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    Meditation to Beat Stress
    Life moves fast. Today a job involves keeping three or four things going all at once, with expectations that we can cover them all. With the speed and stress of life today, people get short tempered. Yet we in the modern world are driven by, even addicted to, this quick pace. That's why today, slowing down the mind through meditation is more important than ever. For one half-hour period, we lift our mind above the stresses and strains of the day, dwelling in the highest thoughts ever conceived of by humanity, seeded into our deepest being. I encourage everyone to practice meditation to alleviate these conditions of stress: hurry, emotional turmoil, anger, pressure at work, and crises in health.

    Hurry: There are many methods, but mine is to memorize a favorite passage, like the 23rd Psalm or the Buddha's "No Wave Will Swell," and set aside a time you will meditate on it every day. As you go through the passage word by word, a groove is laid down in a new land of slowness, patience, and deep peace. Going through your passage slowly, you establish a slow pace in thinking that will help insulate you from coming challenges in your day.

    Emotional turmoil: when someone is unkind or the kids just won't mind, a voice in our mind starts yelling and won't stop. But if you have dedicated the half hour in the morning to meditating on your passage, you have something to take the place of this shrill voice. You can just let the judge yell in your mind till he's hoarse. This will give you distance and detachment from your turmoil and sadness.

    Anger: The Bible says, "A soft answer turns away wrath." When you meditate, you are programming the mind with a higher set of instructions. A slower mind has more choices. Now when someone pushes our buttons, we can respond and not react.

    Pressure at work: When your boss is screaming for you to work faster or your colleague has just made you feel worthless inside, try to excuse yourself and take a few minutes off in a corner, meditating on words that speak to your spirit. Even if you can't physically break from the scene, recall the passage mentally; your mind will heave a sigh of relief, and you will know help is not far off.

    Crises in health: My brother, who practices meditation, once came out of major surgery, connected to a machine monitoring his breathing. He was meditating as the anesthetic wore off, replacing the anxiety and trauma of the operation with the peace of the passage. Suddenly an alarm began to sound and the entire staff rushed to his bedside: his meditation had slowed his breathing down so much that the machine thought he was dying! In fact, with this absence of anxiety, his recovery proceeded much more swiftly. So any time a family member or a friend is sick or recovering from surgery, offer to sit beside them and meditate in quietness. Your sense of peace will change gloom and resignation into a peace and hope. Meditation does not solve all problems--nothing does--but what it will do is create more choices and options, in that peaceful space between hurried thoughts.

    � Dr. Stephen Ruppenthal

    Dr. Stephen Ruppenthal is the author of The Path of Direct Awakening: Passages for Meditation. He is also the co-author of Eknath Easwaran�s edition of The Dhammapada and the author of Keats and Zen. He has taught meditation and courses on Han Shan at UC Berkeley and San Francisco State University. Dr. Ruppenthal is an international workshop leader in passage meditation and in courses for those looking for end of life spiritual care and for the spiritual step component of twelve step programs.

    Visit Stephen�s work at www.directawakenings.com