our mind, and many of the problems we experience, including ill health, are caused or aggravated by this stress. (Transform Your Life).
Specifically, we need to give our self time in and out of meditation to see what is actually going on in our mind when things go wrong. Guided by Buddha’s wisdom we should try to discover the nature and source of our painful or unpleasant feelings. When we start to get some clarity and see things as they are we find it easier to accept life’s problems with an open, accommodating and peaceful heart. By improving our mind we shall develop the power to deal peacefully with all the stressful situations in life.
Geshe Kelsang Gyatso (2005) How to solve our human problems – The Four Noble Truths.