Finally understanding non-duality emptied my stress bucket beautifully, but my responses to life’s more challenging situations – regardless of my new understanding – soon filled it up again, and the level went up and down for many years.
Like we covered in the last two posts, there are two parts of the brain: the vast intellectual main cortex and the primitive emotional mind. When our stress level is down good and low, we are calm and in control, operating from the intellectual mind, which we could say is all the wisdom and resourcefulness we could ever need and more. From here, we can abide in being and repeat again and again, and stay there, as we are. When our stress level is too high, the primitive mind, to a greater or lesser extent, steps in to help with its primitive parameters of anxiety, anger and depression, and a busy, busy out-of-control mind.
It isn’t what’s happening that creates the stress in our lives, it’s our thought patterns around these events. Every negative thought converts into anxiety and is dropped into our stress bucket. A little stress is great – it gets us off to work on time and meeting deadlines – and we empty the bucket every night during REM sleep, but that’s only twenty-per-cent of a good night’s sleep. If we add more in the day than the brain can empty at night, then up the level goes. The more we have in the bucket, the more time we spend in the primitive mind, and the more time we spend in there, the more we’re encouraged to be negative – and so round and down we go.
We can find ourselves trapped in a cycle of negative thinking, when it’s so much easier to become involved in the present, completely involved in everything that’s happening around us – which becomes harder and harder for us to do the more we’ve got in the bucket.
And the bucket can overflow – most of us know what that’s like.
This stress response is an primitive mechanism that we share with rats and horses. It’s great for when we come across a tiger, but generally destructive in everyday life. Negative thoughts are only handy when we have to presume that the tiger is hungry and wants to eat us – but for everyday life, we have the vast intellectual and solution-focused main cortex of the brain, which we don’t share with other animals. This is the realm of being able to get totally lost in the dream of being a complex being and then enjoy the quest of finding the way back again.
Grow the foundations of a quiet mind: see the positive in everything, even if it’s simply our ability to get through whatever hard and dark winds are blowing, see the reality of what is everywhere, understand that negative thoughts do nothing but hold you back, protect the bucket by all means necessary, and enjoy the brain operating from the calm, control and solutions of the intellectual main cortex.