– by Adam Chan
So far in June, there were four shootings and eight stabbings that made it to the news here in Vancouver. The crazys are out and about. Walking around downtown, I can’t help but see how stress out – about to explode – peoples faces are.
Talking to people, counselling them, it seem to be the same old thing in Vancouver: everything is too expensive, you work a job you absolutely hate to try to pay for things you don’t really need – thats 10 hours of the day, 5 days a week gone, sleep 8 hrs , 6 hours left recovering from fatigue. On to the personal life: Living for the weekends pretending to be happy. Lots of “bros” and 100s of Facebook friends but no one to really talk to, people are feeling lonely in a over populated city. On top of all this is the “need” to make time to put on a strong front and image that one has to live up to.
This is my summary of the same story themes I heard countless times when I involuntary counsel hundreds of people. Thats the curse or blessing of teaching MA, people want to talk about how they feel with you. OK.
I have no solution. Stress induced “fight or flight” chemical reactions get fired up when one “sees” a threat , that is normal. The problem is that in modern times, one cannot possibly track down exactly what the stimuli are that cause the signals to fire. There are a million little things that cause stress instead of one big easily trackable thing.
Stress accumulates with no releases, in a battle you cannot win. I suggest that maybe trying to play catch up and solve more problems is not the first thing one should do, I also think, thinking more in circles and tensing up the brain more is not a good way to reduce stress either.
When your nervous system is being cooked by stress, continuously “fighting” , “trying” , “thinking”, or “solving” is no longer a good solution because tensing up more is not a good way to relax. This sounds like common sense but then why don’t people naturally apply it? Because it is an unconscious neurological habit to “fight” “problems” – to try to stop tensing up by tensing up more. It’s stupid. But it is an instinctive reaction. So we have to change that reaction.
We have to learn to relax when facing “attacks”. This is Martial art. There are 2 types of relaxation in Martial Arts:
- the type of relaxation that is relaxed but it tenses up and panic as soon as the attacker does not play along.
- the type of relaxation that remains relax under a REAL attack
Most martial artists are not interested in relaxing. Just look at most martial arts video clips. This means they are still invested in tension or using fear and anger as the source of power. The ones that are interested in relaxing are usually not interested in relaxing under real pressure, which makes the relaxation useless. It is a feel-good game of “let’s pretend,” but how does that help anyone in life when life won’t pretend with you? These are the reason why I feel martial arts in the modern age doesn’t do much for people’s spiritual development despite the large amount of lip service.
But none of what I wrote about martial arts will matter at all if one cannot even relax by themselves….
You have to switch off. Learn to switch off. Turn off more stimulus. Relaxing is not reading a book, watching a movie, surfing the internet – that is still stimulus overload. Relax means being awake but switching off. I think this is an essential life skill .
The ability to relax DEEPLY , silently ALONE for a extensive period of time REGULARLY will change the nervous system over time. ONLY then would it make sense to ponder how to manage ones lifestyle to create less stress and more happiness. How can you ponder on things effectively when you are tense? How can you see clearly when you are full of anger and fear? Can fear and anger make wise decisions????
If you are centred in yourself, rooted and relax deeply, maybe you will get a gut feeling that it was, is, and always will be just about you here, now, breathing, simply alive, which IS a miracle – and the beauty of it. Maybe a part of you in that state will see that chasing, grasping, owning, needing, or being a slave to things, places and people is not the way to happiness. Maybe a part of you will see that most suffering is based on chasing and needing these things on the “outside.” Maybe the source of happiness is about the centre and not the outside.
I don’t know. Maybe that Buddha dude was on to something… maybe he’s wrong. BUT, how can we find out if we can’t even relax, listen to our own heart beat, feel the earth, and breathe for 5 minutes without freaking out??? These things can’t be thought about. It has to be experienced. Everyone is different, no one is certain what the insights will be. But we are certain that tension, fear, and anger stand in the way. So, FIRST we have to develop the skill to relax our nervous system.
It is vital and well deserved to spent sometime with yourself, to go deeply inside, listening. You deserve that. Instead, people seem to try to pretend to live up to some image. That just makes you feel like crap. Stop it. It’s the same as martial arts, right? Every clip is about how bad-ass they are, but none even show who they REALLY ARE when the other guy is NOT playing along. Finding out who you really are is more important that projecting some image you wish others to see. Lies always increase internal stress. The first step is to relax, the first insight that usually comes is HONESTY, which is really self acceptance – this alone reduces tones of stress.
I am sick of seeing people freaking out. Anyone in Vancouver who comes to me, I will teach them chi gung for free. As I always believe, few people should be taught Kung Fu. This is especially true nowadays with the explosion of the tough guy bully culture we live in. But everyone should be taught chi gung of some sort .
If you are not local, and you are interested, there are many members who are better trained than me in chi gung. Maybe they can point you in the right direction – Some friends are Steve Smith, Ian Sinclair, Gene Burnett and off course my sifu, Michael Smith.