Mastery of Ourselves
One of life’s main quests is to gain mastery of one’s self. The mind likes to create the illusion that we have control of our life and ourselves. However, more often than not, past conditioned patterns or reactions to situations tend to control us instead. Anytime we feel overwhelmed in our lives due to financial, personal, familial, or professional stress we engage in comfortable patterns of reaction or ways of being. Some use escape strategies such as smoking, excessive drinking of alcohol, substance abuse, and food binging amongst a list of things.
Staying centered in the midst of chaos
How do we stay centered while in the midst of chaos and remain calm like in the center of a storm? The first step towards self-mastery is to gain a deeper understanding of your tendencies and being brutally honest with yourself and how you deal with stress. We all experience stress differently – some people get anxious, others feel immobilized, while others are unaware of how stress impact them or their bodies. Those “lucky” people (or maybe unlucky) have disconnected from their bodies so much so that they are not even aware of how much their stress is affecting the overall quality of their lives.
Stress is present in the initial tightness that one feels that if unaddressed, can later turn into pain. Other signs of visible stress held in the body are alterations in posture such as head tilt, a high shoulder, or rounded shoulders. It can also manifest in severe health challenges such as digestive, respiratory, and other dis-eases.
Paying attention to the cues of our body
We usually don’t pay attention to how stress impacts us until some health challenge forces us to reassess our lives and decide what we need to do differently. The body is an incredible indicator of stress. The body holds onto any emotions that we do not experience fully or the emotions we choose to not pay attention to.
Take a few moments each day to pay attention to your breathing. Is your breathing short and restricted, or is it deep, full and expansive? Then notice how your body feels. Do you feel more tightness in your shoulders, neck, back when you are stressed? Do you feel relaxed and have a more open posture when you are not?
Observe your body’s posture
The next step is to observe your posture. Are your shoulders hunched forward or is your head tilted to one side? Have you ever been told to sit up or stand straighter? As stress accumulates in our bodies, the head starts moving forward and the rest of the body follows. The moment our body is relieved of stress, it unwinds and we are once again able to relax and breathe. Over time the body loses the ability to let go of stress because we have an incessant need to override our bodies with our minds.
Staying consciously aware is key
Maintaining conscious awareness of how stress impacts your posture, the ease you feel in your body and the quality of your breathing is one of the keys to self-mastery. It is like learning a new language or skill. The more you practice and stay present with your body, the more you reinforce this new behavior.