Stress can be a major problem in our society. Traffic, exams, deadlines, finances, and family pressures cause tremendous mental anguish that can manifest into migraine headaches, eating disorders, sleep deprivation, and anxiety issues. The pharmaceutical industry has found one solution in selling drugs that can provide temporary relief but can a pill really take away life issues like traffic, exams, deadlines, etc.? Obviously not. While the pharmaceutical industry is thriving in our instant gratification society, if we really want to reduce stress and solve these problems we need to dig a little deeper.
One aspect of meditation I really enjoy is its simplicity. Lizzie comment on my post, “Evaluating Right And Wrong” made morality even simpler for me. She states that the first precept of not harming other beings is really the only one we need to worry about because the other 4 just help us with the first one. I like that. So all I need to do is try not to hurt myself and try not to hurt others. Inversely, that means all of my actions should be aimed to help myself and to help others. That statement doesn’t tell me that I need to get home, complete a project, or reach a certain life milestone at a certain time. It just says that I need to try my best to help myself and others.
There are so many things that we can’t control in our lives. Ideally, we are able to ignore the things we can’t control and focus on the things we can. This can be hard to do intellectually but meditation does help. Meditators start to learn that it’s our attachment to a certain path, goal, lifestyle, or relationship that causes us stress and anxiety. I think school is the best example. As a biology major I’ve taken many classes with pre-medical students. In the beginning they all have the goal of contributing to society and helping people but after a few years it seems like this cut-throat mentality rises to the top. Everyone is competing to get into the top schools and they know that the other students in their class are their primary competition. Instead of focussing on how best to help people students start worrying about whether they’ll get into their choice school. They’ve become attached to the vision of becoming a doctor rather than to the desire to help people. It may turn out that there are more effective ways for an individual to contribute to society and it’s important that students remain open to this.
This example can be applied to almost any problem. If you’re attached to a career, job, relationship, house, car, money, etc., it will harm you when these things disappear. The funny thing is, all of it will disappear. Everything is constantly changing, including our lives, which will also someday disappear. If we can learn not to be attached to these things we can avoid this mental suffering. Through meditation you learn to directly observe anicca (impermanence or change). This is an easy concept intellectually but in practice it’s very difficult. Meditation helps people live this truth. I’ve personally found meditation to reduce my stress naturally. If you haven’t discovered this for yourself, maybe reading this post will motivate you to try.