We’ve all heard about the dietary aspect, and there’s a good deal that has been said about the fitness aspect – though both of these continue to be greatly misunderstood by many. But let’s assume we’ve all done a bit of reading and youtube watching about those two aspects, and take a trip to the island of misfit practices. ;P
Who out there really appreciates what stress actually is? Before being introduced to the adult working world of insanity, and its ever-changing definition of stress, I learned about the classical definition of stress in university, while studying engineering.
Take a steel beam or a column of concrete. Sitting on the ground, with only gravity to act upon them, in a state of rest, these things have little to no stress upon them. But take a piece of steel and suspend it from one or more points and it is now under stress. Pull it from either end, or attempt to bend it, and the amount of stress placed on the steel can be accurately calculated, often visibly noticed. Take a column of concrete and place a heavy weight upon it and you place that concrete under compressive stress. Every engineer is taught how to calculate the stress bearing capacity of any material, and thus we are able to build structures, pave highways, route water into our homes, and we’re able to do so without placing overbearing stress on any component. Were that to happen, the whole system might fail!
What an important lesson: place too much stress on one component and we endanger the whole system.
There is a lesson here for all human beings. Just as engineers are taught to understand the stress bearing capabilities of materials, so too must human beings learn to understand their own stress bearing capacities. If we do so, if we understand how much stress is bearable and how much threatens to compromise our system, we can learn to manage our lives accordingly.
As it turns out we have a wonderful example of how to deal with stress right before our eyes: Animals.
Spend some time in nature and one will begin to recognize just how much of an animal’s life is spent at rest. Truly at rest. This does not involve watching a television, typing on a computer, chatting with friends, structured meditation techniques, or any other activities we humans confuse with rest. What it includes is placing our bodies and minds in a state of homeostatic balance. Observe how a dog will simply sit and stare, not at anything in particular, not with concern or anticipation, but with simple awareness. We may notice animals doing this, but we hardly understand the true benefits of what they are doing. Hidden to the naked eye, what is happening is that their bodies are reaching and maintaining a basic homeostatic balance; they are resting.
Human beings in our typical 'western' culture are almost constantly in a state of homeostatic imbalance, we are in a state of dis-ease. We are not at ease!
One of the undervalued aspects of 811 is learning to be at ease, and learning to return ourselves to homeostatic balance after periods of imbalance or stress. A typical animal in the wild will spend the majority of their day at rest, and will engage in only short periods of stress in order to accomplish a goal – to get food, for instance. Human beings, in our society, spend much, if not all of our waking lives in a state of low-level stress, with periods of moderate to high levels of stress in between. We almost never truly return to our natural state of balanced, or ‘non-disturbed’ homeostasis. And because of this, dis-ease flourishes.
So, when one is considering living the 811 lifestyle, one must take the time to reflect on their life, and every aspect of the way they live. Learning to deal with stress isn’t solely a matter of attempting to eliminate it from our lives – stress is part of physical existence, it is part of being an animal. Instead, it is a matter of learning to properly manage it. To do this, take a page out of the book of animal life and learn a thing or two about how an engineer builds a bridge so that not a single component is over stressed :).
Here are some tips:
I hope this helps shed some light on what is truly an important and undervalued aspect of this lifestyle. I’d love to hear your comments, as well as suggestions of which aspects you’d like addressed in a future post.
Thanks for reading, and remember: chillax. ;P