Understanding the mechanics of stress gives you the advantage of being more aware of and sensitive to your own level of stress and knowing when and how to take proactive steps. This increased awareness also helps you to better care for your family, friends and colleagues. Here are a few facts that many people are unaware of:
Fact #1 – Your body doesn’t care if it’s a big stress or a little one
The human body doesn’t make a difference between a BIG stress or a little one. Regardless of the significance, stress affects the body in predictable ways. A typical stress reaction, which most of us experience many times each day, begins with a cascade of 1,400 biochemical events in your body. If these reactions are left unchecked we age prematurely, our cognitive function is impaired, our energy is drained, and we are robbed of our effectiveness and clarity.
Fact #2 – Stress can make smart people do stupid things
Stress causes what brain researchers call “cortical inhibition.” The phenomenon of cortical inhibition helps to explain why smart people do dumb things. Simply said, stress inhibits a small part of your brain and you can’t function at your best. When we are in coherence – a state where we are cognitively sharp, emotionally calm, and we feel and think with enhanced clarity – the brain, heart and nervous system are working in harmony. This state of coherence facilitates our cognitive functioning – we are actually operating at peak performance mentally, emotionally and physically.
Fact #3 – People can become oblivious to their stress
We can be physiologically experiencing stress but be mentally numb to it because we’ve become so used to it. Some have become so adapted to the daily pressures, irritations and annoyances of life that it starts to seem normal. Yet the small stresses accumulate quickly and we may not realize how much they’re impairing our mental and emotional clarity and our overall health until it shows up as a bad decision, an overreaction or an unwanted diagnosis at the doctor’s office.
Fact #4 – We can control how we respond to stress
We don’t need to be victims to our own emotions, thoughts and attitudes. We can control how we respond to stress and we can become more sensitive to stressful situations and how they are affecting us before it manifests as a physical, mental or emotional complaint. There are simple, scientifically validated solutions to stress that empower people to rewire their own stress response.
60% to 80% of primary care doctor visits are related to stress, yet only 3% of patients receive stress management help.
Fact #5 – The best strategy is to handle stress in the moment
The best way to manage stress is to deal with it the very moment you feel it come up. Millions of North Americans unsuccessfully use the ‘binge-and-purge’ approach when it comes to stress. They stress out all day, believing that they can wait until later to recover when they go to an evening yoga class, go to the gym or chill out when they take the weekend off. Unfortunately, when we put off going for our own inner balance our bodies have already activated the stress response and it’s our health that suffers.
If you’re interested to learn more about how you can effectively manage and reduce stress in your own life, you might want to have a look at my page about HeartMath or check out my upcoming HeartMath workshop here.
For thousands of years, we as humans have tried to understand an extremely powerful force. It is a universal energy which even science can’t formally explain.
This universal energy is Love.
Love is the force behind all life and Love gives meaning to life. Maybe therefore, we often fail to understand what Love exactly means, just because it’s too grand for us to conceptualize.
I am not the only person who is fascinated by the power of Love and I think of it like this – Everything that is being created in the universe is Love, and is created through the energy of Love.
“Love will find its way through all languages.” – Rumi (13th century)
We, as human beings, are truly hungry for loving kindness and compassion. This is a Love which is not limited to one’s parents, spouse, children and relatives. It’s a Love that has the capacity to bring happiness to one another. It is also the Love which has the capacity to remove another’s suffering. Yes, to open your heart and to be fully present, for yourself and others, can be scary. It requires courage and being vulnerable, and vulnerability is often seen as a weakness in our society (especially with men).
After some devastating losses in my family I had just one way to heal myself – I chose Love, and I initiated Soul Love, a platform for which I started interviewing and sharing messages from the most inspiring authors, scientists, spiritual teachers and musicians. The one question that was often discussed:
“What does Love mean to you?”
I hope you will enjoy reading their answers:
I see Love as the energy that comprises everything and I see it as the most powerful energy in the Universe. ~ India.Arie
You are just pure essence, pure Love. When you can see somebody for their essence and not for their layers and layers of conditioning… that’s Love! ~ Anita Moorjani
Love feels like peace to me – reciprocity the willingness to show up in a relationship. Less and less judgement that I have towards myself and others, the openness. It’s all part of Love. ~ Lilou Macé
Love to me is the complete abrogation of the self, the loss of the self, utterly and totally and completely. ~ Neale Donald Walsch
The way I experience and feel Love is related to safety, security and being myself at every level. I experience the deepest feeling of security when I feel connected with the Creator, the Source. ~ Tijn Touber
We are not connecting with Love – we are Love, just like we are not living life – we are life. Love is our essential being. ~ Mooji
Love is an action, not a thought. It’s a series of actions and choices that honour respect, appreciate and uplift who you are. ~ Sonia Choquette
I hope there will be days for you, where you fall in love with just being alive.
Recently, I was speaking with a friend of mine about bringing out the child in us. We joked and pretended that we were young children again. There were lots of “what if….” and “just pretend that…”, but then I was being confronted with a huge surprise. “Thank you so much Dirk”, she told me after a while. “For what?” I asked. “For reviving me, and bringing out the child in me again. I am in awe.”
The child in you is always alive
Although my friend somehow knew that this little child was not completely forgotten, she could have never envisioned that it could be coming alive so quickly though. It took her completely off guard and woke her up, from years and years of being in some kind of sleepy state. Not feeling fully alive. Not feeling playful and light. This seriousness and sense of responsibility had crept into her life over the years, without even realizing it. But by being playful, something was triggered inside her—her inner child woke up!
From personal experience, I know that many grownups prefer to ignore to listen to the child within them. Many of us often feel that it’s childish to think that way: “What can a child offer us?” But they forget that this child is who they really are. This child once was in awe when watching the first snow flakes coming down. This same child loved to play outside all day long. Wasn’t hungry when mum called for dinner and wasn’t tired during the 3-day school trip. We were fully alive!
So what has happened then?
We are expected to grow up. School suddenly becomes more serious, and high marks make our teachers and parents happy. We apply for admission to a respected university. Mostly, not because it’s our passion, but because our parents think this is the best choice to secure a good future career. Do I need to go on? You get it, right?
I will share a secret with you that I kept completely to myself up to a year ago or so. When I was fourteen and in high school, I had to choose the subjects I wanted to focus on. I had no clue what I wanted to do after school, I was only fourteen. My dad was getting concerned and had me sign up for a career test. I was not motivated at the time, but went through almost a full day of psychological tests. The end-result was not very helpful to me – I could listen well and I was very creative, and some career options were being presented. I was not impressed. But about a month or so later, I found the official test results somewhere on my dad’s desk and started reading. I was in shock! They basically concluded that I wasn’t very smart and they found it hard to come up with a good advise for Dirk.
I had always been a happy kid and I was doing pretty well at school, but reading this report changed my life for the next twenty years. I started believing that I was stupid and school became a struggle. At some point, I felt so bad about it that I wanted to prove I wasn’t stupid. About twenty years later, I was working as a CEO for American Express. I had built an amazing career and was very successful in what I did. But I wasn’t happy… I just wanted to prove to myself and to my family that I wasn’t stupid. How sad.
When you become disconnected from your heart, you’re not living. But when you’re connected to your heart, you become like a child. You’re a spark of divine energy. I can tell you, that I am deeply connected to my heart now, and I am very grateful for this traumatic experience. It was my teacher!
The medieval mystic Mechthild von Magdeburg said it beautifully: “A fish cannot drown in water, and a bird does not fall from the sky. Each creature must find its God given element.”
I was therefore touched by Paulo Coelho’s words in the movie The Power of The Heart – The child says: “Hello I am here.” But we are grown up now and not going to listen to this child, because this child has childish dreams, and so we forget the child. The moment we forget the child, we think that the child is going to forget us. But the child is not going to forget us. This child will always be here and says again: “Hello, I am here. I am talking to you. Can you listen?” You will then say: “Shut up, I don’t want to listen to you.”
But the day that you’re facing death, this child will be there again, and will ask you: “Why didn’t you listen to me?” You then have to answer. And your answer will be your hell, or your heaven.
3 simple ways to connect with the child in you
It would be easy for me to tell you just to do fun stuff. Things that you are really passionate about. Although that is definitely important, I believe there’s something more to this. Below are three simple ways of teaching yourself to connect with the child in you.
1. Becoming aware of now
Science shows us that we are pure energy systems. We are for over 99% energy and the remaining 1% is matter. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? So if we are virtually pure energy, we need to make sure that we tap into this energy, if we want to connect to our deepest self, our soul, the child in you. There’s a law in science that says: “Where the attention goes, is where the energy flows.” So, in stead of always being focused on everything outside of you, which will cause you to disconnect you from yourself, start becoming aware of what you are doing in this very moment — feel what you feel right now, become aware of the flavours of the food you put into your mouth, truly enjoy the sounds of the instruments and voice when you listen to your favourite music and take in all the beautiful elements of nature when you go outside. And when thoughts do come up, just ignore them and ask yourself: “What is it that I feel right now?”
You’ll start noticing that the many thoughts that go through your head on a continuous basis, won’t be so intense anymore. You literally start creating space in between all of your thoughts, and it’s exactly in that void, between your thoughts, where your creativity (your inner child) can be accessed.
2. A picture of you
One of my favourite things to do is to grab an old picture from when I was 4, 5 or 6 years old. Then, just sit down at a place where you won’t be disturbed, and just look at this picture. Can you still feel how you felt at that moment? Excited, silly, happy, curious? What did your days look like? What kind of fantasies and dreams did you have? What did you like the most? Whatever comes up, and without thinking or using any judgements, write this down on a piece of paper. Now just look at yourself, sitting in the chair, 20, 30 or 40-something years later. You’re still this same child. Your body might have changed, and you might have accumulated more experiences, but this little child, with exciting dreams and passions is still there.
3. Heart focused breathing
This is the most powerful step – the heart focused breathing. The healing power of breath has been used over thousands of years already, but seems almost insignificant in our fast paced life with continuous, external stimuli. In this exercise, you will shift your attention (and therefore your energy) to your heart, energetically the most powerful organ in your body.
STEP 1: Focus your attention in the area of your heart. Feel your breath flowing in and out through your lungs, and just breathe a little slower than you normally would.
STEP 2: With each breath, draw in the feelings from your childhood memories and feel them in your heart while breathing.
STEP 3: Set a genuine intent to anchor these memories throughout your day, and use them while working on new ideas and projects.
Please let me know how much fun you had in trying the exercises, and how it changed your perception on your current life. I would love to hear from you. Feel free to follow me on Facebook or on Twitter.
It was in the middle of the night and I was wearing my pyjamas. Together with my two older brothers, I was sitting in the dark living room in front of a ‘state-of-the-art’ Philips black-and-white television. I was four years old but I still remember feeling such an incredible excitement from both of my brothers as we huddled together even more closely to the small screen.
It was like a science fiction movie when we saw an astronaut descending the ladder of the Apollo 11 while a voice, full of excitement, came from the little speaker in the TV. The astronaut was of course Neil Armstrong and he was the first human in history to step onto the surface of the moon on July 21, 1969. We later heard him speak: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” The world was ecstatic! Or?
Two weeks after this memorable night, I stayed with my grandma for the weekend. I loved these weekends because she lived in the countryside, close to the forest, it was always very quiet and our time together was special to me. Over dinner I started telling her all about my experience of witnessing the moon landing two weeks ago and how excited we all three were about seeing Neil Armstrong descending that ladder. Grandma suddenly stopped eating, slowly looked up at me and said: “That’s such a nonsense! Don’t believe everything you see on that television.” And that was basically the end of my exciting story and we moved on with our dinner, talking about the small things which had happened that day.
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” — Mark Twain
That night in bed, I couldn’t stop thinking about my grandmother’s reaction – how could she not believe this life changing discovery? I had seen it with my own eyes (and so had millions of other people around the world), and I intuitively felt that something big had just happened.
Was it her steadfast believe in God that kept her from accepting this historic moon landing because humans were messing with God’s plan? Or was it just too crazy for her to be real?
From my bed I could look through the window and caught a glimpse of the moon, high in the dark sky. I had to give her this – It was almost too crazy to imagine that a man had been walking on this beautiful moon I was just looking at… Even though I respected and loved my grandmother so much, this was something she couldn’t take away from me because I knew it was real.
Stuff that we believe
When you look at your own life, what is it that you believe? Are you more like my grandma, and will you feel uncomfortable when things might be different from what you think they are? Or are you comfortable to look at the origin of your beliefs, and are you open to new discoveries that can possibly compromise your current beliefs? There’s a good chance you never thought about it this way. Most of us don’t, but I like to share some modern science with you so that you better understand why I write this article in the first place.
The majority of the things that you believe in your life, are not your own. Yes, this might surprise you, but until you were six or seven years old you didn’t decide which beliefs were going to be yours. Your brains simply didn’t have that capacity — the cultural influence, the things your parents (or caregivers) and teachers at school told you, and all other experiences you were exposed to were simply absorbed by your subconscious mind, because that’s how we learn as a small child. The brain wave patterns in young children are relatively slow because the brain is not fully formed yet. By the time we are nine years old we begin to develop our critical and analytical mind and we start applying everything that is stored in our subconscious mind.
But now comes the big surprise (or maybe it’s a shocker for you) — This same subconscious mind controls 95% of how you experience and deal with your circumstances. So most of what you believe and think is “real”, was what you simply absorbed when you were a child. And these programs are still running your life today, maybe decades later, leading you to feel like a victim, being afraid to make mistakes, thinking that you’re not good enough and so on.
It is no surprise then, that at some point in your life you start wondering who you really are and what the purpose of life means to you (did I mention midlife crisis?). Or you wonder why you always react that same way to your mother, spouse or co-worker — the programs of your subconscious mind are running the show for 95% of your day and they are not even yours. Will these programs meet the needs of your deepest wishes and desires? Most likely not!
From Reacting to Creating
There are interesting and exciting ways to break your old patterns. When you become aware of how your mind, heart and nervous system work together, and how your beliefs and emotions shape you, you have allowed yourself to start learning to make lasting change, so that you can move from a reactive life, to start creating along the path of your soul. And this is exactly what I will be sharing with you in my upcoming events,
workfunshops and retreats. It’s my passion to inspire you, empower you and share really effective tools with you.
I also inspire and train individuals and organizations, by applying the wisdom, scientific tools, and techniques of accessing the power of our hearts. Feel free to browse dirkterpstra.com, follow me on Facebook, Twitter or share this story with your friends. I would love to hear from you.
Do you remember how you used to play hide and seek by putting your hands in front of your own eyes? I know, it has been a long time ago, but you might still remember this. Or maybe you’ve seen your own children apply the magic of this very cute version of playing hide and seek. Our idea was very simple – We believed that what we couldn’t see didn’t exist and we were therefore convinced that people wouldn’t be able to find us. I really love to see the way little children use the power of imagination.
What have we learned?
But I have to confess something to you now. Something that might come across as a little bold or maybe even a bit unnerving – Most of us are still playing this same ‘magical’ version of hide and seek today when it comes down to our feelings and emotions. We (kind of) believe that by ignoring what we feel inside, it will evaporate in some way. And yes, life can sometimes be too overwhelming to face head-on. That’s why our society is addicted to numbing and suppressing their feelings – think of drinking, over-eating, smoking, shopping, endless travelling or constant socializing etc. We’re looking for external stimuli to keep ignoring what we really feel deep down inside. It’s like rearranging the furniture without really cleaning the room.
I wrote “kind of believe”, because deep down inside we intuitively know that ‘rearranging the furniture’ is not a solid and permanent solution, and this is exactly where the stress starts creeping in. It doesn’t mean that we’re stupid or slow learners – we are being raised in a world that rewards us for being intellectually smart (using our head) and not for applying our heart’s wisdom and intuition.
Stress develops when the mind, the nervous system and the heart don’t communicate in an efficient and balanced way. More than 70% of the North Americans regularly experience psychological and physical symptoms caused by stress. The picture below shows you how stress can affect our bodies.
Most stress-reduction initiatives often miss the essential point. We try to relieve the after-effects of stress rather than remove the cause of the stress itself. We start jogging, we chant a mantra, we read self help books, we sign up for workshops, we have our minerals balanced, we pray, we participate in a retreat, we relive past lives and so on. We keep searching but we don’t understand the problem, and that’s why we can’t find the answer. Our rationalizing mind rather likes to keep the true causes of our emotions out of awareness and it uses the mechanism of projection to do this. It blames events or other people for causing a feeling and views itself as an innocent victim of the external causes – “he got me upset” or “they made me angry.”
Wisdom of the heart
When you take a closer look at the most ancient and respected wisdom of various cultures, but also at modern science, we can conclude that our heart is the most powerful centre from where we can access and regulate our emotions and feelings. If you are interested to learn more this subject, you might want to visit my page about the scientific research by the Institute of HeartMath.
I used to be the person who always relied on my intellectual capacity. I was trained to go through life this way, until life decided to throw me some curveballs. In 2010 I found myself in deep pain and severely stressed after the passing of my dad, my brother, my mom and a dear ski-buddy. I was a broken man who didn’t know how to heal himself.
One night, I was standing outside in the darkness. I felt very down and looked up at the sky and couldn’t ignore that it was a gorgeous sky while gazing at the billions of stars over my head. Despite all of my misery, I noticed that the universe looked so amazing and so mysterious. Whoever created this unfathomable wonder, my appreciation was limitless. Suddenly, my heart started speaking: “Do I have a choice?” wanted it to know. I spoke those words out loud without even realizing it. But I wasn’t prepared for an answer, and certainly not for an answer like this: “Of course do you have a choice – accept and try to embrace the pain that you’re feeling right now”. I didn’t see myself as a spiritual person really, and this answer that seemed to come out of nowhere took me completely off guard. For the reason that this was such an extraordinary experience, I took this advice very serious.
In the next couple of days, this remarkable answer kept repeating itself in my head and I was pondering how to ‘accept and embrace’ but no solution was being offered this time. Then I decided to let it go because ‘this trying’ made me feel even more desperate. But the moment I let it all go, was also the moment that I felt a growing connection with my heart, and suddenly I had no trouble accepting the pain I was feeling. I even began to understand that it was there for a reason! Maybe because it felt all just too intense, I began to get a very clear insight: “There must be a higher purpose for this to happen to me” I thought. That’s when I was able to embrace the pain and all the emotions.
But then something beautiful happened… I saw a gorgeous bright light and I felt an infinite love deep down inside of me and I realized: “I am Love! These dark events in my life are my gift and they are here to lift me higher than ever before. This is my healing!” I could barely believe that this was happing to me. It felt like a miracle had just happened. Unconsciously I had been playing hide and seek by covering my eyes with my hands, but by going to my heart, my hands were being taken from my eyes, and the view couldn’t be any more magnificent.
That’s how it all started – these so called ‘sad events’ were my teacher and showed me how to make the incredible journey from my head to my heart – a very fulfilling one. And once you’re there, there’s no way of ever going back: No one and no event can ever take this knowing away from me. I now inspire and help others to make that same journey, which seems so incredibly hard because we believe that it takes suffering first, or it takes many years of searching outside of yourself. But I have a message for you: “It doesn’t have to be that way!” All that you will ever need already lies inside, patiently waiting to be discovered. The most ancient civilizations already knew how to tap into this wisdom, and today’s science confirms it. Are you ready to embrace the power and love that lies inside of you?
In my next blog post I will share another story with you about my interaction with my grandma. It’s about the stuff that we believe.
I inspire and train individuals and organizations by applying the wisdom, scientific tools and techniques of accessing the power of our hearts. Feel free to visit dirkterpstra.com, follow me on Facebook, Twitter or share this story with your friends. I would love to hear from you.