Worrying about the past, the future and the present. Anything. Worrying changes nothing and depletes our energy. It feeds anxiety no end. And worrying is extremely easy to do. A sweeping statement, but I know this first-hand.
Why do we worry?
Because many people do it. Because our thinking is repetitive. Because a lot of our thoughts are negative. Because repetitive thinking is self-reinforcing. We worry, so then we worry more. In other words, the more we worry, the more we make a habit of worrying. Anxiety creates worry and worrying makes us anxious. It all comes down to thinking too much, time, and confusing worrying with caring. If we can be present, we can be free of worry. We can change things, plan things, while living here and now, the only place and time we can ever be. This is inner peace.
What does it mean?
Thinking too much
That is a biggie. We humans think too much, except obviously when we learn to ease up. It is a habit. Since we are born with pondering brains, we get going early on in our development, and we are seldom taught to slow down. Those who could have told us were doing it themselves. Being able to think, ponder, work things out, is truly amazing. However, if it becomes a habit, as it regularly does, we start doing it with everything. We get used to ruminating in our heads, it is so easy! The rumination becomes constant, repetitive. And since we tend to notice – another habit – what we believe is bad for us, a great deal of our thinking ends up being negative. Yet that is often unnecessary.
Deliberate thinking, dedicated thinking, is good for working out things that actually warranty it – planning a trip, composing the groceries list, designing a bridge. Apart from that, we can allow ourselves to relax and trust the back burner. A greater intelligence comes into play, unhindered, whereby the subconscious will reveal to us its little – and big – gems. And we can notice them because the head is not busy all the time. I am certain this is how our brains are meant to be used. It is a new habit, so it requires practice.
Equally, we can choose to notice the positive thoughts that come to us and dismiss – not give our attention to, not focus on – the negative ones. Essentially, we learn to notice what is useful to us, what expands us and what leads to joy – good, wholesome thoughts, and practical ones. The latter may include some of what we might otherwise classify as negative thoughts, only now they are relevant, if they concern practical matters, or irrelevant. They are no longer shovelled into the furnace like fuel for unnecessary, senseless worrying.
One way or the other, we find ourselves repeatedly thinking about what was or could have been, about what will – or may – be. And while the thoughts that carry memories are real, they are not reality. They are real as brain activity, but they are not our reality anymore. Those are past learning experiences. Life happens here, now. Nothing can happen outside that, even the past and the future. Whatever we experience, past or future, we can only experience as the present, this instant. Anything else is a thought – good or bad memories, anxious or happy anticipations, but still only thoughts. If we are fully absorbed in the here and now, just for a moment, our concerns disappear. That is when we glimpse reality, the present. We are here and all worries are gone.
Confusing worrying with caring
Worrying is not the same as caring. If we think they are, and we often do, we tell ourselves that we have to worry in order to care, and in order to show that we care. Therefore we create stress, not just for us, but sooner or later also for the people we care about. A shift in perspective would permit us to see this differently – caring without the worry part, caring with breathing space. Not worrying, as opposed to not caring, equals a healthier and stress-free life. Would this result in occasional, apparent lack of commitment? Again, we need a shift here. Carefree and careless are not the same. Should they overlap occasionally, the trade-off is energy and enthusiasm, health and joy!
In summary, we become frustrated by what we can’t control, by how things are. Yet worrying about what we can’t control serves no purpose and achieves nothing positive. It creates anxiety and stress and it is unhealthy. Any kind of worrying is counterproductive, really a useless emotion, and it accomplishes nothing. Effective action would lie in giving our mental energy to what we can affect. The trick is to do as infants do – forget about it. Like the grownups, they get annoyed, get unhappy and cry. But each time is new. No grudges, no baggage. They travel light!
To change our thinking we have to become aware of it, realize that we make it, discover the thought habits we entertain. It is important to practice present moment awareness, cultivate a restful mind, and live in the here and now. Plan for the future; be here. Learn from the past if there is anything to learn, and leave it there. Having no worries is better, way better than worrying.
This is inner peace!
Article by Armando Vazquez-Masson – [email protected]