Calm Under Pressure

It always seems amazing when a dramatic situation develops somewhere in the world and, what seems to be, the whole of humanity come together in a spirit of good will with the desire to get something right. We have just experienced this when the Wild Boars football team became trapped in a cave system alongside their coach. Luckily the coach was an ex Buddhist monk, of ten years standing, who taught the team to meditate and await a rescue that non of them knew would come.

In the ‘Intention Experiment’ quantum physicists tell us that it is now possible to measure the energy leaving one person and measure it arriving at another person. You might call this energy good will, love, prayer, absent healing and so on but I suspect that a lot of positive energy was raining down on these guys and, amazingly, they all got out. Though we do have to offer our prayers and thanks to the Thai Navy Seal, and his family, who lost his own life in helping those trapped children.

The fact that the coach was trained in Mindfulness and meditation was probably the deciding factor in their survival. That had a limited oxygen supply and they were on the edge on hypoxia when they finally got out. In calmness their respiration would have been slower and they would have used less of their vital resource of oxygen. When people are anxious they breathe shallow and fast.

Considering that all beings on planet Earth can count their breaths in an average life time at around 700 million each breath has a value that should not be wasted. This amount of breaths is as true for an elephant as for a mouse. Mice have short fast breaths and get through their allotted amount much quicker than an elephant who has deep slow breaths. Those of us who are anxious and suffer from a raised heart rate and a raised respiration will die sooner than those of us who are calmer with a slower heart and respiration rate.

Unless we learn to be mindful and observe our breath we will never be truly aware of what is going on in our system. Using mindfulness, relaxation, exercise and meditation we can slow both our heart rate and respiration and increase our chances of living a longer and happier life.

 Being in your own cave

The cave metaphor is often used to describe that inner space that we all retreat to when we are under threat. We would say that a man goes to his man cave, well so do women but in a different way to men.

Sometimes when life feels like it is too much the only place we can go is within. Our computer inboxes maybe full to bursting, our emotional inbox may be full to bursting and our mental inbox likewise. Our systems are in overload, colleagues and family are now too much, and all too often deliverables seem, well, undeliverable.

However hard we work, we don’t always meet our goals for the day or the week or the month. New urgent tasks come to us before old ones are done. Sometimes we react by behaving badly, or perhaps we agree to everything, even knowing that we cannot do it all, and the pressure builds inside us. Sometimes we blame ourselves for not being good enough, or our colleagues, family and friends, and we forget we are all in this thing called life together.

Could this be positive?

Seen another way pressure could just be a positive force; it can help us to be better at our jobs, relationships and lives. Pressure can motivate us to be a better person. It can trigger incredible creativity, and boost productivity. The trick is to mindfully manage what we are thinking, feeling and doing. We need to re-examine how we deal with it, and we can be there for each other. In mindfulness we are gathering tools that work best for each and all of us.

If we all look after each other we will all be okay

There are massive changes coming to the UK with Brexit and to the whole world with changes in economic power and global warming. There is a great deal to do, especially in the coming months. However, if we are mindful of the responsibility we have for ourselves, and if we support each other, we will, in the end, all be alright.

The basic premise of mindfulness is that being present with what is happening now, in this moment, it stops us from ruminating about the past or future, and brings about clarity and focus. This does not mean that we deliberately allow ourselves to stay focused on how overwhelmed we feel at this moment. In fact, by stopping the flow of ruminating thoughts and being mindful, we are able to change the way we experience what is going on right now, and turn the negative aspects of pressure into the positive ones.

We don’t have problems we have learning opportunities

When we feel pressured, for example, if we are working under a tight deadline at work or at home, our concern can become the belief that we won’t meet the deadline, that we will fail and because we believe we can’t, we don’t.

Thoughts become things.

Rumination and disbelief is the way that thoughts become things. However, we have a choice. Rather than reacting to a feeling of being under pressure by assuring ourselves of our failure, we can for a second or two, notice ourselves breathing in and out, and give ourselves a moment to observe what is really going on. This way we are able to change our reaction, which is mindless, into a thoughtful response, which is mindful.

Stop. Breathe. Respond. Observe the pressure; don’t become it

Having a positive self-perception is a key component in transforming our ability to manage pressure. This is called self-compassion. We need to like ourselves and to know we are worthy as human beings. However, we should also have compassion for others. One person should never think that they are better than another person. It is only when we can recognise the positive aspects of ourselves that we are then able to recognise them also in others.

Reflecting on the plight of the Wild Boars, it is when we find ourselves in a negative internal cave, in the darkness and unable to see the light, that we need to remain calm, relax, meditate and await our own rescue. In this case it is the rescue that comes from mindful practices and the insight that allows the light to penetrate our darkness. So often that light will be self-compassion.

Take care, be happy and be calm

Sean x