Oakville Zen Meditation

490: Feb 11 24 Training mind, body, and heart while dealing with stress


 Training  mind, body, and heart while facing stress

What I like about Zen is that it is practical as long you practice it diligently. 

Stressors are everywhere, permanent, either acute i.e. loss of a loved one or chronic such as guilt

They are defined as an event being perceived as out of our control.

They affect our body and mind consciously when they are acute, but mostly subconsciously 

when they are chronic. 

I will not elaborate here to describe their negative impacts which will be another talk. 

Even if the word “stress” ** was not in the original Zen literature, Zen is teaching us that we can deal with our stressors better by applying  these 3 approaches:

1) our mind, 2) our body, and 3) having an opening your heart.

1) Being mindful of your restless mind under stress.

A primary mind-training tool is mindfulness practice during which you learn to watch your mind allowing you to tame its wildness. This is what we do during meditation. 

As you repeatedly bring your non-judgmental, non-decisional attention to anchor your restless mind such as using breathing during meditation, you are becoming acutely aware of your pop-up negative thoughts/feeling such as stress-generated anxiety.

Being more aware of these thoughts/feelings, and accepting them implies, automatically, and with practice, a better control of them. This is called “taming the monkey mind” in Zen literature.

2) mindfully reading your body:

Our body reactions are a great proxy to our emotional mind. Even more, our physical responses often precede our emotional ones when they are still at the subconscious level.

During acute stress generating fear, anger, hostility, and anxiety, the release of stress hormones will affect your body immediately i.e.  physical restlessness, fast breathing, tachycardia, sweat, tremor, diarrhea, 

During chronic stress producing ongoing emotional negativities such as anxiety, doubt, regret, guilt, and worry, the body responses are more subtle but still present.

Being mindful of your body is a great way to assess your emotional mind. Learning body scanning is a very effective tool to read your body. We will practice it so.

3) Training your heart:

Under stress, and along with mindfulness comes the tool of training your heart to be more open and compassionate to others including to yourself while under stress.

Practicing compassion, and loving-kindness called Metta to self, and mostly to others draws you out of yourself as a victim, and reminds you to control your societal behavior. 

When you feel the force of stress squeezing you down and drawing you into yourself, you can resist via compassion the tendency to close down in a protective cocoon.

You will then look around you, and get a larger, and more rational perspective of what events, people, and life are all about.


Stress is created and exaggerated: 

1-when you feel you have no control, 

2-when your mind is overreacting, and

3-when you are preoccupied too much with yourself either positively or negatively.. 

The practices of mindfulness and compassion give you a way to work with these reactions.

It is unrealistic to expect a stress-free life, but there is a real possibility that you could transform the way you are dealing with it. Stress brings harmful habits of mind, body, and heart.

But,  instead of viewing it as an enemy, you should regard stress as a teacher, and the opportunity to learn from it for better mind control, and a more objective understanding of people and life.