In my work as a coach to leaders, I help my clients understand that there is no such thing as “stress”—it is simply something we imagine.
At first, people sometimes think that sounds odd—perhaps you will too—but let me explain. If someone cuts us off in traffic, we have a choice: we can flip the bird and get angry and even try to” get even”, or, we can smile at the driver, meditate and breathe.
The Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Emil Frankl observed that, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom”.
As a meditation teacher, I show people how the phenomenon of thinking multiple thoughts and multitasking is another illusion. We may take pride in our ability to multitask but we are deluding ourselves because the human brain is incapable of executing two thoughts at once. We experience thoughts that come in such rapid succession that they seem instantaneous, but there is a nano-space between each thought which the conscious mind cannot recognize. I call this “the gap”—the very small space between each thought. In that very small, almost unnoticeable space, there is nothing in the gap—what we might call, “no-thought”. One of the objectives of meditation is to expand the “no-thought” gap until it becomes the only thing present in our mind.
Imagine then, that an unexpected event, a perceived threat, or an unpleasant comment from a colleague occurs. We have a choice: react emotionally and immediately—that is the experience we call “stress”. Or, stay “in the gap”, because in “the gap” there is “no-thought”. If you are in the gap, with no-thought, or emptiness, between stimulus and response, it’s impossible to experience stress.
Stress is not a “thing”. Stress can simply be described as our emotional and impulsive reaction to a stimulus.
Can you “remove stress” by staying a little longer in “the gap” each day?