. . . over my head was a full grown snake
moving toward me
One Saturday a couple of years
ago I was going through an old storage shed on my
property when I heard a sound, looking up directly
over my head was a full grown snake moving toward me.
Immediately that flight
or fight response sprang into
action in my body.
My heart raced, my breathing
rate increased, my muscles tensed - and I
ran. A little while later I could
feel my heart rate go down, my muscles relaxed, and
my breathing slowed.
On Monday, I woke up late, I
couldn't find the car keys, and I was stopped for
another half-hour on the Interstate because of an
accident. When I finally make it to work there is a
message from my kids saying they missed the school
bus, and to top the whole morning off my boss comes
by to remind me that I left that report he needs in
an hour at home. My heart rate goes up, my muscles
tense and my body goes through a mild version of the
flight or fight response. Only in this situation I can
not fight or run.
Our bodies are designed to be
ready for action immediately in the face of danger.
The sympathetic nervous system springs into action
if we actually fight or run we use up the energy and
return to normal. But in
the stressful situations of modern life, the effects
of stress tends to stay with us all through the day.
Our heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and muscle
tension in our arms and legs are all increased. Blood
is moved to our muscles and away from our stomachs
causing us to digest our food more slowly. This is
why your legs or arms ache at the end of a stressful
day, they've been tense - ready to fight or run - all
What Stress Can Do
to the American Academy of Family Physicians, two-thirds
(66%) of office visits to family
doctors are prompted by symptoms related to stress.
Some doctors believe the figure may be closer to 80% of
visits are from people showing
physical signs of mental stress.
The National Academy of Sciences reported a
study which showed that people who have
recently been widowed, fired, or divorced are
A study of 96,000 widowed people in Finland
found that the
risk of death doubled
in the week following their partners' death.
High blood pressure
is common among people who live in America's
Stress causes the body to take
blood away from internal organs like
the liver and give blood to the muscles of
the legs and arms. (blood flow to the arms
and legs increase by 300 - 400%)
The liver removes cholesterol and fat from
the blood. So when blood flow is lessened to
the liver because of stress, blood may
and fat that later get deposited around the
Stress can turn
down your immune system.
When the brain releases the hormones which
turn on the fight or flight response, those
hormones tend to suppress those samurai
T-cells, macrophages and B-cells which
release antibodies that fight bacteria
The immune system being suppressed causes us
to be more susceptible to diseases such as infections,
rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, and asthma.
After losing a spouse to death, bereaved
men's immune cell
during the first 2 months leaving them more
susceptible to disease.
Cancer occurs more often than usual among
those who are widowed,
divorced, or separated.
Stress does not cause cancer but rather
affects its growth by weakening
the body's natural defenses
against a few malignant cells.
you understand that stress is natural and the flight
or fight response is designed for your protection
against danger. When you run or fight your body uses
the tension and returns to normal. But in today's world,
most of the time, you can not run and the energy is
effects of stress are caused by two main factors
- Things, people, and events are believed to be a
threat whether they really are or not.
- The tension in the body causes the mind to remember
other thoughts and memories of stressful events
This is a vicious
cycle which feeds on itself and eventually, as we've
seen above, causes great harm to the body
How You Can Break the
can break the stress habit with the Power of Positive
Remembering. You have learned throughout this book
that it is better to not
fight a thought you don't want.
Instead, it is better to think
another thought or do some activity which reminds
your brain of another group of memories. For
example when you're sad you can simply smile and sit
up straight which will automatically give your brain
the orders to recall memories which agree with what
your body is doing.
brain only has so much attention it can give, so when
you divide that attention between two
opposing thoughts, one
of the two must lessen.
the oldest study of how the mind and body works
point of opposing thoughts has been studied for
thousands of years by the ancient people of India.
The ancient people of India began studying the human
mind several thousand years ago. In fact, YOGA
was perhaps the first systematic
"scientific" study ever undertaken to
determine how the mind itself worked. For
many centuries the students of Yoga worked to develop
specific techniques to be used to control their
I want you to remember is what the Yogi's called the
mind, we call memories; and what they called control
we call Positive Remembering.
two thousand years ago one of the great yogi's (or
teachers) named Patanjali wrote a book of basic
instructions that summed up the practice of Yoga.
This book became known as the Yoga Sutras of
Patanjali (Pa-ton-ja-lee) and his
been memorized by students of Yoga ever since that
The Mind - a
swirling whirlpool of thought-waves
described the human mind as a swirling whirlpool of
thought-waves. Thoughts swirl around
like a tornado in an uncontrolled mind. He said the
person who fails to control this whirlpool ends up
identifying herself with it.
conflicting and random swirl blows the person in
every direction because she believes she is those
believes she is "happy," she is
"sad," she is "mad, "she is a
person becomes so identified with the thoughts
swirling around in her head that she eventually gets
a feeling of helplessness. As she quits trying to
give direction to her life and allows herself to go
with the flow of the whirlpool, she is eventually
overcome by the signs of what we call depression and
the physical symptoms of stress.
lists the following as the symptoms of a person who
has let the thoughts in their head control them:
mental laziness, doubt, lack of enthusiasm, sloth,
craving for sense-pleasure, false perception,
despair, grief, despondency, trembling of the body
and irregular breathing."
says this whole situation is caused by a person
identifying herself with the thought-waves either by
default or by fighting them directly.
you give up -- you end up being swept away by
the waves accepting whatever comes your way
as your fate.
you fight the thought-waves by trying not to
think or feel them, you actually make the
thoughts and feelings stronger. All your
attention is given to the fight only to find
the whirlpool gaining strength-your strength.
only way, Patanjali says, to control the mind and
therefore direct your life is to choose some object, some idea or truth, or
some person to
concentrate your attention on. His whole idea is
wrapped up in the name of his philosophy because the
word "yoga" literally means
to unite yourself with an object, an idea or another
person is the way to calm the whirlpool and its
affects. Instead of giving in or fighting you ignore
the swirl of thoughts and raise a wave of your own,
concentrating all your attention on becoming united
one-pointing your attention on something good the
distractions are deprived of their energy without
direct action against them. Remember your brain only
has so much attention it can give. If you use this
limited attention to tell distracting thoughts to go
away - what you are really doing is giving those
famous biologist Hans Selye agrees with this, he
To give meaning and direction to life we need a lofty
long-range purpose . . . a long-range aim offering us
permanent directions throughout life can eliminate
many of the frustrating doubts that cause distress
about the choice of our actions"
believes we are biologically constructed to perform a
work that has a purpose. He believes the only way to
maintain physical and mental health is to work toward
a long-range aim that we feel is worth the effort.
as our muscles become flabby and degenerate if not
used, so our brain slips into chaos and confusion
unless we constantly use it for some work that seems
worthwhile to us."
admits that even the simple exercise of paying attention to your
breathing can tame the whirlpool but he recommends you choose
something greater than yourself to concentrate on. To assure
long-term success he taught his students to concentrate on such
things as :
prayer, a single eternal truth, or some great person like Jesus,
Moses, or Buddha. This choosing something or someone to unite
with gives direction to life and starves the whirlpool to death.
boat adrift on the sea you set your sights on some clear
destination, put your oars in the water and constantly paddle
toward your goal. When the winds blow you off coarse you
immediately row your boat back keeping only your objective in
mind, desiring only to be united with it. This constant
repetition, this deep longing for union with your dream gives
purpose to your life, meaning to your existence, and hope for the
of all it REDUCES THE HARMFULL EFFECTS OF STRESS.
Science and Ancient Yoga
science has proved Patanjali and Yoga right. Scientists have
discovered that the body has a natural opposite response to the
flight or fight response. Dr. Herbert Benson has named this the
relaxation response. At the first of this chapter we talked about
the sympathetic nervous system and how if activated it almost
instantly caused our body to gear up to fight or run. To oppose
this reaction scientists have discovered that another system
called the parasympathetic nervous system causes the body to
Parasympathetic Nervous System
the body to relax
rate of breathing
out blood flow
in heart rate
in blood flow to digestive system,
which stimulates the stomach
the immune system
How Do You
Get This System to Activate?
and Patanjali both say that if you one-point your mind the
parasympathetic system will activate automatically. When you stop
and breath slowly and deeply, when you pray, when you think of
some truth, even when you concentrate on crocheting or repeat one
word like "peace" to yourself - you rob the whirlpool
of its' energy and cause the parasympathetic nervous system to
give your body its gift of relaxation. By doing this everyday you
can counter the effects of stress in your life and on your
Can Use Positive Remembering to Relax
are stressed your brain orders the lungs to take rapid shallow
breaths. Remember this is one of the changes the Sympathetic
Nervous System causes when it is activated.
1. Slow, Deep
Breathing to Reduce Stress
If you want to turn on the brains relaxation you can
force your lungs to take slow, deep breaths. You do this by
paying attention to your belly. When you breath in your belly
should push out. When you exhale your belly should push in.
(Watch a baby breathing and you will see the baby's belly rising
and falling as it breaths.)
This is a
way to order the Parasympathetic Nervous System to give you
2. Group A Memory
Word or Phrase with Breathing
While you are doing this exercise say a single word like
"peace" or a phrase like "The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want". You can use any word or phrase you want
as long as you remember to say it over and over again during your
As you say your word or phrase over and over while breathing your
brain will GROUP the memory of relaxing breathing with this word
or phrase and eventually you will only have to say or think the
word to release the Power to relax.
3. Exercise to Reduce
The third thing you can do to reduce the harmful effects
of stress is physical exercise. A short walk, a few minutes swim
or any other physical activity can help your body use up the
tension. It takes very little exercise to have a big effect -
even a daily 10-minute walk raises energy levels and lowers
tension for 2 hours.
You Can Do
Something About Stress
important idea for you to remember in this chapter and in the previous
chapter about how to overcome fear - is you can
turn on your body's natural ability to relax with the
Power of Positive Remembering. You are not a
slave to fear, or the harmful effects of stress. You can do
something about it. You can ORDER your brain and body to relax.
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