Yes, a few thoughts on stress… it is well accepted that yoga practices help free a person from stress. Stress, I would say, is a natural part of living life and the more one lives life the more stress one has to confront. What changes, of course, through yogic practice is how we respond to stressful situations. As we progress in spiritual practice a number of interesting capacities develop that enhance our ability to deal with stressful situations. I will focus on one aspect here, namely the relationship between stress and karma.
[As I wrote the last sentence, an American colleague – entered the room and asked: “Would you like to enjoy some humour… a five minute cartoon about the U.S. elections?” I agreed willingly! [5 minutes later], well, it turned out to be rather “pro-system” – so i didn’t find it funny at all! Now, my friend is suggesting we watch another one… do I feel a twinge of stress coming on?! Well, how about that… he lost it! Now that’s looks like divine intervention! 🙂 ]
That little diversion does, of course, have it’s relevance, namely, the role humour plays in handling stress – finding a way to “laugh it out”. That’s something that I would like to do more often! Reflecting on that, practically I would need to build up some “humour resources” – videos, audio and printed materials and a few funny friends to call on time to time!
As I reflected on the stress state that was “lurking about me” this evening as I set out to a nearby nature reserve to meditate, an interesting insight came in my mind, namely, the karmic reaction to which that stress experience related. Okay, let’s unpack that one!
What is Karma? Karma means ACTION. The ancient yogiis discovered the following awesome cosmic law: for every action there is a reaction. What then is a “karmic reaction”? A reaction that follows from a karma – that is, an action. So what comes in the life of a spiritual practitioner is the insight – an intuitive insight – as to the karma (the action) that has precipitated the reaction – and the reaction often comes in the form of stress or clash. So what is the relevance of knowing what is the action that has caused the reaction (the stress)? When there is knowledge of why the stress has come the experience of the stress is quite often immediately reduced – even completely removed. Naturally, as well, removes the tendency we have to blame and project our situation onto others – when we realise that we are experiencing the reaction to our own action, there is no more a third party blame. Rather, the third party was simply the medium through which that karmic reaction came – they were not the cause of that, we were!
Now, if you’ve followed the logic you will now be asking about the original karma (action) that caused the stress/negative reaction. Does not the original karma (action) now become a source of stress? Yes, quite right! However, it does not carry with it the immediacy and intensity that the karmic reaction carries. Rather, it is one large step removed. We may well feel stress as we contemplate the original karma – and that is positive – nature’s way of making sure it gets addressed – a self-correcting mechanism.
Having identified the karma we are then in a position to apply rationality and goodwill to dealing with that karma. This is very important given that misguided, unenlightened actions are usually of a recurring nature in our lives. This process opens up the possibility to bring the light of awareness to those actions and to start the process of resolving /healing them. Of course, most of us possess certain behaviours that seem to be continually repeated despite our being aware of them. It’s as if the roots of those actions go very, very deep into our being. The application of Yoga principles can, in my experience, also assist here too, as can enlightened psycho-therapeutic approaches, that, however, is beyond the scope of this discussion.
In conclusion, spiritual practices – as well as helping us deal with stress in general ways – also open up the possibility to understand the karmic cause of a stressful event, leading to a reduction in the stress, as well as the possibility for self-responsibility for the original action (karma). As one enlightened personality once said: “problems can never be greater than our ability to solve them”. 🙂 dd