World peace begins with inner peace. Dalai Lama
Every day, as we venture out into the world, we are met with a number of demands, expectations and everyday stressors. Whether it be sitting in peak hour traffic, someone jumping in front of us in the coffee queue, our phone battery dying inexplicably on the day we are expecting an important call or accidentally spilling coffee on yourself as you’re heading into an important meeting.
The Daily Hassles Scale (yes, it is a real list) lists some 117 chores and irritants such as “having to wait in lines”, “misplacing or losing things” and “concerns about the meaning of life” to identify the major stressful events in life.
When things don’t go to plan, or to our expectations, we have a choice – we can adapt to the changed circumstances and make the best of it, or we can mal-adapt and have a stress reaction (otherwise known as losing your shit).
If we mal-adapt, the “stress response” gets triggered. The adrenals release adrenaline and cortisol, two hormones that in turn initiate the “fight or flight” response which we experience as rapid heart rate, muscle contraction, cold hands and feet or racing thoughts. In the right situation, the stress response can be useful. For example, if you’re being mugged on the street. The stress response was designed to be an ‘on-and-off’ event. It was not designed to deal with chronic stress that seems to come hand in hand with modern life.
What this means is by the time we get to the front of the line and are greeted by the friendly barista who innocently inquires “how are you”, we find ourselves in a bad mood and we may end up taking this out on the barista, thereby creating stress and tension in the atmosphere and for everyone in the cafe.
If, on the other hand, instead of having a stress reaction, we made the best of the circumstances by listening to the music playing in the cafe, or striking up conversation with someone in the queue and essentially expanding our awareness beyond ourselves and our initial feelings of annoyance, we become aware of what else is available to us, in the present moment, to enjoy or appreciate. So that, by the time, we get to the counter, we may actually be smiling as we order our coffee and maybe even sharing a laugh or a joke with the barista. And what we end up injecting into the environment is a bit more joy, a smile or laugh, and contributing positively to the overall atmosphere.
When we meditate on a daily basis, we release accumulated stresses and fatigue from our physiology and come into contact with our inner state of bliss. Our nervous system is designed to trigger a response based on the experience we are having at any one time. So when come out of meditation, having cleared the accumulation of stress and fatigue, we find ourselves with adaptation energy, so that when we inevitably encounter the stressors in life, we can respond with clarity from the centred place, instead of having a stress reaction.
And in this way, each of us makes our individual contribution to world peace, harmony, joy and happiness. If you want world peace, start with your own peace.