A Guide to Successful Meditation (Part Three) by James Lynn Page

A Guide to Successful Meditation (Part Three) by James Lynn Page


In part two of this series we looked at correct breathing. Here, we look at the important question of how to stop worrying. Is this even possible? In this post I have summarised five major causes that result in worry and anxiety. These make life miserable for the worrier – and everyone else around them! But there’s a solution, too, and it comes from (ironically) accepting that your worst fears may actually be realised. And then going beyond the worry mind-set – to a place of calm, tranquillity and mindfulness. To a state of ‘be here now’.

First off, is there such a thing as the ‘worrying type? Do I really need to answer that? You can see them all over town – some may even be members of your own family. The worrying type may even be you. Let’s look at what the worrying type habitually does:

* Always tries to be fully in control of nearly every aspect of their lives

* Assumes the worst if obstacles arise – things are bound to escalate

* Thinks that if they aren’t always focussing on problems, they’re being irresponsible

* Finds difficulty with change and untried, unfamiliar situations

* Unwittingly ruins their health as a result

1. It’s a mistake to think you can always control your everyday life, let alone control your thoughts. You may think you can just tell yourself to stop worrying and that’ll be the end of it. How wrong! (You may even try to avoid the issue – telling yourself you’re not really worried, even though your mind keeps returning to the issue and you feel uneasy all over again.) Worry is usually a misguided attempt at being in charge: we fret over situations we can’t control. (Our kids going off on a foreign holiday, a stray pet, our partner late home from work who can’t be reached by phone.) We can’t control that unknowable future, and thinking about it doesn’t help. We’d like to be able to control it – but we know we can’t.

Solution to #1 – Let go and embrace the unknown

2. As for assuming the worst, this is the classic behaviour of the born worrier, who is usually so beset with fear over the future, they can never be happy. But they seem to assign themselves psychic powers! From where do they get the idea that if things are going bad, this is a sign they’ll only get worse? Think of your own experience – in most cases, whatever you were worrying about either didn’t happen, or wasn’t quite as bad as you feared. But get this – you have no business in simply expecting the worst. Ask yourself – why am I piling on the worry needlessly?

Solution #2 – Let go and embrace the unknown

3. Worriers are actually irrational. Though they imagine they’re addressing problems and working though them logically, they seem operate on the basis that if they stop worrying, life would get really chaotic! Someone has to take control; and worry about things! They never have that ability just to take it for granted that life will turn out all right in the end – for this is seen as being irresponsible. Worriers find great difficulty with basic optimism – even if life is going good at any time, at the back of their mind is a little voice saying: ‘this can’t last forever.’

Solution to #3 – Let go and embrace the unknown

4. There’s nothing worse to the habitual worrier than having to adapt to the new, unknown and unfamiliar. They are wholly resistant to change; this frightens them. Their whole lives are usually based on the reassuringly familiar – that way they can stop worrying (or so they assume). Instead, they emphasise security above all else – job security, emotional security (a loyal lifelong partner), financial security, and probably physical security (CCTV, alarms and heavy padlocks are heaven to them).

Solution to # 4 – Let go and embrace the unknown

5. Of course, worry is no good for your health either – anxiety brings on all kinds of undesirable conditions: from hypertension, intestinal problems, indigestion, fatigue or irritable bowel syndrome. Worriers, of course, know all this, but they imagine they can get their anxiety under control. They tell themselves they’re being silly, that they can take their mind off worry by doing something distracting. Then, later, they find it returns.

This kind of anxiety induces the so called fight/flight syndrome – our ancient stress response to fear. In real physical danger (say, from a predator) we call upon our survival instincts and either run like hell (calling on extra reserves of adrenalin) or stand and fight. But the habitual worrier engages their stress response pretty much all of the time, and this is wearing on the mind-body system. The result is lowered energy, adrenal burnout and a worn down immune system that can’t fight infections. There only needs to be a perceived threat for the fight/flight syndrome – a born worrier is initiating perceived threats every day.

Solution to # 5 – Let go and embrace the unknown

Can You Let Go and Stop Worrying?

As you can see, the solution to all five above is the same: let go and embrace the unknown. This isn’t a fuzzy, New Age platitude devoid of substance, and for the born worrier the notion is wholly reckless and irresponsible. However, it’s the best advice you can get, for letting go isn’t the same as ignoring the problem or wishing it away, much less feeding on false optimism.

Letting go means relinquishing the ‘control freak’ inside of you – the very thing making you worry in the first place.

Letting go means surrendering your assumption that things will always get worse, not better

Letting go – and this is crucial – means to allowing things to be as they really are. That is, going with the flow of uncertainty. It means trusting.

This is the most difficult part. We all want some guarantee that things will turn out O.K., don’t we? It’s only when we demand assurances that we worry. Plus, worry is always about the unknown tomorrow – never about what’s ‘now’. It’s ironic that when something bad will inevitably happen (maybe the imminent death of a loved one), we just get on with what’s needed, painful as it might be. Think on this: if you were really living in the Now, you would quite literally never worry.

So what can we do? First – if there’s some practical action you can take right now that lessens the fear and worry, do it. If there isn’t, then fully accept the fact. And not with a resigned shrug, either. Believe it or not, this can be a good thing.

Ask yourself this: if your worries came to pass, how would your life really change as a result? If the worst happened, would you still be all right? When you’re no longer resisting the possibility that your worries will manifest, when you’ve said to yourself. ‘OK this might happen’, and you’ve accepted it, you’re not avoiding the issue any more. This isn’t defeatism – it’s realistic, and though seemingly illogical – healthy.

Letting go in this way (by embracing the idea that your specific worry might occur) is actually liberating and enables you to move on in your thinking. You’ve released the fear. Enjoy it. But get this – whenever you genuinely let go of your fears, some powerful synchronicity often occurs, too. That is, your external situation changes in accordance with the feelings you’ve released (and that can feel truly magical).

The Be Here Now Walking Exercise

Of course, if you’re an habitual worrier you’ll simply return to your old ways – what you need is a more permanent change. What follows below is my Be Here Now walk that will induce a real sense of mindfulness, of pure Consciousness, of a sense of the Eternal Now. Plus, notice how none of this is a recipe for ‘getting rid’ of worry – as if it were something you could erase from your mind, like chalk from a blackboard. No – if you want darkness to vanish from a room you don’t scoop it out, you introduce some light.

Let’s take a pleasant walk where you’ll be alone and can connect with nature (perhaps in the country, or by the sea shore, even up a mountain). Here you can ‘listen’ to how your mind really works. Here you can experience what I call the Power of Eternal Now. It needn’t be a long walk – twenty minutes to half an hour will do – you just want to be ‘in the Now’. As you walk, listen to the in-out rhythm of your breathing. Walk at a nice, easy pace – you’re not hurrying to get anywhere. Do nothing but listen to your breathing as you continue. Breathe deeply, drawing air up from your diaphragm just below the rib cage The more you can control your breathing, the better. Your mind will be more focussed as a result.

Sooner or later, something will pop into your head: a memory, tomorrow’s work schedule, a worry of some kind. When it happens, just let it be and don’t fight it. Let it pass. Return to listening to your breaths – slow them down if necessary. And I do mean just listen. Soon, you’ll come up against the Editor – that part of your ego that’s always ‘interfering’ with the natural flow of consciousness. We do this all the time – instead of just experiencing (feeling, seeing, hearing, tasting) something, the Editor supplies an analysis on what’s being observed or felt. We have an emotional reaction – then we reflect and analyse it! Even brief moments of pure Consciousness (the ‘high’ from joyful laughter when we forget ourselves) are brought to an end by running commentaries in our head. But there’s no need to be saying (more or less) ‘I am having this experience’.

We’re often unaware of the Editor – but you can spot him easily enough. On your nature walk, did you catch that barely audible voice supplying the names/colours of what you were seeing? Did you start to think about the trees you saw, quietly describing them to yourself? You didn’t actually need to think – hearing (birdsong); seeing (blue skies) or smelling (the scent of flowers) all came naturally. Thinking gets in the way. Try just enjoying your walk and letting your mind ‘be’. When your eyes fell upon those trees, were you ‘trying’ to see them? The sound of that wood pigeon, did it take effort to hear it? No. If some loud noise (a car engine, say) distracts you, that’s fine – you’re not trying to shut out what’s there. On the contrary, you’re trying to intensify what is Now by being totally focussed and relaxed.

Put aside thirty minutes every day to do the Be Here Now exercise. Go for as much quiet and solitude as you can, wherever you may be. Remember, your aim is gentle attention to the Present and the more you’re conscious of the Now, the better. Being Here Now means just that – ‘receiving’ the moment as it is, without interference from the Editor.

The more you perform this exercise the less prone you are to worry – in short, you’ll be tuning in to the Power of Eternal Now. The Be Here Now walk will shift your awareness from the maelstrom of worries in the lower mind much close to your spiritual centre – the Real You. This is the still, real heart of Being. Other call it Pure Consciousness, Mindfulness or Awareness. But your petty (usually unproductive) worries have distracted you from it – possibly for years. It’s time for a change. It’s time to stop worrying.

Here is a link to Part 4

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