In the previous pages, we looked at stress and its underlying causes. We also looked at some remedies that can bring short term relief in periods of high stress and anxiety. In this section we will look at long term solutions. Because stress and anxiety are caused by the conditioned mind, lasting solutions require consistent effort over the long term. In a prior article, I compared the conditioned mind to following footprints in a field of snow. In order to address stress, you need to create new footprints rather than following the same old ones—this is called creating new neural pathways, a process that will re-wire your brain and eliminate stress and anxiety.
In the articles and posts in this section I will outline various activities and exercises that will help retrain the mind. However, the first step is to set an intention. Recall that remedying stress in the long run requires consistent effort over time. In order to put in the required effort and develop consistent healthy habits and follow the exercises on daily basis, you have to first set the right intention. In other words, reducing stress and anxiety has to become your primary motivation, not just a vague desire.
Setting the right intention is the first step in awakening to a life free of stress and anxiety. The right intention is not only necessary in order to motivate you to put in the requisite effort for a consistent practice, it also nudges open the door of awareness which you probably didn’t know was even there.
Your intentions and motivations tell you who you are. For most of us, we don’t have sufficient awareness to know what our intentions and motivations are. We are like automatons, moving through our day and through life, mindlessly repeating daily habits. Ask yourself, what motivates me? Is it money and financial success? Sexual adventures and conquests? Is it drink and drugs? Junk food or TV and social media? Or is it compassion, giving and sharing, generosity, helping others, looking after others, gratitude, exercise, mindfulness?
Whatever your motivations, the point is not to pass judgement on yourself but to become aware, as a first step, of your motivations. Awareness of your motivations is a key to mental health. Once you become aware of your motivations, you can begin the process of determining whether or not they serve you well. For example, if you are motivated by financial success, becoming aware of your motivation will allow to see whether the pursuit of money is bringing you the happiness you seek. Ask yourself, why do I want money? Is it to feel secure, have peace of mind and lead a stress free life? If so, has the pursuit or attainment of financial success brought me the peace of mind and stress free life I sought? The chances are that it hasn’t.
Therefore, start becoming aware of what motivates you. This can be very specific. When you wake up in the morning ask yourself, “what motivates me”? When you go to work ask yourself “what motivates me?” When you have lunch ask yourself what motivates me?”
It may be helpful to write down some of your observations.
Once you have identified what motivates you, the next step would be to ask if the motivation has brought you the happiness you have been seeking. For example, if you’re motivated by fast food, see how you feel after you have eaten a Big Mac and a large bowl of fries. It may taste good at the time but how do you feel afterwards? How does the extra weight that you carry from eating all that fast food make you feel? Does it affect your sleep? Does it affect your productivity at work? Perhaps, perhaps not. The key is to become aware of how you feel.
Becoming aware of your motivations and how they make you feel gives you a powerful choice. You can then choose to continue with the motivation or you can choose to change it. Of course, changing your motivations and the ingrained habits that they have carved is not easy. But awareness is the key that empowers you to choose, including as a first step, to choose to establish a consistent practice that follows the guidance in the next pages on this site.
My hope for these pages is to be a modern-day Academy, much like Plato’s Academy, in order to reduce stress and anxiety in our individual lives and perhaps even help mankind reverse course from its current ego-driven and lethal trajectory.
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