Learning to Manage Stress from the Heart

By Ed Rubenstein, Ph.D, HBI’s Director of Education

Understanding the paradox of learning to manage stress from the heart by responding rather than reacting.

How wonderful would it be to manage stress without actually having to manage stress?

I understand that this sounds like a paradox yet this has been the experience of many who have learned to properly live a heart-centered life.  When stress management is typically talked about, it infers that one learns techniques to use when they begin to get triggered.  The idea is that by using stress management techniques, you decrease the intensity of the trigger or you neutralize the effects before it escalates.  For example, you mindfully become aware that you are having limiting thoughts, judgments toward yourself or others, or other emotional reactions. You then observe the pattern which helps to defuse the “emotional juice” that was feeding the limiting pattern. Or after you become agitated you use a stress management technique to calm down the activation of your sympathetic nervous system and its fight or flight response, which is an automatic physiological reaction to an event that is perceived as stressful or frightening.  This type of approach is the foundation for a lot of mind-based resiliency and stress management training.  And this approach and related techniques have helped many people to reduce mental suffering and improve their lives.

I’d like to present a different yet highly effective approach to managing stress that many have found to work better than anything they’ve previously experienced. As we learn to live a heart-centered life through our spiritual heart’s connection to True Source, the Source of Unconditional Love, the field of our non-physical heart becomes open, lighter, expanded, and more radiant. Our spiritual heart can even feel more real than the reality of how we experience our mind.

It is only through our spiritual heart’s connection to True Source that our non-physical heart can open in this way. In essence, it is not “us” that opens our heart; it is our connection with our Source or our Creator that properly opens our heart. Along with experiencing deeper levels of peace, calm, joy, and gratitude, resiliency becomes the natural and effortless outcome.  We experience events and circumstances from a totally different perspective. We are then able to manage our stress without having to manage our stress because it doesn’t arise in the same way as when our mind is dominant and the field of our spiritual heart is closed.

When it comes to managing stress, how does being heart-centered shift of us from reacting to responding?

Being heart-centered has a direct effect on the quality of our thoughts. When we are properly heart-centered, our thoughts are more naturally harmonious.  People and situations that may have triggered emotional or judgmental reactions when our mind was dominant no longer affect us in the same way. Circumstances that were once viewed as stressful can now be perceived through a neutral lens without the reactive charge. And, since our heart doesn’t take things personally like our mind can when it’s running the show, our ego doesn’t become offended and our buttons are no longer pushed in the same ways.  Thus, from within a heart-centered state, we are naturally able to respond rather than react. 

Does that mean if we are heart-centered, we will never be triggered again?

…Of course not. :- )  I’m not suggesting that by learning to open our spiritual heart we will never get triggered again. However, when we choose to live a more heart-centered life, our triggers will naturally become less and less frequent and the intensity of the reactions will be significantly reduced. And when we do get triggered, we can much more easily come back to our heart and let go of our emotional reactivity as compared to when we are headstrong.  Once the field of our spiritual heart is open, it becomes more natural to remain attuned with true heart feelings such as peace, calm joy, and gratitude.  When we allow ourselves to become triggered, it is clear that we separated ourselves from our core connection, and as a result, our spiritual heart and mind came out of alignment. The good news is that in realizing this is not where we are supposed to be, we can instantly allow the Unconditional Love of True Source to bring us back into heart-mind alignment as we are capable of living a life where peace, calm, joy, and gratitude is our predominate state of being. The good news is that in realizing this is not where we are supposed to be, we can instantly allow the Unconditional Love of True Source to bring us back into heart-mind alignment as we are capable of living a life where peace, calm, joy, and gratitude is our predominate state of being.

If you are interested in learning more about opening your spiritual heart and experiencing less stress in daily life, please read about Open Heart for Everyone and join the free online sessions being offered.