I think most of us really get it that worry doesn’t help, but does that stop us from worrying? If you are anything like me you will agree that knowing worry is ineffective doesn’t keep you from engaging in it.
According to Webster the root meaning of worry is “to strangle.”
This helped me understand that not only worry wasn’t helpful, but it actually harmed. When you think of strangling someone you love you know it’s a horrible act.
This definition caused me to commit myself to the task of uncovering the habit of worry, so that it has nowhere to hide.
Everything—every happening and every person in our lives needs love—not having the life wrung out of them.
“If you can solve your problem, then what is the need of worrying? If you cannot solve it, then what is the use of worrying?” Shantideva, 8th Century Sage
As well as being unhelpful and harmful, it’s also unnecessary.
Our rational, cognitive mind may know this, but if we still worry about someone or a situation, this knowledge hasn’t entered our heart where the real action takes place.
Head knowledge is just the first step.
When we continue to do what we don’t want to do, even after we have recognized the pain it causes, have sworn we would stop, but keep doing it anyway, we can be sure we have a deeply ingrained habit.
Even St. Paul had this dilemma, so we don’t need to get down on ourselves. We’re in good company.
“I do that which I don’t want to do, and I don’t do that which I want to do.” My interpretation of Roman’s 7:19.
Habits are unconscious. Making the unconscious conscious is what Jungians call soul work.
Relieving the pain of deeply buried ways of thinking by discovering and releasing underlying attitudes is what the Buddhists call happiness.
It is our unconscious habits that run our lives—not our conscious thoughts and intentions—as we would like to think.
Otherwise we would stop worrying immediately when we see how harmful and useless it is.
Many people equate worry with love. It is believed that if you love someone you naturally worry about them. Were you taught something like this?
My parents didn’t actually say this in words, it was their actions. They worried, which I interpreted to mean they cared. Worrying meant “caring” in my family system.
This needs investigation. Is it true that if we care about someone we worry about them?
Really? Do we want to strangle them? Is that what they need?
Recognizing that strangling is not compassion I have seriously begun to examine my habit of worry.
First step is body awareness. When I notice that my body has tightened up, contracted, I recognize the feeling of worry is around somewhere. Worry constricts.
Tightening up is a form of worry. It is the feeling that there must be an enemy afoot! Attack is immanent, so I pull up the drawbridge and tighten down the hatches.
Perhaps you have read the classic tale of Gulliver Travels where Gulliver arrives in the tiny kingdom of Lilliput which is filled with very small people, about the size of his little finger.
Gulliver was a man out for adventure and did little self-reflection, as this satire reveals.
The Lilliputions gathered around him first in awe, then in fear of this giant. Needing to protect their kingdom they quickly wove innumerable cords around him until he was bound and captive, unable to move.
How was a giant captured by tiny people using innumerable small threads which became cords?
It’s the same with us. Tiny cords woven tightly describe the habits that enslave us, without our even noticing.
Habits are insidious. When we are not awake and aware, small thoughts quickly become habits which bind us.
Our unconscious thoughts run us and we find ourselves captive.
“Until you make the unconscious conscious it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Dr. Carl Jung
There is a path to freedom. It is called unrelenting investigation of what this mind within us is doing.
Habits get nervous when they are examined. They get shaky and can’t continue on in the same manner.
It’s as if we take a searchlight and shine it into the shadows of our unconscious, seeing what is there.
Habits get wobbly which eventually causes them to dissolve.
We need to slow down, look closely within, asking new questions.
What is my present attitude? What am I clinging to right now?
Gulliver became ensnared because he assumed these little people couldn’t hurt him, so he paid no attention to the small threads that wound their way around him.
Well, maybe it really is the little things in life that get us, rather than the big ones.
It takes persistent effort to notice what is taking place within the mind and body.
Sitting quietly, doing nothing, life reveals itself. New avenues open and new choices become available.
It requires effort and interest to become aware of our true nature, which is radiant. We are created from stardust, all of us.
All the power of the universe resides within us right now.
It includes caring about others so much that you don’t want to strangle them. You want to wish them well.
Two equanimity phrases I find helpful are the following:
“All beings are owners of their actions, heirs to their actions. Their happiness or unhappiness depends upon their actions and not upon my wishes.”
“All beings have their own journey, according to their karma.”
These phrases have helped untie old worry cords that have kept me bound.
This and the intention to do no harm.
In lovingkindenss, Rev. Billie