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Discovering the joy of stress

“Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” – Will Smith

Is stress good and can it cause joy? Sounds contradictory? We answer the question by asking is salt bad or good? Depends! You can’t have a good meal without it, and with a little too much, your feast could turn into a bad experience. Stress too is indispensable for leading a worthwhile life. Stress is an effective motivator to push us to achieve bigger and better things. However problems happen when stress begins to interfere with performance, leads to mental and physical health disorders, or melancholy and depression. The challenge lies in discovering exactly how much stress- the salt of life- we could take into our individual lives; how can we help channelize potentially stressful situations into happy and refreshing experiences.

Defining stress

StressRichard Lazarus, one of the most influential American psychologists defined stress as, “Stress is a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize” When we feel a certain situation is manageable, we feel little or no stress. However when we are unable to handle the demands put on us, stress turns into a negative experience.

Spiritual leadership offers a sagacious insight; in life we can’t avoid situations where we are constrained by lack of adequate personal and social resources.  Life often throws up unpleasant experiences, and we feel helpless in mobilizing external help to cope with the internal barrage of negativities. Spiritual leadership thus calls upon deeper and foundational tools to cope with stress. A spiritually astute leader has a two pronged strategy to cope with the harmful stressors of life.

Discovering the ‘Purpose’ of life

The first step lies in figuring out ‘why am I doing what I am doing’. Most often we are busy in life without knowing if what we are doing corresponds with our innermost values and purposes. Imagine flying on a plane where the pilot announces, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome on board. We are flying at 700 miles per hour but we don’t know our destination.” Well, our lives aren’t much different. We are busy and to drown our sorrows, we get busier. However the solution to recurring and compounding stress levels is to ask the apparently uncomfortable but critical question, “what really is the purpose of my life and how do my present activities and thoughts align to this purpose?” The answer to this question empowers us to not only achieve effective results, but also keeps us happy. As Gandhi said there is more to life than simply increasing its speed. However a note of caution: if our goals are corporal and purely selfish, we aren’t really leading a fulfilling life. To discover meaningful goals we could ask a simple question to ourselves: “if I were to die now what would I like my friends and relatives to speak during the memorial service”? Most seek to be remembered as a caring, helpful, empathic friend. However on closely inspecting our present pursuits, a painful realization dawns that I am not really giving time to do those things that I would like to achieve by the end of my life. Immediately charting the plane of our lives back on track empowers and infuses us with enthusiasm and joy.

Radhanath Swami offers a penetrating insight into the need for discovering a meaningful purpose of life, “Despite the most sophisticated processes of learning, leadership today focuses on transient goals; all of our affection is reposed on fleeting things and meaningless pursuits. We can begin to make a positive change by a simple evaluation; whatever I do, is it on the basis of my feeling good or is it good for service to God and others.” Radhanath Swami also appeals to his audiences that as humans we have been endowed with special facilities that animals lack; we can enquire into the deeper mysteries of life, and know our true purpose and thereby rise beyond the basic bodily struggles of eating, sleeping, mating and defending. As we add deeper purpose to our lives first, we can also add meaning and substance to the lives of people around us.

Tapping the prayer/meditation tool

Daily prayerful/meditation sessions renews us and keeps us connected to our purposes and values in life. Besides helping us recharge our batteries, prayers also help one find inner peace. In the passion of achieving things, we often neglect this sacred act that reconnects us to our innate goodness. Since there are no shortcuts, one needs to invest time at prayers, but fortunately prayers offer rich dividends. Especially as our lives get more stressful, we could find a rich source of power in a meaningful prayer session. Martin Luther said, “I have so much to do today, I’ll need to spend another hour on my knees.” Giving quality time to connect to the divinity within releases immense positive energy and multiplies our capacities.

A life centred on prayer and service also helps a leader settle problems and issues that internally conflict. Once that is done, you feel a sense of inner balance and clarity. Then it becomes easier to address issues outside of us; a sustained mood of serenity and peace amidst external pressures flows naturally.  As the famous Mormon leader David o McKay said, “The greatest battles of life are fought out daily in the silent chambers of the soul.” It’s these deep burning issues that we have to first address, or at least simultaneously deal with as we are handling work and family related stress. My personal favourite is the American Theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr’s prayer, ““God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Radhanath Swami assures us that daily prayer sessions empower us to be proficient swimmers in the ocean of this world. We could then also help others from drowning. But real help begins with self help. A balanced and mature leader, at peace within, alone can be truly effective in leading his team.

In happiness or distress, honour or dishonour, pleasure or pain, success or failure, victory and defeat, heat or cold, health or disease, we can pray from our hearts. We can chant the names of the Lord from our hearts, sometimes crying out for help when we are in distress and sometimes in deep gratitude when things are very nice but we should know all situations in life are temporary and wouldn’t last for long. So we should be ready to connect to the eternal.” – Radhanath Swami


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About the Author

About the Author: A senior monk and a leader at the Radhagopinath Ashram, a monastery in Mumbai guided by Radhanath Swami, Vrajabihari Das is a board member of the CSV, a Council that provides spiritual vision to the Ashram. Also a prolific writer, he is a regular contributor to Back To Godhead, an international magazine on spirituality. And on the web, he blogs on krishnayoga.info and radhanath-swami.net Venugopal topped Mumbai University in International Finance during his Masters. He then did his MBA. Though a flourishing career awaited him, he chose to become a monk, so as to dedicate his life for the welfare of society. And sure enough, Venugopal today serves as a lifestyle counselor for hundreds in India. His spiritual wisdom and genuine compassion flows freely, irrespective of whether he is counseling, discoursing or writing. .


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There Are 43 Brilliant Comments

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  1. surekha says:

    Thank you for explaining us how we can use our stress in the service of God and others. This article also explained very nicely about the importance of our prayers during our distress and showing the gratitude to God when the things go nicely by Radhanath swami.

  2. anmol londhe says:

    “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.”

    one of the most interesting quote i have ever come across..

  3. Paramesvara Dasa says:

    We may not have qualification to converse with Krishna, but if we sincerely from the bottom of heart pray, He will listen and help. Krishna is all good. All glories to HH Radhanatha Swami Maharaja.

  4. vsk says:

    Giving quality time to connect to the divinity within releases immense positive energy and multiplies our capacities.- Thank you for this statement, now i know from where to derive the much needed energy!

  5. Chandrika says:

    This is a wonderful, comprehensive and a detailed article. The reference of quotes assist in deepening the contemplation of the reader.

  6. Aishwarya says:

    ““God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”a statement and a prayer truly for contemplation.Thanks for the guidance the article provides for stress management.

  7. Vraja Manjari says:

    We can begin to make a positive change by a simple evaluation; whatever I do, is it on the basis of my feeling good or is it good for service to God and others.
    Thank you Radhanath swami for this beautiful evaluation!

  8. Sumit Sharma says:

    Very nice article on how to manage stress which is the killer of so many people today.

  9. Pooja, Singapore says:

    Wow, what an article, I never thought that stress can b joyful

  10. Kalpana Kulkarni says:

    Wonderful article about how to use stress positively to our advantage.

  11. Arjun K Ramachandra says:

    What would like others to say about us when we die? “He was a caring, helpful, empathic friend”. And yet we spend most of our life in busy pursuits of transient goals which will not fulfill the above purpose.

  12. vidya says:

    Reinhold Niebuhr’s prayer, ““God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” – sincerely join in his prayers!

  13. anand says:

    Thank you for sharing realization on stress and its relationship to a spiritual life. How prayer and gratitude can help us fight stress and other concomitant factors of life.

  14. Milind M Churi says:

    The good one.Yes it is very important for us to know that if we are carrying loads of stress on our head then what is the purpose of it? Is this only for material sense gratification or for any other higher purpose in our life?
    Highly balanced and researched answers to these questions are nicely given by author in this article.The stress for selfish end is certainly a loss making venture and ultimately end with performer loosing his/her battle to lead a fulfilling life.
    To avoid harmful stress author has given very nice two point strategy with teachings from Spiritual leader Radhanath Swami.Also nice prayers from American Theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr.Thank you very much VenuGopal Acharya for this well balanced article of yours about managing stress in our day to day life.

  15. sundar ananda das says:

    The words of Radhanath Swami give us solace during our difficult times .. every day, in a week or over the months… thank you Maharaj!

  16. muraligovinda dasa says:

    Thank u Maharaj for this simple evaluation yet very comprehensive inputs to be utilized in the service of the Lord and devotees.

  17. Y.Raja Shekar says:

    This is one of the most logical explanations by HH Radhanath Swami to accept right kind of stress to rediscover peace and tranquility with God at the center.

  18. deepak bagla says:

    Excellent article. Giving real insights to the way we should lead our stressful life

  19. Citra Gopi DD says:

    To know that there is joy in stress is very wonderful, revealing and soothing to hear.

  20. Sumit Sharma says:

    Nice one. We should try to be humble.

  21. Raju K Mewada says:

    Yes, we don’t know where we are going? Just to satisfy the material requirement people are taking so much risk of their life and live stressful life. Without proper understanding for the purpose of life we can’t satisfy our greed. It forces us to live life cats and dogs. As explained here, with proper guidance and prayers, progressively we can learn the goal of life. H H Radhanath Swami Maharaj explains “we should know all situations in life are temporary and wouldn’t last for long. So we should be ready to connect to the eternal”. So we can connect ourself to eternal with prayers from our heart.

  22. Sumit Sharma says:

    Taking stress for devotional service is not a real stress, but it’s an opportunity to serve the Lord and His devotees.

  23. vraja says:

    wonderful way of destressing by connecting to spirituality

  24. vidya says:

    stress hurts when linked with material fulfillment, but stress for devotional service is not stressful at all

  25. Shoba says:

    Beautiful article with wonderful quotes from renowned persons! Stress is a word loosely used in-and-out everyday by everyone these days. This article very nicely explains what stress is and how to deal with it – discovering the purpose of life and praying to the Lord. Thanks very much for sharing!

  26. Rahul Abhay Kamat says:

    very nicely & simply explained, the most important knowledge.

  27. Shyam Mahtani says:

    This is definitely a great stress management discourse. Thank you.

  28. Gopal Lila Das says:

    Thank You for teaching us that – Prayers are not like sparing wheel which needs to be used in crisis but is like steering wheel which needs to be used on ongoing basis for right direction.

  29. BSDd says:

    “….all situations in life are temporary and wouldn’t last for long.”-Truly a stress buster.

  30. Vishal says:

    We grown only against a force and that creates stress. So for any growth to take place stress will be there. Thanks Radhanath Swami and his followers.

  31. rahul gupta says:

    The spiritual guidance of Radhanath Swami Maharaj is an unparalleled guiding force for millions in their daily life, be it material or spiritual.

  32. Rajaruban says:

    The purpose and solutions are nicely detailed in this article. Western countries are in dire need of adopting these means to benefit the entire society.

  33. Radha Menon says:

    The opening line of the article is very true and catches one’s attention.
    Thank you for the wonderful article.

  34. Abhinav Mutreja says:

    In all situations we should pray to GOD for shelter

  35. chandraprakash says:

    the thought itself is stress relieving

  36. anand says:

    great insights into stress management related issues and how such practical affairs can viewed from a spiritual perspective. Thanks for sharing

  37. Manasa says:

    Chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord from the heart is the only way

  38. Yogesh Dhuri says:

    Toughest problems in the world have the simplest solutions.. so often i have heard of the power of prayers and still i forget to do it. I am inspired to pray again. Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

  39. arvind says:

    Live the life by leaving all the ensiety of your life by the way givenn by Radhanath swami.

  40. Udisha Trivedi says:

    Stress is one of the most burning issues of our society today and keeping a prayerful mood and taking out time for personal spiritual practices keep stress at bay…! It is a wonderful article and explained the need of hour in an amazing article..!

  41. rekha says:

    Thank you for this wonderful article giving us an idea of how to take shelter of God during our distress.

  42. Kalpana Kulkarni says:

    Stress will always be a part of our lives. It is how we react to stressful situations which denotes our character. We can transcend stress by sincere prayers and by re-establishing our lost connection with the Lord.

  43. Kiran yagain says:

    This article reminds me of the quote from Bible….,
    Proverbs 18:10
    10 The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
    the righteous run into it and are safe.
    The Holy Name is the true shelter for the soul…

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