Archive for October, 2007
“I cannot be awake for nothing looks to me as it did before, Or else I am awake for the first time, and all before has been a mean sleep.”
— Walt Whitman
Acknowledging your experience from moment to moment is one of the most successful ways to reduce your stress while also gaining insight in your life.
One aspect of acknowledging your experience is to become aware of its feeling state. The feeling state of an experience can most simply be described as one of the following three: pleasant, unpleasant or neutral (neither pleasant nor unpleasant).
Why is this important to your state of stress? When you have an experience that you interpret as pleasant, your unconscious tendency is to want it to persist. Whereas when you have an experience that you interpret to be unpleasant, your unconscious tendency is to want it to go away. If you interpret your experience as neutral, you may ignore it.
When you unconsciously attempt to hold onto the things you interpret as pleasant or push away those things you interpret as unpleasant, you are creating a subtle or not so subtle suffering in your life – only adding to your stress. Unknowingly, you fall into the ineffective trap of “wanting things to be different than they are.” This is because pleasant experiences are ephemeral; they are bound to change, no matter how much you try to make them persist. Likewise, unpleasant things happen to be part of your existence, no matter how much you try to deny their presence. They too will tend to shift or change if you allow them to do so.
The best strategy for reducing stress is to accept whatever experience you have without trying to hold onto it or trying to push it away – simply acknowledging what is present, as it is, in each moment. By noticing the feeling state of each experience, you can acknowledge the experience without having to react to it; you can notice whether it is pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral without holding onto what is pleasant or pushing away what is unpleasant. By objectively observing the feeling state of your experiences, you have the opportunity to gain insight into their existence and their impermanent nature.
To put this into practice in your life, each time you become aware of an experience you are having, see if you can notice the feeling state. You can even silently say to yourself one of the three feeling states that most reflects the quality of your experience: pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Once you are aware of the experience and its associated feeling state, you can consciously make a choice about how you can respond most effectively, if necessary, to that experience.