This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
This book is intended as information only and does not replace the advice of a qualified counselor or professional.
Background to this Book Introduction to Buddhist Meditation 1. Who was the Buddha? 2. What is Meditation? 3. How is Meditation Done? Enlightening Stress Relief 1. Condensing All Blames Into One 2. Breathing Out Stress 3. Compassion vs. Stress 4. Looking Directly at Stress 5. Making Friends with Stress Miscellaneous Buddhist Tips For Stress 1. Why Worry? 2. A Good Cup of Tea Conclusion Dedication About the Author
Background to this Book
View from my room in North India
Welcome to Enlightening Stress Relief. Thank you for taking the time to download this book. It is my sincere hope that by reading the information in this book you will be better equipped to deal with the stresses and anxieties of the world, especially at work. I wrote this book for two reasons: Firstly, I wanted to share some of the wisdom and knowledge that I have been very fortunate to encounter while traveling in India and the Himalayan region. I have spent many years studying the Tibetan Buddhist teachings and spending time with some of this generation’s greatest meditation masters. I must stress, however, that I am by no means an expert on these topics. I am a lazy meditator and have trouble grasping even the most simple Buddhist topics. Because of these reasons this book is not a complete A to Z guide to enlightenment. It is merely a starting point on your journey to better dealing with the stresses of your life. Therefore my first goal is to share with you some basic strategies that I have found to be useful for dealing with stress in a more long term manner. But, if you want to
take your meditation practice further I urge you to find a qualified teacher and study with them. Enlightenment cannot be reached through a book! Secondly, I wrote this book to remind myself of some of the techniques that I had encountered in my lifetime. Over the years I tend to forget the important lessons that I have learned and, like a rainbow, they soon start to fade away. Writing them down and sharing them with others is a good way to ensure they stay around for a little bit longer. I have called this book Enlightening Stress Relief because, unlike other stress manuals, I am going to show you methods for dealing with stress based on ancient Buddhist meditations that have been tried and tested for many thousands of years. This type of stress relief is not just a temporary placebo like eating some chocolate, drinking a coffee or going out for a drink with friends. This stress relief is based on knowledge and wisdom and will help you get to the root of the problem. When you get to the root of a weed you are able to deal with it permanently as opposed to simply trimming the leaves which might actually cause the weed to grow bigger! Keep in mind that Enlightening Stress Relief is a book that can be used by any person of any religion or any nationality. These are practical techniques for working with the mind that you as a human being possess. It is not about faith or religion or anything like that.
Introduction to Buddhist Meditation
Before I get into the strategies and techniques for dealing with stress I want to give you a brief background into Buddhist meditation. My reason for doing this is a traditional one. When you go to listen to a meditation master teach about meditation he/she will always tell you about the lineage of the practice. They will tell you who taught them this practice, who taught their teachers and how it is connected to the Buddha. The reason for doing this is to inspire confidence. It helps you feel as if you are a part of a technique that has helped many ordinary people become something quite extraordinary. With that in mind I thought I would tell you a little bit about Buddhism, meditation and the mind so that you might feel as if you are a part of something meaningful.
1. Who was the Buddha?
The famous statue of Buddha Shakyamuni in Bodhgaya, India.
A Buddha is anyone who has completely realized the nature of phenomena and purified all of their negative karmas and perfectly developed all of their natural qualities. Countless people have attained this state and are thereby labeled as Buddhas. However, when you hear about the Buddha you are usually hearing about the historical Buddha whose name was Shakyamuni. Shakyamuni was the first Buddha in our age to teach the dharma and as such he is considered to be especially kind. But, like every other Buddha, Shakyamuni was born as an ordinary person who attained enlightenment through study, meditation and a lot of hard work. The Buddha Shakyamuni was born over 2500 years ago in North India as Prince Siddhartha in a royal family. At his birth a fortune teller prophesied that the boy would become either a great royal ruler or an even greater spiritual guide. Siddhartha’s early life was that of any ordinary price; games, study, sport and luxury. He was never allowed outside of the palace walls and as such never encountered any suffering. Soon enough the Prince’s curiosity got the better of him and he ventured out into the kingdom. As soon as he was out he saw the sufferings of birth, old-age, sickness and death and a great sadness overcame him. He tired to find comfort in his world of pleasure but it was to no avail. He could not get the suffering out of his mind. Finally the Prince decided to venture out of the kingdom in search of true inner peace and a lasting way to help all those beings who were suffering. He studied with many Hindu teachers and other meditation masters. He spent years in forests and caves working with different meditation techniques to try to realize his true inner potential. A model student and obvious genius he soon found faults with all of these techniques and so ventured further into the forest to fully explore his own mind. He completely renounced the world; shaving his head and wearing only a tattered robe. Finally after many years of great hardship the Price Siddhartha awakened as the perfect Buddha by fully realizing the nature of his own mind and all phenomena under the Bodhi Tree in a place called Bodhgaya. I have been to Bodhgaya many times and it is a place of intense power almost as if you can sense the magnitude of what happened there. Shakyamuni was the asked to teach what he had realized to others and these teachings were called the Dharma. The Dharma comes in many shapes and forms and can be realized on many different levels. Shakyamuni is said to have given a teaching for every being 6
of every capacity and every level of existence. I have based Enlightening Stress Relief on some of Shakyamuni’s mot fundamental and simple meditation techniques. The rest is history. I once heard a great American university lecturer describe Shakyamuni’s realization as the single most important event in the history of human kind’s quest for happiness, peace and the meaning of life. The reason for this, he said, was that Shakyamuni told people to look at their own mind instead of to some god or to the outer world. He said by studying and realizing what is already present inside you, one is able to attain true peace and happiness and effectively work for the benefit of others. A revolutionary idea indeed.
2. What is Meditation? Meditation has thousands of different meanings and forms. However, despite the myriad of methods there is really only one goal - to understand the nature of the mind. How does one do this? By looking at it! Mediation is essentially the act of looking at and analyzing one’s own mind. It is about developing the inner qualities that we all possess - compassion, patience, love, wisdom, strength and insight - and taking them to their full potential. Buddhism speaks of two classes of meditation; Shamatha and Vipashyana. Shamatha meditation is also known as calm abiding meditation and the goal of this is to reach a state called single pointed concentration. This is where the mind is so stable that one can focus on any object for as long as we want. So, for example, if one had achieved this state one could spend 12 hours focused on an image of a Buddha statue without any other distracting thoughts entering our head. This can take many years of dedicated practice to achieve. Shamatha also has some other side effects like enhanced energy, better health and much stronger internal energies. However, the point of Shamatha is to enhance the next class of meditation called Vipasyana. Vipasyana meditation is also known as insight meditation. The meditations that fall into this category are not so much about stabilizing the mind, rather they are about gaining direct insight into the nature of all things. While Shamatha might be able to decrease the intensi-
ty of certain afflicting emotions it is only with Vipasyana techniques that these negative states can be conquered. Most of the techniques presented in Enlightening Stress Relief are Vipasyana techniques.
3. How is Meditation Done?
“Meditation is about working with the mind as it is, not trying to force it into some Buddhist straight jacket.” - Mingyur Rinpoche.
One of my main motivations for writing Enlightening Stress Relief is to help people understand that meditation does not just mean sitting down on a cushion with your legs in an uncomfortable position and your eyes closed all the while chanting “Oommmmm”. Rather, meditation is about working with your mind as it is. Meditation and Post-Meditation When one begins meditating in the Buddhist tradition one learns about meditation and post-meditation. Meditation is the time when we sit on the cushion and do our specific practice. It might be meditating on compassion or the nature of mind. Then in postmeditation we apply that understanding to our everyday situations. This includes both meditation and actively participating in the world using the understandings that you now have. For example, let’s say that we have been meditating on compassion. During meditation we might do a simple session of Tong Len where we breathe in all the sufferings of all sentient beings as black smoke and breathe out all our love and health to them. This helps us develop feelings of kindness and love and compassion towards all beings without partiality. Then, in post meditation we might go to work and continue this meditation secretly. When the boss yells at us instead of getting angry we might breathe in all his anger and mentally give him all of our calmness. Then the active meditation part would be to physically act in a compassionate way instead of getting fired up and losing our cool.
Enlightening Stress Relief is more about the post meditation stage. Of course, you can sit down in a comfortable chair and work with the techniques in this book in a specific session if you have the time. That would be great! But this book is written for those people who don’t have the time or the inclination for that type of thing. This book is about practically working with your stress as it arises in the workplace. That’s it.
Enlightening Stress Relief
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.” – the Buddha
This is where the main juice of the book begins. In the following pages I will show you some very simple, practical and down-to-earth ways of dealing with your stress at work so that you can overcome it once and for all.
1. Condensing All Blames Into One This first section is probably going to piss a lot of people off! So why did I put it first? Because if you cannot get past this concept you are going to have a lot of problems dealing with your own mental baggage. Sometimes you have to really take a good look in the mirror to make some progress. Condensing all blames into one is a Buddhist teaching that says that we are the one’s in charge of our own destiny. We control our own happiness. When the printer at work breaks and we lose our temper instead of blaming the printer we condense all the blame into our self and realize that we are being silly for getting angry. When the boss yells at us for no reason instead of harboring hatred towards him we condense all blames into one and realize that we CHOOSE to hate him and that even though his outburst might have been unwarranted we do not need to sink to his level. The great master Shantideva said that instead of trying to covering the whole world in leather it would just be better to put on some shoes! What this means is that we humans tend to blame every one and every thing else for all of our problems instead of doing the one thing that counts - working on ourselves. Instead of trying to fix everything that you hate about your life you could just work on developing your mind so that you are better able to deal with those problems. This means that instead of working on more than 1000 problems you are just working with one. And this one lasts. Condensing all blames into one is not about getting depressed and sad and thinking, “Oh, everything is my fault. I am so horrible!” It is not about self hatred or depression. It is about making a shift in the way you think. It is about helping you realize that you have a choice in how you feel. That you and you alone are responsible for your own happiness. You can choose to get angry when someone steals your client at work or you can condense all blames into one and react in a more productive manner. Condensing all blames into one is the start of a long term stress relief because you have made the subtle but extremely important shift from external to internal. If you condense all blames into one you will be one of the very few brave souls who work with their mind instead of trying to control everything that happens in their life. It is a very open, spacious and relaxed place to be!
2. Breathing Out Stress
“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts.” - Thich Nhat Hanh
This second meditation is more like and “actual” meditation. This is Shamatha meditation at it’s most simple and most effective. Sometimes in our workplace we get stressed and we lose our center. This happens when we feel like we are no longer in control, we are losing our temper all the time and we no longer feel calm. One of the first things you can do in this situation is focus on your breath. Breathing meditation is simple. You start by straightening your back and focusing on the feeling of your breath coming in and out of your nose. Try and bring your attention right down to the tiny feeling of the breath going in and out, in and out, in and out. This alone should really calm you down. The task then is to focus on 10 rounds of breath. A round of breath is actually two breaths; one in and one out. Try and watch your breath for 10 full rounds. If you lose track of how many you have done then start again. Once you get to 10 then start again from the beginning. Try and do this for as many times as you can. You do not need to slow your breath down or try to make it any deeper. Just watch your breath and count. This practice will have an extremely calm effect on your body and your mind. It will help you deal with stress because your will be focusing on your breath and not on the stressful thoughts that are spiraling out of control. This practice will also help your concentration and focus. You will become more attentive and more alert. I have also heard several masters say that this simple practice can sort out some minor health problems.
3. Compassion vs. Stress
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” - His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Compassion meditation is the heart of all Buddhist meditation. It is said that when on realizes the nature of mind one is overwhelmed with compassion for all those beings who have not realized it. If the nature of mind is the sun compassion is like the warmth that radiates from that deep understanding. The flip-side to this is that by meditating on compassion we can actually get closer and closer to the true nature of mind. And we can also use it to deal with everyday problems like stress, anxiety and depression. The first thing that we need to understand is that compassion is a practice. It is not some state that you can just jump in to right away. We need to work on it bit by bit. So how do we use compassion meditation to deal with stress? Again, this meditation is about shifting your perspective. When someone at work does something that annoys us we normally blame that person and walk around all day harboring feelings of ill will and anger towards them. We never stop for one second to think that maybe that person is also stress, upset, suffering or depressed. Our Old Mom The task here is to broaden your view of the world. It is about making your view of yourself and the people around you much more open and loving. The next time someone does something mean and awful to you instead of getting angry and upset try to look upon the situation with compassion. Think about your old mother. Remember when you were a teenager and you would come home from school all emotional and grumpy and treat her like dirt? Think about how she would have felt in that situation; about how she would have considered you. She didn’t get angry at you and think about how much of a jerk you were. She didn’t decide she hated you and that she was never going to talk to you again. Nope.
She felt compassion. She felt sorry for you that you were going through a tough time and she loved you even more. This is the goal of compassion meditation. To see all beings as if they are your own children. According to Buddhist philosophy all sentient beings have taken rebirth so many times that at some point every single sentient being has once been our mother. Think about this for a second. We have been wandering around dying and taking rebirth again and again for so many millions of eons that at one point every one we have ever met was once our mother. Even if you are not a Buddhist you can appreciate the idea behind this practice. Normally we see other people as competitors in this tough world. We are brought to think that we are the most important and to get our own before we do anything for other people. But in Buddhism one is challenged to think of other people as being more important than oneself. Just like a mother would give her life to save her own child, we are asked to try and consider even strangers in this strange new way. And the results are quite incredible. Once we start trying to do this we are suddenly filled with a vigorous energy and a confidence that wells up from deep inside. When we realize that other people are more important than ourselves we are not at all phased by the little stresses that we encounter in the day.
Tong Len The next way to use compassion meditation to combat stress is by using an ancient Buddhist meditation called Tong Len. Tong Len literally means ‘giving and taking’ and is a meditation that uses the breath to develop compassion. The cool thing is that you can apply it really well to stress. The next time you feel stressed simply imagine that you are taking on all other sentient beings’ stress so that they do not have to experience it. Just like a mother who wants to take away her child’s suffering you breathe in all the sufferings of everyone else in your offering
and imagine it dissolving into you and vanishing. You then breathe out bright light and imagine that it makes everyone else feel content and happy and healthy. This is the supreme way to use compassion to get rid of your stress for the long term. It has worked wonders for me.
4. Looking Directly at Stress The next method is one that works extremely well and is a meditation taken from the Vipasyana class of meditation practices. This means that it is one that can help us develop insight into the nature of stress and into the nature of our mind. The task here is to look at stress as soon as it arises in your mind. Normally we would let the stress take over and let stressed thoughts spiral out of control. One stressed thought leads to the next stressed thought and within a few minutes we are stressed out of our mind! However, if we can look at the stressed thought as soon as it arises it somehow vanishes and loses its power. This is the best type of meditation you can do - one that looks straight at the mind. The task here is not to judge the thoughts that arise. You do not want to think that this thought is bad and that this thought is good. You just want to watch it. If the thought is a stressful one we usually label it as being “bad” and try to push it out. This only makes things worse. In this situation we just want to look at it. Do not judge it, do not try to do anything with it, just watch it. As we get more and more expert at doing this we will be able to see the thoughts as soon as they arise. Right now we only see them after they have taken hold but the more and more we look at them the better we will get at picking them up as soon as they arise. The point of this meditation is to understand the real nature of stress. You see - stress is just a thought. It is not some solid and lasting entity. It is just a thought that arises and then ceases. The more and more we look at the stressed thoughts the sooner we will experience this and we will no longer feel controlled by stress. In fact, we will feel in control of it because for the first time in our lives we have cottoned on to our mind’s tricks.
5. Making Friends With Stress
Mingyur Rinpoche being studied (image from mingyur.org).
I would now like to introduce you to an idea that has helped me manage some serious stress issues over the past few years. It is an adaptation of traditional Buddhist teachings which I learned from a teacher called Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche. Let me tell you a little bit about this amazing master so that you know where this teaching is coming from. Mingyur Rinpoche was born in 1975 and was recognized as the reincarnation of a great Buddhist master from Tibet. At an early age he showed signs of great spiritual power and soon, at age 13, went into a traditional three year solitary retreat to meditate on the most advanced Buddhist practices. He has since done a few more retreats and now travels the world teaching and helping people. He speaks perfect English and has been endorsed by the Dalai Lama as one of our generation’s greatest meditators. He has been studied in many scientific experiments on the brain and it has been revealed this his brain, nervous
system and so on are very different from the average person - a result of his years in contemplative retreat. I have met Rinpoche several times in India and received some amazing teachings from him. Every time I left the teachings my stomach was sore from laughing so much! He is incredibly funny. One thing I was shocked to learn about Rinpoche was that, despite his meditative experience and status as a reincarnated master, his childhood was plagued by panic attacks. Panic attacks are a huge manifestation of stress and Mingyur Rinpoche had them for most of his early years. The thing about Rinpoche was that he decided to do something useful with these attacks instead of letting them take him down a dark path. He decided to use these panic attacks as part of his meditation practice. I would like you all to now go and watch this video of Rinpoche on YouTube. In this video Rinpoche explains how he made friends with stress and was thereby able to turn a very nasty series of panic attacks into something quite meaningful. This is the very essence of what we are trying to do with Enlightening Stress Relief. You can access the video by copying and pasting this address into your web browser. It is six minutes long but well worth your time. http://youtube.com/watch?v=m5bpe6fXuPk
It is so important to try and make friends with stress. The reason for this is simply that when we make friends with stress we will no longer be afraid of it like Rinpoche says. At the moment when we feel stressed we get afraid and even more stress builds up because we are worried about beings stressed! However, if we realize that being stressed is a unique opportunity to develop our minds and become better people then it will no longer worry us so much. This is not something that we can achieve over night. It takes practice and discipline. But it is not unachievable. If we do a little bit everyday we will soon be like Mingyur Rinpoche able to transform our negative emotions and stress into something very positive.
Miscellaneous Buddhist Tips for Stress
Now that I have shown you the main techniques for using meditation to combat stress I want to give you some other basic tips that I have picked up from my travels in the Himalayas. These tips are things I would see the Tibetan people do on my day to day activities or mini-teachings that I would hear the masters say to people. Perhaps one of them might click with you.
1. Why Worry? There is a great Buddhist saying that has helped me though some really tough times that I wanted to share with you:
“If the problem can be solved why worry? If the problem cannot be solved worrying will do you no good.” - Shantideva
Quite often in life we worry for the sake of worrying. We try to sort everything out in our head 10 times a day and we go over every situation or possible problem over and over and over. All this worrying makes us very stressed! However, this quote is telling us that there really is not logical point to worry. If you can solve the problem somehow then why worry? If you cannot solve the problem, if there simply is nothing that you can do to change the problematic situation then worrying is not going to help you. So why bother? Some of you are going to say “easier said then done” and I completely agree with you. However, if you have tools like this in your belt you might just find a situation where it becomes very useful. For me it is going to the dentist. I hate the dentist. I worry about it all
day. But when I think about this saying I realize that there is no point to my worry and I start to feel a bit better. What makes you worry?
2. A Good Cup of Tea One thing you notice when you hang around with Tibetan people is that tea is almost as important as oxygen. They drink it all the time and many stresses seem to be solved or medicated with a good cup of tea. While this might seem like a cultural habit I have also found that there is some hard science behind it. Many studies have shown that people who drink tea are actually more chemically happy than those who don’t drink it. They have more “pleasure hormones” floating around in their body, better immune systems and overall better health. It is really quite interesting. The other thing that tea drinking does in Tibetan society is acts as a social gathering time. When I was in India we would get together at our Tibetan friend’s socks shop every night at about 6pm and drink tea until dinner time. Sometimes there would be 10 or 15 people there and we would have a hilarious time chatting about every topic under the sun. It was a great way to wind down at the end of the day. If anything was causing anyone a lot of stress they would just share it with the group and talk it out. It was really helpful. The best teas for your health and Green and White tea. They are full of antioxidants and chemicals that help you manage stress. Never add milk to these teas as the proteins in the milk damage some of the health properties. Try to appreciate tea for its natural flavor and aroma.
Enlightened Stress Relief is a mere introduction into how you can use ancient meditative methods to achieve a new level of peace and happiness. I have to stress again that it is not meant to replace the guidance and instruction of a qualified meditation teacher. It is absolutely essential to work one on one with a teacher when practicing meditation as there are many mistakes that can be made. However, there is no harm in applying the techniques in this book and they will, if practiced well, bear fruit in due time. Finally I want to remind you that YOU are in control of your own happiness. Do not leave it to external circumstances or your friends and family. Start working with your mind whenever you can and soon you will be in control of that stress. This is a guarantee.
In the Buddhist tradition it is commonplace to dedicate whatever good deeds you do towards a particular result. In the Tibetan tradition the monks, nuns and lay people dedicate all their good actions towards the enlightenment of all sentient beings. Following this tradition I would like to dedicate this book so that everyone who is suffering stress, anxiety, depression or illness may experience lasting happiness right away. I would also like to dedicate it to the long life and good health of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, His Holiness the Karmapa Urgyen Trinley Dorje and to all the authentic spiritual teachers in this world. May you continue to work for the benefit of everyone!
About the Author
This book was written by The Daily Minder from www.thedailymind.com For a full biography and more information please visit the website and follow the links.