Stress and Meditation:
Developing the Mind

Our modern fast-paced lives are riddled with stress, and meditation can provide a potent antidote to this sometimes overwhelming state. According to recent research, as much as 95% of disease is related to stress and lifestyle factors. Assistant Surgeon General William Fogey told us that two-thirds of all disability and death prior to the age of 65 is preventable -- and many researchers would extend this to 85 years.

So the good news is that if you really care about the quality of your life and health, you can make a difference! The disciplines of meditation and of other inner transformational work empower us because they are about learning to change the world from the inside out.

Regardless of the work we do or the position that we hold, our mindbody is our primary instrument. This is a truly miraculous, mysterious, and universal tool of infinite potential. With it we create and guide the use of all other tools. Yet growing up, in school, or on the job, few of us learned even the most basic skills for assuring its optimal maintenance and fine-tuning.

Consider -- did your parents, teachers, health care providers, or clergy ever teach you techniques to let go of stress and tension, to harness and focus the power of your mind, or to gain deep insight through meditation? Did they themselves practice or even know of the value of these profound and useful skills? Most likely not. Lacking an education in even the basics of these skills, most of us have been virtually illiterate when it comes to the inner arts and sciences. Yet times are changing and, due to many factors, interest in these fundamental human disciplines has sky¬rocketed over the past thirty years.

Faced with the growing complexity of the modern marketplace we are required to think, gather, and process infor-mation, evaluate, communicate, and act at increasingly high speeds. When the situational demands -- work-related, social, physiological, or psychological -- exceed our capabilities to adequately respond, we experience strain and distress. Barely equipped to cope, let alone break through to higher and sustained levels of performance, many people become caught in a downward spiral that depletes their vitality and undermines their health.

As a consequence, we are witnessing a growing epidemic of stress-related diseases and a host of related accidents, problems, and liabilities for business and society. The more intense our stress, the poorer the quality of the attention, judgment, creativity, and skill that we bring to our work, and the more mistakes we make. Similarly, the greater our stress level, the more likely it is that we will face conflict in our relationships or develop a life-threatening disease.

Our friend Charles Tart, a pioneer in the scientific research of consciousness, once said, "We don't understand the operations of our minds and hence we don't operate them very well." While many people regard the state of their mind as an unalterable "given," our research and experience have demonstrated that "upgrades" in the quality of attention, intelligence, creativity, and other mental capabilities can be dependably achieved through proper training and discipline such as meditation.

Motivated individuals who practice meditation regularly are capable not only of improving their health but of building their "brain power," enhancing creativity, extending the length and quality of their lives, awakening greater empathy and compassion, and expanding the scope of their contribution to the world. While the multiple and complex dilemmas of modern life present multiple challenges and needs, meditation and the inner sciences of mindbody development offer a variety of profoundly practical and compassionate solutions.

Once "online" and integrated into our lives, these inner skills are generative, self-reinforcing, inexpensive, portable, reliable, easily diffusible, and value-adding as they breathe life and vitality into virtually every personal and professional situation.

[Adapted from the book "Luminous Mind" by Joel & Michelle Levey]

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