The way out of suffering is meditation. The very purpose of stress is, however, to help us survive in difficult times. Yet, human’s fast pace growth in the last 12000 years outperformed our natural evolution. Our mind still thinks we live in Savannas and face similar threats. Let’s understand the science behind stress and how meditation liberates us from stress.
Stress is our friend. Perhaps the most helpful one too
Ever seen how a deer reacts to a Lion? That has an important lesson to teach us. The deer would freeze for a second and look carefully if it is a Lion. And then flee away. Let’s see what happens in its body to understand how stress functions.
A hormone known as Cortisol is released into the body in a fraction of a second. Cortisol is responsible for the “fight-or-flight” action. It stops all the body’s non-essential functions, helping the deer focus on the threat in front of it. It alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system, and growth processes. Thanks to Cortisol, the deer decides to flee and survives. All this takes only a few minutes. When Cortisol is done with its job, it goes away.
Humans are not much different from deers. You’d still decide to flee if you see a lion, wouldn’t you? Cortisol does its job just as fine as with the deer. But then there is a problem. About 12,000 years ago, we did something stranger than deers-Agriculture.
When did stress become our enemy?
The agricultural revolution is the most crucial event in our homo-sapien history. It cleared the path into cultural revolution and more complex tasks like accounting, property ownership, debt, and marriages. Hence, we have grown to be the dominant species on this planet. However, our natural evolution couldn’t cope up with this external growth.
Our mind thinks we live in the Savanas. But today, we face more long term problems than a few minutes of lion chase. Your debt repayment period often spans into multiple years. Job security is a never-ending problem. Fear of death, getting sick, old age is all that we have in our mind, and our brain thinks there is a Lion in front of us.
Your brain signals Cortisol releases every time you think about your problems. Remember, debt or business loss didn’t exist in the Savanas. And Cortisol stops most of your body functions. The more and more you think about your problems, the more Cortisol takes over your body.
When it alters your immune system, you become vulnerable to decreases. Watch out; COVID is everywhere. When it halts your digestive functions, you get gastritis, stomach ulcers, obesity, malnutrition, etc. It reduces your reproductory activities, and you get a whole lot of sexual and relationship problems.
This is the science behind stress and how it leads to various other long term problems. Now let’s see how meditation could help us eliminate stress and regain control of our minds and bodies. Our simple definition of meditation is “live in the present moment.“
Meditation - stress becomes our friend, once again.
Our simple definition of meditation covers a wide range of activities. It varies, depending on your interests. For example, if a person loves to enjoy nature, a hike and camp event would help him/her forget about everything else and stay in the present moment. For a person who loves to read, books help a lot. The key is once again to live in the present moment.
Meditation can also be done by sitting still and observing your breath. Naturally, your thoughts would come to disturb you. But, your response to them should be “acceptance” rather than forceful rejection. You don’t try to stop them. You just be aware that it’s there. Then you come back to your breath. This is often a very pleasurable activity.
Mindfulness is the practice of mixing meditation (living in the present moment) in our everyday activity. When you eat, you become aware of your meals and enjoy them. No cortisol to disturb your digestion. When you walk, you become aware of your surroundings. You can practice mindfulness wherever you want, whenever you can.
When you meditate, your brain signals another type of hormone, serotonin, the one responsible for your happiness. Modern science has confirmed that joy isn’t from external conditions. And meditation is the practice of achieving satisfaction from inside.
We’d like to know what you think about meditation. Please do let us know in the comment section. Together we can make the world a better place.