Bhakti Yoga is the best way to handle stress because it converts stress into an asset. The above video shows how this is made possible.
What follows is a transcript of the video (relevant links are placed in between):
The TED talk that tells how to make stress your friend
Gopinath Chandra: Kelly’s talk, “How to make stress your friend,” no wonder it is one of the most popular talks of all time on TED. She presents a revolutionary research finding that if you have a particular mindset during stress, you can actually benefit from that stressful situation.
Vidagdha Madhav: The mindset the research work points to, is exactly the mindset of a Bhakti Yogi. And I thought… and you can understand this scientifically, that Bhakti Yoga is the best process to develop that mindset that Kelly talks about.
Kelly McGonigal: This study tracked 30,000 adults in the United States for eight years, and they started by asking people, “How much stress have you experienced in the last year?” They also asked, “Do you believe that stress is harmful for your health?” And then they used public death records to find out who died.
Okay. Some bad news first. People who experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43 percent increased risk of dying. But that was only true for the people who also believed that stress is harmful for your health.
People who experienced a lot of stress but did not view stress as harmful were no more likely to die. In fact, they had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study, including people who had relatively little stress.
So this study got me wondering: Can changing how you think about stress make you healthier? And here the science says yes. When you change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress.
Gopinath Chandra: Kelly gives a practical understanding of how we can have a positive frame of mind towards stress. She gives the example of research participants who went through a social stress test at Harvard.
Kelly McGonigal: Before they went through the social stress test, they were taught to rethink their stress response as helpful. That pounding heart is preparing you for action. If you’re breathing faster, it’s no problem. It’s getting more oxygen to your brain. And participants who learned to view the stress response as helpful for their performance, well, they were less stressed out, less anxious, more confident, but the most fascinating finding to me was how their physical stress response changed.
Now, in a typical stress response, your heart rate goes up, and your blood vessels constrict like this. And this is one of the reasons that chronic stress is sometimes associated with cardiovascular disease. It’s not really healthy to be in this state all the time. But in the study, when participants viewed their stress response as helpful, their blood vessels stayed relaxed like this. Their heart was still pounding, but this is a much healthier cardiovascular profile. It actually looks a lot like what happens in moments of joy and courage.
Why it is a challenge to ‘befriend’ stress
Gopinath Chandra: But it’s a challenge to stick to this positive frame of mind when we are stressed. Why? The way our brain is structured, we can’t do that.
Patrick Renvoise: What we know about the brain is that we don’t have a single self. First you have the neo-cortex or new brain, and that is your rational self. Now if I take my model here, this is the neo-cortex. Then deeper inside you have another self, the emotional self, which tends to be located here, in what you call the middle brain. Deep down further in the brain is your reptilian brain, and that’s your instinctual self.
Gopinath Chandra: According to neurologists, when we are stressed, the part of our brain called the reptilian brain is activated, and we act instinctively. The part of the brain called cortex, which is our rational brain becomes dysfunctional.
Patrick Renvoise: This is what the neuroscientists have to say.
“The amygdala(reptilian) has more influence on the cortex than the cortex has on the amygdala.” J. Ledaux Pr. Neuroscience NYU
“The reptilian always win” C.Rappaille
What is Bhakti and why it is the best way to handle stress
Gopinath Chandra: Things aren’t going to work out even if we try hard to remember the reasoning that Kelly gave in her talk. The reptilian brain is just going to take over. Now, what Bhakti does is, it makes this positive mind set our instinctive behaviour.
Vidagdha Madhav: Bhakti yoga is an age old path of yoga that has its origin in India.
Radhagopinath: Bhakti Yoga is about bringing out the dormant love of God that is within the heart of every living entity. The whole process is a scientific process of awakening that love.
Vidagdha Madhav: In Bhakti Yoga, the practitioner is trained to develop a positive outlook in life, by developing certain convictions.
Radhagopinath: For a devotee of the Lord, who is convinced of the omnipotency, omnisciency and the all loving nature of God, the whole creation is blissful, and full of happiness. The Lord is omnipotent, if he wants to do something, no one can do anything against, he knows everything past, present and future, he knows what’s best for me and he loves me, so anything that happens in my life is for my benefit. In every situation he sees the mercy of the Lord, and in all situations he thanks the Lord.
Vidagdha Madhav: This conviction in the beginning is more theoretical. Nonetheless, this conviction, this faith is reasonable faith, not blind faith. Because it’s based on ancient scriptures, and it’s recommended by innumerable saints of ancient India, who lived a life of impeccable character and selfless service. And there are many seasoned practitioners even today who have experienced Bhakti, who can share their experiences with you and who can tell you how you too can have those Bhakti experiences.
Radhagopinath: I go to the doctor and say, ‘you cure my disease, then I will take your medicine, then I will develop faith, it doesn’t work that way. You need to have some faith in the beginning, maybe seeing his certificate, maybe seeing how many patients went to him and came back healthy and vibrant, but somewhere you have to put faith and take the first step. Then when you take the medicine and see the disease reducing, your faith increases.
So, there is the head knowledge, jnanam, then there is the heart knowledge vigyanam. To build up that initial faith, intellectual conviction is necessary, logical and reasoning, scientific explanation may be necessary, but until and unless you put to practice and experience it, it all remains theoretical. As you start practicing it, you can experience it yourself.
Gopinath Chandra: When we turn to God under stress — through sadhana, the practices prescribed in Bhakti Yoga — chanting of the holy names, hearing from the scriptures, we gain positive Bhakti experiences. These influence our emotional brain, which lies just above the reptilian brain. As we repeatedly gain positive emotional experiences under stress, our system gets hardwired to be positive all the time. We are influencing our subconscious mind. That means we modify our reptilian brain. So a seasoned Bhakti practitioner feels positive however stressful the situation might be. In this way even our body becomes healthy through stress. Stress becomes an asset.
Vidagdha Madhav: Watching Kelly’s talk left me wondering… perhaps the biology of we humans is pushing us to be more spiritual, pushing us to tap the dormant positivity within us.
Radhanath Swami: Mother nature teaches us many lessons. What is a diamond? A diamond, which is the queen of jewels is nothing but coal which has been under a massive amount of pressure for a long time. And gold, which is the king of metals, is purified with fire. So stress can make us something beautiful if we learn how to manage it properly. That means to accept stress with a grateful heart. And to actually learn the art of growing through that stress. In order to do so it is important to have a strong foundation. The bible says, “Build your house on the foundation of rock.” Then whatever storms come, the house won’t be moved. But if you build a house on the foundation of sand, it may look beautiful, but when a storm comes it will collapse. So it is important that we have a strong spiritual foundation in our life.