It is said that, in theory, stress is an instinctive physical and mental response to a supposed threat. The problem is when that punctual response becomes a way of life. "Human beings live as if they spend their lives fleeing from a lion that is trying to hunt them.We are the only species that lives permanently on alert," said Antonio Jorge Larruy, a therapist specializing in meditation and self-knowledge, popularizer and writer, during the talk he gave in 'El Tiempo de las Mujeres'. And always living on the edge, obviously, doesn't 'come for free'.

"Stress, although it could be good in theory, has nothing beneficial about it as we experience it. It is 100% a pathology and, as such, it should be eradicated"; says the founder of Espacio Interior (Barcelona).

It has to do, he says, "with the neurotic state in which we live due to our projection into the future. It originates from this neurosis that incapacitates the human being to live installed in the present, pushing him to fabricate and fabricate in his mind times that trap him."

Instinctive defense against dangers that threaten us, nothing at all. "It has nothing to do with that. Stress has nothing to do with instinct. There are defense mechanisms of instinct that increase adrenaline, etc., but they do not generate what we call stress."

Stress, he insists, is "the result of a previous pathology that is the state of neurosis in which we live that distances us from what is natural and pushes us towards an inability to live connected to what we are now. Because weproject part of what we are into the future or we leave it anchored to the past. And this makes our present tremendously meagre and totally projected into the future."

In his opinion, there is a key word to understand this process, pretension. "It points to the cause of stress, which is extreme and sustained tension. Where does it come from? Well, of that which precedes it. Pretension is those things that one expects: expectations, futures, objectives, goals, desires, etc. Basically, it's how the neurotic human being has become accustomed to living. You take away the future from this neurotic human being, and you have taken his life when the future is a mere entelechy, which has no real foundation."

We live, he says, in "a time when if you tell human beings that they have no future, you sink them. However, you tell him that he is miserably wasting today and he doesn't seem to care so much, because he thinks that as long as he has a tomorrow, everything is fine."

All this reveals, in his view, the pathological state in which we are living. "We disregard and desacralize the only thing that is truly sacred, alive, true and beautiful that we have, which is the present, turning it into a mere and tense procedure that must be passed in order to live everything we project in the future."

So, "the greater the projection into the future, that is, the greater the pretension we put into something happening, the greater the degree of tension with which we live."

There are things that stress us sovereignly, why? "The things we expect the most are the ones that are going to put the most stress on us. Look at where you're most stressed and I'll tell you where you expect the most. If, in addition, as unfortunately happens in the society in which we live, this becomes a dynamic and pretension governs our lives, the state of tension becomes permanent with the disastrous consequences that this entails."

Difficulties in resting, he points out, cause all the natural biological functions that are naturally experienced in the present to be affected. "For me, it is essential to see how the person sleeps, what relationship it has with their sexuality, how they eat and how they go to the toilet. They are four very elementary signs of what goes in, what goes out, and our correlation with a natural life. Many people suffer from constipation syndromes as a result of contraction and tension that also cause problems with rest, food or sexuality."

The solution would come, precisely, "by realizing that everything that is projected into the future is something that is already here in the present."

One of his maxims is "the more you search, the further away you get from what you are looking for". For this reason, he argues that "we must stop looking and waiting. You have to start finding and unleashing a natural life. To a life where you find yourself and focus on the present."

We urgently need to "learn how to live life. To experience it and not to think about it. To experience life, to live it, to feel it at every moment and, from that feeling of life, to live with generosity, learning to give everything, to empty oneself."

To live, as they say, giving it their all. "Only he who empties himself is filled. The more you empty yourself, the more you fill up. He who waits, despairs. And those who wait, tense up. Whoever gives himself, he does live."

Delivery is a key factor. "Living authentically and in the present are the main keys to healing our lives and making our actions empowering us instead of stressing us out. Because stress affects the quality of our actions. When we're stressed, our heart is closed. Our reactions become clumsy. A stressed person skips over things. It's a hectic revolt."

How efficient is someone who is stressed? "Well, to go into a tailspin. To believe that stress favors action is an absolute and complete mistake. People who have inspired actions are not stressed at all. For an action to be effective, it must be profound, which requires a high degree of presence and, therefore, of presentness. Stress takes us away from the present and also takes us away from the presence. What's more, the two go together."

Unfortunately, he laments, we have turned stress into a way of life. "The neurotic is the inevitable consequence of the education received. This education, based on the reward/punishment duality and projected towards having, almost inevitably entails stress as a way of life. We exalt the future and the future becomes a constant pressure. We feel that if we don't reach that future, we're nobody. If we don't succeed, if we don't achieve this, or if we don't do that... We are under constant pressure and we are always invaded by the feeling that our lives are at stake. That's how we've been brought up."

This state of stress involves "an enormous degree of pressure and mental tension that does not allow us to have a broad-mindedness". The person with stress is "obsessed because of that projection to which he points and passes over everything a very superficial rhythm, because he does not let things rest." The stressed person has "a super accelerated and precipitous pace. He lives in anticipation, which is very common in the urban world. It is the opposite of a contemplative life which, although it may seem that it must be inactive, is not."

Larruy assures that "we should learn how, in the natural world, living beings are not stressed and act with immediacy and with a speed much higher than ours. We wouldn't survive in the wild."

All of this has harmful effects mentally, but also physically. "Any doctor will tell you that a large part of the ailments he treats have their origin in stress, which takes very varied forms, from anxiety attacks, headaches, digestion problems, stomach, skin, respiratory, allergies... Stress is the most widespread disease among human beings and that makes us more and more vulnerable."

By living permanently stressed, we move away from the source that gives us life. "It's like a mobile phone that runs out of battery and doesn't recharge. In the end, it sells out. We need to plug into the batteries of life. That is why, there, meditation plays a key role in deactivating all these stress processes, all the neuroses and all this stressed dynamic in which we live. Meditation helps us to return to the present, to recognize presence, to connect with life and its richness."

And, from there, "to understand that our daily life is an opportunity, not to suffer it, but to celebrate it. We are not going to look for richness in having, but we will discover it in being and in expressing it by sharing that real natural life. We are born to grow, to flourish and for all that we carry inside to germinate, express and be shared, rejecting the projection of chimerical expectations for the future that, when not achieved, cause us constant tension. That way, stress would be absolutely eradicated."

This specialist maintains that "it is possible to live without stress despite maintaining an almost constant dynamic of activity and working long hours when you live in depth and full awareness, giving yourself to the work and putting all your soul without being obsessed with achieving results or goals".

His final recipe for the eternally stressed? "Enjoy and enjoy 100%. That's a great measure for the stressed-out, who never allows himself to enjoy himself and isn't efficient at doing things either. A lot of times, he doesn't give a damn, because he's so stressed that he doesn't do anything. Being in the present is the only way to get things right." So easy, yet so complicated at the same time...

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