Just read a thoughtful, well-written article by Psychologist Bob Murray - Stress and Workaholism: Facts of Modern Life? (http://www.upliftprogram.com/article_tofends.html). In the article, Dr. Bob talks about research conducted at Rutger's University Department of Anthropology which suggests much of our stress is a result of the "mismatch" between our present lifestyle and that of our paleolithic ancestors. 

Its true that as our world is "speeding up" there are more sources of stress and less slowing down on our part to integrate it. When is the last time you sat by a fire and just stared into the flames in a moment of contemplation or integration? Carl Jung also wrote extensively on the topic in "Modern Man in Search of Soul" and "Civilization in Transition" among other works.

Meanwhile, Dr. Bob goes on to summarize how males and females have different ways of coping with stress. For example, shopping relieves stress for most woman but causes stress for most men (a fallback to our ancient roles as hunter-gatherers?). Stress may also lead to dementia and other serious health issues. Meanwhile, for me and many others, stress seems to increase around the holidays with more to do, more obligations, more encounters with family and more triggers for all those complexes lying in wait. What can we do to lessen our stress and that in the world around us?

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  • This seems to me like one of those charming chicken-and-egg involutions. Is it the world that's speeding up, or merely we who are failing to slow down? I am always amazed at how accessible spaciousness is when I remember to create it--that is, when I make the effort to light a fire and spend an evening gazing into the flames, or to go on a walk with no object outside a meandering meditation. To me it seems that slower world is always there.

    Because while I appreciate articles and research such as the above, it seems odd to that our lives are more stressful (or feel more stressful) than those of our forebears. Most of us reading this likely don't need to worry about where we'll find our next meal, nor, for that matter, whether we'll be the next meal of some other creature, yet the general consensus seems to be that we, unlike our ancestors, are the ones dying from stress. My hunch is less that it's less due to a mismatch of experience, and more due to a certain lack of skill on behalf of us modern sorts. Just as we no longer know how to hunt or fight (or, for that matter, to use our bodies well), we no longer know how to relax. But just as we've managed to encourage excercise to approximate our earlier fitness, surely we can learn relaxation?
    • Siona: I agree, and it seems like neuroscience is confirming this. I am a big fan of Dan Siegel whom I spent a few days with last summer in his "Mindsight" workshop. The event--along with his book of the same title--focus on the value of mindfulness meditation in order to balance the brain and allow opening into the essence of "what is". Though this is a huge simplification and a small representation of Dan's work--and not necessarily a new idea--the way he presents it impacted me very strongly.

      Being present, clearing the mind go hand in hand with relaxation and allow insight to flow. And it can definitely be learned and practiced in as little as a few minutes a day. Of course, our ancient ancestors likely didn't have to learn or force themselves to slow down, open, and relax. It was a much more natural state, reflective of their culture. Actually committing the time and energy to follow through, of course, is still up to me.... I'll have to find time to "think" about that! :)
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