Every time I hold onto something, that didn’t work out the way I thought it was going to, I get a beautiful reminder that my thoughts are based in nothing more than just that, thoughts, which is to say not much at all.
The last few months have been full. So full I haven’t had a chance to write anything I’ve wanted to share here.
And last week I woke up–my first day as a 34 year old–and noticed the temptation to pick up all the worries. Everything from not enough money to live, to not having time to buy cat food before I leave town, went through my brain in a great wave. It sounds ridiculous when I write it on paper, and more so when I transfer it to this computer screen, yet this is the content of this mind. And the stress response in my body to thoughts about the future is the same, whether it’s fear of homelessness or remembering to buy more kibble.
Each time I reach one of these moments I am asked to recommit to the practice of watching thoughts and not identifying with them. Here’s what I’m tempted to do.
Thought: We’re not going to have enough money!”
Reaction: check bank balances, solicit more work, draw up new ideas about how to get more. Create a story in my mind that the work I’m doing is not worthy. That I may have to switch careers, give up on creative work etc.
And this is a perfectly “normal” response in our culture. We give thoughts weight in America, and it because of this it seems to make sense to create actions based on what they say.
But what if I investigate the thought in the first place? Not believing it outright but questioning it? When I do this I see the thought out in front of me, not a part of me, but a thing to be looked at. And I let the questions come from the stillest part of myself.
Thought: We’re not going to have enough money! Question: For what? A: The future. Q: For what in the future? A: For the things we’ll need. Q: Do you know you’ll need these things? What are they? A: I guess not. I don’t know exactly what they are. Q: What do you need more for? A: To live. Q: Are you living now? A: Yes. Q: What are you afraid of? A: I don’t know.
Like a persistent and patient three-year-old full of innocent curiosity I ask myself the questions that come, without judgment, until I get to the bottom of the worry, which is almost always some kind of fear.
And suddenly, as if it never were at all, the worry, the fear, the hurry, is gone. I haven’t solved anything, or changed anything, because the basis of the problem was false in the first place. I have no control over the events of my life, only choices about how I respond to the things that happen and from where in my self I reach out.