Everything is a thought; worry is a thought that will not go away. When you can to let go of “the coffee was good,” why can’t you get rid of “why isn’t she home yet?” or “doesn’t he love me anymore?” Easily said but not easily done. Right? Almost everybody realizes that worry gets us nowhere yet there is something in the structure of our mind that keeps worry alive.
Here are 4 tips on how to become worry free:
Become familiar with them
I have an acquaintance that was diagnosed with a virulent form of cancer on his leg. While battling the disease for a long time, the oncologist would sometimes give him the message that the cancer is back. Once on hearing this, he started laughing. Almost like, “I knew you were going to tell me this.” Hats off to my friend. He was recently honored by a cancer-related organization for his formidable courage in fighting the disease. Believe me, if he had added worry to his to-do list I honestly don’t know where he would be today.
This story gives us a hint of how to stop worry dead in its tracks. We often hear that people in Bangladesh are happier than advanced western civilizations. The reason is familiarization to the problem and also noticing that many others have the same problems. This is not an intellectual familiarization though but an attitudinal change that comes from keen observation of the worry especially during meditation. William James, the great philosopher, once said, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.” Change your attitude towards worry and make it a friend.
The great scriptures all teach detachment. Detachment is not a ‘to hell with everyone’ attitude but rather a deep understanding that all relationships are temporary and that the results of our actions are not guaranteed. The Bhagavad Geeta teaches detachment from results of our actions. Detachment helps us to improve our relationships and reduce our worries. The world will take care of itself, including your friends and near and dear ones. If you die today does the world not continue to operate? Knowing this and acting on it is true detachment. Practice it and see how your life starts flowing much more smoothly. Sartre wrote, “Hell is other people.” Yes if you have too much attachment, then other people can create a virtual hell for you.
Look at every problem as an opportunity
Instead of worrying about problems or situations that you face, turn the tables on them and treat them as opportunities to learn. As Jalaluddin Rumi, the eloquent Sufi poet asked: “If you are irritated by every rub how will you get polished.” Always look at every problem as a reward. That is how great and successful people live. You have the inner strength and power to face and overcome any problem. You absolutely have it, however helpless and inferior you may feel.
Realize your true nature
Now, this is the trump card! ‘A Course in Miracles’ tells us, “Fear and love are the only emotions of which you are capable.” People who worry a lot have an unnatural imbalance of fear versus love. Love is the most powerful force in this universe, but in worrying people fear has far exceeded love and toppled the scales. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, a very ancient scripture tells us ‘Dvitiyad dwai bhayam bhavati’ meaning ‘when there are two there is fear.’ Realizing your true nature means to uncover for yourself the unity in all creation. That is why the word yoga means ‘union.’ We are ALL together on this wonderful journey called life. We learn from each other. ‘Be a light unto yourself,’ as J.Krishnamurti would advise.
You are not a small insignificant and helpless creature, but capable of being totally free. Realize that truth, and the worries and problems will dissolve as the darkness disappears under the blazing sun. “But how do I achieve this?” is the inevitable question. The answer to that is a much deeper and can be found by reading the ancient scriptures and practicing the great spiritual paths laid down by many prophets and sages. The Yogic path propounded by the sage Patanjali is one such path so is the path on the Bhagavad Geeta and the eightfold path of the Buddha.
I will end with one of my favorite stories. Two monks, a teacher, and his disciple used to everyday walk across a shallow river for their morning rituals and prayers on the other side. One morning when they arrived at the banks they saw a young girl dressed in exquisite clothes waiting to cross the river. The girl approached them and said, “Sir, can one of you kindly carry me across the river because I am going to a wedding and don’t want to spoil my clothes.” The elder monk readily agreed and carried her and dropped her at the other bank. She thanked them and went on her way.
Later on in the evening, the teacher noticed that the younger monk seemed a little upset so asked him, “Is something bothering you?” The disciple blurted out his concern, “Master you had told us to remain celibate our whole lives and not even look at girls, but you carried a girl across the river. How could you do that after teaching us the opposite all these years?” The master replied, “Dear son, I just carried her across the river, you are still carrying her in your mind.” You, my dear friend, are Divinity in human form, not a human looking for divinity. Strive toward realizing that and peace shall be yours always.
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I am a yoga and Vedanta teacher living in New Jersey. I had the good fortune to spend 21 years in Varanasi, one of the oldest cities in the world. This spiritual intoxication of Varanasi sowed the seed in me which today has bloomed as a passionate interest in Yoga and Vedanta. Om Shanti.