Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Stress Reduction and The Quiet Therapy of Morita

In America, starting right around Halloween in October, the energy and activity around the country tends to ramp up and stay that way well through the first of the year.  Consumerism and capitalism show themselves in all their glory as citizens begin to eat more, spend more, do more, drink more, gamble more, shop more and run the race to please all their friends and family with gifts and entertainment they can't afford to give.

People travel and put up real or artificial evergreen trees and decorate everything from home and office, to shop and community center.  They plan large meals for the November and December holiday gatherings of family, friends and coworkers.  And as you can imagine, stress levels rise right along with all the festive activities.

Lucky for us, Mindfulness and Mindfulness Meditation practice made its way to our shores in the 1960's and 70's and has made its mark in helping many people learn to try to stay focused and not let the mind run amok even during times of stress.  But there is another therapy that is very similar to--and includes--mindfulness and mindfulness based cognitive therapy concepts that is not frequently talked about.  A gentle and graceful method that originated in Japan called, Morita.  Morita is one of the best known of five "Quiet Therapies" in Japan, and was created by Shoma Morita.  Like the concepts found in other mindfulness based therapies, its goal is to help people "accept life as it is".

Shoma Morita was a researcher and philosopher who was also trained in Zen Buddhism, so some of his own methods for confronting life are built into Morita Therapy, including that his method has its foundations in ecology or nature, thus helping people learn to follow the natural order of things instead of battle against them.  Morita is one of five Quiet Therapist, which include naikan, seiza, shadan, and Zen.

I like to think of this kind of Quiet Therapy as a "reboot", in the same way one might reboot a computer.  The idea is to shut down first and then gradually reintroduce the realities of life in order to get a fresh start.  Of course the original idea with the four stages of this therapy was to "shut down" the human being by means of hospitalize, and then begin to slowly reintroduce life to that individual in increments, but very few of us really ever need to be hospitalized due to our stress, and so what we mean in everyday life by "shut down" has to be taken as it is relative to your personal life.  Maybe it means a vacation from work and family, maybe it means going on a retreat, maybe it means nothing more than one day off from work for a mental health day.  No matter what method you use to shut off the constant flow of stress that streams into your life on a regular basis, the first stage of shutting down is then followed by a second stage of light activity, and a third stage of heavy activity, and finally a fourth stage of re-entry to life "as it is".  You can read more about Morita Therapy here:  Morita Therapy, and through a book by David Reynolds, called  The Quiet Therapies

So what does this mean for the holidays?  It means that much can be done with a holiday week off.  The week can include a mini "shut down" and restart.  Or, if you don't get the holiday off to shut off the stressors of daily life, consider what you can do come the new year in order to get a brief break to restart your system.  The bombardment of activity, pressures, requirements, stressors and demands (especially in America) cannot constantly go unchecked.  There needs to be an occasional shut down and restart in order for you to stay connected to life as it really is.  Real life has a sunrise and sunset, flowers to see and smell, a body that needs rest, and time limitations that remind you life does not last forever... and you are missing it.

Thanks to Robert Couse-Baker for the excellent photo