Dec 112002
Authors: Dominic Weilminster

Not trying to hear anything, not trying to see. A pulse seems to be using a brain as a means of expanding a skull. Two hands pressuring this skull from the outside are the only reasonable support, it seems, to keep this impossible expansion from occurring.

Eyelids closed and ears beyond listening, it feels like being underwater, but nothing is wet.

For a moment, the world slips into slow motion. No cognition, only the pulsing headache.

This slight release is enough to regain hope; to bring the eyes back open and convince the ears to hear again.

The glimmer of hope disappears as quickly as it came, however. As the eyes open, the ears listen and the mind begins its work again. The rush back to reality is nearly overwhelming, as if a massive load of weight has fallen once again on the tensed and aching body.

Breath shortens to compensate for the increased load of information and mouth becomes dry. An attitude of negativity prevails and concentration wavers between drawing blanks and multi-tasking.

Eventually, the only reasonable source of escape seems to be staring blankly at the ceiling.


That’s right, its finals time again. When free time means time to study and procrastination is both a source of solstice and strain.

For some, finals are taken in stride much like any other part of the semester. For others, finals are a dreaded time of nail-biting and hours of note reviewing.

One way or another, this imminent time of knowledge compiling stands out almost defiantly against the usual agenda of weekend (and often week-long) relaxation. It is the last-ditch effort of all professors to impress their subject upon your crammed mind.

Such a time so contrary to our usual routines will have a tendency to throw our bodies into a tumultuous backspin of stress and anxiety.

Though quite common among college students and even natural to some extent, the haphazardly distracting tendencies of test and performance anxiety are very often brought to surface in many students during finals. These feelings only worsen when they catch someone off their guard, someone who has no idea when they are experiencing the downward spirals of stress or how to deal with it.

Of course, there are hundreds of available recommendations to avoid stress with some of the most popular being natural methods such as aromatherapy and massage with the recent revival of holistic medicine. But before rushing to the store to buy a set of candles or scented oils, it must be understood that there is a certain mentality that must be reached before these methods can prove successful. Just as raking around some sand won’t have the mentally heightening power of a Zen garden, one cannot expect that sniffing some Egyptian Musk candles will cure what ails you.

The power of the mind is curious and under-appreciated, realization of your mental capacity to control your thoughts and attitudes must be the first step in attaining a understanding of when and how anxiety can be avoided.

The path to achieving this realization, this oneness of mind and body, though mostly individually foraged can be helped along with the simple wisdom and guidance of ancient Eastern sages and meditative minds.

Rather than franticly trying to find a yoga class in which to participate during the week of finals, it may prove more effective to go to the library, but not to study, rather to pick up some easy readings from wise, and simplistic thinkers of the East.

Better yet, forget the library; just skip right to what most harmonic minds do. Stop studying, stop preparing note-cards; simply sit, do nothing. There is a reason that we tend to stare off into space when we should be studying, it’s our mind’s natural reaction to stress. Distraction can be an escape if you let it be the object of your interest.

A wisest of the Taoist sages, Lao Tzu perhaps emphasizes this point best in the Tao Te Ching, “When nothing is done, nothing is left undone. True mastery can be gained by letting things go their own way. It can’t be gained by interfering.”

The writings of Taoist, Buddhist, and Sufi scholars and mystics emphasize that which is completely contrary to what causes anxiety and stress. Seeking out simplicity is foremost in these scripts and, though emphasis on learning certainly does not take a back seat, it is understood as a property of the human mind that cannot be forced.

Thus, perhaps before allowing the slippery slope of finals stresses force you to slide into a room-spinning headache of disappointment and hopelessness and before you invest in the latest in personal massage technology, allow yourself time to collect yourself and take on your studies with a clear, meditative mind. Nothing can be learned if distracting thoughts of stress and performance anxiety are at the forefront of the mind.

At least with a clear and not a crammed mind, success can be realized in terms of doing the best you can with what you have, rather than whether or not you were too anxious to remember an answer.

“Success is as dangerous as failure…Whether you go up a ladder or down it, your position is still shaky. When you stand with your two feet on the ground you will always keep your balance.” -Lao Tzu

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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