How To Live A Stress-Free Life

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There's no such thing.

Anyone selling you the idea of a "stress-free," "fearless," "100% happy" life is far missing the point. 

Yet, I fall for this trap again and again. I get frustrated with myself when my day isn't "stress-free" and when I haven't lived up to one of my many ideals. We all do.

A few weeks ago, a client came into our session after doing a much-needed yoga retreat. When she returned home, the same set of problems were there: pile of bills, cluttered closet, and work issues. She had felt so zen on retreat, and now it was slipping away between her fingers! She felt very disappointed and angry with herself. 

Surely, you've had a similar experience. You taste some kind of deep relaxation or bliss – have an epiphany about your relationships, work, life. Aha! You finally get it. You feel you've gone somewhere true and real, and then you land back down into reality, which is riddled with the same old problems. You have the same emotional habits and patterns. The people around you are caught in their same issues too. And you get mad at yourself for not "keeping it cool" like you did when you were in Bali. If only you could freeze this blissful feeling, forever. 

Another client once looked at me with wide, teary eyes and uttered, "I just wish I could have a stress-free life." So I asked her, "If a genie came to you, and said you could have a stress-free life for the rest of your life, would you take it?" She thought about it for a few seconds. "Why not?" she asked. But as she dug deeper, she realized: well, learning and growth require some degree of stress. Life would be so boring without stress. No drama, no ups or downs, no textures, nothing that makes a good story. Just blah. "Stress-free." Like a great infomercial. Thanks. 

Yet, secretly, this is what we all strive for, isn't it? "Stress-free." We get so frustrated with ourselves when our days aren't perfect – when we haven't lived up to our professional ideal of productivity, focus, and mega-wealth creation, or to our spiritual ideal of being relaxed and zen all day, or to our feminine ideal of being gentle and flowy or whatever. And it is this frustration with ourselves, of never measuring up that wears and tears on our souls. 

The gap between our expectations and our reality is killing us. We can choose to blame reality: it isn't good enough, which is what most of us do. Or we can choose to look at our expectations and wonder...mmmhh...where do they come from? 

Expectations are inevitable, but we can become aware of them and their origins. Whenever we bring awareness to something, it reduces its power on us. Too often we allow our expectations, the ones we put on ourselves and the ones we put on others, to have too much power.

As the Buddhists like to say, suffering comes from denying our reality, the way things are. The mind wants things to be different. And the template for "different" comes from culture, media, religion, get the gist. 

It's time to let go. Become aware of how our expectations and ideals are running the show – how these expectations and ideals continue to perpetuate power plays (e.g., someone is better than someone else) of competition and comparison, which in turn, create isolation. 

Take a deep breath.

Embrace what is. What's here right now. 

How do you live a "stress-free" life? By embracing stress.

How do you live a happy life? By embracing sadness, and all emotions.

How do you live a fearless life? By embracing fear.

You get it. 

Embrace life as it pulses through you. 

Question for you: What ideals do you carry in your pocket? What dream do you delay because you think it will be too stressful? Reply and let me know, or comment below in the post.