Principle 3. Reduce Stress
Many illnesses in our society are stress-related. Stress is a guaranteed way to accelerate the move from anabolic to catabolic metabolism and therefore accelerate aging. Stress increases free radical formation, depresses the immune system, causes imbalance in the autonomic nervous system and delays healing. There are multiple causes of stress and it is impossible for us to eliminate them all. The keys to reducing stress include meditation, adequate restful sleep, mastering the art of forgiveness, avoiding judgment and reducing negative emotions such as anger and guilt.
Health, vitality and longevity are difficult to obtain without peace of mind and happiness. To develop these, we need to develop forgiveness and embrace living one day at a time. The first person we should forgive is ourselves. Negative self-image and disempowering emotions are major obstacles and are inconsistent with happiness and health. These emotions release chemicals in the body impairing the healing process. A healthy self-esteem is critical in the development of a life of health and vitality. Self-esteem comes from living a life of integrity based on an empowering set of values. It is imperative that we are happy with ourselves and want to be healthy because we deserve it, rather than having a goal that only allows us to be happy once we are healthy.
In the most effective forms of meditation, for example Zen meditation, students learn to find the extraordinary in the ordinary such as the rhythm of breathing. Temporarily freeing the mind of thought and refraining from clinging to negative thoughts and emotions is very therapeutic. In his book “Sacred Hoops”, Phil Jackson recounts an old Zen story where two monks were traveling together in heavy rain. They meet a woman in a silk kimono who is having trouble crossing a muddy path. The first monk carried her in his arms across the path. The second monk didn’t say anything until much later when he angrily asked “monks don’t go near women, why did you do that?” The first monk replied “I left the woman back there, are you still carrying her?” The aim of meditation is to experience moments of just being without your mind interfering by wandering through usual thoughts.
Research has shown that people who meditate for 20 minutes a day are able to reduce arterial wall atherosclerosis. Another benefit of meditation is the practice of improved breathing techniques. More efficient breathing allows a better exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide and a more efficient healing system. The best time to meditate is early in the morning. It allows us to carry the peace and serenity of this activity with us for the rest of the day.