It’s easy to fall into a pattern of worrying with all the pressures of modern life. Worrying is a natural practice that helps us process our emotions about the experiences in our life, but there are techniques which can make it more productive and less stressful for our body.
Many of the things we worry about, we can’t really change – we can’t rewrite events that have happened in the past, we generally don’t have control over our loved ones’ actions and we are often at the mercy of the winds of change. Worrying over these things can be ineffective and often leads to even more discomfit. Buddhist teaching references the twin arrows – the first caused by a misfortune and the second, avoidable arrow caused by our reaction to the situation.
A healing journey involves assessing your situation objectively, figuring out what can’t be changed and then making a commitment to change the things that will improve your situation. The biggest hurdle however is to let go of those preoccupations which are holding you back from the journey.
The journey to peace involves these four steps:
Step 1: Honest assessment of your situation.
Writing can help us become more clear about our feelings about the challenges in our life – some people keep a worry journal. Others get more out of talking things through with loved ones.
Start with laying out your concerns in detail – it’s important to express the specific nuances of your worry, as well as how it makes you feel.
Step 2: Determine which worries can and which can not be changed.
This is the most important skill and it could be described as wisdom or insight. It allows you to categorise events as requiring acceptance or active change strategies.
Step 3: Accepting things that bother you but can not be changed.
“Acceptance” might sound easy but it is an art and one that is hard won. It is the ability to “let go”, in this moment, and in the next moment, and in the next.
Step 4: Making changes where required so that you can live a happier and more fulfilling life.
The courage to change essentially involves the ability to put up with pain to overcome habitual patters so that you can engage in behaviours that you have decided will be productive for you and to stop engaging in behaviours (or indulging in thoughts) that you know will lead to more pain.
The key is to be able to put up with a bit of short term pain for a meaningful long term gain. Of course to do this you need to have a clear idea of what is, and what is not, in your long term interests.
For this you need to continually review your values, look into your heart and see whether what you are doing and how you are feeling really fits into how you want things to be – questions like “Am I becoming the person I want to be?” can be useful here.
Once you have a clear compass of which direction you want to go in you still need to be tough enough to tolerate short term pains. A key thing to remember here is not to be too influenced by transitory experiences of pleasure and pain. One can do something very meaningful, noble and satisfying without enjoying the experience.
The Serenity Prayer:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.