The Nature of Worry
Obtain Your Inner Peace
I’ve been practicing an Eastern philosophy called Taoism even longer than I’ve been practicing Yoga. In a nutshell, it’s all about cultivating peace of mind, being present, and learning to effortlessly go with the flow. Sounds simple, right? It is simple, in theory, but simple doesn’t always mean easy. The challenge lies in overcoming our long-standing negative habits of mind that prevent us from joyfully flowing through life.
You might think how lovely it must be to be a yoga studio owner, and have the luxury of time to practice Yoga and reflect on the nature of the mind. That’s not the complete picture. I grew up in a ridiculously dysfunctional family, and entered adulthood with depression, severe anxiety, migraines and a 10-year long eating disorder. Needless to say, my mind was not peaceful.
When I first discovered Taoism and started seeing the positive changes that occurred as a result of opening my mind to new ways of perception, I clung to it like a life raft. Slowly but surely, I started seeing things differently and shedding the countless layers of defense mechanisms that held my mind, and my life, captive. Seventeen years later, I’m living a life I never dreamed possible, with great relationships, fulfilling work, and ever-increasingly, peace of mind. Frankly, if someone as messed up as I was can live joyfully, anyone can.
One thing that most people can agree on is that they worry. They worry about not getting everything done on time or perfectly, about how they’re perceived by others, about money, family, friends, health, work, etc, etc, etc. The number of things we can worry about is pretty much limitless. However, just as we can learn to read or ride a bike, we can learn to minimize the destructive power of worry. Like anything, it just takes some practice.
I’ve learned a lot about worry over the years, and have consciously and actively worked to overcome it, in many different ways. I hope that some of my reflections on the nature of worry will help you overcome its grip on your own mind, and live with a greater sense of ease.
PAST & FUTURE
Most of our worries revolve around future or past events. We worry about what we said or did, how it made us look, or that someone will have misunderstood us. We worry about what might happen, what might not happen, and what might happen if something else happens. We play and replay conversations over and over again in our minds. It’s an endless cycle of worry.
The reality is that the past is past. We can’t change it. We can’t relive it. All we can do is learn from it and if we have erred, consciously work on not repeating past mistakes.
The reality is that the future hasn’t happened yet. We can spend our time worrying about it (have you ever noticed that 99% of the things you worry might happen, never actually happen?) or we can spend our time doing our best moment by moment, and trust that in doing our best, the future will handle itself.
The point is that we spend so much of our time worrying about the past or the future that we miss the one thing we actually have: this moment. If you’re spending your time worrying, worrying, worrying about the past or the future, what happens to now- to the moment you’re actually living? It gets wasted; replaced by thoughts that make us feel anxious and unhappy. If we only have one life to live (that’s another essay entirely), and it happens one moment at a time, shouldn’t we be living that moment, as present as we can be, experiencing life as it happens? I put it to myself often and simply by asking myself how I want to spend my time. Worrying? Or actually living?
THE ILLUSION OF CONTROL
We might think that focusing on what worries us helps us maintain some measure of control. We can’t possibly drop a ball, if we’re focused on everything we’ve done, or need to do. This type of thinking misses the point. Consider the concept that “like attracts like”. Otherwise known as the law of attraction to some, and karma to others, it’s a universal law of nature inherent to every Eastern philosophy I’ve ever come across, and in our society, dominates the self-help section of the local bookstore. Let’s assume it’s true. If like attracts like, then worry attracts worry. Worry begets more worries, and consequently, focusing on worries makes them seem bigger. We have this amazing capacity to make “mountains out of molehills” simply by focusing on negative possibilities, and the more we do it, the more we’re caught in a downward spiral of negativity.
- We consider the possibility that just as we can learn new things, we can change our perception and learn to worry less?
- We notice when we are feeling bad, and consciously decide whether or not it’s good for us to keep thinking the thoughts that make us feel bad?
- We replace worries with a simple mantra like “I am safe”, “I’m doing my best” or “My future is bright”?
- Just for one week, we do our best to notice when we’re worrying and consciously “change the channel” to focus on and truly experience the moment at hand?
- Getting out of our heads and into our lives actually makes us happier?
- Would it be worth it?
- Would you feel happier?
- Isn’t it worth a try?
We’ve all heard “that every journey begins with a single step”. The same applies for the journey to increased happiness and inner peace. We begin where we are. We just have to decide that we want something better for ourselves, and keep taking steps, one at a time, with that intention. It really is that simple.
Leo Mowry is the host of A Brand New Day on Rogers TV, and owns Village Yoga in Toronto. For more information, visit www.villageyoga.ca Follow Leo on Twitter @evolvingleo