Dr. Faith G. Harper is the author of Coping Skills: Tools & Techniques for Every Stressful Situation. She’s a licensed professional counselor, board supervisor, certified sexologist, and applied clinical nutritionist with a private practice and consulting business in San Antonio, TX. She is the author of many popular “Five Minute Therapy” zines and books, on subjects such as anxiety, depression, adulting, intimacy, anger, and grief, including UnF#ck Your Brain, The Revolution will Include Cookies, and This is your brain on Anxiety. She gives you the honest facts on how to deal with whatever you’re dealing with, how it affects your body/brain, and even gives you the tough-love you didn’t know you needed.
Feel rushed? Even when you’re on vacation? Worried about the future? Overwhelmed? Fast-paced living creates “hurry-sickness”– a sense of desperation and time-pressures that are draining. We’re conditioned to chase money, power, success – ever embracing a wilder, faster pace of life. Despite a rise in stress-induced illnesses, we continue onward in a furious race to an imaginary finish line. The anxiety we feel breeds muddled thinking which leads to poor choices. Poor choices lead to more problems, pain and suffering. It’s a race to the finish that we’re destined to lose.
Yun Rou, a modern Taoist monk I interviewed on my Pathways show, offers wisdom pointing to a better way. Tao, in fact, means “the Way.” It refers to living life in harmony with nature. Many of us spend our time and energy doing battle with life when the key is to live in harmony – through a Taoist alchemy that finds the balance between action and non-action, between assertion and letting go of resistance, as circumstances dictate. Yun Rou uses the term ‘rectify’ to refer to the effort it takes to bring things out of whack back into balance. We will never finally achieve perfect balance – we will always be rectifying – but it’s fun trying and getting better at it. Otherwise, we squander considerable effort and time trying to force the universe to bend to our will. So very exhausting!
Below are four Taoist secrets to doing less and getting more done.
1. Be like water – in the flow.
In his book, Mad Monk Manifesto, Yun Rou notes that we are each called upon to become a sage, defining sage as “a person who deeply senses the flow of the world and moves with it, not against it.” But how do we learn to yield and not resist? Taoists embrace the image of flowing water: when a stream of water is confronted by a rock in its path, it flows effortlessly around it or over it, rather than banging its head against the rock. Flow like water.
2. Cultivate inner peace.
Meditation, Tai Chi, Yoga – all of these ancient methods can be used to help us calm our anxious minds and reduce stress. If we imagine the principles of yielding, softness, centeredness, slowness, balance, suppleness and rootedness that these methods draw upon in a balance of stillness and movement, then we will sense our connection with nature, harmonize ourselves to her ways, and cultivate the inner peace that we all need and subconsciously crave.
3. Find the balance.
An important first step toward attaining this solution to modern stress is by learning to recognize and align ourselves with the movement of life itself. This is achieved through an understanding of yin and yang and finding the balance points of life’s ever-changing dance of polarities – light or dark, up or down, feminine and masculine, giving and receiving, consuming and sacrificing. Balance is the Way.
4.Practice gentleness and compassion.
Mistakenly interpreted as weakness, true gentleness is a courageous sensitivity, respect, and reverence for all life. Its companion virtue, compassion, brings acceptance, generosity, forgiveness, and love. How wonderfully ironic that caring about others’ happiness as if it were your own will reduce your stress level and improve overall well-being for everyone. Yun Rou sums it up: “Compassion is the key element of the awakened, rectified life.”
David D. Burns, MD, is Adjunct Clinical Professor Emeritus at the Stanford University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. His best-selling book, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, has sold more than five million copies and is the book most frequently recommended for depressed individuals by American and Canadian health professionals. Many published research studies have indicated that 65% of individuals with moderate to severe depression who are given a copy of his book improve dramatically within four weeks with no other treatment.
Jonathan Robinson is a psychotherapist, best-selling author of 12 books, and a professional speaker from Northern California. He has made numerous appearances on the Oprah show, as well as many other national TV talk shows, and articles about him have appeared in USA Today, Newsweek and The Los Angeles Times. He co-hosts the podcast “Awareness Explorers” with author Brian Tom O’Connor. Through TV, live lectures and radio, Mr. Robinson has reached over 100 million people around the world. He is known for providing his audiences with immediately useful information presented in a fun and entertaining manner. His latest book is entitled “More Love, Less Conflict.” Other books by Jonathan include: Find Happiness Now: 50 Shortcuts for Bringing More Love, Balance, and Joy Into Your Life, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Awakening Your Spirituality, and Real Wealth: A Spiritual Approach to Money and Work.
Yvonne Tally is the author of Breaking Up with Busy: Real-Life Solutions for Overscheduled Women. Yvonne leads meditation and de-stressing programs for corporations, individuals, and private groups in Silicon Valley. An NLP master practitioner, Yvonne co-founded Poised Inc., a Pilates and wellness training studio, and is the founder of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Scarves, a charity that provides headscarves to cancer patients. She lives in Northern California.
Dr. Nadine Burke Harris is the author of the new book, The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity. She is a pioneering physician who is reshaping the conversation about childhood stress. In her book, she tells the story of what toxic stress is, how it affects children, the ways it leads to lifelong health problems (from obesity to heart disease to cancer)—and how to break the cycle.
Linda Kohanov is the author of the new book, The Five Roles of a Master Herder: A revolutionary model for socially intelligent leadership. Linda is also the author of the bestseller The Tao of Equus. She speaks and teaches internationally. She established Eponaquest Worldwide to explore the healing potential of working with horses and offer programs on everything from emotional and social intelligence, leadership, stress reduction, and parenting to consensus building and mindfulness.
Stress is a silent killer. However, certain easy-to-practice meditations can proactively relieve the effects of stress.
Lisa Wimberger is the author of New Beliefs, New Brain: Free Yourself from Stress and Fear. She is the founder of the Neurosculpting® Institute. Her work draws upon a background in medical neuroscience. As the Founder of the Neurosculpting® modality, Lisa runs a private meditation practice in Colorado teaching clients who suffer from stress disorders.
Ellen Langer, Ph.D., is the author of the book Counter Clockwise: Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility, which attempts to answer the question: If we could turn back the clock psychologically, could we also turn it back physically? Dr. Langer, a social psychologist, has been described as the “mother of mindfulness” and has written extensively on the illusion of control, mindful aging, stress, and decision-making. he is the author of eleven books and more than two hundred research articles written for general and academic readers on mindfulness for over 35 years.