Stress Is Good For You
We’ve been sold on stress as bad for us. Something to avoid, a demon that will destroy our health, an insidious influence that requires our diligent attention. On a good day stress functions to wake us up; on a bad day it is used as a convenient excuse for our poor behavior or bad mood.Stress lets us know that something is at a breaking point, and this actually is a good thing. Stress helps us prune away structures in life that no longer support us. Breaks habits that take away from better health. Mixes up our emotions so we can free ourselves from ideas, illusions or relationships that no longer serve. Stress points out that our coping mechanisms are in need of an update, or perhaps that we need to do away with them altogether so we can live life in a way that is more congruent with our true heart.
Stress is the invitation to grow beyond the bounds we’ve set for ourselves. Stress challenges the way we’ve defined safety, goodness and right. It’s easy to think we need to pull away from something in order to reduce the stress, but stress just might be the lightning storm that burns down the barn so we finally can see the moon.
We experience stress when our limits are challenged or flooded over. The thermostat of stability that most of us crave comes unwound in an attempt to keep things within normal range. This is where we can really rely on stress to do its transformative alchemy. It helps us to see how broken we are, reveals how our coping has prevented our living closer to truth and it shows how the compromises we’ve made do not support our life, but drain it.
Yes, stress is a good thing.
It shows us how what once may have provided a sense of equilibrium and balance now is frayed and full of friction. If we’ve got the courage, we can just add some fuel to the fire and burn down the prison we call “getting along.”
Stress lights us on fire. It takes us to the tipping point of finally standing up for our “no” and dropping our opinions or embarrassment about our “yes.” Stress can so clearly show us where we have been broken, perhaps for a long time, and provide a keen edge to cut away our entanglements that no longer serve us.
While it’s a popular idea that we should reduce or manage stress, consider that it might be the spark that burns away the choking underbrush and frees up the seeds of new growth that have been awaiting a transformative fire.
What in this moment is asking to be burned away in your life?
The True Benefits of Tea
Research shows how particular molecules from the leaf of Camilla sinensis will scavenge free radicals, kill cancer cells and improve your cholesterol numbers. But there is a another benefit to tea that is invisible in the laboratory — its power to connect us with one another.
If you look only at the contents of your teabag, you’ll completely miss how tea in Asia is not focused on boosting your levels of catechins, theanine, saponins and vitamins, but more about downshifting into a flow of time that nourishes connections and relationships.
Tea in Asia is about dropping out of time and of being busy and into the undulating give-and-take of conversation. It’s about telling, and listening to stories. Tea allows for an opportunity to meet new friends or deepen the relationship with old ones. To under the influence and alchemy of water and leaves, unplug from time and slip the structure of “got to get something done.”
Tea provides a shared connection that links human hearts in a way that is difficult to study in a lab. It’s a practical poetry that adds a delight to life that cannot be purchased. Tea is a shared meditation of steam, scent, the stored essence of pre-dawn thunderstorms, humid fiercely sun-soaked afternoons, the secret life of insects and the dark of moonless midnights.
Sitting together for the span of exploring how leaves give up their essence to a small clay pot and just the right embrace of hot water adds something that you will not find in a list of ingredients or daily minimum requirements. Yet these unnamed qualities are absolutely essential to our joy and connection.
Tea is a kind of love made visible, an invitation to remember the ways we are interconnected, and how stillness and appreciation are foundational to our wellbeing.
Misconceptions About Meditation
Meditation is not something that takes you “away.” It does not remove you from your troubles, nor does it take your troublers away from you. It is not some floaty, peaceful nirvana that you can wear as insulation against the unfolding of the world.
Meditation will not give you the flat tummy or perfect hair that you see on people meditating in images on the Internet. That said, neither do you have to shave your head to meditate.
Meditation is not about not having thoughts. That would be like asking the sky not to have clouds. Mediation is not about having a still mind, but that doesn’t mean stillness might not arise on its own.
Mediation is the practice of having thoughts, but not letting them have you. It’s the practice of noticing your thoughts instead of reacting to them and of noticing your reactions and not allowing them to move you into action.
If nothing else, meditation is the delicious opportunity for the 5, 10 or 20 minutes that you've set aside for your practice to just sit. Just sit with what is arising and do not do anything about it. It’s the one space in time that you can stop making lists, stop trying to get something to change and stop attempting to accomplish anything.
In other words, it’s not that you stop the internal dialogue. You just stop paying it so much attention. Think for a minute about throwing rocks into a pool of water — you can’t see the stillness for the waves. But if you stop throwing the rocks, in time the surface will calm, and you will be able to see through the water to the bottom.
Stillness can arise in meditation, as can clarity. But just as the vast open sky is sometimes an infinity of blue, other times the sky is filled with storm-tossed clouds — but it’s the same sky. Stillness is not the goal of meditation — it’s one part of the landscape. Meditation is not about trying to go anywhere. It’s about being attentive to the journey.
Is there is a “healthy” sugar?
What’s the story on “healthy” sugars such as agave nectar or maple syrup?
I so hate to be the bearer of this kind of news, but basically, sugar is sugar, regardless of the name. The food industry attempts to mask the word “sugar” behind such phrases as evaporated fruit juice, barley malt, raw sugar or rice syrup, but from your metabolism’s point of view, it’s all the same, and it will wreak its metabolic havoc in exactly the same ways as the white stuff your Aunt Molly adds to her coffee.
It comes down to this: Garden-variety table sugar is made up of two different types of sugar— glucose and fructose. All the other players in the realm of sweeteners (with the exception of stevia, which comes from the leaves of a plant, and artificial sweeteners, which are chemical food additives) are combinations of glucose and fructose.
While it is true that agave nectar and maple syrup have different metabolic pathways, both are the source of their own kind of metabolic disregulation. By any name, glucose affects your insulin levels. Fructose causes issues with hormonal balances that affect appetite, seems to be a factor in pre-diabetes and gets processed directly into fat in the liver.
Sorry, but “healthy” agave nectar that is touted as a substitute for white table sugar has more fructose than high-fructose corn syrup. Pure maple syrup is about two-thirds sucrose. If you want to get off the blood sugar roller coaster that affects your energy levels and mental clarity or if you want to restore your metabolism to a more robust balance, then stepping away from sugar is a move in the right direction.
Want some help with that?
Are you content with letting sugar call the tune on your food choices and energy levels?
Habit change, unlike advertising would lead you to believe, cannot be accomplished in a few days or even weeks. Change requires rewiring your brain — and fortunately the brain is quite adept at just that with a little help from you.
With daily emails and guidelines for simple practices, Yong Kang Clinic’s “The Journey Beyond Sugar” helps you to gently rewire your grey matter.
Readers of the Yong Kang Clinic newsletter can detonate their sweet tooth for $49 by using the discount code REWIRE. And for those of you that want some extra help and support, personal coaching from me is an option.
We cease to be haunted when we cease to be afraid of making what has been untouchable, real: especially our understandings of the past; and especially those we wronged, those we were wronged by, or those we did not help.
We become real by forgiving ourselves and we forgive ourselves by changing the foundational pattern, and especially by changing our present behavior to those we have hurt. A fear of ghosts, or a fear of our own haunted mind is the measure of our absence in this world. We cease to be afraid when give away what was never ours in the first place and begin to be present with our own lives just as we find them, even in facing what we have banished from our thoughts and made homeless, even when we do not know the way forward ourselves.
When we make a friend of what we previously could not face, what once haunted us now becomes an invisible, parallel ally, a beckoning hand to our future.
— David Whyte