Monday, September 19, 2011

Being Stressed Out as a Spiritual Practice

by Jon Cleland Host

"Being Stressed Out As a Spiritual Practice?!" Say, what?

You’re probably thinking: “Wow, I’m way, waaaaaay more spiritual than I ever thought. If being stressed out is a spiritual practice, then I’m right up there with the Dalai Lama!”

Or perhaps (more likely) you're thinking: “You’re joking, right?”

No, I’m serious! But let me back up for a minute.

We know that biologically, during evolution, good things (like eyes, brains, etc.) are selected for only if they are needed at the time. After all, if a creature can survive OK without the latest mutation, then it will do so, and the latest mutation won’t spread across the population. Hence, everything I appreciate, like being able to walk, think and see, are all the results of huge amounts of struggle, without which we’d all still be pond scum. Like that ‘80’s workout slogan, “No pain, no gain”.

And look at what we are blessed with! Powerful bodies made of incomparable molecular 'machines', eyes, the most advanced brain known of in the Universe, and more – each the result of an unthinkable amount of hardship – or it simply would not have been selected for.

When one deeply appreciates this mountain of struggle we all stand upon, our daily difficulties take on new meaning. Challenges (ours and our ancestor's), as bad as they may be in the moment, are what gave all of us much of what we value most! If I sat around and did nothing in a cushy life, I’d feel that I’d let those Ancestors down, that I wasn’t a worthy recipient of the wondrous gifts they bequeathed me.

So whenever I feel pressure or difficulty, I know that it's very much like that which allowed me to be, and that pressure can help me grow. I couldn’t feel it without some taste of stress. In fact, our lives today have a lot less stress than existed in many of those past lives! Few of us, after all, are just hoping to be breathing tomorrow, which at times in the past was really in doubt on a regular basis. So, though I don’t intentionally try to get unneeded stress, I remind myself that every drop of stress I get is a gateway to deeper appreciation of every good thing in the world today.

Yes, being stressed out is indeed a spiritual practice, if I choose to make it so.

~ Jon Cleland Host

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