Stress Management

 

Qigong Student: “Mike is very committed to presenting traditional knowledge in an clear and understandable way and tailors his qigong teaching to the specific level and needs of the student. His impressive knowledge of techniques from such diverse areas as modern business practice through to other ancient traditions is a major help for the rest of the day when I am not practicing.”

 

Stress is an ever-present and necessary part of life … it’s nature’s warning system that activates the flight-or-fight response. Without stress cavemen would not have avoided dangerous beasts, soldiers in war would have been shot and more prosaically exam results would be lower. It’s common to label our age as the most stressful – but I don’t really think that’s true either. Do many westerners have the stress of being in muddy trenches in the first world war or of the hunger of the great depression?

However there are a couple of notable features about stress at present.

Firstly, that it’s generally related to intangible things – not mammoths or guns in front of us, but the chance of losing our job next year or difficulties in relationships. This is a much more subtle, subliminal, mental type of stress. Run away from a wild animal and your body will be tired and make you rest. Have some battles at work and well you have to get on with your relationship in the evening and back to work the next day. The mind can struggle on for longer than the body…

Secondly, in our over-competitive environment many people are pretty much stuck in “stress/coping” mode. The body is well adapted to produce peak awareness and performance in short term stresses. However it’s designed to spend most of its time in the “rest and digest”, parasympathetic state. Its not surprising that in our society there is an abundance of stimulants – from the legal ubiquity of coffee shops to the illegal but pervasive stimulants. It’s not surprising that alcohol abuse is one of society’s biggest problems – and not just overt abuse but tens of millions “drinking no more than my friends” – who also happen to drink quite a lot.

There’s also, let’s be honest, an age issue here. Most twenty-somethings cope quite well with the above scenario. Different folks, different constitutions, but for everyone’s constitution constant stress, constant adrenal stimulation leads downwards. Most people do not get chronic fatigue syndrome, but most corporate folks I know are not as happy as they might be, not as healthy as they might be; life goes on but often the joy can be lost even if the health is “ok”.

We need “downtime” when the spinning mind can start to slow down, when the body can start to let go of the physically held tension, and when the energy levels can regenerate. We all know what it feels like after a good holiday – we look and feel happier, healthier, younger, more relaxed. And, in part, this is as the process is natural – if you relax and rest – well the wonders of nature mean that body, energy and mind will move towards health and balance (providing you are not too far away it in the first place – if you are you need medical attention of course).

But the question arises as how to keep this up on an ongoing basis? How can we pack a lot of benefit into a short space of time every day? After all if we try and have a “micro-holiday” every day, the chances are it won’t be a relaxing experience and certainly it won’t recharge batteries, calm the mind and ease the body.

In the modern marketplace there is a plethora of approaches – and in large part it’s the one that works best for you – but that can take a long time blindly trying everything on offer. Of all the modalities around in the west at present that with the longest history is Chinese Chi Kung or Qigong where there are thousands of years of unbroken experience at designing exercises to relax the mind, unwind the body and regenerate energy levels. This has resulted in practices which are very efficient at generating a large “holiday effect” as it were in a very short period of time. They can be done in everyday clothes standing up in as little as 15-20minutes a day.

As always quantity and quality are in inverse proportion … the more qigong out there the lower the average quality. The Chinese estimate there are over 10,000 types of qigong. I am an authorised instructor and private pupil of Master Lam Kam Chuen, the author of over a dozen books as well as a Channel 4 TV series, who was one of the very first to bring these arts to London many decades ago. He has been active in qigong, martial arts, Chinese medicine and much more for fifty years and knows countless systems.

The core and the most powerful is Zhan Zhuang – a system which at its highest level is based on “standing still and doing nothing”. As the Tao de Ching says – the 2,500 year old classic of Taoism – “do nothing and everything is done for you”. But how to do that? How to get the benefit? Try and sit or stand still or meditate and you will just notice how fast the fly-wheels of the mind are spinning and how restless you are. The Art of Zhan Zhuang is a practical answer to these conundra. One can listen to music or even watch the TV so it fits in well to a busy day. Countless of my fellow instructors and students came to the art with health problems and are now strong and robust. Plenty arrived in good shape but are now more energetic, calmer and more relaxed. After not long people look forward to their personal “down-time” to their daily practice. Our “car engine” (mind/body) is always revving (even in most of the sleep period for busy folks) … the impact of even a short period a day when we turn it off and let it cool down properly is considerable.

If you want to learn more – if you want to regain some of your freshness from when you were younger, to have more calmness, better health and energy, and if you don’t want to give up your lifestyle but just have a daily practice which gives a big “bang for the buck” in terms of a large return from a small investment of time then contact me to learn more.

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