Although the usual suspects of stress may be our jobs, financial difficulties, illness, political and religious arguments, family, personal problems, etc., if you look into each one of these in depth, you will find within them all a common thread. If only we could identify that common thread, then stress relief would be immensely simplified.

So let's take a look at the mechanism of our stress in general. Let's say, for example, we are arguing with someone about politics which has gone past the point of civil discussion and now has reached levels of personal attacks. We can feel the physical effects of our anger - the rising blood pressure, the increased pulse, the red faces. This is stress.

Or let's say that a family member has done something stupid and here we are once again picking up the pieces. Or that we ourselves have screwed up and now face the consequences. All of these are stressful situations, through which runs a common thread.

And that common thread is very deep.

Initially , we are afraid. Afraid perhaps that things won't go our way, that we will lose the argument. Or perhaps afraid that our indiscretion, whatever it maybe, might be revealed, or our dishonesty uncovered. We even are afraid of fear itself! But fear is not the common thread.

One could say that our stress is a result of our impatience for things to be rectified, solved, and end its burden on our minds. This is true, we seem to be frustrated and impatient always, especially in slow check out lanes. But again, impatience is not the root of our stress.

Once stress raises it's ugly head, getting rid of it is doubly problematic. If we never allowed stress to develop in the first place, we wouldn't have to compound our stress by stressfully trying to get rid of our stress! So in order to remove stress from our lives forever, a fundamental shift in our view of life has to occur.

Many things seem to cause stress, but they are not the real causes. Things like anxiety, vulnerability, fear, dejection, skepticism, illness, irritation, anguish, dread, worry, anxiety, inferiority, aging. But stress, believe it or not, is also involved in pleasant things, such as going to the movies. Why is that? Because although the movie might be pleasurable for a few hours, the next evening could be boring and stressful sitting at home!

All of this causes stress. But these things again can be distilled down to basic components of either not getting what we want or trying to get rid of what we don't want. Underneath these basic components is the real cause of stress, however.

Anxiety itself is not stressful. When we see another person very stressed out and anxious, it doesn't really affect us in the same way it is affecting them. If they are a stranger, it will probably not affect us at all. So anxiety, in and of itself, is not stressful. But when we apply that anxiety to ourselves, then there is stress. What is the difference between a stranger and ourselves?

That difference is the root of our stress, which when discovered and transcended, removes stress from our lives forever.

Almost all religions have in the past warned of the danger of ego. Recently however, that has been pooh-poohed in lieu of ego building, and interestingly enough, only recently has our stress levels become epidemic.

Ego is a false view; a false view of life. The idea that something is happening is true, but that it is happening to "us" is completely erroneous. Yet mind creates, from an accumulation of impulses, this Wizard of Oz ego in order to protect itself. Ergo: STRESS.

Once you create a monster, if you don't feed it, it will eat you! So we create a monster in our minds unknowingly, unconsciously, thinking that every time we pat ourselves on the back or boost our idea of ourselves (what a great ______ I am!) then we think that in some way we are more secure. The reality is, however, that the stronger our ego becomes, the more subconsciously fearful and stressful our minds get because it knows inherently that ego is destined to topple. It's a fabrication, not real, and the bigger it is, the harder it will eventually fall. This is basic karma.

He who stands on tiptoe
doesn't stand firm.
He who rushes ahead
doesn't go far.
He who tries to shine
dims his own light.
He who defines himself
can't know who he really is.
He who has power over others
can't empower himself.
He who clings to his work
will create nothing that endures.

(Tao Te Ching)

So we could say in a nutshell that egos, belief in a separate self, cause stress. And we could further say that no stress relief will be successful if it doesn't in some way reduce the idea of ego in our heads.

Look at a stress-free, happy individual and you will usually find an absence of selfish desires and drives. Perhaps even a penchant to help others and consider their difficulties. This is called loving kindness and compassion, maybe even effacement and humility.

These are the traits that lead to a stress-less life, for oneself and for others.

Author's Bio: 

E. Raymond Rock (anagarika addie) is a meditation teacher at: and author of “A Year to Enlightenment:

His 30 years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk.

He lived at Wat Pah Nanachat under Ajahn Chah, at Wat Pah Baan Taad under Ajahn Maha Boowa, and at Wat Pah Daan Wi Weg under Ajahn Tui. He had been a postulant at Shasta Abbey, a Zen Buddhist monastery in northern California under Roshi Kennett; and a Theravada Buddhist anagarika at both Amaravati Monastery in the UK and Bodhinyanarama Monastery in New Zealand, both under Ajahn Sumedho. The author has meditated with the Korean Master Sueng Sahn Sunim; with Bhante Gunaratana at the Bhavana Society in West Virginia; and with the Tibetan Master Trungpa Rinpoche in Boulder, Colorado. He has also practiced at the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts, and the Zen Center in San Francisco.