How to Beat the Stress Bandit


A monk was sitting on the floor of a high, mountain cave, deep in meditation. Suddenly a ferocious bandit rushed into the cave, wielding his sword.

The monk sat serenely, not moving.

The monk’s calm demeanor enraged the bandit. He lifted his sword over the monk’s head and threatened him, “Do you know how easily I could sever your head from your body?”

The monk opened his eyes and said serenely, “Do you know how easily I could let you?”

Dismayed by the monk’s peace of mind, the bandit dropped his sword and left the cave.

Calmness under pressure

Fortunately, you are unlikely to be set upon by a marauding bandit who threatens to decapitate you…
Fortunately, you are unlikely to be set upon by a marauding bandit who threatens to decapitate you, but even so, the serenity that develops when one trains in calm, focused attention comes in handy in less challenging but more common situations.

That state of calm serenity is known as “equanimity.” Equanimity is the ability to maintain peace of mind, no matter the turmoil of your life. Remarkably, equanimity is a natural by-product of your meditation practice.

It’s a big ask to remain serene in the face of unexpected (or even expected) disruptions, but equanimity in even small doses can help bring peace of mind.

Battling your own bandits

What disruptive bandits do you meet during the course of your day? Slow drivers pulling in front of you on the highway? A much anticipated date who stands you up? A boss who seems to criticize everything you do? The neighbor who didn’t clean up after his dog? The list goes on and on.

In my experience, one of the fairly early gifts of my regular meditation practice was less feather-ruffling in frustrating situations.

Surprisingly, even small amounts of time spent in meditation can give you some relief from the stress bandits. I hadn’t been meditating for long when I found I could go through my day without getting bent out of shape at every annoyance or inconvenience. 

And you know what? Life gets easier when the little stuff ceases to stress you out.

Recently, I was on a 10-day meditation retreat. On the second day, the hot water in my dorm broke. For the rest of the retreat, we had to go elsewhere if we wanted a hot shower, or just do without. When I wanted to wash my face or take a shower, I would notice grumbles and complaints lining up in my mind. And then I would smile to myself as I remembered the name of my dorm. It was called Upekkha, the Pali word for equanimity.

Photo credit: Ksenia Kudelkina on Unsplash

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The Mindful Twenty Something by Holly Rogers
“Wise, but not obscure. Practical, but lighthearted and inspiring.”

— MIRABAI BUSH, co-founder and Senior Fellow of The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society

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