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Directing Stress


Early spring sunrise
Early spring sunrise

This morning I awoke with a tightness in my throat.  My eyes popped open and my thoughts immediately honed in on the day’s formidable “to-do” list — tasks to juggle and boxes to check off.  Dressing quickly, I marched outside into the frosty sunrise to tackle the first task – a refreshing brisk walk in the morning air — but was suddenly panic-stricken, realizing I had forgotten to send a key email for my boss to her boss the night before.  Retracing my steps, I tore upstairs, changed into office clothes, and ran out to the car for a quick ride to the office.  Stress!

Needless to say, this is not how I like to start my day!  But the good news is that during this whole process I was feeling particularly mindful of thoughts, emotions and reactions.  So by the time I returned home from the office (a “quick” hour later), I was prepared to start over:  take a deep breath, dress slowly, and walk attentively enjoying the beauty of a crisp spring morning.

How often the mind spins out of control, following the thoughts that come to it, reacting impulsively to whatever we see or hear, and generally running helter-skelter.  We often say that we react “instinctively” to things.  But perhaps “impulsively” would be a better word.  Deep inside our minds we possess both the causes of our suffering and the solutions.  If we have the determination to cultivate virtue, mindfulness and wisdom, they will merge allowing us to be compassionate with ourselves.  Negative energy thus morphs into positive, reducing suffering.   As Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche said (Buddha’s Brain, p49), “Ultimately, happiness comes down to choosing between the discomfort of becoming aware of your mental afflictions and the discomfort of being ruled by them.”  If we can mindfully choose the former, we earn the opportunity to deliberately choose our responses to the inevitable stresses of life.  With that clarity of mind — and only with it — happiness is an attainable option.  Today, I choose happiness 🙂

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